Is Anybody Home?

by Joshua McIntyre

Jim are you sure there is no one living here anymore?” “Yes the guy who lived here disappeared a couple of weeks ago. I got told it’s all clear for us to head in. There’s only a few pieces of furniture left, we’re just supposed to pile them up and take care of the rest of the house.” Jim was getting pretty annoyed with Bernard’s attitude lately, he seemed to be looking for any excuse to take off work. “Cuz last time you said the house was empty, and then I almost gave that guy a heart attack” Bernard said starting to get angry. “Look Bernard, Joan came and checked out the place the other day she said everything was fine she poked through most of the rooms and no one was around and it was pretty obvious the guy skipped town.” “Okay but I’m telling you that last guy thought we were gonna rob the place and was about ready to kill me before he saw the vacuum on my back,” Bernard said throwing his hands up in the air. Jim was trying to just get their cleaning gear together before he snapped on Bernard for trying to get out of work again. “Look, let’s just get inside and we’ll do our walk through and then get started, Joan said it shouldn’t take us too long to get it cleaned up.” Bernard just shirked his shoulders and said, “last time a real estate agent said it would be a quick job it took us two days.” Jim clenched his teeth together and snorted out, “that’s enough Bernard, let’s just get started.” Remembering his managers training from a few weeks prior, Jim tries to calm down and take a deep breath before saying, “the sooner we get started, the sooner we can be out of here. besides Joan said the guy left some weird tech stuff behind, said we could have it or throw it away. Might be something you want, you love little gizmos and shit like that.” Bernard just nodded and they started up the steps to the front door.

It wasn’t a huge house but it had two stories and a small basement. The top floor was three bedrooms while the bottom floor was a kitchen, living room and a dinning room. The basement was just a typical concrete dungeonesque storage space, it had the water heater and a furnace for the house. Jim and Bernard had cleaned it before when the last tenants moved out, a family of four, over a year and a half ago. They were surprised at the time to hear someone was moving in on his own. It was an expensive place to be sure, but apparently the guy was some tech genius or something. Anyway that was a while ago and he hadn’t caused any issues while he was there, but then according to Joan, he just stopped paying rent a few months back. The real estate tried contacting him at first just with letters and emails, then with calls, but his phone number was no longer connected and after a while someone got sent out in person. Then it just looked like the renter had taken off. They left some furniture and some other stuff behind, but it looked like they had taken almost everything they owned with them. The person from the real estate who was sent out apparently asked some of the neighbors and they said the renter pretty much kept to himself and was pretty quiet, until a few months prior. He would be up at all hours banging and crashing away at something inside the house. The neighbors said they had approached him once or twice late at night to keep the noise down and that usually he would stop for the night after that. They thought it was strange that where he had always been well groomed previously, he had started to look more and more dishevelled in the months before him disappearing. They all said that they don’t know when he left because even though he was making a lot of noise at times, mostly he was quiet. He had also sold his car only a few months ago, so they don’t know how he could have gone anywhere. Some of the neighbors said they thought they saw a truck pull up and haul stuff away, so they figured maybe he moved to the other end of the country and didn’t want to drive. Most of the neighbors were in agreement though, they were sad he had left, and that even though he didn’t interact much with most of them, he was usually very nice when he did talk to them.

