The Other Side of the Door

She hears the doorbell and dries her hands on a dish towel as she moves from the kitchen to foyer. She reaches out for the peephole cover, swings it out and up, and presses her eye to the hole. It must be Annabelle coming to return that DVD, she thinks, because who else could it be this time of day? Then she sees the thing on the other side of the door, and she understands how wrong she was. She sees the thing and realizes her mistake, but by then it’s already too late. She can’t move.

“Can I come in?”

It has the size and shape of a person, but it could never be mistaken for one. It has dark hair and dark clothes and light skin, but there is something moving just under that skin, something sharp-edged waiting to slip free. The thing bares its teeth in a smile, but she knows those are not its real teeth, just camouflage, and that there are other bigger sharper teeth somewhere underneath. She can tell even through the distorted view of the peephole. She can tell because the thing stands in such a way that she can see directly into its eyes, and no human ever had eyes like that.

“Can I come in?”

The peephole cover is a thin brass circle about the size of a quarter. It is attached to the door by a small screw, so that the peephole can be revealed by pushing the cover out of the way with your index finger. All it would take for her to sever the connection, for the thing to disappear from her sight, for her to regain her freedom, would be to lift the tip of her finger just enough for the cover to swing back into place. But even that is too much. She tells her finger to move, but it stays pressed firmly against the circle of brass. Her eyelids refuse to close. Her lungs continue to breath, but she knows this is only because the thing on the other side of the door chooses to make it so.

“Can I come in?”

She is screaming now, even though she makes no sound. Her screams echo through her own head, building as if looking for a way out, but her mouth and throat are silent. A tear escapes from her paralyzed left eye, and this is her only act of protest as her hand obediently reaches for the knob.

Ω

Jamie Killen has work appearing in numerous magazines and anthologies, including the Read by Dawn series. She lives in Arizona.

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