The Turning Point

Imagine a small industrial town far up north, wrapped in the night. A big empty apartment: the parents both at the night shifts, the sister at a party. The only one at home is a boy of eleven, struggling with his homework in the living room.

The apartment is still and dark; the only sound is the friction of a ballpoint pen against the paper. The only light is the lamp over the boy’s desk. Silence is in every room; silence is in the kitchen where porcelain dishes stand peacefully in the slots of a dish rack. Then a sharp sound cuts through the rooms; the dishes clatter repeatedly as if someone moves them from one side to another. 

The boy stops writing, raises his head and listens. He is annoyed because these strange sounds have been bothering his family for years, ever since they moved in. He leaps to his feet, strides to the kitchen and turns on the light. Silence. He stands there for some time, uneasy, eyeing every corner. He stoops and looks under the table. Nothing. He grabs a piece of cake from the fridge, takes a big bite, puts the light out, and returns to the living room. 

The clatter repeats. The boy drops the cake, darts to the kitchen, flips the switch, and checks the dish rack. Nothing. The dishes are steady in their slots. He turns the light off and leaves, but as soon as he sits down at his desk, the noise resumes. 

He ignores it, frowns and turns on the TV. Its sound eases the tension in the air but doesn’t drown the clatter in the kitchen. He watches the screen for several minutes. Then he mutes the TV, stands up and walks to the kitchen in the darkness. He hesitates on the threshold for a second, as he can’t see anything. The air is heavy and dense. He forces himself to enter and approach the dish rack. The noise ceases. The boy stands still for several moments. He can sense how the air condenses into an unnerving glare at the back of his head, and his only wish now is to run for his life. Instead, he squeezes his eyes shut, clenches his fists and stands there, waiting. 

Seconds stretch into minutes. The hostile attention soars till the back of his head starts to pulse. Then, in a moment, it’s gone.

The boy holds his breath. Slowly, he opens his eyes and stares into the darkness towards the dish rack. Nothing moves. He exhales and returns to the living room. He sits there for a while, alert, listening, but nothing stirs the silence in the apartment. The boy picks up the cake and takes a satisfied bite.