Jim and Bernard made their way into the house and put their gear down just inside the door. They wanted to walk around a bit and check the house out to size up how long it would take them and figure what needed to be done first. To their surprise the house was pretty clean. There were a few pieces of furniture down stairs, just a dining table with some chairs around it and some computer parts on top of it. Upstairs a bed had been left behind in one of the rooms. To help sooth Bernard’s continual whining both he and Jim walked around the house saying out loud, “Hello, is anybody home? We’re not here to rob you.” Something that would most certainly make anyone hiding in a closet think they are about to get robbed. After a quick walk through they both went back downstairs, where Jim directed Bernard to clean the upstairs bedrooms first while he started downstairs. Jim decided to start in the living room. He put in some headphones so that he could listen to some podcasts while cleaning, but also to try and drown out the sound of the vacuum hanging off his back. Bernard still feeling a bit spooked and not completely sure that no one was there, headed upstairs. “Hello, is anybody there? I’m not going to rob you, I’m just here to clean up the house.” Again this couldn’t sound much worse to some one frighten for their lives hiding in a closet, unless it was coming out of the mouth of a twelve year old followed by slight laughter. Bernard headed into the master bedroom, all of the curtains were closed, so he proceeded to open them and when he walked into the room he accidentally kicked a small can of paint over. Luckily it was sealed closed, although it seemed odd. If you knew you were going to skip town and not get your deposit back on a house why bother painting it? Bernard put the paint on a windowsill and opened the blinds to begin dusting and cleaning the windows. He couldn’t get over the feeling of someone watching him, but there wasn’t even a closet in the room to hide in and he knew he was still just spooked from a few weeks ago. If he just cleaned the place he could finish up and get out of there, besides Jim was right it shouldn’t take them too long at all.

Getting started on the last windowsill, the door to the room begins to creak. Bernard, feeling a sense of worry brought on by his thoughts of being watched, turns to watch the door slam shut. As soon as it slams shut he clearly hears the click of a lock. Dropping his cleaning supplies, he runs to the door to pull it open. While running over he says to himself “its just the wind and that click was just in my mind, I’ll just prop the door back open with the paint can and get back to cleaning.” Stretching his hand out for the handle and feeling the anxiety build up inside of him. What do I do if it’s locked? I’ll just.. I’ll jump out of one of the windows, even if I have to break the glass. I’ll pay for a new window, I just need to get out of this room. The handle begins to turn before being caught. Forcing it and pushing with nervous energy, it breaks free and the handle breaks off onto the ground. Letting the door slide open as the breeze comes up the stairs from the front door. Feeling very stupid and sorry for himself, Bernard stands there for a second holding the handle in his hand. The part that sticks into the door was rusty, what he thought was a lock preventing him from leaving was years of grime oxidized metal merely slowing the door from opening. The handle on the outside of the door was still fine so Bernard just jammed the door handle back into the inside of the door and put the paint can back in place to hold the door open. Feeling stupid but much less nervous he finished cleaning the windows and then began wiping down the walls and vacuuming the floor.

Jim had almost finished the living room when his favourite podcast ended. He reached into his pocket to pull out his phone and see if there were any more recent episodes to listen to. As he pulled his phone out he accidentally dragged his keys out too and dropped them. He only noticed he had dropped them because he had turned his vacuum off to pick a new podcast and heard them hit the metal of a heating vent. Looking down he saw them slide right between the grate and into the heating duct. “Well shit!” Taking his vacuum off Jim got down on his hands and knees to get a closer look at the vent maybe he could just lift it up? It’s screwed down on two sides, so taking out his pocket knife he unfolds the screw driver. He tries turning one of the screws to feel his screw driver slide right past the grooves. He had stripped the screw head, trying the other side results in the same outcome. Talking out loud to himself Jim says, “Well, what the fuck do I do now?” Looking around the room for anything that might help him, he remembers the computer equipment in the other room. Maybe there is a stiff piece of wire he could use to grab the keys with and pull them out. Walking over to a mess of circuit boards and cables, he starts spreading the equipment out over the table and picking through it. There are LED’s and all sorts of small cables along with some larger circuit boards. Jim doesn’t have clue what any of this stuff is, but assumes that Bernard would probably love all of it. He doesn’t see anything at first, but then he sees a piece of copper wire about 5 inches long. Jim grabs it and puts a small bend in the end and watches it slowly start to uncurl. Running back to the grate Jim shoves the wire down into the duct and flicks the end of it at the keys, moving the keys back and forth in the grate. Then he hears a loud pounding coming from upstairs. “God damn it Bernard, quit screwing around and just clean the place up.”

