Lights Out – J. Bass

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I don’t usually let my bills slide, but this time New Years was right around the corner and let’s just say I made some bad choices. Yesterday, the man in the dirty boots and construction hat came to shut off my electricity. This is now the second night I’m spending without lights and if I don’t document what’s happening here, I don’t think anyone will believe that it ever did.

So yesterday was Monday morning and there I was watching TV when suddenly there’s a knock at my door. I live in a twin house on the right side. Sometimes the UPS guy will mix up which house he’s supposed to deliver to so I was accustomed to unexpected guests. I shuffled up to the door in my sweats and tank top (no bra, mind you). I was surprised to find a portly man in an orange construction hat and a dirty white T-shirt.

“Are you Peyton Green?” he asked. I nodded my head, feeling my loose ponytail fall to the side. “I’m here from the electric company. It seems you’ve been delinquent for the last (omitted because it’s completely embarrassing) months.” I nodded again, this time looking down at the ground and crossing my arms. “Well, I’m here to shut it off unless you can give me your full balance.”

“Yeah, I can’t do that,” I replied.

“Well I’m sorry to say you won’t have electricity until you can.”

“Cool,” I responded, unsure why this man had made such a short conversation so long and painful.

He hesitated for a bit, his eyes darting between my eyes and my flat chest. Then he picked up his tool bag and walked to the backyard. I rolled my eyes and shut the door a little too hard.

After about two minutes, I heard a loud click and the house was instantly silent. It was eerie how quiet everything was. Thankfully the electric guy had come while it was still daylight and I wasn’t suddenly thrust into blackness. My ears started ringing in the silence, so I put some music on my phone. I sat on the couch for a bit listening to the new Fall Out Boy album since I wasn’t really sure what to do next.

After about half an hour, I thought maybe I should find something to use as a flashlight once it started getting darker. I tore apart my closet looking for my box of random shit that has no proper place. Before I knew it I had found two flashlights. One was made of cheap plastic with corroded batteries inside, the other was a head lamp leftover from my most recent camping trip.

Don’t interpret that wrong, I really hate camping. It’s just this really cute guy had recently joined my friend group and he wanted to go camping so I didn’t say no. Anyway, I also found a bunch of random stuff in that box like old diaries and scrapbooks. So, like an idiot, I got distracted and looked through them, tears streaming down my face, until the sun went down. I didn’t even realize my bedroom was dark until I was holding my diary from 2000 inches away from my face. When I looked up, I cursed at myself and started cleaning up my mess.

I donned my head lamp and clicked the button. To my relief it shone brightly against the walls of my bedroom. After stuffing my face with some soupy ice cream and microwaved fish sticks I didn’t know I had, I sat down on the couch again. I grabbed a book my friend had lent me that had been “on my TBR pile” for months now and used the head lamp to read. The silence was becoming deafening again so I had to choose between music and reading this book. I would have chosen music, but who I thought would be the main character in this dumb book just jumped off of a roof.

So I’m sitting there, my entire body tense because of this dumb book when suddenly I see something in my peripherals. Now, I’m not sure if you’ve ever used a head lamp, but they only project a small circle of light. It might be wide while you’re looking around, but everything not in the light basically doesn’t exist. I saw movement to my left and it freaked me out. I tried not to think about it and didn’t even look up. That is, until it happened again.

This time I forced myself to look up and scan the room. I didn’t see anything aside from some creepy looking shadows my hanging jackets were making. It spooked me nonetheless but I’m not about to investigate if it turns out to be a murderer.

I grabbed a blanket from the back of the couch and covered myself with it as I continued to read. It wasn’t long before something else happened; I heard a weird scratching noise followed by a deep growl. It sounded like it was coming from inside the walls or from another room. At this point, I was convinced there were rats in my house. If this was the first time it had happened, I would have freaked out like I did the first time. However, this time I knew exactly where they were coming from (the slob next door) and what to do about it.

I threw off the blanket and stood up, my heart pounding in my chest waiting for something to scurry across the floor. I took slow, tentative steps towards the kitchen. It wasn’t far from the couch, but it felt like I was walking through a minefield. I kept turning my head back and forth in search for the evil bastards. I looked like an idiot, but it was all worth it if I wasn’t eaten alive by a rodent of unusual size.

I made it to the sink, under which I kept a stash of glue traps. I grabbed three, and with more confidence, walked through my deathly silent apartment to set them. I placed one in the kitchen, one in the bathroom, and one in the bedroom. Since my space was so small, I would hear the little demons get caught from the couch. Secretly, I love to hear them suffer.

Once the traps were set, I resumed my book, this time walking confidently from the back bedroom to the couch. I was so distracted by the thought of those nasty creatures running around my apartment that I couldn’t focus on the book. I picked up my phone to play some music again but the battery was at 2% and shut off as soon as I unlocked it. I sat still for a bit, unsure of what to do with my life. I guess before I could make up my mind I fell asleep because I woke up with a start after a while.

My apartment was soaked in the blue light of early morning when I woke up, my headlight now dimmed from being on while I slept. I was so mad at myself for wasting the battery. I scurried into the kitchen and used the pale light to search for new batteries in the junk drawer. Thank God there were exactly two new batteries left.

I replaced the batteries as best I could manage without a proper light source. Just before I turned to start making some coffee, I noticed something red on the floor. It was near the glue trap I had set there, but there was no rat stuck to it. Instead, some hairs, and a few strange looking grooves could be seen in the glue. I followed spots of blood from the kitchen, over the carpet and to the couch. The bottom half of a rat lay in front of the couch right next to the coffee table. Its tail and fur completely soaked with blood. Around it, there sat chunks of hair, pieces of flesh, and a lot of blood. It was even spattered on the blanket I had covered myself with to sleep. It was almost as if something had eaten this rat right in front of me as I slept last night.

While I stared at the carnage, my headlamp began to flicker on and off. Now here’s where it gets really creepy. As the light was flickering on and off, I swear I saw a figure standing next to the window in my living room. I could only see it while the light was off though. It had glowing blue eyes, but the rest of it was black, like a dark black. I backed up into the corner of the kitchen but never took my eyes off of where the thing was standing.

My head lamp kept flickering on and off, faster and faster until it had a strobe effect. The thing started moving towards me, making the same low growling noise I had heard following the scratches. It had this weird, toothy smile I could somehow see plastered over its face as it looked directly at me. It took a few steps slowly across the room and then was right in front of me. I closed my eyes and screamed. Then it was gone with the sound of a loud click.

The TV sprung to life and every light in the kitchen and living room area turned on. My head lamp, now a steady light as if nothing had happened, was still on but useless now against the bright lights of my apartment. I realized now that I had fallen down to the ground and curled up into a ball on the kitchen floor. My eyes darted around the apartment, confused as to what was happening.

A loud knock pounded on my door and snapped me back to reality. I scrambled to get up and answer it. I opened the door only slightly, sticking my head (complete with crazy-lady head lamp strapped to my forehead) and said “yes?” It was the same perv from yesterday.

“Peyton Green?” he asked.

“You already know that’s me,” I said impatiently. I must have had some kind of crazy look on my face because this guy looked terrified.

“Your power is back on. It seems the company tried your connected account this morning and was able to take the full balance out.”

“Okay,” I said, and without a word of goodbye, shut the door slowly. I knew what they had done was illegal, but they had likely saved my life, so I wasn’t going to argue. In all of the excitement I had forgotten today was pay day.

That night I slept with every light in my apartment on and a program on the TV to make as much noise as possible. Yet once I managed to shut my eyes, I heard the growling again.

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