The boys huddled close in the kitchen, surrounded by darkness, save for the dim light pushing out from the small flashlight Taddy held tight in his hand.
Down the hall and in the front sitting room, someone or something apparently crashed through the large bay window.
With their faces softly lit by the glowing bulb, they looked at each other as they listened carefully, closely, trying to discern what might be sounds foreign from the ever-present whistling of the angry winds, the splashing waves of rain and rolling thunder.
“He’s got asthma,” Gunther dared to whisper, almost mouthing the words.
Taddy looked back at him with his face curled in confusion.
“He sounds like my Uncle Rory. He has asthma.” Gunther started to pantomime the heavy, labored breathing of his uncle with the added emphasis of his tongue hanging out. Taddy nudged him with his elbow and mouthed, “Shhh!”
The sound of labored breathing faded into the sound of rain attacking the windows. For a moment, they could almost believe they imagined the sound of what they believed was smashing of the front window. Then another crash from the room reached them. Of course he had no point of reference having never heard it before, still, Taddy knew it was his mother’s coffee table.
The noise, a growl or moan, or whatever it was that they had yet to name, forced Gunther to grab on to Taddy’s shoulder tight enough to make the Taddy wince.
Their eyes grew wide. A large, pounding step, or what they believed was a step, sounded from down the hall, then another and maybe a third. It was hard to tell through the thunder, but when a definite fourth step moved from the muffled softness of the front room carpet to the hardwood of the foyer, the game changed. Whatever was in the house was coming their way.
Gunther held on tighter as the boys looked at each other. Their expressions were clear. The message, concise – run – but neither of them could move.
Taddy broke the stare first whipping his head side to side. He doused the dimming glow of the flashlight and pulled Gunther across the kitchen floor to the pantry.
At the door, Taddy consciously slowed down enough to hold the panic at bay at least long enough to purposefully get his hand on the knob, turn it as quietly as possible, swing the door open enough to push Gunther inside, step in next to him and close the door softly.
“Thud! Thud! Thud!”
The heavy steps that tread the span of the front hallway in only a few steps, moved into the kitchen, and whatever hit the tile was heavy and sounded like metal on stone.
Taddy kept his hands on the handle of the pantry door holding it tight, just in case. Gunther pressed himself back against the shelves loaded up with canned goods and plastic bags of dried noodles and rice.
The weight of whatever made its way to the kitchen was enough to grind and splinter the tiles beneath it.
The roar of the thing gave way to a heavy, rasping breath. Each gasp came long and slow, pulling with it a rumble like waves moving pebbles and sand with each pull.
There was a sniff and a snort and then … nothing.
Taddy waited for a long moment and before he dare take a breath. The only sounds that came to him were the winds, the rain and the low rumbles of thunder. Almost believing he might have let that which was Video Hell get the better of him, He turned back to where Gunther was. Even in the dark, he smiled as he turned.
Long seconds drifted into minutes and in the absence of any noise in the kitchen, Gunther pulled himself from the shelves. He inched forward slowly and deliberately to find Taddy. He reached forward…
The top half of the door exploded into a shower of splinters. Taddy wrapped his tired hand around the door handle with renewed enthusiasm and a full-fledged panic. He screamed.
Above his head and through the hole, a large hand or claw reached into the pantry, wrapped itself around Gunther. Gunther screamed. The arm quickly pulled back, but Gunther was too big to fit through … on the first try. On the second try, one with clearly more force, the rest of the door and most of the jam exploded into splinters. Gunther’s scream ended immediately on impact.
The heavy feet turned on the kitchen floor, the metal sound on tile creating a high-pitched screech. The thudding sound of the foot falls traveled back up the hallway, into the front room and out through the large bay window.
Taddy stood in the dark. The remnants of the door, the handle he held on so tightly to, shook in his hands. The rain outside grew fiercer as the lightning flashed.
In the fleeting seconds of bright light, Taddy saw the debris littered all around him. In the debris, Taddy saw blood.