Bernard having finished the master bedroom had moved into the next room down the hall which still had a bed in it. The bed was too big for Bernard to move on his own, but he could shift it around the room to clean the room otherwise. Bernard looked at the door handle in this room and gives it a gentle tug to make sure it works. He could feel the rust inside the door but the handle still worked. Feeling more relaxed then, he started to walk across the room and open the curtains. Like in the other room, and he begins to clean the windows and windowsills. The room felt musty and the fumes from window cleaner weren’t helping, so Bernard decided to open one of the windows. The clean fresh air was a welcome change to the bleak room. The door began to close and then slammed shut again with a click. Bernard, feeling annoyed but relaxed knowing it was just the wind from the now-open window, sauntered over to the door to open it. Trying not to break this handle too he placed a light touch on it and slowly tried to push it open. The handle began to give and then the window slid shut. Bernard noticed the window but focused on the door handle, figuring the window had just come loose inside the frame. Trying to put just the right amount of force on the handle to open it, but not break it, he kept slowly increasing the strength he pushed with. The door handle had stalled out and suddenly he was putting all of his strength into it with no avail. He figured maybe he could just break this one too, after all the door handles were obviously old and defective. He decided to try and get Jim’s attention instead, but he knew he would be listening to his stupid podcasts, so he would have to be loud. Bernard started to pound at the door, thumping away and trying to yell for Jim. He hears the vacuum shut off, “oh yea, he’s coming upstairs” Then nothing. Bernard waits a minute then hits the door with his fist again. No response, I guess I’ll just have to figure something else out. I should just call him, Pulling out his phone Bernard tries to make a call but it doesn’t go through. Pulling the phone away form his ear he looks to see that he doesn’t have any service. Hoping Jim will realize he is stuck at some point Bernard sits on the bed to wait. Then remembering that Jim will yell at him for being lazy he jumps back up to figure out a way out of the room.

Bernard goes back to the window to open it again, maybe he could crawl out on the roof and jump down. Pulling on the window does nothing, it won’t budge. He tries the other window but he can’t get a good grip and now it feels like its getting warmer in the room and the sweat building up on his hands isn’t helping. The feeling of being watched begins to grow again. He stares around the room looking for the eyes he can feel. The blank walls don’t offer anything, except the small radiator vent near the floor. Starting to panic more, Bernard starts trying to think of how to get out. He goes back to the door and pushes on the handle eventually putting all of his weight on it. Only to have it break off in his hand. This time however the door stays locked. Running to the windows again he tries to open them somehow but nothing works. He pounds at the door again. He knows for some reason that he is not safe in that room. Quietly, a panel on the wall above the bed begins to open and a screen comes out of it. When Bernard notices the screen and begins looking at it, the screen locks on to him and begins following him as he moves across the room. The only thing on the screen is a table with a chair behind it, in front of a blank, gray wall. There’s no sound coming from it just the movement of the screen as Bernard moves. He gets closer to the screen to try and figure what it is connected to, but as he get closer, it retreats into the wall. It’s as if it is trying to hide its’ wiring. Then the sound of someone clearing their throat could be heard from a small speaker on the screen.

A man walks around the table and sits in the chair. He is clean cut with perfectly manicured hair and a very nice tailored suit. He sits down and says, “Welcome, you weren’t exactly what I was expecting but I supposed you’ll have to do. You’re much less oafish than your friend downstairs at least.” Bernard is thoroughly confused at what this is and says, “ummm… what is going on, who are you?” The man on the screen laughs a little and says, “Oh, we don’t need to worry about introductions, we’re not going to know each other long enough.” Bernard starts looking around again even more desperate for a way out of the room. The man on the screen laughs a little and then reaches off screen to grab a bottle of wine and pour himself a glass. Taking a big sip and savoring it he then says to Bernard “You’re locked in there trust me, I could have locked you just as easily in the last room, but I am partial to this room. I spent so much time trying to get it ready and I really feel as an inventor that this room represents me.” Bernard walks right up to the bed and watches as the screen cowers back into the wall. Thinking he says, “If you want to play a game with me, why don’t you come out here yourself, man to man? I’ll fight you.” The man on the screen nearly spits out his wine and begins to laugh. “Why would I come out and fight you, I built this room so I wouldn’t have to fight you. However, I’ll give you a fighting chance on this first little part. You might want to take a step back.” The man on the screen pulls up a tablet and seems to be doing something. Bernard had unconscionably been taking steps backwards and all of a sudden found him self pressed against the wall opposite the screen. The shock of hitting the wall jarred him back to his senses, he immediately grabbed his vacuum and began throwing it at the windows in an effort to break one of them. The man on the screen, looked up and said “oh, don’t bother with that. Those are half inch thick acrylic, they’re almost bulletproof.” Before smiling and going back to his tablet.

