That night, Juliet had a fitful sleep. She assumed the bad take-out food was the cause, but something in her subconscious nagged at her. When the morning finally came, she woke to the smell of coffee filling her small bedroom. She rolled onto her back and looked at the ceiling, grateful for the auto-programming on her coffee machine. She mentally counted the white panels with floral designs spanning across the roof, just like she did many Saturday mornings when she didn’t have to rush off to work. Juliet noticed that one of the panels was beginning to crack along the edge, making her wonder how much longer she would have in the house before she actually needed to put some money into repairs. Her mouth felt like she had been sucking on a cotton ball all night, so she tried to lick her lips with her fuzzy tongue.
“Ugh, I need coffee.”
She stuck her feet out from under the warm, blue, daisy-covered duvet and sat up. Her feet felt cold against the old, worn hardwood floors. She felt around with her toes for her fuzzy, purple slippers to warm her feet in, while closing her eyes and rubbing her face with her hands. She reached over, her eyes still closed, and felt around the nightstand for a hair elastic. Once the familiar, thin elastic was in her hands, she pulled her hair into a bun on the top of her head. She yawned and pulled the blanket off the rest of the way, sliding out from the warmth and into the cold air that surrounded her bed. Her feet were still cold in her slippers, but as she wiggled her toes, she could feel the fuzzy material around them starting to warm from her body heat. She walked over to the bedroom door that was closed most of the way and slid her floral, silk housecoat off the hook on the back. As she wrapped herself in it, she started to hum a song, although she didn’t recognize the tune.
As Juliet left the bedroom, she wrapped her arms around herself in a hug, realizing that the house was cooler than usual for a summer morning. She went to the thermostat on the wall just before the kitchen entrance to turn on the heat.
“Did the weather change overnight? It’s freezing in here.”
She heard the furnace kick on with a groan. It was rare that she had to turn it on in the summer months, but it happened occasionally when a strange front moved through. Entering the kitchen, Juliet went straight to the coffee pot, grabbing an upside down mug from the drying mat by the kitchen sink first. As she filled the mug with the dark, black liquid, the thick steam rising from the mug as it hit the cold air, she felt a cool breeze across the back of her ankles. She lifted one leg and rubbed her fuzzy slippers against the back of her other leg, trying to warm it with friction, and then shifted her weight to do the same on her other leg. She picked up the full mug and turned to walk to the small kitchen table. That’s when she noticed that the basement door propped open, with bright, yellow light shining up the stairs.
“Wait. Did I forgot to turn off that light last night?”
Juliet’s mind turned back to the night before. She remembered having to be careful while running up the stairs in the dark. She was sure the light had been off. She walked over to the top of the stairs, her coffee warm in her left hand, and reached her other hand out to touch the door where it was propped open. She tapped her fingers on the door while she took a sip of the hot liquid, careful not to burn her tongue. As she looked down the narrow stairs, a chill passed over her, causing the hairs on the back of her neck to stand up. Instinctively, she slowly closed the door to the basement, the hinges creaking as if in protest to being closed.
‘I will worry about that later,’ Juliet thought. The nagging in her subconscious from the night before returned. Something inside her, without her realizing it, made the decision that it wasn’t a good idea to go into the basement just yet. Although she would rationalize that feeling later, for now, she decided to instead make herself busy by making some breakfast. She side-stepped to the refrigerator beside the basement doorway and opened it to look at its contents.
While searching the refrigerator shelving, Juliet realized that she forgot her phone in her room. She closed the refrigerator door and put her coffee mug down at her usual seat at the kitchen table before walking back down the short hallway. The house was already starting to warm slightly, allowing the goosebumps that had formed on her legs while in the kitchen to start receding. She picked up her phone off her nightstand where it had been charging overnight and checked for messages. Seeing a blank screen, Juliet unlocked the phone and opened her social media to see what others had been up to the night before. She had meant to post something about her creepy dolls from her aunt, but forgot given her stomach issues. She made a mental note to post something about them later that day and continued walking down the hall while scrolling through other people’s posts.
Without realizing she had already walked across the kitchen, Juliet bumped into the kitchen table with her hip.
“Shit!” she yelled, as she saw the coffee mug shake enough to cause the dark liquid to slop over the edges, pooling onto the white table top.
She turned to grab a cloth from her kitchen sink, but paused. The basement door was open again. This time, not fully open, but open just over a foot.
Forgetting about the coffee spilled on her table, she walked back to the basement door. This time, she opened it fully, hearing the familiar creak of the door as it complained. A cool breeze seemed to be coming up from the basement, causing the goosebumps to return to Juliet, except now all over her body. She noticed that the light was no longer still, but instead the glare from it on the walls leading down the stairs appeared to be moving. She realized that the light on it’s chain must be swinging. Now thinking that she must not be alone in the house, Juliet turned and ran to the door on the side of the house. She unbolted the lock and ran out in bare feet. The hot, humid morning hit her like a wall on the outside of the door, making her breath catch momentarily, but she didn’t stop moving. Her heart was beating hard and fast in her chest as she felt like someone was coming up after her.
