Glen had always been a bit of a ladies' man.
Ever since his first girlfriend, he'd been a firm believer in the "love um and leave um" school of thought. In high school, it caused some trouble. Glen was the handsome football player who went through women like water, and it seemed he was always in the middle of some drama. In a way, Glen guessed he fed off it, loving the attention he got from being at the center of such controversy. As he got older, Glen found similar conquests out in the real world. The car lot he worked at held a bevy of pretty clients, pretty secretaries, and lovely bosses who became far less authoritarian once the bedroom door was shut.
Until today, it had never gotten him more than a drink thrown in my face or a need to change the locks and notify the security at his condo.
That was before Glen met Maria.
It had happened quite suddenly. Glen was drinking at the bar, warming up a pretty blonde on the stool next to him, when she walked in and grabbed the eye of every man there. She took a seat, long legs moving beneath her red dress, her mane of black hair falling across her shoulder, and Glen felt instantly drawn to her. The blonde barely seemed to notice when he left her, almost like she too was taken with this bewitching creature who had wandered into his life.
She smiled at Glen as he approached, and he asked what she was drinking as the collective eyes of the crowd fell away from the pair.
She said her name was Maria, and for two months, he was putty in her hands. She was unlike anyone Glen had ever met. Maria was smart, confident, possessed of her own upward mobility, and didn't seem to need him in the least. When they made love, it was incredible. Their sessions were like nothing Glen had ever experienced. That was the first time he thought about getting out of the game. Lying there with her, basking in the afterglow, Glen began to feel that he could hang up his bachelor life for good.
After the third time, though, he started getting scared.
This had always been his life. He had always been a dog chasing the next bone, and this woman was making Glen feel...things he had never felt before. So, Glen began to pull away. He began to fall back into my old habits. He started to tomcat around again and lived his life just as he had before Maria. He wasn't subtle about it, he didn't hide what he was doing, and a week before Christmas, it all came to a head. Maria met him in front of his apartment and confronted Glen. She knew he had been out with someone else, she could probably smell her perfume on his coat, and when she tried to throw that in Glen's face, he ended it. He told her it was over, it had been fun, but it was over.
It was brutal, it was surgical, and he regretted it as soon as he said it.
Maria didn't cry. Glen guessed he hadn't expected she would. Instead, she got mad. Maria slapped him across the face, her red nails cutting his cheek, and he could see some of it dripping from them as Maria seethed at him. For a moment, her beauty slipped, and she looked more like a wild animal who had been cornered by a predator. She was ferocious as she stood before him, and Glen found himself a little afraid she would simply end him right there. For a moment, she seemed to consider it, but the evil little smile told him she had other ideas.
"You will pay for this. No one leaves me. You will regret this; you will beg me to take you back before the end."
"You're crazy. We're done. You have no power over me."
She smiled then, and it was an ugly thing on her pretty face.
"Is that what you think, mi amore? You will soon find that my reach stretches farther than even you would believe."
Looking back on it, Glen supposed she had been right.
For the next few days, Glen seemed to see her everywhere. When he was at a bar, at a club, in a hotel lobby, wherever he was finding new and exciting places to pick up a woman, Glen would suddenly feel her close by. He would catch her mane of raven hair from the corner of my eye. He would feel her emerald eyes on the back of my head. He would hear her laugh skate across my psyche, and he would choke. The feeling would throw him off my game, suddenly and jarringly, and the results were always catastrophic. Glen was suddenly tripping over his lines, less smooth with his pickups, and he found himself going home more and more often alone.
She seemed to haunt him, dogging Glen's heels wherever he went, and he seemed incapable of returning to life as he had known it.
He was returning to his apartment alone one night when Glen saw a package sitting out front. It was December twenty-second, two days before Christmas, and the sight of a package wasn't unexpected. It was wrapped in deep red paper, topped with a glossy bow, and the snow around it seemed incapable of touching that satiny finish. Someone had seen fit to leave him a present, but who? He had no family, no friends to speak of, and no girlfriend who might come by to give him a gift. Glen lifted the package and shook it, hearing something heavy thunk around inside. It didn't tick, it didn't smell like a bomb, so maybe it wasn't from a vengeful ex.
Glen opened the door and brought it inside.