Feeling defeated, Bernard leaned against the back wall and threw his vacuum to the ground. The man on the screen said “ah there we go, sorry for the delay but we’ll being getting started just now. It’s the first time I’ve used this, so it should be quite exciting.” The wall that Bernard was leaning against began to move forcing him closer to the bed and then out of the vent came a thick haze of smoke. The one comfort Bernard could gather at the moment was that his feeling of paranoia was justified. He thought someone was watching him, and they were. He thought he might die from being locked in a room and he probably would. The wall had stopped moving forward but only once it had cut the room in half. Trying to see through the smoke that filled the room, Bernard could only make out the light of the screen, which somehow continued to follow him as he moved towards the vent to try and block the smoke. The best he could do was place his hands over it but the pressure was high enough that it was a waste of time. The sound of door sliding open gave him hope and he ran in the direction of the door only to find it still solidly closed. He felt the handle on the ground with his foot and reached down to grab it. He tried putting the handle back into the door to try and force it open some how.

The keys taunted Jim, the wire he had gotten was just long enough to reach the top of the key ring and shove the keys back and forth in the duct. After multiple attempts at re-bending the wire to make it a little longer with less of a loop, Jim felt defeated. He sat down and stared around the room again. Looking out of the front door, he could see their van. He was pretty sure there wasn’t anything in there that could help him get the keys out any easier but maybe he could have a look anyway. Getting back up and walking towards the door he smells smoke coming from upstairs. When he turns his head to look up the staircase he hears the front door slam shut followed by a click. Completely disregarding the door to focus on where the smoke was coming from. Jim said out loud, “what is that kid up to now?” feeling grumpy at Bernard for always trying to get out of work he heads to the stairs to find out what is going on. Grabbing the banister and throwing his leg on the stair Jim makes it all of two stairs up the staircase before the stairs give way and fold flat. Sending Jim down the newly formed ramp. Getting up and dusting himself off he looks up the ramp feeling confused. Then hearing a door slide open behind him he turns to see a four foot long mechanical tarantula walking out of a crawl space below a screen in the wall. Jim can see the man on the screen gently sipping his wine. The mans’ eyes widen and he says, “great of you to join us, your friend is having quite the time upstairs at the moment.” The tarantula is sitting there slowly moving side to side like it’s waiting for something.

Bernard hears the same door slide shut again and then hears the tapping of little metal legs running across the floor. It sounded like there were hundreds of them, but the smoke was too thick to see through. He could hear them, whatever they were, running to every corner of the room. Then he heard the man on the screen say, “great of you to join us, you friend is having quite the time upstairs at the moment.” Knowing that the man must be talking to Jim. Bernard yells out, “help me Jim!” Thinking that maybe he’ll be able to talk to Jim through the screen. The man on the screen chuckles but Bernard doesn’t hear anything else. Then the feeling of little needles poke Bernard through his shoe. They didn’t pierce the skin but soon there are tens of needles covering every part of his shoes and moving up his legs. The smoke had stopped pouring into the room at this point and even though it was thick, Bernard could make out the shadows of small robots at the cuff of his pants. Jumping into the air and trying to shake them off, he feels some clutch onto his pants and his shoes. Only to land on more that were covering the floor. Some gave way under his feet but they didn’t break. They just slid out from under his weight. Bernard tried to steady himself among this sea of small creatures. He had no idea what they were doing but so far they just seemed to be trying to crawl up him, as if he was a mountain to explore. Their tiny legs were barbed on the end and allowed them to latch on to his clothing as they climbed. Trying to shake them off and continuing to dance about the room he soon found himself flat on his back.

