Tainted Sanctuary - Tainted Sanctuary

Tainted Sanctuary
Jim Carnicelli
7/1/2021   |   7/1/2021   |   7/12/2024   |   708

708 words
FNASR offered
Kira Carnicelli

Tainted Sanctuary

by Kira Carnicelli

7/1/2021    7/1/21    708    3:08
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My home is my sanctuary. No one hurts me here. This is more important than ever because someone is following me. I don’t know who or what it is. All I’ve seen is a shadow, usually at night. I’d tell someone about it, but no one is friends here. The town is small and cold. I think they’re afraid of it, too. So I stay inside as much as possible, watching my back, building habits to protect myself.

It’s nighttime, and I have to mail some bills. I should have done it earlier, before it got dark, but I lost track of time. I step outside and walk twenty minutes to the post office. Not another soul is in sight, no one even driving down the dead streets. I mail the bills and start home.

Five minutes in, I’m frightened. I’m not alone. I could run home in under ten minutes and hope I’m not caught, but I’m not a fast runner. The short time frame seems like eternity, especially when the familiar sensation of being watched is so strong. Too strong to ignore. I turn around ... and there it is. The shadow, darker than the night itself, towering but hunched over, and way too close to me. I bolt, glancing back once to see it following. It has an uneven gait, but that doesn’t slow it down. I let out an involuntary cry and take left, leading it away from my house.

I find the old, abandoned town church and head for it, glancing back one more time. The shadow is gone. Nonetheless, I go inside. The metal door is heavy and cold. Its hinges whine. My heart pounds. Panicked gasps escape my throat. I struggle to work faster, knowing how easily the sounds can give me away. The door seals me in blackness with a clang! and my lungs are assaulted by the thick scent of dust and mildew.

I grope my way through the ancient pews with touch and sound as my only guides, the wood floor moaning under my feet. I sit on the floor in the center aisle, hugging my knees to my chest. I stay like that, shivering not only from fear but from the damp chill in the air. It accentuates the desertedness of the ancient holy place along with its thick, foul smell and empty stillness. This is the air of a tomb.

I wait for my heart to stop punching in my chest and for my skin to stop crawling before I ease to a stand, feel my way to the door, and peek out just enough to look for the shadow. When I don’t see it, I start jogging and reach my house safely.

I put the key in the lock and twist. It turns too easily. The latch doesn’t click. But I locked it on my way out ... didn’t I? I turn the knob and step inside. It’s quiet and still, as always. I flip on the living room lights and go to the kitchen for a drink. Everything is in order, despite my mistake. I listen closely for any subtle alert while I gulp my water down. A creak. A hum. A rustle. Even the unspoken sense of movement that some part of you beyond your skin can touch.

It’s still. I hear and feel nothing.

I head to my room to read a book, feeling safe enough to leave the hallway light off. It would give me ample warning if a stranger was hidden away, but because of the stillness, I’m certain I’m safe.

My bedroom door is wide open, just as I left it, allowing no one to lurk behind it and for me to have a full view before entering. Although nearly pitch black, I spot nothing unusual. As I turn on the overhead light, my eyes wander to the space between the door and the wall. It’s my habit. I’ve trained myself to check even the smallest crevices. That crack of space is black, unlike my tan walls. This is normal. My robe hangs on the back of the door, casting a shadow.

Two steps into the room, I glance at the bed. The robe lies across it neatly.