He sat it on the kitchen table and went to get a shower. Glen's prospect tonight had thrown a drink at him after one of his lines had landed badly. It was helped in part by Maria seeming to appear in the mirror behind the bar. She had favored sugary drinks, and now he was sticky and in sad need of a shower. Glen threw his clothes in the hamper and switched on the water as he stepped into the building steam bank. The warmth took him out of the failures of the evening, ripped megrims from his mind, and plunged Glen into blissful numbness as the water cascaded over him.
He opened his eyes when a soft sound from the living room scampered across his nerves.
Glen stopped, bent nearly double as he reached for the shampoo, but shrugged it off. It was probably just the heater coming on. He stood under the warm water, letting the stickiness and the burning pockets of alcohol drip to the floor of the plastic tub. Glen leaned into the water, letting it wash away his cares, wishing there was someone to wash his back. Some bouncy young thing, her charms on full display, sliding her soft hands over his tense shoulders. Glen could almost feel her phantom hands as he stood there, her strong hand rubbing against his tired skin, her gentle fingers sliding over the knots, her…
Jagged fingernails cutting his skin.
Glen gasped as a searing pain ripped across his left shoulder. He staggered into the wall, feeling the blood run down his back, realizing it hadn't been his imagination. He put a hand to the wound, his fingers coming away red. Glen turned his shoulder to the water as he looked around for the source of the cut. The wound erupted in white-hot pain as the hot water hit it, but Glen was more concerned about what had scraped it in the first place. The shower curtain was free of anything that could have cut him. Ditto the opposite wall, and there was nothing hanging from the ceiling either.
There didn't seem to be anything he could have scratched himself on, but the blood running down the drain said it all.
Looking in the mirror after he'd gotten out, Glen could see three long scratches down his shoulder. They looked like nail marks. Maybe from an angry or passionate lover? He shrugged that thought off at once. Glen hadn't had a woman since Maria had left, and the idea that they could be that old was laughable. The longer he looked at them, the more he came to realize that there had been scratches there not too long ago. Wasn't that the spot that Maria had often clutched with her nails while they got heavy?
How many times had Glen looked at scratches just like these, though not as deep, the next morning?
He shrugged it off and pulled his robe gingerly over the hurt shoulder. Coincidence, nothing but coincidence. Maria was on his mind, and he was making connections where there were none. He let the warm robe envelop him and went into the living room to see what was in the box. Now that Glen was less sticky, his curiosity was piqued.
He found the box on its side when he arrived, the lid open.
Somehow the box had fallen off the table, and the bow had come undone in the fall. The contents had spilled out and whatever had been in it had rolled out of sight. Glen started looking around for what had been inside, the thumping making him curious. The box had been heavy enough to make him believe that the contents were pretty big, but Glen couldn't find anything. Nothing had rolled under the couch, under the table, into the kitchen, and nothing seemed out of place. Had someone came in and taken whatever had been inside? Glen's eyes flicked to the chain on the door, and he relaxed when he saw that it was on. No one could have gotten in if the chain was unbroken, and they'd have had to unlock and relock both locks.
When he picked up the box, Glen noticed a card in the lid.
The little red card had black writing that made Glen feel a little squirmy when he read it.
It made him think of Maria again.
"Merry Christmas, mi amore. May this gift remind you that my reach is farther than you think."
It wasn't signed, but it hardly needed to be.
Glen balled it up and threw it away. Someone was playing games, an ex, probably, and not even necessarily the one he was thinking about. Glen had many, most of them dumb as rocks, which made him all the surer that it was Maria. This was the sort of thing she would think was funny, the kind of thing she might think would scare him. Maybe scare Glen enough to call her?
Glen turned off the lights and went to bed.
As he lay in the dark with his head under the pillow, sleep seemed to elude Glen. The scratches burned, and his mind wouldn't lose that dark-haired vixen who haunted his thoughts. She was never far from his mind these days and seemed to hover just over his shoulder. Now this mysterious gift; what did it all mean?
May this gift remind you that my reach is farther than you think.
What the hell did that mean?
As Glen lay there, he began to hear a strange noise from the living room. Glen heard something moving around in the quiet of the night. The soft scuttling made him think it was a rat or a mouse. Glen had never had a rodent problem. He was pretty clean for a bachelor, but it was cold. They were always looking for a warm place to hide out the winter, and he made a note to call the landlord tomorrow so the exterminator could come out.
