By Katherine Orozco
I hate when the power goes out. You see, when the power goes out where I live, it’s not just a normal dark, the one that your eyes get used to after a few minutes. It’s the kind of dark that presses on your eyes and keeps you blind. It’s the kind of dark that makes you imagine noises, imagine that your childhood fears are coming to life. It’s the kind of dark that makes people go crazy.
One night, close to Thanksgiving, the power went out in my house. I sat in my chair, my eyes as open as I could get them, and tried to stare around in the black for a flashlight. A futile endeavor, I might add. Slowly but surely, the temperature dropped lower, and I was soon shivering in my seat. However, I wasn’t inclined to move. For all I knew, there could be something on the floor, waiting for me to put my bare foot down on the freezing tile. But, eventually, I braved the floor and sprinted to my room, where I tripped over a step and leaped onto my bed. Quickly, I wrapped my down blanket around myself, trying to calm my tremors of irrational fear and cold. Eventually, my heart rate slowed to normal.
And that’s when I heard a noise. Not the normal noise people hear when their power goes out, either. The sound of someone tripping over a chair in my dining room. The screeching sound of the wood against the tile, the kind of sound that makes people pull their shoulders up towards their ears as if that will block the horrific noise. I did just that, burrowing deeper into my blanket, debating whether or not I was going to run to the bathroom just so I could be secure, because that was the only room that had a lock in the house. And the unspeakable thought occurred to me: what if someone was in my bathroom? For all I knew, someone could be in my bedroom right now, biding their time until I finally lose it.
A silent tear slid down my cheek. A loud beep sounded throughout the house and the light in my bedroom flickered on. I closed my eyes out of sheer terror and counted silently to three before opening them. When I did, what I saw surprised me.
I saw nothing but a pink Post-it on my light switch that had not been there before.
I squinted, having left my glasses in the living room, and made out the words “Come to the place where lightbulbs are kept.” My fear intensified. I didn’t recognize the handwriting, but I snatched the sticky note from the wall anyway. Lightbulbs…the laundry room. I jogged into my living room and donned my glasses. On my way through the kitchen, I went to grab a knife. They were all gone. All of the silverware was gone, even the wooden spoons.
There wasn’t anyone in the laundry room. When I opened the drawer, I cried out in pain. My hand was bleeding, cut from the glass of dozens of lightbulbs that were all shattered in the drawer. I yanked my hand away from the drawer, until I saw a faint flash of pink at the back of it, where most of the jagged pieces of lightbulb were. Another Post-it.
I should have walked away. I should have called the police. But instead, I stuck my hand in the drawer and whimpered as more and more glass ripped into my skin. By the time I got the Post-it out of the drawer, my hands were completely covered in blood, and it was dripping onto the floor.
The Post-it was almost unreadable, from all the smears of blood. But I could make out the words. “Ever wonder where your dead pets were buried? Go there.”
The oak tree. I had buried my own kitten out there not two weeks before. All of the pets we had that died were buried under the beautiful, majestic oak tree in the backyard. I searched the mantle for the flashlight I had been too scared to retrieve before. It was gone. I was forced to walk through my backyard in the complete darkness, hoping against hope that I wasn’t about to die.
I opened the gate to the section of our backyard that housed our barn, and left it open. I held out my hand, and touched cold bark. I took one more tentative step, and my foot found nothing. I fell in a huge hole, and as I picked myself up off the ground and looked around, I realized I was standing in a shallow grave. One large enough for a person my size. A scream ripped itself roughly from my throat and I stood quickly, wincing at the pain in my left knee. I fell again.
This time, when I pulled myself out of the ground, shaking uncontrollably, I realized there was a yellow something at my eye level, stuck to the tree. I snatched it up and sprinted back to my house, where I locked the door behind me, and checked my knee. There was a huge gash in it, and it, much like my hands, was bleeding profusely. I glanced down at the yellow Post-it crushed in my dirty fist. I was afraid to look at it.
But I did. It said “Check the bathtub.”
This time, a distinct sense of horror descended upon me. I had an inexplicable feeling that whatever was in my bathtub was not going to be the normal terror I had been through already. It was going to be much worse. I stumbled to my bathroom, limping, and flicked on the light. There was blood, everywhere. It painted the walls, flooded the floor. I gagged. I ripped open the shower curtain, and screamed. Someone who looked familiar, like someone from deep in my distant memories lay, dead and mutilated, in my bathtub. His fingers were all gone. His chest was torn open. I could see his heart, and that it wasn’t beating. His eyes were wide open, and the deepest blue.
A Post-it was stuck to the wall behind him. I snatched it and ran from the bathroom, sobbing, and read it.
“Jewelry box.” was all it said.
I fumbled with seven other drawers before I found the right one. It was a blue Post-it note, with something attached to the back. The Post-it said “You did this to him.” Confused, I flipped over the small rectangular card on the back of the Post-it. It was an ID. As I read the name, my whole world disappeared.
The man, dead and tortured in my bathtub, was my biological father.
A strangled scream left my throat roughly, and suddenly I was bathed in his blood, reaching for his inert body. But, as I looked down at myself, I couldn’t help but wonder if the blood had always been there or if it was new. As I slipped in the blood still coating every surface of the bathroom, I heard something distantly, muffled against the trauma of what I was staring at.
Someone was knocking at the door. Dimly, I recognized that I should have answered the door. But the resulting bang removed that from necessity. Whoever it was had gotten into the house.
It was a voice I didn’t recognize. I did not respond. A man in dark blue was suddenly in the doorway, wrenching me away from the body of my father, the man I hadn’t seen since I was five. I struggled valiantly, but he held me tight. He tugged me out of the bathroom and into the hallway.
“Jana Mailer, you are under arrest for the murder of Eric Mailer, please, let go of the knife.”
With surprise, I looked down to my hand. Surrounding an uninterrupted coating of dried blood was a knife I hadn’t noticed before. When had it gotten there?
“Ma’am, you’re going to have to let go of the knife,” the man insisted again. When I didn’t respond, he knocked it from my hand and let it clatter to the floor, echoing in a house that was haunted with things I couldn’t explain, horrible things I had done. I could see it now, the dirt coating me as I dug that grave, the lightbulbs that I crushed with my hands. My father. I looked down at my knee. It wasn’t from falling…he had struggled.
He had struggled, but I had won.
I always won.
Katherine Orozco is a South Texas playwright/writer. She is currently the main stage manager of the theatre company Zero Untitled Films/Productions. Her work has been published by Fountainhead Press and in Writer’s Bloc magazine. She can be found on Twitter @queen_of_wands_.