The sight of little crab shaped robots running at him while others slid out from under his back was terrifying to him. Bernard had always been afraid of crabs, ever since he was a child. He had a very vivid memory of going to the pier as a young child and reeling up a large crab on his line. The crab promptly broke the line and pinched Bernard on the nose drawing blood and leaving a scar that was still there. Also, he is allergic to crabs, so he couldn’t even get back at the crab after his dad put it in the ice box for dinner that night. The sight of hundreds of 1 inch tall crabs caused Bernard to scream and immediately jump to his feet. Stomping and running through the room, he couldn’t help but continue to yell. Bernard grabbed his vacuum and turned it on in an effort to suck them up. The first ‘thump’ of one going up the hose satisfied him. The crabs began to run from the vacuum but became more vicious and started stabbing his feet and ankles. Bernard continued to vacuum up the small robots and to push them off of his feet. He could feel blood beginning to drip down his socks but soon the crabs began to leave and he heard the door slide open again. The man on the screen said, “Well that didn’t go quite as I expected, but no matter I have other ways to move this along.” Soon all of the crabs were gone and Bernard shut off the vacuum.

The door stayed open and Bernard figured it had to be under the bed. Running towards it he grabbed at the edge of the bed to lift it up but it wouldn’t budge. It was stuck to the floor. Soon he felt something move past his legs, it was much larger than the crabs-bots from before. The cold metal glided past him and he felt it run slightly along his foot. Turning and staring intently into the smoke, he saw something slender stand up and begin moving towards him. The face of a large silver snake flew out of the smoke straight towards him. He tried to dodge to the left and evade it, but it wrapped itself around him. Biting him on the shoulder while the rest of its body slowly wrapped itself around him. It crushed the vacuum on his back releasing some of the crabs that had been sucked into it. Grasping at any bit of the snake he could feel he tried to push it off, or to wiggle free, but it only tightened its grip on him. Sliding his hands along its body as it gripped his torso, making it hard to breath, he felt a seam in the body. Trying to pull on it he could feel the stress of his fingernails about to break when it gave way. Reaching inside there was a mess of wires and small motors. Bernard tore at anything he could reach. Small wires broke from their connections and he could feel the tail begin to loosen around him. The head of the snake bit harder, but Bernard continued to rip the wires from the body of the animal. Soon he could free his arm a bit more and hunted for other things inside of the snake. He felt a larger gauge of wire than he had felt before, he ripped at it, and felt it begin to break loose. The snakes head started to loosen on his shoulder only to clamp down when the wire returned to its position. This must be the power source and the idiot has wired it in parallel. Ripping as hard as he could manage he pulls the wire free from its connection. The snake loosened and unwound from his body, soon he pushed the head off of his shoulder. His right shoulder and arm hurt immensely from the force of its’ bite.

Jim stood there staring at the robot spider and then back the screen. The man was pouring himself a new glass of wine and had a mischievous smile on his face. Jim had no idea what to do or what to expect. He bolted for the dining room only to be greeted by another screen from the wall. Looking back the tarantula had disappeared. Jim rushed to the windows to open one but found them sealed shut. Then he grabbed a chair and tried throwing it through one. The man on the screen watched on. The sound of metal feet alerted Jim to the presence of the tarantula again. Picking up another chair to try and hold it at bay. Jim stood with his back to the corner of the room. The tarantula stood still at first, then it slowly moved one leg and gently placed it on the ground. The next leg moved a little faster and then with a jump it began running at Jim. He threw his chair at it and jumped on the dinning table. The Tarantula crushed the chair and stared at Jim as if to say “Fuck you Jim. Jim stood there looking down at it while the screen re-positioned itself to look up at him. The man on the screen had grown angry for some reason and Jim heard him say something but wasn’t sure what. Jim grabbed a second chair from the other side of the table and flung it straight at the screen. The screen tried to retreat into the wall but the chair hit it from above. The motion of the chair falling on to the back of the screen and the screen pulling into the wall cause the screen to bend forward and break. Jim heard the man on the screen shouting from the other room. The tarantula was still staring at Jim from the ground. He figured that the man on the screen could no longer see him so maybe the tarantula was blind now. Jumping down from the table he saw the tarantula scurry under the table for him. The tarantula was clearly not blind.

