I walk to the front door, rubbing sleep out of my eyes.
“Hello?” I say, trying to look through the peephole, but it’s so dark, I can’t make out anything. And now everything’s silent.
It’s 3:14 in the morning, so everything should be silent. In fact, I’m not even sure why I’m out of bed right now, why I ventured to the door. Perhaps it’s just reflex, like when the phone rings in the middle of the night and I jump to answer it, sweeping the alarm clock, lamp, and books off the night table only to be annoyed with myself for not turning off the ringer in the first place.
I peer through the peephole one last time, can’t see anything, and stumble back to my bedroom. I pull the down comforter around me, set my head back down on a pillow, and close my eyes. Just as I’m crossing the threshold back into sleep, it comes again.
My eyes fly open, and I leap from my bed, the hardwood floor beneath my feet cold. I’m back at the front door in a flash. “Hello?” Again, there’s no reply. I still can’t see anything through the peephole. There’s just black and black and more black. And more silence.
Annoyed, I check the lock and then turn around and start back to my room. My head hurts now, and I’m cold. I yank back the covers and climb in, take a deep breath, and it occurs to me that what I just heard wasn’t actually a knock at the door, but those words….
I freeze there under the covers, staring blindly into the dark of my bedroom, trying to sort out shapes, silhouettes of furniture, the open door. I strain my ears for any sound: there’s the refrigerator hum, the gas heater’s hiss, something going on with the plumbing deep in the walls. Nothing more. Everything is still, both inside and out. The darkness isn’t shifting. The world’s asleep.
After a few minutes of stillness, I hear it again. Knock knock. I feel my throat closing. My hands shake as I sit up in my bed, eyes bolted to the shadows beyond my bedroom door. It’s not quite 3:30 in the morning as I stand, my legs rubber beneath me.
At the door, I pause for a second.
A voice replies, deep and metallic and utterly inhuman. The sounds aren’t English-perhaps not even words-but I somehow know that the voice has answered “It’s me.”
And I know that I must ask the question, that I have no choice but to finish this.
I ask, “Me who?”
And the door creaks open.