Welcome Home

With a weary grunt, Sam shrugged her suitcase up the final few steps to the front door of the small house she'd grown up in. She'd finally gotten the opportunity to visit her father after months of them attempting to coordinate an opening in their schedules. It was the first time she'd see him face-to-face in over two years.

Since her mother's death, Sam's father had steadily distanced himself from her more and more, burying himself in his studies of ancient and mysterious cultures. Sam liked to tease him about his obsession with "obscure" societies, calling him a hipster anthropologist. He always chuckled at this. Their occasional video-chat eased the separation. Sam also had her own troubles to focus on; for example, what she was going to do with her life. Now that she'd finished her first semester of college, she'd have to declare a major.

The only thing Sam felt particularly confident in was her indecisiveness, and thinking about the future, or trying to, did nothing but depress her. More than a friendly visit, she was hoping that her father would be able to offer her some kind of guidance. She was hoping for some kind of conversation; she wasn't sure exactly what he would say, or what she would say, but when she imagined it every day for the months up to now, it vaguely contained her confessing her uncertainties, and him talking her through them, eventually helping her reach some kind of epiphany.

She sighed thinking about this as she knocked on the old, plain white door. She knew it was unrealistic. She also knew that she didn't really have to worry about it; plenty of people didn't have their lives figured out yet when they were 19. She'd get it all sorted out eventually. She knew that. But she still couldn't help worrying about it.

A moment passed without her father greeting her. Strange. She saw his car parked in the driveway. He knew she was coming today; they'd just spoken last night. She knocked again, more loudly, and waited, a passing late-summer breeze causing her to shiver. Still no answer.

As Sam wrapped her hand around the handle, she wondered why she'd bothered knocking at all. It was her home, after all. But after all this time, it didn't feel like it anymore. So she felt strangely like an invader as she pushed the door open, letting herself inside.

The sun was only beginning to set outside, so the darkness surprised her. She could just barely see the walls of the entrance hallway, the only light from the house emanating from the living room to the right; the dull glow of a television set to an unconnected source. She only made it out with her peripheral vision, because she was afraid to turn from the most eerily dark part of the house, directly before her; the kitchen. A nightlight which had been always connected since her childhood for late-night excursions to the refrigerator was no longer plugged in. It wasn't just unplugged, she could see its broken shards weakly reflecting light from the television.

Something was wrong. Sam continued standing there, in the unnatural darkness. She wanted to call out for her father, but she couldn't open her mouth to speak. As the thought to retreat back outside and to a neighbor struck her, so did a sound. From the pitch black of the kitchen, and behind the counter, she heard a giggle.

An ice-cold chill went up Sam's spine, and she moved her leg backwards to exit the doorway. When she did, she found that she had bumped into someone.

She let out the loudest scream her lungs would allow, simultaneously turning to attack the stranger.