Bernard took the snake from his shoulder and threw it under the bed as the sliding door was trying to close. The snakes body then became lodged in the door, blocking it from closing. Pulling on the door itself Bernard was able to slide the door open and see inside. There was a mess of tunnels of various sizes, only one of which was large enough for him to fit into. Knowing he couldn’t stay in the room any longer but also unsure of what was at the other end of the tunnel Bernard slid in head first. The tunnel curved down and Bernard surmised that it must have been following under the stairs. He pulled himself through and saw a fork in the tunnel. Taking his chances he followed it and came out to another area similar to the one behind the door under the bed. There was another door in front of him. Stretching and turning around Bernard was able to put his feet out of the tunnel and kick the door. After a few solid kicks he knocked it off its tracks managed to break it open. Crawling out he saw another screen with the man looking furious and staring at his tablet and back up at him. The man began pressing more buttons on his tablet. Bernard could hear the sound of more metal feet coming from the tunnels behind him. Then he heard “I fucking hate spiders!” he yelled back “Jim are you alright?” He walked cautiously towards Jim’s voice and came around the corner to see Jim on the ground wrestling with the giant tarantula. It had clamping metal mouth parts that were reaching out for his throat while Jim kept one hand on its chest and the other on one of its legs. Bernard picked up the last chair and hit the tarantula across its back. Jim yelled out “No you idiot, pull it off of me.” The chair had splintered and only forced the tarantula closer to Jim, who did not appreciate that.

At this point in the story the narrator would like to remind the reader that this story is completely made up and any thought that giant metal tarantulas exist should be extinguished. Further more any one known to be making giant metal tarantulas should be severally scolded because they sound incredibly awful. Returning to the story.

Bernard (sorry narrator stepping in again. Bernard is not a great name for what is clearly a heroic character in this story, but I would like to remind you that his parents didn’t know he would one day grow up to battle the metallic creations of an evil genius in a murder house. So don’t blame them, besides shouldn’t the normal guy be a hero once in a while?) quickly grabbed the back of the tarantula and pulled it up off of Jim, who jumped up. The tarantula forced Bernard’s hand off of it causing him to drop it right in front of them. The thud of its heavy exterior caused the computer parts on the dinning table to jump. Bernard jumped over the tarantula and ran around the table. The tarantula backed into the kitchen slightly to keep an eye on both of them now. “Bernard you got any idea how to stop this thing?” Jim shouted out. Bernard was staring at the computer components on the table and yelled back, “I killed another one upstairs.” Jim looked at him, “there are more of these thing?” Bernard said “yea well the other one was a snake, and there were a bunch of little crabs too but whatever. I killed the snake by ripping its power supply.” Jim staring at the tarantula said “yea, how did you manage that?” Bernard still looking at the dinning table said, “well once it wrapped around me…” Jim cut him off “fuck that I am not letting this thing near me again.”

Bernard recognized the parts on the table he used some of the same stuff to build his battle bots on the weekends but there was some stuff he did not recognize at all. He just needed some tools and then maybe he could get into it. He looked over at the tarantula, it was simpler than the snake with big bulky plates on the back. He could see a small plate in the middle of the abdomen, he figured this had to be some sort of a connection port. “Hey Jim, you got your pocket knife on you?” Jim looked at Bernard, “yea I got it.” “Throw it to me” Bernard said not taking his eyes off the tarantula. Jim threw him the pocket knife, “okay now what, genius?” Bernard said, just hold it down. Taking Bernard’s cue they ran at it. It stood up on its hind legs tried to fight them off but Bernard ran behind it while Jim wrestled with its front legs. Jim yelled out, “Why did I get the front part? You better work fast at whatever you’re doing.” Bernard didn’t say anything and flicked open the knife and dug it into the hatch on the tarantula. The hatch was locked shut and almost broke the knife but it finally busted open. Inside was a mess of wires and switches. Bernard reached in and ripped out the biggest mess of wire he could. The tarantula fell flat to the ground.

