Stephanie shifted her weight and stretched her legs, trying to find a comfortable position on the couch. Brandon, who had shown up earlier with a 12 pack and bag of weed was busy watching the blond bimbo on the TV and didn’t notice as she yawned. She glanced at the screen and shook her head. The bimbo was naked… well almost. She had heels on, which Stephanie found mildly amusing. Not as amusing as the girl’s boyfriend taking an axe to the head while she gave him a B.J., but it was still funny.
“Why doesn’t she just kick the shoes off?”
“Hmmm?” Brandon didn’t even glance her way, so enthralled was he by the woman’s bare breasts.
The woman tripped and fell then. Rolling onto her back she screamed, backing away from the maniac that had been chasing her. He stood over her, face covered by a goats head and held the axe high, ready to bring it down.
“At least use those heels for something,” Stephanie griped. “Kick him in the balls.”
“What? Oh… yeah, kick him.” Brandon took a drink from his can, making his face when he realized it was empty. “Honey, can you get me another one?”
“Sure, I have to check on Miranda anyway.”
“Sucks you got stuck babysitting her tonight.”
“Oh yeah, really sucks,” Stephanie said, grabbing a can of air freshener off the table. “I get to babysit and you get to watch television on a large screen, instead of the dinky one in your apartment. Here.” She tossed Brandon the can. “I don’t want the Peterson’s to smell marijuana when they get back home.”
“Calm down, they won’t notice.” Brandon dropped the can onto the couch and went back to watching the movie. The killer was now watching two teenagers that were making out in the backseat of a Volkswagen.
Shaking her head, Stephanie headed towards Miranda’s room. A cold breeze hit her face as soon as she opened the door. The window was standing wide open and the girl was lying huddled on the bed. Stephanie rushed into the room to shut it and then grabbed Miranda’s blanket off the floor and covered her with it.
“Miranda, why is your window open?”
“The bad man opened it.”
“Honey, what are you talking about?” Stephanie bent next to the girl and brushed her hair out of her face. Miranda’ milky eyes were red from crying. She stared back at Stephanie, not seeing her. Outside the room, Stephanie could hear a woman screaming and realized Miranda had probably been listening to the horror movie playing out in the next room.
“The bad man. He opened the window and told me to be quiet or he’d cut out my tongue.”
“I’m sorry, sweetie. I forget sometimes how good your hearing is. I didn’t know the television was loud enough to be heard in here. You must have had a bad dream.”
“He’s still here” Miranda said. “I can hear him breathing.”
“Honey, no one’s here.”
“I can hear him.”
Stephanie sighed. She knew that she could argue with the girl all night, Miranda was stubborn and had an active imagination. But she wasn’t usually prone to telling tales.
“If I look around your room and don’t find anyone, will you go back to sleep?”
“He’s not in my room. He’s in the hall?”
Stephanie walked over to the door and looked out. “No one’s there, Miranda.”
“Not anymore,” Miranda said, stubbornly. “He’s in the kitchen now.”
Stephanie listened and she did hear the sound of the refrigerator shutting.
“That’s just Brandon. He probably got tired of waiting for me to bring him something to drink.”
“No. Brandon’s dead.”
“Miranda,” Stephanie scolded, “you shouldn’t say things like that!”
“But it’s true. The bad man killed him.” Miranda was still whispering, but she was beginning to become agitated. Getting out of bed, she pulled on Stephanie’s arm. “You have to hide. He’s going to kill you next.”
“That’s it. Come on.” Stephanie took Miranda’s hand. “We’re going to go talk to Brandon so you can see that he’s okay. Then you’re going back to bed.”
Miranda followed Stephanie, holding onto her hand tightly. When they got to the living room, the couch was empty.
“Brandon?” Stephanie looked around. He wasn’t there. On the television, another naked girl was on her back while some guy that looked like he was on steroids screwed her. The girl’s eyes were closed and she didn’t see the killer standing behind her stud muffin, ready to bring the axe down. Pushing the off button, Stephanie turned off the television. “Brandon?”
“He’s not going to answer you,” Miranda said. “He’s dead.”
“He’s probably in the bathroom. Half a 12 pack will do that to you.” As if to confirm that, the sound of a toilet flushing could be heard at the end of the hallway. “See, I told you. Will you go to sleep now?”
“That’s not Brandon,” Miranda insisted. Tired of arguing with the girl, Stephanie took her by the arm and led her down the hall. “I’ve had enough of this game, Miranda. I’m sorry the movie scared you. I’ll leave the hall light on and your door cracked, if that will help, but it’s time to go to sleep.”
“I’m blind, I won’t know the difference.” Miranda lay down in bed, turning her head away when Stephanie bent to kiss her on the cheek. Stephanie brushed the girl’s hair off her face and kissed her anyway. “I love you, Mandy Bear.”
The bathroom door was still closed when she left Miranda’s room. Stephanie knocked on the door. “Brandon?” He didn’t answer, but she heard the shower running. “Brandon, what are you doing?”
He didn’t answer. Turning the knob, she opened the door. “Brandon? Come on, this isn’t funny, answer me.” She pulled back the curtain. The shower was running into an empty tub; no one was there.
“Brandon, this isn’t funny.” Stephanie shut off the water. Leaving the bathroom she looked in on Miranda. Her bed was empty. “Oh come on,” she cried. “Brandon, Miranda, if the two of you are playing a joke on me, this has to stop.”
She found Miranda in the kitchen.
“Miranda, what are you doing?”
“The bad man is here.”
“Where? Mandy Bear, no one is here.”
“He’s here.” Miranda pointed to herself.
“Miranda?” Stephanie reached for her and then stopped, noticing for the first time that the girl was holding a knife. “Sweetie, what are you doing with that? Would you please give it to me?” Slowly, Stephanie reached out to take it from her. A loud yowl from the living room caused her to jump and she nearly dropped the knife as she pulled it from Miranda’s hand.
“Brandon? Are you tormenting the cat again?”
Taking Miranda’s hand, Stephanie cautiously approached the living room. The television was turned back on and she could see the back of Brandon’s head sticking out past the end of the couch. His arm was flung over the side and the Peterson’s black cat was licking at his fingers. At first that’s what she thought, but then she saw that Max was chewing on the fingers, breaking the skin open.
“Max, get away! Brandon, are you okay?” Stephanie rounded the front of the couch and screamed. Brandon’s eyes were open and staring blankly at the screen. His abdomen was also open, his guts spilling out of the gaping hole. The cat jumped up on top of Brandon’s chest and began chewing on the entrails.
Stephanie picked Miranda up and ran for the front door, just as headlights lit up the driveway, silhouetting a shadow standing in front of the window. The figure held an axe in its hands.
Stephanie couldn’t sleep. She’d spent hours talking to the police. The killer had gotten away. As soon as the Peterson’s pulled into the driveway, he ran, disappearing into the myriad of connecting backyards. Then her father came and picked her up. Now she lay in her bedroom with the light on. She couldn’t bring herself to turn it off.
Outside her bedroom door, a floorboard creaked. She saw a shadow move, blocking the light that filtered in under the door.
No one answered. The floorboard creaked again and then the handle on her door began to turn.