Austin stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his waist. He wiped the steam from the mirror and stood in front of it briefly flexing his and trying to make himself believe that he’d lost a little weight (in reality, he’d gained five pounds since last week). There once was a time when he could eat whatever he wanted and as much as he wanted and he wouldn’t gain a pound, but those days were long gone. Now that he was well into his thirties he’d started putting on weight as his metabolism slowed down to a crawl and lately every single time he stepped on a scale he ended up walking away feeling depressed.
He was by no means an obese guy, but he was nowhere near as slim and trim as he’d been a decade ago. He longed for the days when he easily fit into a pair of 29X30 jeans, as in recent years he had to struggle to fit into a size 34X30 comfortably. His wife always told him that he looked fine and that he was making a big deal out of nothing, but he couldn’t help but obsess over it from time to time.
After spending several moments of sucking in his gut and looking at his reflection in the mirror from every possible angle he sighed in defeat and grabbed his toothbrush. Just like with his weight, he had developed an obsession about having nice teeth as he’d gotten older, and as s result he’d undergone enough pricey dental procedures to send all of his dentist’s kids through college.
As he brushed his teeth he tried to stop thinking about negative things such as weight gain or yellowing teeth (was it just his imagination or was there a crack forming in the enamel of one of his front teeth?) and tried to focus on the positive. He had a great wife, a decent job that he didn’t despise, and they had just bought a new house that was very reasonably-priced and didn’t set them back too much in terms of their savings.
He still couldn’t believe how little they’d paid for the house. Normally a nice three-bedroom house with a basement and two bathrooms in a nice neighborhood would have been way out of their price range but the real estate agent had given them a special deal on it since it was what he called a “fixer upper.” When he quoted them a price for it both Austin and Rita thought that he was joking, but it turned out that he was quite serious.
Austin walked into the bedroom and plopped down in front of the computer to check his email and find out the hockey scores from the previous night’s games (he’d been so tired he fallen asleep in front of the television and didn’t know if his beloved Canucks had been able to overcome the hated Flyers or not).
Rita had gone to the grocery and wouldn’t be back for a while so after he saw that he had no important emails and that Vancouver had in fact vanquished Philadelphia he realized that he was feeling bored and a little lonely. He’d told Rita that he would get to work unpacking the kitchen while she was shopping but he just really didn’t feel like screwing with it at the moment so he just sat there surfing around on the Internet instead.
He looked at the other hockey scores for a little while before he started pulling up old 80’s hair band music videos. Once he got bored with that endeavor he searched for trivia and little known facts on celebrities and movies. It was right around the time that he was reading about how William Friedkin had fired a real gun on the set of “The Exorcist” to get a reaction of out the cast when he noticed the reflection of something moving toward him in the computer screen.
He turned around and expected to see Rita standing there wanting to know why he slacked off and hadn’t worked on the kitchen like he’d claimed her was going to do. It wasn’t Rita standing in the doorway staring at him though, and what he saw in her place actually made him scream out loud for the first time since he was in junior high school and had watched the film “Demons” at his best friend Robbie’s house one warm night during spring break.
The woman standing there looked as if she’d been dead for several months. What little skin she had was rotten and he could see some of her bones due to the fact that most of her body was decomposed. She had long blonde hair that was caked with some sort of fluid and her eyes were blood red. Her teeth were sharp and protruded from her mouth, and there were long, razor-sharp talons at the end of each of her fingers.
Austin could hear his inner voice telling him to run but he was so terrified that he couldn’t even move. The woman made a horrible growling sound and leaped in his direction with such speed that he didn’t even have time to put his hands up in an attempt to defend himself. The last thought that crossed his mind before she was on top of him tearing him to shreds with her teeth and talons was that she smelled just like a pile of rotting meat that had been sitting out baking in the sun for a couple of days.
Rita unlocked the front door and pushed it open with her knee. She had her arms full of groceries and nearly dropped the gallon of milk she was holding in the floor as soon as she walked inside. Cursing Austin for not getting off his lazy ass and helping her with the groceries (she’d blown the horn several times to let him know that she needed help but he’d felt the need to ignore her for some unknown reason) she carried what she had in her arms into the kitchen.
She placed the bags on the kitchen counter and when she saw that he hadn’t unpacked a single thing she felt her face flush with anger. He had promised her that he would take care of unpacking the canned goods and other items while she’d been gone but it was obvious that he’d either forgotten or had just decided not to do it in general. She shook her head in anger and disgust and stormed out of the room, looking forward to ripping him a new one for being so damn lazy.
She never got a chance to give him an earful though. As soon as she started down the hall toward their bedroom the woman slipped out of the spare bedroom silently and attacked her from behind. Rita never even had the chance to scream before the woman grabbed her head and turned it around completely backward.
The real estate agent who had sold the house to Austin and Rita read about the police finding their bodies a couple of days later in the newspaper as he was sitting at the kitchen table finishing up his breakfast. He couldn’t help but feel a little guilty about it like he always did, but he knew that they had died for a reason. Along with everyone else in town he knew that she would leave them all alone as long as he kept bringing outsiders to her to satisfy her bloodlust. Austin and Rita weren’t the first and they certainly wouldn’t be the last to die in that house.
He finished up the bowl of Raisin Bran he was eating and took a quick sip of coffee before he reached over and grabbed the phone. He dialed the newspaper office and as he sat on hold waiting for the Classified department to pick up so he could place his ad he tried to decide what price he should quote for the house this time around.
By Todd Martin