By T. Kulp
The doorknob doesn’t turn. Before letting go, I check again. Still locked.
Nodding, I go to the sliding door at the back. It’s locked. I pull hard to make sure it doesn’t move. It doesn’t. I just checked the front door but, I better check again. I think it was locked? Need to be sure.
Locked doors keep my family safe. Checking to make sure they’re locked is important. Back to the front door, grabbing the handle, twisting it. It doesn’t move. Ok.
All the lights are out in the house. With cloudy night, like tonight, anyone could hide in the shadows. I don’t mind the dark. Just want to make sure I check everything. Bad people hide in the dark. I don’t want them getting in to hurt my family. Was the sliding door locked? I think it was. The front door is still locked. But I haven’t checked the windows yet. Maybe one was opened earlier. It was a nice day out. Better make sure they’re all closed and locked.
My dad did this same ritual. Checking every door. Checking every window. He kept us safe. My sister and I called this “lock down”. Every door, every window, every night was checked to make sure the house was locked up tight. Lock down kept us safe. Moving from window to window, a quick pull confirms each is locked.
My mom used to laugh at dad for this. He’d check the front door. He’d check the back door. Checking the front door again and mom would scoff and pull him away. She’d say, “Stop. It’s fine.”
Did I check the garage door? I better check the garage door.
But it wasn’t fine. She pulled him away from checking and he couldn’t sleep. I’m like dad, I can’t sleep if I don’t check. What if a door wasn’t locked? That’s what happened when my mom died. We weren’t sure the doors were locked. She didn’t let him check. When I tried to check, she didn’t let me. She said I didn’t need to be like my dad. But I did. I needed to check. I needed to make sure my family was safe.
The sliding door is still locked.
What about the back windows? Better check them.
How could she not check? How could she stop us from making sure our family was safe? She had a problem. She didn’t care about our safety. My sister had the same problem. She didn’t check either. Why didn’t they love us enough to make sure we were safe?
The windows are locked. Good. I thought I checked them. Still locked.
Dad would sit in bed and shake. He would shout that he needed to check, and mom wouldn’t let him. He’d beg. She’d yell. They’d argue. And my sister, she didn’t care. She made fun of me at school. Saying I was crazy. I wanted to make sure we were safe. Why didn’t she care?
We couldn’t check the doors one night. Mom and sister wouldn’t let us and someone killed mom. Did my sister want that to happen to her? The police said the doors were locked but that’s because dad and I made sure they were locked after we heard mom screaming. Or maybe after she stopped. The details are fuzzy. You lock your doors because the world is dangerous. You check to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
The front door is still locked.
Locking your doors is important. Checking them is important. No one understood how deeply my dad cared about our safety. The police couldn’t understand how stopping someone from checking, well, that’s just criminal. My mom was the criminal. Dad didn’t do anything but try to make sure we were safe. I wouldn’t let anyone stop me from protecting my family either…even if she were my wife.
The sliding door is locked. The windows are locked. I push on them, push them up to make sure. It’s hard to get a grip on the window but I’ve gotta try. Someone moved in the dark through the window. I look to see who but they’re a blob of darkness in this cloudy night. A flashlight flickers on the window and I check again to make sure it’s locked. Looking harder, I don’t see anyone. Maybe they moved on? Maybe they didn’t see me?
The orphanage never checked their windows. Neither did the foster families. After the first foster family didn’t lock their doors, I was afraid for my sister. I told them they had to. I told them it was important! She told them I was crazy. She didn’t care about me, but I still cared about her. She was my family. The foster parents tried to stop me and then sent me away. They didn’t care about me and my sister. If they did, they would’ve made sure everything was locked. Checking once isn’t enough. People make mistakes. People forget. You need to check every few minutes. Make sure everything is still locked. That’s what I did when the orphanage sent me to the hospital. I checked my door and window every few minutes. I was safe.
Basement door! I didn’t check the basement door. Running to the basement, I jiggle the handle. It’s locked. Ok.
You’d be surprised how many people forget to lock doors. That guard at the hospital forgot. He didn’t even check once. I just walked out. People don’t even lock their computers. I jumped on that nurse’s computer and found my sister’s address. Didn’t have to do anything but look. That’s what happens when you don’t care about people. You don’t lock things and don’t check and then anyone can do…anything.
The front door is locked. I turn it again but it doesn’t move. Ok.
A flashlight flickers in the window. The blinding light stops in my face. I shield my eyes and duck away from it. Clouds break around the moon and light up my sister standing in her foyer. She’s holding the shaking flashlight. She’s watching me check her doors, check her windows. Her kids, my nephews press into her. Her kids are my family.
She didn’t care about me. She probably doesn’t care about them. She’s a bad person. So, I need to make sure my family’s safe. If she doesn’t care, then she can’t be a good mom. My nephews peek around her, crying and scared. Scared she’s a bad mom and didn’t lock the doors. Scared that she doesn’t care about them enough to check all the doors all the windows…even the ones on the second floor. The window with trucks and puppy stickers. The window in their room.
One window is cracked open. Left open for tonight’s cool fall air. Left open because she didn’t care about my family. Everyone forgets the second floor. They forget about the tree that reach those windows. They forget that bad people can climb trees. Bad people check everything…even things people like my sister forget.
The tree is an easy climb. The gap in the window is enough for my fingers to get a hold. Just think what could have happened to the kids? My nephews need to be safe. I’ll show them they can be safe. I’ll teach them how. They need to be good checkers, need to check everything. They can’t let anyone stop them from protecting their family.
Not even their mom.
Tim is a storyteller, technophile and author of the new horror collection BLOTS.
From B movies to blockbusters, Tim has a passion for horror and exploring the things that give us the shivers. Stories from authors like Poe, Lovecraft, Tolkien and King have shaped Tim’s writing style with a focus on world building and monster making.
When not writing fiction, Tim is a regular contributor to technology publications on Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality. He’s Dungeons & Dragons fanboy and enjoys life just outside of Baltimore, MD with his wife, kids, dog, and cat.