From the night crawls horror and fear in silence.
| The setting sun sent reflections of red and orange skipping over the ocean. Waves pounded on the beach hundreds of feet below where Trisha stood behind the low rock wall at the rear of her backyard. The freshness of the salty breeze tickled her nose while it teased her hair, causing the long, black tendrils to flutter against her neck. Nearly two miles to her right, Pati Point jutted into the Pacific, its cliff-front occasionally pocked with the dark mouths of caves. Sitting on the wall, she twisted to look toward the caves; although she couldn’t see anything except the black spots, she could let her imagination picture them clearly, imagination fueled by rumors of Japanese soldiers still hiding five years after the end of the war. The young woman smoothed her hand over the rough rocks of the wall as she enjoyed her favorite part of the day.
Her peaceful sigh caught in her throat when a hand plastered bony fingers over her mouth. A thin, yet powerful arm yanked her back against a body so gaunt she could feel ribs pressing against her back. Her heart stopped in shock before banging a drum solo so hard that her chest expanded with each beat. With a lunge, Trisha twisted her body off the wall, kicking and flailing arms and body. The restraining hands and arms, like bands, held without easing. The being, whatever it might be, gave off whiffs of musky mold with each abrupt movement of their desperate, tuneless dance.
Grasping her harder, the thing, as she called him in her mind, pulled and yanked her toward the bungalow. Up the steps to the porch and through the unlocked back door, they jigged and twisted. Inside the kitchen, the thin being threw her into a chair, pressing the sharp edge of a knife to her throat. Trisha stared in disbelief at the scarecrow-like creature glaring at her, practically a skeleton in a tattered, ragged Japanese uniform. When she started to speak, he gave his head a violent shake while covering her mouth with the gag of his skeletal hand, as the knife-welding hand pressed the blade slightly into her skin. She squeezed her eyes closed. He removed the knife.
Fear infused her mind as she pressed her body to the back of the wooden chair. Trembling began inside her person and spread to the legs of the hard seat, sending them chattering against the floor like her teeth against each other. Her eyes, wide in terror, watched the emaciated form in its faded, nearly colorless remnants pull drawers and slam cabinet doors open. Finally he grabbed a length of clothes line. In a few faltering steps, he reached Trisha, captured her hands, and bound them before she could make her body fight.
Once more, when she would have spoken, he pushed his hand against her mouth and sharply shook his head. When she nodded, the soldier jerked his hand away and returned to his search of cabinets and drawers. Finding canned vegetables, fruits, and meats, he stacked them on the table. He added coffee, sugar, and flour to the pile before stalking to the refrigerator. Pulling milk, cheese, and a stick of bologna from the shelves, the starved-looking creature sat at the table to wolf down the milk, allowing it to dribble down his chin to his chest. Spying a loaf of bread on one of the cabinet tops, he snaked his arm to grab it and add it to the pile on the table. Standing, he glared around the room.
As his observation stopped at her, she shivered, her mouth becoming dry, her heart pounding hard enough that she felt it would explode from her chest. He strode around the table to bend over her. Trisha's eyes closed as she pulled away from him as far as the chair would allow. His finger touching her throat, following the line of the bloody cut, caused her to clench her jaws to keep the screams from erupting. When he grasped her arm and yanked her to her feet, she staggered so that she wouldn’t fall. His eyes swung around the room before lighting on the door to the hall. With a sudden start, he headed toward the hall, hauling her behind him.
Stalking down the hall, the scrap of humanity opened each door until he reached the bathroom. Without looking in her direction, he pushed Trisha toward the stool, where she sat with a thump. He opened the medicine cabinet. In moments, he had cleaned the wound with alcohol, the sting bringing tears to her eyes. As she stared at the skull moving near her face, the man’s fingers spread the ointment on her neck. He stepped back, stared at her before fleeing the room, slamming the door behind him. A few seconds later, she heard the back door close with a bang.
Pushing herself from the stool, Trisha slid from the bathroom into the hall, her eyes searching in all directions. Reaching the kitchen, she found the tablecloth, and all the food items that had been stacked in the middle of it, gone. Running to the backdoor, she bolted it with trembling hands. Leaning her forehead against the cool glass of the window above the door knob and lock, she took several shuddering sobs. In the darkness of the night, screams, yells, and shots rent the silence, then nothing but the quietness of midnight.
Her heart beats slowed as she continued to huddle against the door, but her body trembled until she felt a quivering mass. Just as she found the strength to push herself away, a pounding on the outside caused her to jump back, her hands grabbing her chest. Trisha stared in horror, expecting to see the gaunt features of her abductor before realizing the face in the shadowed glass was her fiance's. She fumbled the lock open and fell into Tad's waiting arms. He held her close, his hands smoothing her hair, his lips touching her wherever they could reach. Her fears seeped from her as her trembling ceased. The safety of his arms warmed her chilled mind and soul.