Someone was knocking at the door.
Victoria didn’t know who could be calling at this hour. The haze of sleep swirled about her head as she looked at the clock. It was 4 AM. Who in their right mind would be knocking on her door this early? Her muscles rippled as her lean frame rose slowly and turned her feet to the floor, feeling for her warm slippers. Why couldn’t she have gotten a couple more hours of sleep? She had a hard day ahead of her and she needed to be rested. It’s not everyday that a rock climber gets to scale the Monkey Face, one of the most difficult rock spires in the country.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
The raps at the door jolted her as she realized she was drifting off to sleep again. She stood up from the bed, teetering slightly, and shuffled out into the hallway. From atop the stairs, she could see the moonlight filtering through the narrow window beside the front door. A shadow moved across the light.
Knock! Knock! Knock!
A little louder this time, with a feeling as though the caller was getting frustrated at not being acknowledged. Victoria descended into the foyer and peered through the small window. The shadow was gone and she could see no one on the porch. She looked around the sliver of the front yard that was visible, but it was deserted. Satisfied that the caller had gone, she started back up the steps to bed.
Wham! Wham! Wham!
Victoria spun so quickly that she lost her balance and sat down hard on the steps. “Who’s there?” she asked. Her throat squeezed the words out. There was no answer. “Who’s there?” she said again, this time a little more forcefully. “I’m going to call the police if you don’t go away.”
The silence lasted for an eternity. Standing up onto the steps once more, Victoria peered into the living room at the phone sitting on the end table. She stepped down into the foyer again and tiptoed toward the living room. As she passed the window, she glanced out onto the porch again. A face darted quickly out of view.
WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!
Heart racing, Victoria sprinted for the phone. She heard the sickening crack of wood breaking as the deadbolt splintered the wall and the door swung inward. Screaming, she lurched forward as her feet caught on the end of the Oriental rug and pitched her onto her face. She scrambled to her feet again and could hear the running footsteps closing in on her as she dove for the phone. Fumbling, she dialed a 9, then a 1, then……
She felt a climbing rope, probably one of her own that had been sitting on top of her packed bag by the door, wrap around her throat and cinch tightly. The phone fell from her hand as she desperately tried to tear the rope from her neck. She felt her fingers dig into her skin as the rope pulled tighter. Veins bulging, eyes bugging, the darkness closed in around her. She gurgled, her consciousness slowly slipping away. A black tunnel collapsed upon her. Her hands fell from her throat.
She awoke with a start, bolting upright in bed. The darkness in the room was broken only by a few strands of moonlight filtering through the shades covering the window. Her hand raised to her throat, searching for cuts, soreness, anything, but found nothing. She glanced at the clock. 4 AM. She shuddered. She fell backwards onto her sweat-soaked pillow. It had seemed so real. She lay for a moment, staring at the fan lazily circling above her bed. She closed her eyes and felt herself slowly slipping back to sleep. But the silence was broken by a faint sound from down the hall.
Someone was softly knocking at the door.