I find myself at my front door.
No idea how, or what happened, or how long I’ve been standing here. The last thing I remember is the dog barking…
But the yard next door is empty. The moon is higher, it’s much later at night. Or earlier in the day? Maybe the sun is coming up soon, I can’t tell.
I look back at the door. Should I knock?
I glance down at myself, and then back down the porch steps in shock. There’s a lot of blood. Everywhere.
My hands travel over my face, my arms, my stomach. But I don’t seem to be injured anywhere. In fact, I feel better than before. More awake, more coherent. Less achy. But there’s sticky blood soaking my shirt, and it’s the middle of the night, and I have no memory of what I’ve done or where I’ve been before I woke up spitting out dirt. I can’t wake my wife up like this, it’ll scare the life out of her.
But I have nowhere else to go, and if I didn’t come home from work last night, she has to be worried.
Work. I put a hand to my head. I remember being at work. I remember clocking in, and putting on my hardhat. I remember snow. Snow, and a bone-aching cold that seemed to last forever. But when was that? Yesterday? Two days ago? There was no snow left on the sidewalks or the grass.
I needed to find out, and she needed to know I was safe, I was home.
The key. They had a spare key in a fake rock in the flower bed.
I kneel in it, dirty hands scrabbling over the plants and rocks until I find the one I need. Kissing the key, I stand.
But there is still the matter of my bloody shirt. I don’t know how it got bloody or where the blood came from, but I know I can’t wear this inside.
I go to the trash can next to the garage and lift the lid. I rip off my jacket and shirt and hold them in my hands, confused. Both had a long slit up the back, stopping right before the collar.
I shake my head and toss the shirt in the can, and close the lid. Wearing just a suit coat was better than wearing that horror show.
I’m putting the key in the lock when a lamp turns on in the living room. I freeze, but I don’t know why. I’m so ready to see Maisie again, to hold her, to reassure her.
The last thing I want to do is scare her.
“Maisie.” My voice sounds gravelly, unrecognizable, even to my own ears. I try again. “Maisie, it’s me, Grady. I’m coming in—”
The door flies open and I see her beautiful, shocked face for just a moment before it slams shut again and the screaming starts.
Before she can turn the lock, I open the door a crack and push my shoulder against it, trying to keep her from shutting me out.
Maybe she can’t tell it was me in the dark, and thinks a stranger is trying to push their way into the house. I stop pushing against her for a second.
“Maisie, please. Stop screaming and let me in. It’s Grady, baby. You’re going to wake up the neighbors. I’m coming in.”
I don’t know if we’re arguing, or why she tried to lock me out, or why she won’t stop screaming. But I know from our past arguments that if we just talk, we can work things out.
The pressure on the other side of the door releases and I open just in time to see Maisie running for the garage door, blond hair flying out behind her. She snatches the keys off the wall and throws open the door, running into the garage.
I don’t run after her, I go slowly, comforting, pleading. I hear the garage door go up, and run the last few steps.
The headlights blind me as I stand in the doorway to the garage, and I throw a hand up to cover my eyes. But she’s backing out of the driveway. I get one quick glimpse of her terrified face as she peels out.
“Maisie!” I yell. Why is my wife running from me?
I find myself at my front door.