Paranoia (1987)


He was alone at last. His parents had taken his sister with them. He had watched the long, red station wagon slowly pull out of the garage and he had seen them drive away. He had also watched his brothers speed off on their bicycles towards parts unknown. He let the thought drop from his mind as he enjoyed the taste of silence and the cold thrill of being alone.

David was seven years old and coming from a large family, being alone was a rare novelty. He jumped from his bed by the window to his brother’s and back again… and again… and again. Todd would never know…

He sat on an upended bolster, master of the house. The bolster bent and deposited David somewhat ungraciously onto the floor. He didn’t care. It was the freedom of being able to do anything he wanted to do, to go anywhere in the house –

A chill crept up his spine, making him shiver and goosebumps raised on his arms. He had forgotten about his id, the tangible deposit of all his fears, the thing that made the creature under his sister’s bed and the devil in the closet pale in comparison, The-Monster-in-the-Utility-Room.

Many nights he would lay awake in the darkness, afraid to breathe, straining his ears for the tiniest sound, the smallest noise, any warning that It was stirring two floors below. Sometimes his ears would pick up a creak or low groan which let him know it was coming for him. From underneath his covers, smothering in the stale air, David could hear it climbing the stairs, walking down the hall, opening his door so very slowly –

A small shudder from the bowels of the house brought him back to reality. He was alone with it! He dared not leave his room, who knows where it was now? He didn’t even know exactly what form it took, but then that came to him too –

His friend Bobby didn’t believe in The Monster and scoffed whenever the subject arose. David didn’t mind the verbal abuse as much when Bobby would bring out his book. It was just a comic book based on the movie Alien, but David was afraid to look into its depths. Once in a while, Bobby would bring it out and try to force him to look at the alien. One day, he succeeded. Wrestling David down and pinning his arms so he couldn’t cover his face, Bobby had held the book just inches away. David had a quick glimpse of a creature with teeth and no eyes before the tears obliterated the picture from his eyes. The Monster had read his thoughts and changed accordingly.

The alien was stalking him.

A soft creak from the staircase reminded him of how little time he had. Quickly he tried to formulate a plan of defense. He had the arrowhead from Old Tuscon, Arizona, and 42 cents in good luck change. David sighed; it wouldn’t be enough. He was going to die.

A sudden thought strengthened his will to live. David remembered an argument he had with Bobby once when he heard a monster at his house.

“That’s not a monster, it’s just the foundation settling,” said Bobby. David clung to the hope. In his mind he saw The Monster shrinking down, growing more blocklike, turning to stone down beneath the house. The image faded as he remembered another argument.

“Jesus Christ, the house is brand new,” yelled his father from downstairs. David hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, but it was too hard to tune out the loud shouts. “Damn it, it can’t be settling yet, it’s brand new!”

Thanks a lot. Dad.

Another noise nearly brought him to tears. There was still so much he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to be a fireman. He wanted to be rich. He wanted to go to Disneyland. He –

He had an idea. It displaced some of the utter futility and depression he felt. There was still a chance he might survive. It was like on TV, a slim chance, full of suspense and danger, but the only possible solution. His fate rested in The-Closet-You’re-Not-Supposed-to-Go-In.

Another sound rose upstairs. He didn’t have much time.

Slowly, David opened the bedroom door, half expecting The Monster to be right outside, but it wasn’t and David moved out into the hall. With trembling hands, he fumbled at The Closet’s door and after several agonizing seconds, he opened it. David knew exactly where it was. Once when he and his brothers had been playing hide-and-go-seek, they had stumbled upon it. It lay in a shoebox, wrapped in a towel. This secret power lay hidden at the bottom of The Closet. Carefully, he lifted it from its place in the shoebox and removed the towel.

The gun was loaded and ready to shoot.

David ran back into his room, not a moment too soon. At that moment, a door slammed downstairs and heavy footsteps followed. He was shaking uncontrollably and was covered with a cold sweat. He pressed the trigger.

The gun didn’t work. Panic-stricken and nearly petrified, he fought with the safety and fired the first shot. The slug tore a deep gash into the wall, the recoil knocked him back and the report nearly deafened him. The Monster heard and was coming. Ears still ringing, David knew he had given himself away. He heard it stomp up the stairs, down the hall. David transcended paranoia, panic, fear and finally conscious thought altogether.

The Monster kicked the door open. David squeezed off a shot and –

– David’s older brother tumbled backwards down the hall with a bullet lodged in his throat.

The Monster attacked again and David fired –

– His younger brother slammed into the wall, unmoving.

David moved out into the hall and shot again –

– His father fell down the stairs, mortally wounded.

As David staggered down the stairs. The Monster nearly grabbed him. He barely fired in time –

– A bullet punctured a lung and stopped the heart of his mother.

At last The Monster was cornered. With the last bullet, he fired –

– A slug tore off the top of hi sister’s head. She died instantly.

Slowly, the red fog clouding his eyes dissipated and he began to realize what he had done. There was no monster. It was all his imagination – no not quite all.

His family was dead.

The fear of The Monster evaporated and a new feeling overcame him. He slowly wandered past the bent and broken bodies twisted into impossible positions, mouths open with expressions of fear and surprise. The empty gun dropped from his numbed fingers and David fled in terror. He passed his brothers in the hall, ran down the stairs past his parents, tripped over his sister on the landing, rounded the corner –

– and ran into the gaping jaws of The Monster.

The Monster surveyed the situation. It was unfortunate that the young one had killed them all. It liked to pursue live meat, but this would suffice and at least the bodies were still warm. It drooled with anticipation and reflected on the events that had occurred.

Sometimes it pays to be paranoid.

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