Juliet continued to run down her gravel driveway, the rocks causing small pricks of pain in her feet as she ran, but she didn’t look back until she made it to the sidewalk in front of her home. Once there, she turned and looked back at the house, but everything looked normal. The lights were still off in the front living room and the front door was still closed. The side door that she had run out of was still propped open, so she kept her eyes on it. She couldn’t see inside from the angle that she was standing, she could only tell that the white, wooden door was not closed. No one came out after her.
Juliet looked down at her phone in her hand, grateful that she hadn’t left it on the table when she had bumped into it. She called the local police station, deciding against using the emergency number just in case she was overreacting.
‘Was the light really swinging? Or did my mind just imagine that the glare on the walls was moving?’ she thought to herself as she waited for a police officer to arrive.
It didn’t take long. Within five minutes, a local police cruiser pulled up in front of her driveway. The police officer driving pulled two tires up onto the curb, blocking her driveway completely. She turned and watched the two officers climb out of the car and walk up to her, where she was still standing on the sidewalk closer to her neighbors house. The officer that was driving was a very tall, muscular man with a bald head and large, dark sunglasses. He had a toothpick in his mouth that was moving rapidly as he chewed on the tip. His lips were thin and a straight line, accentuating the serious, stern look on his face. The second officer was a shorter woman that was likely petite and thin framed, but her uniform made her look square and bulky. She had red hair tied back into a tight bun at the nape of her neck. She didn’t wear sunglasses, but had her hat pulled down so that it shaded her large, green, almond-shaped eyes. The hat couldn’t shade the freckles that spattered across the bridge of her nose and across her cheeks, which shone with a red tinge in the orange morning glow.
Suddenly Juliet became aware that she was standing on the sidewalk with two strangers in her thin housecoat and fuzzy slippers, her legs bare halfway up her thigh. The heat of the already warm morning made it comfortable to be scantily dressed, but the eyes of the officers made her feel exposed. She crossed her arms across her body, making sure to pull the housecoat closed as much up her neck as she could.
“Good morning, miss. Are you the one that called about a potential intruder?”
“Yes, thanks so much for coming. I have been standing out here watching the door, but no one has come out. I swear, it seems like someone is in my basement, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go down and check. I live alone, so it felt like the smarter thing to do was to call you and wait outside.”
“No problem, miss. We can go and take a walk through your house for you. Feel free to wait here.”
The woman smiled at Juliet as she passed without saying a word. The two officers walked up the driveway, their boots crunching the gravel loudly as they walked. They slowed as they entered the open door, both instinctively placing their hands on the sidearms as they slowly curved wide to peek into the open door on the side of the house. Liz waited impatiently as they both entered, the man first and then the woman, both disappearing from view as they passed the threshold. As she stood waiting, the hairs on her neck stood up again as she felt as if someone was watching her. She scanned the windows of the houses beside hers and then turned and checked the houses across the street, but she couldn’t find the source of the eyes. It was just a feeling in her gut.
Juliet shook her head to try and shake the feeling, assuring herself she was just being paranoid, and returned to watching the door. She started to slowly tiptoe towards the side door, never taking her eyes of its opening. She walked along the dry grass on the opposite side of her driveway to keep her feet safe from the jagged, sharp rocks that had tried to pierce her skin earlier. It crunched under her feet and felt like small needles poking into her soft soles. She waited on the opposite side of her car, feeling safer with a vehicle between her and the open door, watching for the officers to return to view.
After a few more minutes of waiting in nervous anticipation, the woman emerged into the doorway, laughing and talking softly over her shoulder to the man following her out. Whatever was being said between the officers was too quiet for Juliet to hear from where she stood, so she carefully tiptoed across the driveway, placing her hand on the car for balance, until she stood in front of the officers. The man stood straight and placed his hands on his hips, looking down at Liz with a thin smile, while his partner continued walking down the driveway, shaking her head.
“Okay, miss. We checked over your property, but we couldn’t find any evidence of someone trying to break in or being in the house. Your basement is clear. You should be safe to go back in.”
“Oh okay. Thanks for coming by to check things out for me.”
“No problem, miss. Have a great day,” the man called over his shoulder, his partner already nearing the police car at the end of the driveway.
Juliet stood and watched the officers drive away, waving to the man as he pulled away and smiled back at her from the car window before they went out of view down the street.
‘Great,’ Juliet thought, ‘now they think I’m paranoid or something. Great way to start the weekend.’
