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At the Door - Jennifer Clark

5th Place

At the Door - Jennifer Clark

Degu

Lofi Girl was studying when her cat's head jerked to the bedroom doorway.

Chai, the name of her little pumpkin spice tabby, let out a small growl. Ears rotating forward like radar dishes.

It was at that moment Lofi Girl heard a thump. Slowly, she lowered her headphones, witch hat slipping off in the process, and stood up. Although she wasn’t going anywhere this year, dressing up in a witch hat and robe made her feel like she was having her own little Halloween study party, though she did look at her green sweater on her bed with a touch of longing.

Chai slipped past her as she made her way down the staircase. There was another thump, lighter this time, followed by a long raking sound on wood at her front door.

It was late, too late for trick-or-treaters. Even the pranksters had to be in bed by now.

Chai was at the door now, nose gently touching on the gap at the floor, taking in the scent of whatever was on the other side. Suddenly, her fur rose, puffing out. She let out a low growl and backed up behind Lofi Girl until she was out of view.

There was another thump.

The girl gripped the doorknob, rotating gingerly, her hands shaking, breath held, before throwing the door open wide.

Chai sat on the other side, wet from rain, looking up at her and hissing.

No, not at her.

Behind her.

There was a deep, throaty sound at Lofi Girl's back, punctuated by the deep, wet, popping of bones.

Lofi Girl turned around,

What she had been disguised as Chai was now hunched over, uncurling its form until it was standing on two legs, popping each vertebrae in turn, until it was half again taller than her. Its front paws had elongated into talons and the face was a bone-thin shape with horns snaking out of its head to brush the ceiling. A long jaw dribbled saliva from between sharp fangs as it lay solid black eyes upon her.

When it lunged she collapsed into a roll, coming back up to swing a guitar at its face. The hollow instrument collapsed against the thing’s face and it roared in rage, blinded momentarily.

Lofi Girl used the time to run past it back upstairs. She could hear it coming after her before long, each step it huffed a breath, spittle hitting the back of her neck.

She slammed the door shut only to hear it roar again, followed by the scream of a very angry Chai.

She couldn’t let it have Chai.

Lofi Girl opened the door and the creature rushed in, Chai ripping down its side in a blazing fury of orange fur and claws before leaping off. With a fierce war cry Lofi Girl grabbed her sweater from the bed and threw it over the thing’s head. She shoved it outside onto the short balcony, slick with water, where it stumbled backwards and fell onto the street below with a loud whump.

Lightning flashed, blinding her momentarily. When her vision cleared the creature was gone, only her sweater remaining, the green quickly turning black in the rain.

Lofi Girl immediately ran to her front door, slamming it shut and blocking it with every piece of furniture she could find. When she placed the last piece against the makeshift barricade she stopped, breathless, and slid down to the floor.

A flash of movement made her shriek but it was only Chai, coming out of hiding to hop into her lap. She gently smoothed Chai’s fur down until a low purr began to rumble in the cat’s throat. As Lofi Girl’s adrenaline ran out her limbs grew heavy and soon exhaustion took her in a dreamless sleep.

Lofi Girl awoke with morning sunlight alighting on her face, she rubbed sleep out of her eyes as Chai slipped off her lap with a dejected tail flick.

In the daylight the recollection of last night felt fuzzy, had it just been a hallucination brought on by another late study session? The furniture blocked the door still, suggesting it hadn’t been a dream. As she moved everything back into its place she had begun to feel rather embarrassed, maybe it had been a dog?

With a laugh she opened the front door, and the sound died in her throat.

Her green sweater lay neatly folded up with a note atop it in badly-scrawled writing.

It read: NEXT YEAR

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