The candle flickered. The girl didn’t notice; she was staring intently at her phone. The screen cast Kaylin’s face in an eerily highlight amidst the darkness and the grim light of the candle from the hallway. She hated power outages, there was never anything to do; even her phone’s battery was nearly dead! Her computer sat ghostly silent at her desk, and her door was open enough to let in the light from the candle in the hallway. Despite her annoyance at her current situation and the lack of electricity for most entertainment, she managed to find some refuge in her phone. She would occasionally fiddle with a simple game, but mostly she was messaging her friends and tapping away with the well-bred skill of the truly modern teenager. She didn’t notice the candle flicker the second time, and she probably wouldn’t have thought much of it anyway.
Her room was a moderate size, though it annoyed her to no end that her older brother got the bigger room; but she supposed he would be moving out soon and she intended to take the room as her prize for putting up with him. He had always gotten good grades, and had accumulated a sizeable circle of friends. He was nearly done with school too, which she envied, but was looking forward too. He would be moving overseas for some special scholarship-programme thing; she wasn’t sure on the details but she didn’t care. Her parents were thrilled, of course, and eagerly gained another round of ammunition to use against her for her poor grades. They weren’t obvious with it, none of that “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” crap, but they dropped hints. She could feel their disappointment whenever they looked at her report cards, or after parent-teacher conferences, or after another call home from an irate teacher complaining about homework being unfinished. Eventually she learned to stop caring, and that helped, but it never erased her guilt, or eased the comparisons between her and her brother. He never even seemed to get stressed, while she felt like she was having mini-breakdowns all the time. She had come to form a cold resentment towards him over the years; but she had to admit to herself that she wouldn’t be able to cope with everything he had to do. This only served to further fuel her dislike of him, and perhaps also the innate jealousy that would find its way into her mind every now and then. But, at least she had good friends. She could complain to them or confide in them, and they would always be there to listen or to comfort her. Currently they were swapping pictures they thought were funny, and she would give a chuckle every now and then. She didn’t see the shadow glide past her door.
Her parent’s room was down at one end of the hall, and at the other end sat a small table beneath a mirror, where the candle perched. Her room was situated across from her brother’s, on the far end of the hall from their parent’s room. In the middle section of the hallway was a bathroom and the study (which was predominantly her father’s). The stairs leading downstairs were situated a little bit before her parent’s room. Her mother was probably in reading away quietly in her room; she loved books and was currently engrossed in some fantasy book or something. Kaylin was a disappointment in that regard too; she couldn’t stand books and could barely read the ones needed for school. Her father also enjoyed reading, though he wasn’t as much of a reader as her mother was. He was a bit more serious in his pursuits, and spent most of his time working; even at home and late into the night. Currently he was at the office, pulling another late shift. So Kaylin, her mother, and her brother were passing the darkness without him. Kaylin’s brother had locked himself up in his room earlier, and was probably studying or doing extra-credit work. She sighed as she dipped into another rant about her one-sided relationship between her and her family to her best friend. She hated how she would focus on this, but sometimes it was all she could think about. She didn’t hear the thud that came from her parent’s room.
Kaylin was sitting on her bed, and shivered when a light breeze blew in through her window. It had been a still night, but far off she could hear thunder and the wind was starting to pick up. She jumped up and closed her window, retrieving a blanket from the chair in front of her desk before returning to her bed. She propped herself against her pillows and got comfortable, and enveloped herself in her cosy blanket. She took a second to look around her room, and the shadows cast by the dimming candle outside. Her room was nothing special; she had a poster of a band or two but mostly kept her walls bare. Her desk was in the corner by the window, and was cluttered with things that had probably managed to form something resembling a functional ecosystem over time. Her computer sat on the desk, which was the one space that she kept mostly tidy for reasons of ease of access. She also had a few shelves and a cupboard, the standard affair. She had been staring at her phone for so long that she had forgotten how dark her room could get, and it gave her chills. She grabbed her phone off her bedside table, and listened to the soft patter as it began to drizzle; before returning to her secluded, social world. She didn’t hear the blood start to drip down the stairs.
She jumped awake, stirred by the sound of a message on her phone. Somehow she had dozed off, much to the ire of her impatient friends. She cast a glance at how many messages she had accumulated and checked the time; she had only been asleep for around half-an-hour at most. She was about to type her responses (and apologies), but she stopped to consider her room. It was darker now; the candle had clearly burnt low. The drizzle had advanced to a sturdy rain which fell heavily on her window. She stared out her open door. Something seemed off, but she could not tell what. Maybe she was just a little jumpy, having been woken up rather suddenly. She gazed back at her phone, and her mood sagged when she saw the battery life. It would be dead soon, and who knew when the power was coming back. There was no point responding to the messages; Kaylin could just say it had gone dead earlier. She saw a shadow out of the corner of her eye, and froze. The shadow’s hand reached slowly towards the candle, and squeezed out the flame. Suddenly, her room was plunged in darkness; save for the light from her phone. She quickly turned on the ineffectual torch application, and shined it towards her door. “H-Hello?” she asked, her voice shakier than she intended. There was no response, but she could hear footsteps creeping towards her door. She sat on her bed, her blankets cast aside and her fear clouding her thoughts. She saw a shape start to emerge from the shadows outside her door, revealed by the light of her phone. She sighed as she recognized her brother. “You could try being a little less terrifying, y’know. Maybe even talk next ti-” Her words froze in her mouth when she saw her brother’s face. It was strange, and he wore a sick grin, his teeth shining in the light. She noticed the blood on his face first, and then the blood on his clothes. He was holding hammer, a clump of hair sticking to the head.
“Wha-” she started, but couldn’t think of how she would finish that. Her thoughts rushed to the point of becoming ineligible, as if she may as well have just not been thinking. He started walking towards her. She recoiled into herself, unsure and too terrified to move. She was clutching her phone tightly, and her knuckles and face had gone white.
“It’s okay, really. Just close your eyes. It’ll be quick.”
He turned the hammer over in his hand, so that he could use the claw end. He looked down at her as he reached the side of her bed. She looked pathetic; he really was doing her a favour. That dumb expression on her face, the tears welling in her eyes. He knew she had problems. He had problems too. But he figured out how he could fix them; fix everyone’s. It was so easy. He laughed; he couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought of it before! Kaylin edged away from him, her eyes growing so wide he wondered if he couldn’t pop them out with a well-placed poke to the cheek. Kaylin stared at her phone as it sounded its dying battery, and then switched off. The room fell to utter darkness, and he could hear her start to weep and try to strangle out a scream which fell into a whining little sob. He reached for her throat as he raised the hammer.
“No, it’s okay. I can help.”
She didn’t hear the crunch.