The scrabbling kept him awake, though. Glen could hear the rodent in my living room as it explored Glen's nice clean apartment. The sound of its little feet was driving him crazy. It didn't sound like a normal rat. The cadence of its footfalls was off somehow, and it just seemed to crawl into Glen's ear as he lay awake. It sounded big, though, that was for sure. Glen made another mental note to himself to call the landlord first thing in the morning.
He did not want to give this thing a chance to burrow deep.
When it turned its attention to the hallway, Glen sat up to ensure he had closed the door. He didn't figure it could get in with the door closed and laid down as he tried to ignore the annoying beasty. It would hit the door and go away, hopefully not nesting too deep in the apartment so the exterminator could get him out easily. The last thing Glen wanted was a whole family of rodents in his apartment, chewing up the furniture and leaving droppings on his…
Glen nearly jumped out of his skin when the bedroom door creaked open. How had it opened the door? Had Glen forgotten to close it firmly? Was the rat big enough to brute his way through it? He could hear the little bastard wandering around and hunkered under the covers. Okay, so he was in there. It's not like he would climb into the bed. Glen was a big dumb predator, and the rat wouldn't want to get too close to him. Rats only came and chewed people's faces off in movies or tabloids. In reality, they were cowards who barely ever bothered people beyond invading their houses and being a nuisance. He would crawl into the closet, chew on some of the dirty clothes that lay on the floor, and that would be that.
Glen felt a tug on the comforter and shuddered as the rat pulled its way into his bed.
Glen laid as still as he could. The weight of the thing pressed down on him, and it was bigger than even he had suspected. It felt as large as a full-grown kitten, and it definitely had more than four legs. It scrambled over him, over his buttocks, and up his back as it made a beeline for Glen's head. It was driving him insane. There was no reason for it to get this close. Rats did not get this close to people. Glen began to remember those old stories about rats eating homeless people's faces, the victim waking up and screaming as the rat made off with a lip or a nose. Would he come under the covers to look for Glen?
Did Glen dare give him the chance?
He sat up suddenly as it scuttled over his injured shoulder and tossed the covers back, roaring at it like a pissed-off lion. Glen expected that would send the little bastard running. It would piss itself all the way to the front door, not expecting a screaming human to be waiting for it. The little asshole had messed with the wrong guy today, and he was going to get more than he bargained for tonight. At the time, Glen's only regret was that he would have to wash the comforter and sleep under an old quilt when the rat peed all over himself.
Glen felt his breath catch when he finally saw the thing, never expecting what he saw in that shadowy darkness.
It turned out that it wasn't a rat, and Glen's angry cry turned into a confused scream as quickly as it had started. It had danced back, crouching on the corner of the bed as the light through the window showed him precisely what had been scrabbling around the house. As my scream died in Glen's throat, they sat and stared at each other, another scream trying to bubble up as it accessed him from its position of surprise.
It was no rat, no mouse either.
It was a hand.
It looked just like Thing from the Addams Family show. The hand was pink, slightly tanned, its knuckles hairy, and covered in coarse black hair up to the wrist stump. It hunkered on the bed, seeming to look at Glen though it had no eyes. When he screamed again, it lunged suddenly, and Glen's scream was cut off as suddenly as it had begun. The hand clamped around his windpipe, and Glen yanked at the wrist stump as he tried to free it. Its fingers dug in, pressing into his flesh, and its grip was strong and firm. Strong or not, it lacked the leverage that a wrist provides, and Glen soon felt the fingers sliding off his skin as he threw it against the door.
It hit the door with a splat, and one of his neighbors yelled at Glen to keep it down.
It rose to its finger legs and seemed to be trying to get its bearings. The throw had stunned it, and Glen could see its pointer finger was bent a little after hitting the door. Glen had to strike now before its witts returned, and he scrambled his own hand around the edge of the bed as he hunted for the baseball bat he knew was there. Glen felt the cold metal of the bat as it came scuttling at him again, and he wrapped his hand around it, gaining confidence from its solidity.
It jumped, its finger legs bringing it up onto the bed as it prepared to lunge at him again.
Glen waited, not wanting to spook it.