She shook her head, scolding herself for being so afraid of her own house. She was now sure that she had likely imagined the moving light on the wall at the bottom of the staircase. She walked back into the house, closing and locking the door behind her. Noticing the pool of coffee still on the kitchen table under her now cold mug, she walked first to the sink to clean it all up. She then dumped the mug of cold coffee into the sink and turned her coffee pot off, deciding that she needed to get out of the house for a bit.
She walked back down the hallway to her bedroom to get dressed, peering back over her shoulder one more time to look at the basement door. It was closed, likely by the police officers after they had been in the basement to check on things. Liz left the door to her bedroom open so that she could continue to watch the basement door while she found a green, A-line skirt and a white, frilly blouse. She picked out beige ballet flats from her closet and then walked back to the kitchen to grab her car keys and purse. She paused with her hand still hovering over the kitchen counter with the keys in it, reviewing the basement door again, which was still closed.
“Maybe I didn’t close the door all the way the last time?” she pondered. “Oh well, I need out of here.”
Juliet walked out of the house, making sure to lock the door behind her. She got into her car and drove to the nearest restaurant, which happened to be attached to a gas station. The restaurant had brown, faux leather booths lining the walls and round wooden tables with four hard, wooden chairs wrapping around them. Most of the tables were already filled with people, but she spotted an empty booth in the back corner of the room. She sat down and ordered herself the breakfast special, which consisted of two eggs, bacon, toast and hashbrowns, before walking over to the gas station to buy a magazine. She returned to her booth and drank the bad, small town coffee, flipping through the magazine while she waited for her breakfast.
Once finished eating, or at least as much as she could stomach, she realized that she didn’t have anything else to do to keep her from her house, so she got into the car and started in the direction of her home.
As she slowly pulled down her street, fear bubbled up in her stomach making the breakfast start to turn. As her house grew larger in view, however, she was reminded of the many times she approached the house from this side while growing up. The many times she walked down the sidewalk on the way home from school or returning with her grandmother from a day of shopping at the few local shops that were available. Juliet realized how silly it was that she was suddenly terrified of her own home. No one was in the house, the police officers assured her of that.
“So what are you so scared of?” she asked herself.
Yet, while pulling into the driveway, she still paused briefly at the end, her back two tires were still not over the bump of the curb. She looked over at the house, checking every window to ensure that they were still dark and unchanged from when she left roughly an hour before. Everything was as she left it.
“Okay, seriously, Jules. You need to get a hold of yourself.”
She pushed down on the gas pedal and pulled the rest of the way into the driveway. After turning off the ignition and locking her car doors, Juliet unlocked the side door and entered the kitchen. Her eyes immediately moved to the basement door. She sighed in relief at the sight of the closed door, which was followed quickly by a pang of guilt. She was sure she had imagined everything that morning and the call to the police station was not warranted. No wonder they were laughing over her ridiculous behaviour this morning.
She dropped her purse on the counter nearest the side door, pulling her phone from the side pocket. She dropped her keys with a thud on the kitchen table and grabbed her laptop bag from the kitchen chair it still sat on from the night before. With the bag in hand, she walked to the living room where she propped herself up on the couch and turned on the television. The sound of a random channel in the background was a welcome distraction to the silent heaviness she felt in the house. Pulling the laptop from the bag, she opened it up and decided to respond to emails from extended family that couldn’t make Millie’s funeral, which she had been putting off all week.
A bang on the television made Juliet jump. She looked around the living room and saw her laptop had fallen into the crack of space between her thigh and the back of the couch. She rubbed her eyes, which were sore and dry.
“When did I fall asleep?”
She leaned up, glad that she had been working on her laptop with her feet propped up on the couch cushions so that her laptop didn’t crash on the floor. She looked at the television, which had now switched to some sort of horror movie from the nineties, with a woman screaming behind a shaking door. She rolled her eyes and flicked it off with the remote, turning to pick up her phone from the coffee table. It was almost four in the afternoon.
“How did I sleep so long? The day is almost over already!” she said as she jumped up from the couch.
She walked over to the window and looked outside, seeing the sun slowly moving towards the western horizon. The last thing she remembered, it was still on the eastern side of the view. She left her laptop on the couch and walked into the kitchen.
“Maybe a walk outside will wake me back up,” she decided.
She walked into her bedroom to get her sneakers from the closet. She stopped, frozen, in the doorway as soon as she realized that two small glass eyes were staring at her from the middle of her bed. One of the dolls was propped up on one of her pillows. It had long brown curly hair and a thin, metal wire bent to mimic glasses, but there was nothing in the frame. Its eyes glared at her through the wireframe. It was wearing a navy and white floral dress with lace trim. The sleeves were long and reached its little, pale porcelain hands which were raised up, as if it was reaching out. Small black boots stuck out the hem of the dress. Its eyes shimmered in the early evening sunlight.