She Lurks in Your Dwelling - S. J. Walker - THIS IS TOO TENSE

 

She Lurks in Your Dwelling

S.J. Walker

 

You’re faced with two options. You can continue living under her tyranny, or you can try to move out while risking her wrath. When you moved into this godforsaken apartment building in the city, you couldn’t have known it was inhabited by a demon that lurks within its halls.

You’re watching television, cooped up in your bedroom because it feels more private than the living room. You hear the creaking of footsteps across the wood-paneled floors. Though invisible, her presence can be felt. She hovers outside your door to make sure you’re still here and that you haven’t snuck out through the window.

“I haven’t gone anywhere.”

“I know,” she says. “I hear your breathing.”

She’s lonely and wants company, but at your expense. She is okay when you leave in short bursts like for practical purposes, grocery shopping, work, etc. Her anger is provoked when you leave your dwelling for too long. Forget those late Friday nights partying with friends. You tell them you can’t make it out, but you can’t explain the reasoning without being punished.

A demon waits at home for me. If I don’t go home, she’ll use her demonic powers to make me miserable” – you can’t tell anyone this.

“Are you seeing someone?” they ask you curiously. They wonder why else you haven’t left your new apartment much since you moved in last month.

“No,” you lie. “I just like being home.”

You don’t like being home. You spend your time tiptoeing around her presence. When you do something as mundane as stepping into the kitchen, opening the fridge to scan its contents for a snack, you can feel her ice-cold breath at the back of your neck. She watches your every move. You don’t see her, but you detect her presence by the shadow that lingers nearby. Last time you tried to tell someone, you texted the words on your phone.

“Help,” you typed the word frantically across the screen. To your closest friend you wrote, “I think this place is haunted. I think I’m being stalked. She won’t leave me alone. She doesn’t like it when I leave. I’m a prisoner. I know this sounds crazy, but I need to leave this place! Can I stay with you?”

Before you could press, “send,” you heard her voice whispering in your ear.

“Do it and you die,” she threatened. You felt an electric shock through your body right then. You collapsed to the floor with a hard thud, convulsing like you were being tased. “You are mine. If you try to leave, you will endure worse pain than this.”

You’re in your bathroom on Saturday morning, gazing at yourself in the mirror above the sink. You look and feel like a wreck, but not because you’re hungover. You have dark, purple shadows under a pair of exhausted eyes. You’re not sure how much longer you can tread on the demon’s eggshells. You’re constantly looking over your shoulder, wondering what you might do next to irk her. Sometimes, if you have the wrong show on television, she sends a shock wave through your veins before barking the order to “change the channel!” Her voice is always harsh and severe when she speaks.

You hate living like this. She doesn’t even let you have guests.

“If you bring anyone over, I’ll kill them,” she says. “I only want you. Just you. Understood?”

“Yes,” you whimper in submission, but you harbor resentment against this supernatural, controlling being.

You decide this morning that you can’t take any more of her toxic demands. The stress of your living situation is taking a physical toll on your body. You look down at the eczema across your arms. You’ve been scratching, digging your nails through the thin layer of dry skin, pulling it apart to release blood. It shows. You slip on a long-sleeved shirt even though the air outside is warm.

You announce to the demon that you’re going for a simple trip to the grocery store, hoping she won’t detect the lie in your trembling voice. She buys your explanation. This you know because she doesn’t shock you when you place your hand on the knob and pull open the front door to leave. Once safely outside, you achieve a few blocks of distance between you and your apartment complex. Then you dial the number to call your landlord.

“I can’t live here anymore. I’m going to bunk with a friend tonight. I’m not coming back to the apartment.”

His breathing is raspy on the other end of the line.

“You can’t go,” he says, sounding pleading. “She’ll kill me if you leave.”

 

*

 

S.J. Walker is a mother and a new voice in the literary landscape. She graduated summa cum laude with her B.A. in Psychology and is currently studying to obtain her MFA in creative writing. She has a small scattering of publications and owns a black cat who serves as an adorable muse for tales of dark fantasy.

 

 


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