Supernatural-The Newspaper Series
A thud on the bedroom door jerked George out of a dream and snapped his upper body into a sitting posture. He glanced around the darkened room with his heart in his throat. A pair of shadows under his door grabbed his attention. His slender fingers grabbed the blanket and pulled it up to his chin. The paper-thin bedroom door offered no real protection.
George jumped out of his skin at a loud thump on his door. Goosebumps covered his body when hoarse whispers echoed in the hallway. He held his breath and stared at the doorknob. He listened for an animal when scratching on his door sent a chill up his spine.
George could not understand why someone or something would target him. He had no enemies. Pets were not allowed and none of the stray animals in the neighborhood could enter the dwelling.
He had settled with the family who sued him after the accident and they never bothered him after he sold everything to compensate them for the injuries they suffered. He had lost more than they did but had to suffer in silence because he was the one who ran the red light that killed his wife and daughter and left him dependent on strong pain killers and potent anti-depressants.
Burglars had no business raiding a rooming house. Residents were broke, with just enough income to rent a room and get by financially.
George was left with one conclusion. Since the landlord lived elsewhere, the offenders outside his door had to be two of the four residents in the rooming house or one resident and an accomplice from outside. He would have to find out why he was their prey. He poised his six-foot bony frame with clenched fists and gritted teeth. He was ready for the intruders. He had done some street fighting and attended a few sessions of karate when he was a kid in elementary school.
It never happened. After an eternity of hiding in the dark ready to spring into action, George released the pressure from his screaming lungs. His body slumped out of its rigidity. He sucked air through his mouth like an athlete at the end of a hundred-yard dash.
The shadows continued to frighten George without any attempts to enter the room. He imagined them crouching and staring at him from under the door with evil glares spawned from malicious intentions.
With his eyes glued to the crack under the door, George leaned sideways to lie on the bed with his back against the wall. He dared them in his mind to enter at their peril.
The shadows vanished when the dim light of dawn seeped under the door of the fifty-five-year-old.
George combed his fingers through his mustache and beard. He rubbed the sweat off his bald head before rolling off the bed and tiptoeing to the door. A bursting bladder forced him to confront the entity outside his door. He had to get to the washroom before the others. Daylight buoyed his courage, allowing him to open the door a crack to peer at the spot. Even though the shadows no longer existed, George’s heart pounded when he stepped around their perceived location.
After using the facilities, George stayed with routine. He entered the kitchen before the other tenants and poured the first cup of coffee from the machine after setting it to brew ten cups. He blew the rising steam and slurped the java before taking his usual seat at the far corner of the six-seater dining table to read the newspaper.
Instead of glancing up now and then to greet and observe the other tenants, George planned to camouflage his scrutiny of them behind friendly gestures.
The skinny construction worker with long curly hair entered and smiled at George. He filled his Styrofoam cup and capped it after adding sugar and cream. He raised it on his way out to say goodbye. George mirrored his actions and eliminated him as a suspect. He did not show any signs of ill will toward George.
The elderly pot-bellied gentleman with the cast on his leg hobbled in on noisy crutches. He went straight to the coffee machine without noticing George. Awkward movements spilled coffee everywhere. George followed his movement down the hall and out the back door to drink what was left of his coffee after he left a trail of it along the path he took. His hacking cough and tobacco-stained, unkempt facial hair did not get in the way of his lighting up, regardless of the weather.
George smiled to himself. Two down, two to go. His smile turned into a grin when he heard the expected mumbling in the hall from the old lady who always cleaned up the spills of her clumsy neighbor on her way to the kitchen.
“Good morning, young man.” Her motherly tone wrapped George in comfort.
“Good morning, Ma’am.” George stopped short of saying, “Mom.”
She came over and asked him about his well-being and offered her support before making her coffee and taking her exit to chat with the smoker.
George believed that he was the talk of the rooming house after the tragedy.
The young lady’s perfume and her tuneful hums wafted into the kitchen before she made her style-conscious appearance at the doorway, beaming a white-toothed grin at George.
George scanned her from head to toe. The aspiring actress in her waitress uniform was nothing short of gorgeous.
George gazed at her through moist eyes when she turned her back to him to pour her coffee. His heavy heart pulled his eyes down to the newspaper. He stared at it but lost himself to the recurring vision that haunted him every moment of his life. Sleep did not offer any reprieve. Howls of anguish and streams of tears awoke him many nights after the accident.
“Hello, Pops.” The waitress pulled up a chair next to George with a dimpled grin. “How are we doing, today?”
“Hello, Helen.” George forced a smile. “We’re not doing too well.” He placed his hand on hers. “You remind me so much of my Glenda.”
“Oh, George.” She released her cup and placed her other hand on his. “I cannot dare to imagine your pain.” Her sad eyes stared into his.
“She was just as perfect as you.” A tear rolled down his cheek. Helen wiped it away with her thumb. “Perfect and compassionate like you.” George leaned his head on their hands and sobbed. Helen stroked his head with her free hand. She remained silent for the grief-stricken George to let out his anguish.
“It was an error in judgment, George. You have nothing to feel guilty about.” Helen’s soft voice soothed George. “You have suffered enough.” She glanced around. “Not only have you lost your wife and daughter, but the lawsuit took away your assets and your will to live.”
“You have a heart of gold.” George composed himself. “Thank you for your support. I will follow you as you reach for the stars.”
“Goodbye, George.” She got up and kissed his forehead. “The film company will pick me up after work. I promise to stay in touch.” She stepped into the hallway and glanced back over her shoulders. “Oh, by the way, let them back into your life when they come a-knocking tonight.”
George stared at the empty doorway. He did not hear Helen leave.
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