It was raining, and he was wet, tired, and lost. He had tried to hitchhike a few miles back, but no one stopped. No one. After all, why would anyone in their right mind stop for a ragged-looking man on the side of the road in the middle of a storm? He was an axe-murderer for sure. For sure.
He had made it back to civilization regardless. His feet hurt, and he was wet through, but he had made it. Houses rose up out of the downpour before him, lit by streetlamps that caught the rain in halos of flickering orange. Sheets of water ran off the sidewalk and leaked through his shoes as he went on. The patter of raindrops had been constant for the past four hours. Four hours? Maybe more. Regardless, it was a bad night to be wandering the streets.
But what streets were these? He had no idea. There were no signs on the road, not a convenience store to be found, only dark rows of houses twisting away into the torrent. A suburb. He had to get directions from somewhere. There was nothing for it—he didn’t think he could go on much longer.
The doors of the houses all looked pretty much alike. No porch-lights that he could see. A short sidewalk leading off each drive and up to the entrance. Most of the houses were two-story affairs. It was a two-story house that he found himself in front of now. He’d have to go up and try the bell. Just do it. There’s no shame. Well, that wasn’t true. Of course he was embarrassed. They probably wouldn’t answer anyways. Not in the middle of the night.
He strode up the drive regardless, stood in front of the door. No doorbell, so finally he knocked. Four loud knocks on the wooden door. Nothing happened. The rain went on, running down his face and neck. Could his clothes be any more wet? Probably not. He tapped his foot, shifted his weight from side to side. Nothing. Nothing at all. No one home, or they were just sleeping too peacefully. He was wasting his time.
He turned back toward the sidewalk, glancing at the upper story of the house. Why had he picked this house again? He couldn’t say. Maybe it was because it reminded him of another house. The house he had lived in as a kid, back in the days of no-worries. Back in the days when it didn’t rain. Those days were gone. He ground his teeth. This was definitely a low point for him. Very low.
But he didn’t go back to the sidewalk. No, he turned around once more and went back to the door, raising his hand to knock one more time. He would do six knocks this time. Hard, loud knocks. Come on, folks. Up. At least acknowledge my existence. It would make no difference anyways. No one would answer. He knew what the outcome would be. He knocked anyways.
And that was when the door clicked open, unlocked.
He stood for a moment, staring dumbly into the dark beyond. The rain pounded down on his head. What...what now? Maybe no one was home? He shouldn’t be here. He was trespassing for sure. He ought to grab that door-handle and slam the thing shut and be off. Try some other door maybe, if he could get the nerve again.
But then again, he could just step inside. Just for a bit. There was no car in the drive. No lights in the windows. He could dry off a little...get out of the rain, rest his eyes. Then he’d lock the door and continue on his way, right? Just for a bit...No, no, he shouldn’t. Shouldn’t! But it looked so dry inside, and he was soaked all the way to his bones...
It smelled nice inside the house. He left the front-door slightly ajar, in case he needed to make a quick exit. He could hardly hear the rain now. It was blessedly quiet.
He shrugged out of his sopping wet coat and his shoes, leaving them by the landing. There were no lights, no movement inside. Not a sound. The house was sparsely furnished, but nice. The blinds were all drawn downstairs. It was cold too, but that was just because his clothes were evaporating now. He shivered, hugging himself tight as he stepped into the kitchen. He blinked water from his eyes. There—a sink. He took off his woolen sweater and wrung it out as quietly as he could. Still no movement, no sound. He was definitely alone. Even so, the hair on his neck stood up. There was tension in the air.
He should have stayed downstairs. Should’ve stayed right by the door, but he couldn’t resist. A stairwell led up to the second story off the landing. He’d just take a look. It wasn’t his house, and he knew he shouldn’t be so glib, but it was kind of exciting, you know? There was a hallway upstairs. A few bedrooms, empty. A bathroom...and one closed door at the very end. He put his ear against it and listened. Silence...or was it silence? A fan, maybe? Maybe he was just imagining. He was so tired. It had been a long day and a long night too.
Then something shifted behind the door, and he almost jumped. Almost, but then he doubted again. It was nothing. Just air circulating. Sure. He put his hand on the doorknob, turned it, pushed. The door didn’t budge. He pushed a little harder. It creaked a little, but still resisted. Then he put his full weight against it, careful now, stay quiet. Careful!
The door sprang open, and he stumbled forward, forward into the bedroom beyond. Dresser to the left, against the wall, closet to the right. A window on the far wall slanting dim bars of moonlight across the bed and the two prone figures lying there—
Thunder cracked, and he sat up, suddenly very awake. His eyes were heavy from sleep, but his heart was pounding. He shook his head, disoriented. The room was still, the only sound was his breathing, breathing fast. Whew, what a start.
“Hm,” his wife turned over beside him, rubbing her eyes, “What is it?”
“Um,” he looked around the room, “Nothing. Just dreaming. Sorry.”
He hated that kind of dream. Shocks you right out of bed, and then it’s gone. He sighed and settled back on one arm.
Ribbons of water ran down the window-pane behind the blinds, glinting in the faint moonlight and the flicker of lightning. Everything was as it should be, except...except the bedroom door was ajar.
That was okay though. It had been a long day. Must have...must have left it open. Yawn. Yeah. Go back to sleep.
He laid his head back down and closed his eyes.
Written for the Ambage Challenge #3 (Theme: Write A Dream) during one of the weekly Ambage Write-Offs.