A Proposal, Part 2

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This is the second installment of a seven part series. Parts 1–3 are available for free on my blog, while parts 4–7 are available exclusively on Patreon. If you’re looking for part 1, you can read it by clicking here.

It was dark when Jill opened her eyes.

What time is it?

The lights were off. She must have fallen asleep, only when her eyes started to adjust, she found the shapes in the room were unfamiliar. Instead of the simple cubic dimensions of her kitchen, she was faced with broad high-reaching curves, with columns and formations that resembled stone and masonry rather than drywall and wood.

Her heart seized in a solar flare of panic, and for one terrifying moment she thought it would stop for good. The man at the door had been in her house (how was that even possible when she’d just closed the door on him?) and then she’d passed out. Where had he taken her while she was unconscious?

She was still lying on the bed from the kitchen, but it now stood against a wall with a large Gothic window that let in the flat monochromatic light of the moon. Like a castle, thought Jill. Like something she would have seen in a black and white vampire movie when she was young. Only this was real. This was actually happening.

The room was quiet, dead, like a tomb. Which was why, even with her hearing as bad as it was, she picked out the dusty sound of distant footsteps at once.

The man, Mr. Jacobs, was coming for her. She had to hide.

She tried to get up, but all too quickly she thought of her deteriorating body. She had to work herself to the point of exhaustion just to attain a sitting position, and a quick test of shifting her weight onto her legs told her she wouldn’t get anywhere without her walker. When had she gotten so old, so feeble? In her head, she was still that nineteen year old girl she’d once spied in the mirror almost half a century ago.

Never mind. Her body might be failing her, but she still had a few tricks up her sleeve, and determination if nothing else would see her through this nightmare. There was no way her legs were going to save her. Instead, she tipped forward, leaning out until she was caught by gravity’s jealous grip. Then, falling to the ground, Jill thrust her hands out, praying with fervent devotion that she could catch herself when she hit the floor and that she wouldn’t break an arm or a hip in the process.

The ground was stone, and the landing hurt more than she anticipated. But she’d braced herself, and the mattress wasn’t so high that the fall was catastrophic. She rested for a moment, waiting for the pain to subside, while the entire time, those footsteps grew closer, louder, echoing in spaces as of yet unseen.

“You can do this, old girl,” she whispered to herself. She reached forward with one shaking hand at a time and dragged herself across the floor, looking for a place to hide.

Left. Right. On her belly, like the serpent from the Garden of Eden (“On your belly you will go, and dust will you eat all the days of your life.”) She crawled across the stone in small incremental stretches. Mr. Jacobs was close now; surely it was he who approached. A rational interior voice warned that fleeing was no use, that hiding was impossible, that there was no way she could outrun him once he saw her. But while her body might have succumbed to age, her spirit and her determination to survive had not. She was happy to die in the Good Lord’s time, but not in Mr. Jacobs’s.

The room was barren, with only an empty high backed chair propped beside the bed. With nowhere else to go, so she did the only thing she could. She crawled backward, clawing at the cold stone beneath her fingertips, brittle bones creaking, dry joints cracking. Sweat beaded across her forehead like tiny moonlit diamonds. She grabbed the smooth black poles beneath the bed, hid herself beneath its looming shadow and took several moments to catch her breath before falling silent.

The view under the mattress was all at once familiar and strange, a bizarre vantage point overlooking life from a preternatural angle. How odd that so many ordinary events in an otherwise normal life should ultimately converge on a moment so otherworldly and terrifying.

The footsteps came to a thundering crescendo, like gunshots, or the pounding of primeval drums, then stopped. Perhaps he would move on. Perhaps he would give her time enough to find a way out.

No such luck.

Another sound: a booming metallic rattle, then a crack. A moment later, a door swung open.

She peered into the dark. There, standing on the threshold, the dim light of a lantern seeming to set his features on fire, was Mr. Jacobs.

Dracula, she thought, thinking back to her old movies once more, and Jill suppressed a shudder. The man lifted his feeble wellspring of light into the dark, revealing more of the elaborate Gothic architecture.

He started for the bed.

“Miss?”

Farther he pressed into the dark, the circle of light closing in, eager to announce her presence. She’s over there! she could almost hear it scream. Over there, beneath the bed!

“Miss?”

Mr. Jacobs stood beside her now. He saw that the mattress was empty, and that was when he lowered the lantern to the floor, where the treacherous light betrayed her at last.

“What are you doing under there, Miss?”

No answer.

Jill had never known such paralyzing fear. The same electric shock she’d felt the first time she saw him standing on her doorstep shot through her body again. This was how she would die: not in her sleep in front of the TV—a painless exhalation of her spirit that would propel her into the arms of her Lord at last—but in feral, abject terror.

“Please,” she croaked, and then she started to cry. “Please, don’t hurt me.”

Mr. Jacobs stared at her, and the moment was reduced to a timeless pocket of eternity. Then he knelt beside her and grinned.

Read part 3 by clicking here.

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Author: Jeff Coleman

Jeff Coleman is a writer who finds himself drawn to the dark and the mysterious, and to all the extraordinary things that regularly hide in the shadow of ordinary life.

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