The Friend That Wasn’t There

By April Wahlin

Edited by Travis Noble

Yesterday upon the stair,

I met a man who wasn’t there.

He wasn’t there again today,

Oh, how I wish he’d go away… -Hughes Mearns

Simone rolled over in bed onto a discarded snack box, accidentally grinding crumbs and sugar into the bed spread. Mom isn’t going to be happy. She moaned as she brushed the mess off the bed. Having done a so-so job, she went back to flipping through cartoon channels. Nothing on. Suppose she could read a book to fight the boredom―but why when there’s TV? Boredom or not, reading a book is for people without electricity. There had to be something on.

With a free hand, Simone fidgeted with her wristband. Sliding her thumb across the barcode. It was from yesterday’s visit. Just an asthma attack―nothing out of the norm…but still. She glanced out the window again. Dusk and an empty driveway. Her parents should have been home by now. She wished they would take her out like they used to. Dinner, movies, Disneyland…anywhere besides a hospital.

Simone finally settled on a station when something passed in the hallway outside her door.

“Mom?” she called.

No answer.

Simone glanced out the window again. Had her parents parked on the street instead of the driveway?

The boards in the hallway creaked with the pressure of footsteps. Simone’s heart sped. There was definitely someone else in the house.

She grabbed a foam bat from the corner of her room, tiptoed to the doorway and peered out. Nothing. Had she imagined it?

She crept into the hall toward the kitchen.

Suddenly, she felt a presence to her left. She spun to face the staircase and there stood a tall, thin man with short, black hair and eyes so dark they had no whites―as though they weren’t eyes at all. His skin was the color of granite and he wore a casual, stylish, dark grey suit with no shoes. He was like a shadow.

He didn’t move even the slightest muscle as he stared down at her with piqued interest.

“Hello,” he called plainly.

“Stay back!” She swung her bat wildly―just so he would know she was serious―and bolted toward the front door.

Simone fumbled with the locks. Why were there so many? She looked back. But no one was there. The staircase was darkness-free.

She leaned against the door, gasping for breath as she looked around. Had her boredom become so intense that she was imagining things?

All the same, she thought she should go to a neighbor for help. But she didn’t really know her neighbors―and from what she had seen of them, they were scarier than the dark man on the stairway. It was Los Angeles after all.

She crept back toward the stairs. Still nothing. No sign of the man whatsoever. Just a still room. Perhaps it was the sugar? Too much wasn’t good, but causing hallucinations? That was new…

“You shouldn’t leave the bag open like this,” a voice called from the kitchen.

She turned so fast her neck muscles twinged. Simone fumbled with the bat before brandishing it at the dark intruder―who was now leaning against the kitchen counter popping cookies into his mouth.

“Your snacks will go stale,” he scolded between bites.

“Why are you here?!” she yelled, hoping she sounded even the slightest bit formidable.

“Why are you here?!” He replied pointedly, as though she were the one trespassing.

She heard a car in the driveway. Waves of relief washed over her.

“I’ll see you around.” The man smiled at her. He seemed entirely genuine―aside from his breaking and entering. Although, looking around, there wasn’t much sign of breaking. Strange…

Her parents were outside, talking on the step. She turned to the door. Odd. They had both come home at the same time.

She turned back to warn away the dark man, but he was nowhere to be seen. How had she not heard him leave?

She rushed to the kitchen window, searching for signs of him. But she found only an empty yard and the neon sign of the old hotel behind her house. The sign cast an eerie glow in the dimming light, one that sent a strange chill down her spine.

“Darkness,” she muttered curiously.

 

Ready for the next part? Click here for the second part of The Friend That Wasn’t There series: The Friend That Wasn’t in the Attic.


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