WELCOME TO THE second go-round of the Dark Delicacies anthology of horror and the unsettling. Once again our intent is to open that creaking door into the very personal wavering room of angst and horror, your mind. Are you uncomfortable? No? You will be. Pull up a chair. Here is a pillow to place behind your back. I hope nothing sharp is sticking out of it. The lamp is just right, casting its yellowed glow over your shoulder and into your lap. Wait! Are the curtains open? We wouldn’t want anybody leering in at you while you read, would we?

Is that the faucet dripping? You could go into the kitchen and stop it, but it’s so dark in there, and that may have been the rattling of the side-door knob I heard a moment ago. Somebody checking on us to see if we’re locked in and safe. I do hope we’re alone in here. One last question before we get started. Do you have a pet? No? I thought I heard something walking on floorboards upstairs. It is probably just my imagination starting to run wild.

You know how things happen. Despite the cold wind outside, you’re beginning to sweat. It could be that the heat is turned up too high. I guess that’s why the furnace is making that banging noise in the basement. If it quits working, will we have to go down and fix it? A sudden light-headedness, and your eyes don’t quite focus right. A need to clear your throat, more for the noise than the swallowing. But your mouth seems awful dry. Maybe a glass of water will help. Oh, that’s right, it’s still pretty dark in that kitchen, and the water continues to slowly drip. A steady, rhythmic beat, beat, beat. Then it stops. How nice. Now the only noise is the sound of your own breathing.

Something moves in the corner of the room just outside your field of vision. You felt it, and you almost saw it. But when you turn… no, no I guess not. There’s nothing there. My mistake. Now the wind seems to be picking up outside. You can hear the shuffle and rattle of the bushes in front of the house. The sound of leaves skipping across the porch is a bit like shuffling feet, isn’t it? You could turn on the porch light and peek out the front door. Oh, that’s right. The light burned out last week, and you still haven’t gotten around to replacing it. But I’m sure it’s nothing. And that moan is merely the air rushing around the corner of the house. All old houses creak like that. It’s the wood settling on its foundations. Nothing would be outside your door in this weather. Why, you would have to be a crazy person to go out on a night like this… wouldn’t you?

It’s a good night to be inside, curled up with a good book. Well, here it is. You’re holding it in your hands. Clean the spots off of your glasses because they make it seem like there’s something there when there really isn’t. It’s a shame that when you put on your reading glasses, the rest of the room goes out of focus. The pillows over on the couch really take on weird shapes, don’t they? They kind of look like animals when they’re all fuzzy like that. Boy oh boy, one’s mind can certainly dream up some pretty crazy stuff, can’t it? Pull the lap blanket up over your legs. It feels snug and safer that way.

What’s that? How did that moth get into the house? Isn’t it fun how its flickering shadow grows small to large on the wall and ceiling? You can hear him banging into the lamp shade above your head, can’t you? It’ll die soon and drop, and then it will be peaceful again. That is, unless you want to go into the kitchen and get a rolled-up paper to squash it. Oh, that’s right, the kitchen.

Well, let’s just turn the page and start reading. That will make us forget about all of this nonsense. Wait. Damn that faucet. It’s started dripping again. You’re going to have to go into that kitchen sooner or later. Okay, later. It’s time for a quiet little tale of terror first. A little aerobic reading to get your heart rate up. But, my, it’s so high already.

Del Howison

September 2007