When I wake up, the sun shines brightly through the windows, indicating that it’s sometime in the afternoon. Ivan shouldn’t be at work too much longer.
I’m glad I slept through most of the day. Staying here alone for that long would have terrified me, no matter what I told Ivan. I was much more scared than I let on, and now, I can’t see why I would tell him to go. Was one day’s pay really worth being left alone after all that?
Everything was all foggy this morning, and with me trying to comprehend everything Ivan was telling me, and then that thing on the wall, I couldn’t think straight. But something told me that he should go to work, that we should at least act with a semblance of normality. I’m just hoping he gets home soon and I don’t regret encouraging him to leave.
A gentle tapping startles me, and I jump off the couch and turn around.
“Ivan,” I gasp, “you scared the shit out of me.” I laugh. “Why are you home so early?”
He doesn’t answer. He stands in the kitchen, hands gripping a chair, one finger lightly tapping the wood. Unblinking, he stares directly at me with an intensity I’ve never seen from him before. He stops tapping and I notice his knuckles are white, his hands almost shaking from how hard he’s holding the chair.
“Ivan? What’s going on? Is everything alright?”
“Repent,” he says, in the same low, raspy voice the creature had spoken with earlier.
My heart starts pounding. “What do I have to repent for?” I stammer. I’m not sure the person standing in front of me is really my partner.
“Not you,” Ivan, or the thing that looks like Ivan, hisses. “Him.”
Ivan holds up his hand, and there’s a mirror in it. I swear that hadn’t been there before.
He rotates until I can see the surface of the mirror and points to his own face within it. “He must repent.”
Before I can reply, Ivan lifts the chair and hurls it towards me. I jump out of the way, but one of the legs slams into my chest, knocking me to the floor. The air is forced out of my lungs.
Ivan— no, whatever this is, I’m sure it’s not Ivan at this point— walks towards me, slow and calm, while I lay there and gasp for breath. “Help,” I try to say, but all that comes out is a low wheeze. I try to get up, but my chest cracks, and I scream as loud as I can manage; a quiet, almost noiseless hiss.
He stands over me now. He reaches down a hand, and I know I should move, but I can’t find the strength to roll out of the way. Grabbing the front of my shirt, he lifts me, and my chest feels like it’s on fire. He holds me up until my face is level with his and stares directly into my eyes. His eyes aren’t Ivan’s anymore. They’re a deep, dark red, swirling like a pool of blood.
“He. Must. Repent,” he hisses slowly, and throws me away from him. I soar down the hall and crash into the wall, hearing the sound of glass shattering and another crack from my chest. I scream, and this time real noise comes out, echoing down the hall to where the Ivan lookalike stands watching me.
Shards of glass scrape against my legs and hands as I crawl along the floor, inching towards the nearest door. I look to the side, but Ivan is no longer there. The creature stands where he just was, all dark red and seething anger, no eyes or mouth. Crawling as fast as I can manage, my vision starts to blur. I can barely see my own hands in front of me.
I rely on my ears instead. There are no footsteps, but I can’t believe the creature has stopped chasing me, so I push forward. My head bumps into something hard. I reach my hand up, feeling along the wood, until I finally reach a small brass knob.
The door to the bathroom slams into the wall as I fall into it, pulling my body fully inside. I kick the door shut and fumble with the lock. Footsteps begin approaching down the hall, and I fumble faster. I can’t seem to get it right. My vision is entirely gone now, I’m relying only on feel and sound. The footsteps, moving at a leisurely pace, get closer and closer.
Finally, the lock clicks into place. I hear the footsteps stop outside, and there’s a soft scrape as something slides beneath the door.
Suddenly, the air lightens. I feel alone again. The darkness and oppression that had been in the air when the creature was here is gone. I’m safe, at least from the outside. I have no idea how bad my internal injuries are.
Not daring to move until I can see again, I lay on the floor and focus on breathing. Slow, deep breaths— nope, scratch that, slow, shallow breaths. Deep breaths cause pain to flare throughout my entire chest.
Assessing my injuries seems almost impossible to do by feel. I can feel blood running down my back, and I’m sure I have at least one broken rib, but everything else hurts too much, in too many places, to know where it’s coming from.
As my vision returns, I see that the light is on. Ivan must have been in a rush this morning, and I am more grateful than ever for his forgetfulness. I’m not sure I would have been able to reach the switch.
I slowly pull myself into a sitting position, gritting my teeth against the pain. Finally, with my back settled against the sink cabinets, I find a position where the pain is at least manageable.
I have to get help, I think. I reach for my phone, but it’s not in my pocket. Shit. I left it sitting on the table in front of the couch.
There’s a piece of paper on the floor in front of me. It must be what the creature slid under the door. Carefully, I grab it and hold it up so I can read it.
He knows what he did. He must repent. You’re not safe with him.
I have no idea what this means, and I have no way to call for help. The best thing I can do is wait for Ivan to get home.
So I sit, the door firmly locked, my chest on fire, and wait.