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They don’t believe me.

Of course they don’t. Who would? Not my friends, not my parents, and certainly not the police. I’ve talked to them twice— the police, I mean. Sat there twice in that cold grey room, running my thumb back and forth across the cigarette smoldering between my fingers. They were kind the first time they questioned me, gentle in their askings the same way my mom was when she asked about a bad dream.

The second time, they weren’t so forgiving. I didn’t even know what to tell them— I’d told them everything the first time, and they refused to listen, keeping their fingers in their ears and heads in the sand.

I told them, warned them that my boyfriend wasn’t my boyfriend, not anymore. But they didn’t believe me. No one does.

Let me start from the beginning.

Two months ago, I bought my first home. A farmhouse cottage on the outskirts of Chelsea, Oklahoma. It took me years to scrape together enough for a down payment, and if the house hadn’t been below market price, it would’ve been more before I could even fathom having enough. No neighbors, tucked away in its own slice of heaven. The closest house was three miles away, and nothing could bother me.

But there were problems. There were noises.

New houses settle, old houses creak. I learned quickly growing up that houses are noisy, houses in the country especially. No hustle and bustle of city life to drown out the whistling winds bending wood ever so slightly, or the pipes rattling to life. And that’s how it was to start— I heard crickets chirp for the first time in years, heard frogs croak for the first time in, well, for the first time ever, really.

It reminded me of my grandparent’s house growing up. They owned a farm so isolated you could see all of the stars without having to worry about light pollution. I slept nice, slept more peacefully in my bed than I ever have.
Then it started.

A tapping at my window. Looking back, it’s silly the way I acted, that first night. It could have been a dumb fly trying to get outside or a moth trying to get at the electric candle I keep on my window cill. Tap-tap, tap-tap. Rhythmic. Almost like a heartbeat.

I should’ve gotten up, should’ve seen what it was. I tell myself that, but at the time I couldn’t. All my doors were locked, the windows included, so nothing could get in. I don’t know why I was so scared, so frightened by something as stupid as a tapping at my window, but I was.

And once morning came, once the sun spilled in from under my curtains, there was nothing outside. There was nothing outside, and the tapping had stopped hours ago. Or, it must have, because it wasn’t there when I woke up.

But it happened again. Happened for a month. Tap-tap, tap-tap.

I still couldn’t bring myself to look, but whatever was out there looked in. I could feel a gaze hot against the back of my neck, felt fingers trace the line of my spine despite the locked windows and the emptiness of my home.

Suffice to say, I couldn’t let that slide. Couldn’t let my paranoia get the best of me. So, one day after work, I bought an ultrasonic deterrent, the same kind we used while camping when I was little. If I was living basically in the middle of nowhere, I should have planned accordingly, I told myself. Keep the raccoons away, I said. I duct-taped it outside my bedroom window.

The tapping stopped. For one night, it stopped.

The following morning, I found the crushed remains of the device outside my doorstep. The night after that, the tapping came back. Tap-tap. Tap-tap.

I had my boyfriend Kevin stay over. I was stubborn, refused to leave my own house because some wild animal took notice. Our schedules aligned anyway, and it was nice to have someone to fill space, nice to have someone to watch movies with and complain about NCIS to.

He heard it, too. I had gotten used to it, almost. Almost enough to sleep through it, if I buried my head under the pillows and kept under the covers. But not after it destroyed what I put out to keep it away, not after that.

Kevin complained, ripping the blankets off himself despite my protests. He went over to the window, curtains still drawn, and banged his fist against it once, twice, telling whatever was out there to quit it.

And for once, blissful second, it did.

But then it started again. It started again, and it got louder. It had never gotten louder before. Slowly, at first, but each time the tap came it got louder. Louder and louder and louder until it filled the room, the glass of my window threatening to shatter under the impact. I tasted ash on my tongue as Kevin stormed outside, complaining about kids playing pranks and animals being a nuisance and everything and anything under the sun.

I ran after him, needing to keep him in sight but refusing to leave the house. I was convinced that whatever was outside, I was safe as long as I didn’t leave. People poke at fish in tanks not because they’re outside, but because they’re specimens separated from everything else. You can’t poke at a lake like you can a tiny glass box. But even then, no one really wants to jump in a fish tank. This thing, whatever stalked my house— my home, it wanted in.

Kevin ran around to the side of the house, and I heard the pounding on my window stop. I heard everything stop. A sort of anticipation hung in the air, thick and heavy, pressing down on me like a wave. It couldn't have been longer than a few seconds at most, but it felt like ages. No rustling of leaves, no wind blowing through the trees. Not even my own breathing and the blood rushing in my ears did anything to break the silence.

They say a looming sense of doom is a symptom of things like heart attacks and strokes. Your body knows something’s wrong, and so it tries to warn you that something’s wrong. I think that’s what those few seconds were. I think my brain knew that whatever was going on, it was wrong.

Because when the silence broke, and when Kevin came back around to the front, it wasn’t him.

I knew the second I looked at it that it was the thing that hid outside my window for a month. It smiled and reassured me it was nothing, just a stray cat. It smiled, but it was too smooth, too plastic as the light from my door lit up the dark it walked out from. It looked human, almost, and god I almost wish it didn't. If it didn't, I could write it off as a nightmare.

I slammed the door shut and pressed myself against it, sinking to my knees.
It started knocking. Knock-knock, knock-knock. I told myself all I had to do was wait just a few more hours until morning came and it would all just go away just like every other night. But it kept talking to me, asking why wouldn’t I let him in, didn’t I love him anymore?

I sat against the door even as it shook and the hinges rattled. He never once raised his voice, but I can still hear the knocking, the rhythm in the back of my head.
The second morning came, the moment the sun broke the horizon, it stopped. I could see through the peep-hole that it was still there, still smiling, but it’s expression went blank, like its battery ran dry.

I called the police. They wrote off the cracks and dents in my door as a bear attack— once they talked to that thing that calls itself my boyfriend, that is. The police say it’s him. They interviewed him too, had a nice long chat where they traded jokes and shared a coffee. It has a charisma to it, that thing. Kevin never did, never could talk his way out of a paper bag. They won’t tell me what it said, but it doesn't matter— the damage was done.

I moved back in with my parents’, two states away. I couldn’t stand being on my own in that house, not after what happened. I filed a restraining order, but I don’t think it did much. I still feel those eyes on the back of my neck each night, even if I don’t hear the tapping.

I don’t know what I’ll do if it starts again.

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