Jim dropped the legs he was holding and looked up at Bernard. “Did you say you got attacked by a bunch of crabs?” Bernard dropped the wires in his hand and handed the knife back to Jim and said “yea I fucking hate crabs, it was horrible.” Then Bernard noticed the broken screen and Jim said, “yea I don’t think he can see in here, I heard him yelling from the other room after I did it. Who do you think this guy is?” Bernard said “its the former renter, I told you he wasn’t gone.” Jim shrugged his shoulders, “how was I supposed to know. Look lets just break one of these windows and get out of here.” Bernard said, “I tried that upstairs already, that wack job on the screens said its half inch thick acrylic, no way we’re breaking through it. besides I don’t think we’ve seen the last of his little pets yet.” Looking around for a way out Bernard looked back at the tarantula sitting lifeless on the ground, maybe there is something that could be used inside of it to get out or to at least fend off whatever other things he throws at us. Rummaging through the inside there is a mess of wires and circuits and some large lithium ion batteries. “Batteries!!” Yelled Bernard. Jim looked over and said, “What are you gonna charge the damn thing back up?” Bernard looked up and said, “no but we could use them to start a fire and burn the building down. Then we walk out, easy as that.” Jim looked at Bernard with a real exclamation of confusion saying, “What is wrong with you? We’re still in the building you can’t burn it down.” Bernard thought and then said, “Well the doors are locked the windows are bullet proof but the walls are still just wood and dry wall. Besides if we burn the place down we don’t have to clean it.” “Let’s be fair I don’t think we have to clean this place any more anyway, secondly I haven’t tried the door yet.” They both run to the front door and quickly rip the door handle off. “Yea same thing happened upstairs” Bernard said.

Okay… so time to light a fire?” Jim looked at Bernard with a very unwilling face. The sound of metal on metal was coming from the system of pipes that Bernard had crawled through earlier. They both looked and they could see the big grin across the face of the man on the screen as he said, “Let’s see how you handle these.” Out of the door walks ten silver cats, who proceed to line up. The man on the screen watched them while struggling to open another bottle of wine and laughing maniacally. Jim and Bernard look at each other then back to the cats. Jim says, “What the fuck is this?” The man on the screen taking a big drink of wine spurts out, “This is your demise!” Jim looking real confused takes a step towards the cats and they drop their heads in a move to pounce. Jim and Bernard soon find themselves surrounded and blocked from the door and the corpse of the tarantula. Jim steps forward unsure of how wary to be and tries to stomp one of the cats closest to him. The cat dodges but Jim gets its tail and pins it to the floor while another jumps at him. Soon Jim is fighting off three cats that are climbing his clothes and lashing out at him with their claws. Bernard staring at the cats and back at the tarantula makes a run for the other room when the cats jump at Jim. When he gets to the living room he grabs the remnants of the chair broken by the tarantula. Holding two chair legs in his hands turns to swat off the advancing metallic felines. Quickly dropping one of the chair legs in favor of holding one two-handed he smacks one cat out of the air and into a wall rendering it broken. Bernard can hear Jim yelling from the other room and he can hear the man on the screen continue to laugh. Other cats running at Bernard soon get behind him and one jumps on his back using its claws to grip him and then biting on the same shoulder the snake had bitten into earlier. Feeling the pain, Bernard grabs it by the head and tries to fling it across the room but it only digs in. Another cat tries to crawl its way up his leg but using the chair leg he breaks its head off swiftly. Then a piercing yell comes from the other room and Bernard looks up to see Jim, covered in scratches and bite marks, had ripped the legs off of one of the beasts. The man on the screen could be heard crying. Bernard then proceeds to wallop another cat into the wall. The one on his shoulder begins to thrash about and rip his shirt leaving claw marks across his back. Bernard grabs its head again and in its thrashing he gets it loose before it can tighten its grip again, sending it flying across the room to bust open on the door frame to the kitchen. Two more cats are circling Bernard as he backs into a corner. They both stop and he reaches out with the chair leg to hit one, but it moves out of the way and lurches for his face. Quickly ducking, the cat overshoots him and lands between Bernard and the wall. Bernard jumps and swinging the chair leg wildly, catches one cat by surprise under the chin, breaking its head clean off and sending wires and gears flying. Bernard turns to see one cat left staring him down. A heavy foot stomps on it squishing it flat to the ground. The lights in the eyes went dim and Bernard looked up to see Jim standing there over it. Covered in scratches and smeared blood Jim was breathing heavy when he said, “Let’s burn this place to the ground.”