It tested its fingers a single time before springing at his throat, looking ghostly in the moonlight as it leaped.
Glen swung the bat, swatting it deftly out of the air. When it hit the wall, he saw it twitch as its fingers stood out at odd angles. Glen didn't wait for it to get itself together this time. He rolled out of bed, deft as any hunting cat, and swung the bat down on it as the hand lay twitching. It spasmed, blood oozing from the strange thing, but Glen kept swinging until it was little more than pulpy flesh on the ground. Its blood, black in the moonlight, sank into the carpet like sludge and clung to my bat like ichor.
Glen was winded when he stopped swinging, and the thing was little more than a pile of meat and bones.
He reached for a grocery bag that lay crumpled beneath the bed and picked up the pulpy mess. He didn't want it in the room, didn't want it in the apartment, and Glen intended to walk straight out to the dumpster and throw it away, despite the hour. He would sleep much better once it was gone, and Glen was suddenly very tired. The adrenaline kept him upright, but the dread and the exertion would lay him out once it left. He opened the door to his room and took a single step before the fear oozed up in him again.
Three more of the hands came wheeling around the corner, making a beeline for the open door.
Glen slammed it in their non-existent faces, putting his back against it as they smashed against it.
He put his back to the door, an excited panic falling over him. Glen was no longer sleepy, his waning adrenaline now topped off by renewed fear. The bag he had put the broken hand in moved a little, the hand going through its death throes, and the hands outside kept pelting at the door as though they could sense its death. Finally, he just curled up against the door and put his face against my knees, sobbing quietly as his fear got the better of him.
The phone chirped then, and Glen looked down to see someone had sent him a message.
It was from the last person he would have expected, but the very person he was thinking of.
Did you get my present?
The message was from Maria.
As he looked at the phone, Glen thought that it might be just what he needed.
He picked up the phone and dialed emergency services. How had he not thought of this before? The cops would come in and find the hands, and this would all be over. They could kill them and bring this nightmare to an end. Glen lifted the phone to his ear with shaking hands, and when the operator answered, he almost cried.
"Yes, I need the police here immediately. I have...strange creatures in my house that have trapped me in my bedroom. They are trying to hurt me, and I need help."
"Okay, sir, one moment, please."
She asked for his address, verified his name, and then began to ask Glen about other things while he waited for the police to arrive. How long had this been going on? What sort of creatures were they? Was he injured? Glen told her he wasn't hurt and wasn't sure what they were. He couldn't tell her disembodied hands were in the house; she would think he was crazy.
"Yes, you do," she said, and her voice sounded familiar the longer this call went on, "why don't you tell me what's in your house, mi amore."
"Maria?" Glen breathed, his breath catching.
"Why don't you just give up and come back to me? I'll let you crawl back, and we'll put this all behind us. You don't want to know what happens to the ones who decide not to come back to me." She cackled evilly on the other end of the phone.
Glen hung up and threw the phone under the bed. It continued to ring from under the bed, and the ding of his phone heralded the constant stream of text messages Maria bombarded him with. It rang, again and again, the hands slamming into the door with relentless force. The chirping finally became too much to bear, and he dug it out and scrolled through the messages. She kept texting, sending him messages, telling him to give up and return to her. Glen read them all, and his shaking began to rattle the door. She would forgive him, she would kill him, he would rue the day he disrespected her, and on and on and on. The screen shook, Glen taking it all in as he prayed it would all be over quickly.
As her last text popped up, Glen knew that no help was coming.
"See you soon, Mi Amore."
As the sun peeked over the lip of the window sill, Glen realized he had been there for three hours. The hands outside were scuttling around; Glen could see them if he peeked beneath it. His phone had been quiet for the last few minutes, and the silence was made all the more palpable by the lack of scuttling from the hands. Glen took a peek beneath the door but sat back up just as quickly.
He could see a pair of shoes standing on the other side of the door.
Someone knocked, a soft tap that sent shivers up his spine, and the voice that told him to come out made his blood run cold.
It appears that Maria had arrived and that Glen was out of time.
It appears he should have been wary of ex's baring gifts.
It appears her reach was, indeed, farther than Glen believed.
About the Creator
Writer, reader, game crafter, screen writer, comedian, playwright, aging hipster, and writer of fine horror.
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