Monday, September 24, 2018
By Daniel Skye
Finally, Kyle Fisher was alone.
The door slammed shut behind his parents and he briefly shuddered at the rattle of those infernal bells.
They were his mom’s idea, of course. She had adorned every doorknob in the house with a cluster of jingle bells that dangled from strands of thick burlap twine. The twine was fastened tightly around metal rings that were looped to every knob or handle in the house.
It wasn’t the holiday season that had spurred Mrs. Fisher’s redecorating. The bells were not seasonal; they stuck around all year, every year. She thought of the bells as a makeshift burglar alarm; an idea she had borrowed from her own mother when she lived in Whitestone. If anyone were to break in through the front door–or the back door, for that matter–the ringing of the bells would rouse them from their sleep and alert them of any potential dangers.
But she had taken it a step further, placing bells around every doorknob or handle in the house. He kind of understood the front door, and the backdoor, but every door? She even had one hanging from the linen closet.
Who the hell is going to break in just to steal our towels? Kyle wondered.
The bells were a nuisance, and it didn’t take long for it to get on his nerves. And his father was a patient man, but even he had his limits. Yet, neither of them spoke up. Mrs. Fisher always had the final word. And the bells were there to stay until she said otherwise.
But now, the house was remarkably quiet. Kyle’s parents were on their way to the airport to catch a late flight. The last minute travel arrangements had cost them considerable amount, but the price was meaningless to Kyle’s mother, who was in a race against time to say a final farewell to her ailing father.
His parents had insisted on a babysitter, but Kyle was adamant that he could take care of himself. He was fourteen, going on fifteen in a few short months, and he believed he was self-sufficient.
It’s not like he was planning any wild parties or rowdy sleepovers. His plans consisted of eating copious amounts of junk food, drinking Mountain Dew Voltage, and playing Call of Duty until his eyes were sore from staring at the screen. Maybe he’d order a pizza or make popcorn and watch a movie On-Demand. And if anybody did spend the night, it would probably be his friend, Derek.
He waited thirty minutes after his parents left before he made the call. He wandered into the kitchen, set his phone down on the countertop, and put Derek on speaker phone while he perused the inside of the fridge.
“Yo, Derek,” he said as he grabbed a soda and then an ice cream sandwich from the freezer.
“What’s up, dude?” Derek said, a faint echo brought on by the speaker phone.
“Not much, bro. Got the whole house to myself until Sunday night. You feel like crashing here? Ask your parents if it’s cool.”
“No can do,” Derek sighed. “Stuck at home. Friday is ‘family night’. My dad insists on it.”
“Can you break away for a little while and get on Xbox Live? I’m about to play some COD.”
Kyle groaned. “Ah, that blows, man. Call me if anything changes.”
“Will do. Hey, I can probably stay over tomorrow.”
“Okay, text me later and let me know if your parents say it’s alright.”
Kyle ended the call and put COD on hold to order himself a pizza; half pepperoni, half bacon. He ate the ice cream sandwich in between. His parents had left him more than enough money for food, not like he needed it. Kyle was a gifted guitarist and gave lessons in his spare time. Most parents frown upon buying their kids a Fender for Christmas. But his father practically insisted on it. Kyle was musically inclined, a natural talent.
Romero’s Pizzeria was the only pizza place in town. And it was damn good pizza, but there was always a wait. They told Kyle it would be about an hour, so he decided to wait upstairs and start his game.
He was five minutes in when he was startled by the jingle of those godforsaken bells. They clanked together and chimed, echoing through the house. A chill shot down his spine. He tensed up, fingers tightening around his Xbox controller until the tips started turning red, then purple.
It’s just your imagination. Settle down. It could’ve been the wind. Maybe mom left a window open downstairs. That’s what he wanted to believe. But he had heard the unmistakable sound. And it hadn’t come from the front door, either. Kyle wasn’t sure, but he thought it sounded like the backdoor.
Footsteps padded through the kitchen.
All in your head, he thought.
He heard a creak at the bottom of the stairs. Undeniable. As sure as sunrise.
Calm down, he thought. It’s just mom and dad. They probably forget something. Mom always forgets her purse or her phone or her makeup.
His phone pinged and he dug one of his hands into his pocket to retrieve it. One new text from his dad’s cell phone.
It read: At the airport. Call us if you need anything.
His throat felt like a desert, dry and full of sand. He couldn’t swallow, couldn’t cry out for help. Even if he could, help wouldn’t arrive in time.
The sound of footsteps ascending the stairs, slowly creeping towards his bedroom door.
He was not alone, after all. His hands were frozen around the Xbox controller, his feet glued to the carpet, his eyes drawn to his bedroom door like magnets.
The footsteps stopped outside his bedroom. And that’s when he heard the ringing of the bells…