They could hear the man on the screen cursing furiously. They could only guess that there were more robots. Bernard handed the chair leg to Jim and said just give me a few minutes I think I can get the batteries out the tarantula to spark a fire. Grabbing some of the wires on the dinning table Bernard ran to the tarantula and to rip the batteries out of it. The sound of the man on the screen cursing had stopped, which probably mean they were low on time. Bernard had finally ripped the batteries out of the tarantula, ran to the broken chair. wrapping a few pieces of the chair in some of the thin gauge wire, he attached it to the battery. Leaving it and watching for any sign of change the wire started to warp and bulge. Soon a small flicker of flame broke out then another. The splinters from the chair began to burn and piling more of the wood on top caused the flames to spread. The smoke from the fire began to fill the room and soon it was pouring into the living room. The man on the screen yelled out, “where is that smoke coming from I didn’t put any smoke machines down stairs.” Then the moment when he realized that there was a fire in his house you could hear the horror in his voice as he screamed out for Jim and Bernard to stop. Jim stood ready for more robots to come while Bernard continued to stoke the fire and add pieces from the other chairs on to it. Then he lit the curtains on fire. Jim turned and looked at Bernard saying, “you know we need to get out of here before the whole place burns down right?” Bernard looked back and said, “Yea but also this place should burn to the ground.”

The dining room was quickly engulfed in flame forcing Jim and Bernard into the kitchen. They watched as the curtains spread the flames to the ceiling. The heat coming off of the fire caused the broken screen to begin melting and fall to the floor. Still waiting for more robots to come out Jim looks over at the screen to see what the man is doing and sees that the screen is empty there is only the table and chair left. Jim says to Bernard, “He’s gone, I don’t know where but he isn’t on the screen anymore. I don’t think there are any more robots.” He and Bernard both smile. Then they remember that they are in a burning house still with all of the doors and windows locked. Bernard looked back at Jim and said, “we should probably get out of here.” Jim nodded his head and they headed to the front door. Jim tried ramming it with his shoulder but it wouldn’t budge. Feeling hopeless while watching the fire move towards the kitchen Jim says to Bernard, “who the fuck was that guy anyway and who makes robot cats to try and kill people?” Bernard just laughed and said, “I don’t know but he was obviously an asshole.” Sitting there watching the robots be surrounded by flames and feeling helpless Jim and Bernard hear a siren. Looking out through the window they see a fire truck pulling up. Yelling and banging on the windows the fire men see them and rush up with a sledge hammer and bust down the door.

Running outside while the firemen run inside to dowse the flames Jim and Bernard collapse on the lawn outside the house. EMT’s show up and begin treating their wounds. The fires are soon out but the firemen quickly realize they need the police not only from the wounds on Jim and Bernard but also from the robots and the nature of the fire. When the police arrive they question Jim and Bernard to find out the strange story of how they were preyed upon. The firemen, having put out the fire, inspect the rest of the house and proceed into the basement where they find the remnants of other robots and connections to the tubes upstairs. They also find the entrance to a panic room wide open, with a few empty bottles of wine along with a bed, clothes, and food to last someone a few months. There is no sign of anyone around though. They also see another entrance hidden in the wall that leads outside. The cops quickly put a description of the man based on Jim and Bernard’s accounts. The cops wouldn’t catch up to the man later known as the Mechanical Menace or Jeffrey Edith for years to come.



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Is Anybody Home? by Joshua McIntyre is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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