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Thunder Beats - Christopher Vaughn

8th Place

Thunder Beats - Christopher Vaughn


      A low rumble resonated across the blackened sky of the sleepy city. A storm had come. The tapping of rain against the window drew Reiko's attention. A curious cat by nature, the playful feline watched beads of water scatter down the cold glass, tail swaying. 

       Asuka Ongaku sat next to the lively cat, thumbing through her notebook as she neared the end of yet another study session. Halloween was close, only a few days away. Asuka pondered ideas for costumes. A vampire for Reiko, maybe a witch for herself. Her mind wandered further from her studies, thinking on an old story her father once told her. 

       A bright flash filled the room, then a boom so loud the entire city shook. The googly eyes on Asuka's headphones scattered to each end of the room, bobbling wildly as her head whipped around toward the window. She slipped off her headphones, her eyes squinting at the window. For a moment she could have sworn she saw a face. The image slid back into obscurity as the rain scattered down the glass. Reiko meowed, looking to Asuka, unaffected by the thunder. 

       Asuka chuckled. "Maybe I need a break. I've been studying for a while," she murmured and closed her notebook. 

       Asuka leaned back in her crimson chair and gazed toward the city. The rain was harder now, distorting the glistening city lights behind a curtain of sideways droplets. She closed her eyes smiling, her mind focused on the sound of the rain, ready to slip back into her favorite place, her music. A soothing melody began. A chilled, relaxed vibe that only grew her smile. Only a moment later, her eyes widened in shock. Reiko hissed. Even the fearless feline knew something was wrong. Her music had stopped. The room grew colder and an uneasy feeling of weight filled the room. Asuka wasn't alone. 

       "Hel....p M.....e," a distorted voice whispered through her headphones, cutting through heavy static. Another flash filled the room. Asuka whipped her head toward her bookcase as another loud thunderclap resonated. A dark shadow had been there, only for a split second, but vanished as her eyes settled on the corner. 

        "You saw that too? Right, Reiko?" she murmured. Reiko meowed, eyes fixed on the corner.

       Another bout of static filled Asuka's headphones. "He...lp m....e. Please....." 

       It was the same voice, she was sure of it. "Hello?" Asuka replied. A long silence followed. Asuka glanced toward her clock on her laptop. 2 A.M. "Man....I gotta get more sleep," she said with a smile, petting Reiko. Her computer screen flickered, drawing her attention. She caught quick glimpses of a face, eyes wide and screaming before returning to normal. 

       "Reiko! What's going on?" Asuka murmured, backing away from her screen. Reiko's eyes fixed on the closet. The furious feline hissed, it's body propped up, ready to attack. Asuka's closet slowly slid open, revealing a pitch black darkness inside. No clothes, no supplies, nothing, just darkness. A mangled, long nailed hand emerged from the void, plopping down on the carpet. It's nails curled as it slid back into the darkness. 

       Asuka shrieked and bolted for the door. She reached for the knob but felt nothing. Her eyes widened in terror. It was gone. "How?" she whimpered. She was trapped. Reiko stood in front of her, tail up and hissing. Asuka turned to face the closet. She planted her back against the knobless door, eyes wider than they had ever been. No more than a few inches from her face stood a mangled  grimace of eyes and teeth. It's face was misshapen, trapped in a perpetual fear. The creature reached toward Asuka. She shrieked, curling up against the door, eyes closed. 

       She felt her headphones slip off her head, then nothing, only silence. Then, she heard Reiko but this time there was no hiss, only purring. She felt a swell of courage and looked up at the strange creature. The specter examined the headphones, poking the googly eyes with one of it's long nails. Asuka saw a faint smile from the creature's mouth. To her surprise, the entity slipped her headphones onto it's head each of it's ears ready and attentive. A soothing melody started. The beast swayed to the vibe, expelling a strange humming sound. 

       Asuka stood up, keeping her distance. " you like it?" she asked. The creature nodded and slipped off her headphones. 

"Thank you...." the entity whispered. A sudden flash from the storm filled the room and in an instant the specter was gone. She felt weight against her ears again. Her headphones were back on her head. The dull roar of the storm echoed in the distance. The beating against the window slowed. Asuka glanced back at the door. The knob had returned. As she twisted the knob and stepped through her smile suddenly faded, a pitch black room of specters stood outside her door all reaching toward her headphones. She squealed as she stumbled back. 

She suddenly jolted awake. The sound of steady rain beat against the window. Reiko's tail lightly tapped against her hand. Asuka glanced around her room. Her clothes were in the closet, the knob was there, and her screen was normal. She clutched her head, feeling the familiar firmness of her favorite headdress. "Whew..." she signed, glancing at her clock. 3 A.M. "I really should go to bed," she said. Reiko meowed.

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