By Aeryn Rudel
“This will let me see who rings my doorbell?” Gary asked the technician from SpyDoor, a beefy guy in a blue work shirt with the name Bob stenciled across the breast.
“That’s right,” Bob said, dusting the shiny new screen mounted next to Gary’s front door. “Let me show you. Watch the monitor.” Bob stepped outside, and a moment later the doorbell rang, a low rolling gong.
The screen flickered, then showed Gary’s stoop, his manicured lawn, and the street behind it lined with stately brick Victorian homes. Bob waved at the camera, then stepped back inside. “Neat, huh?”
“Very neat. I’ll finally see which of the little monsters is ringing my bell at all hours of the night.”
“Oh, uh, sure,” Bob said and coughed. “You can also download the SpyDoor app and see the camera feed from your phone.”
“Even better. You know, I might even file charges.” Gary smiled at the possibilities.
“Charges? It’s probably just doorbell ditchers.” Bob frowned. “Kids being kids.”
Gary frowned at the technician. “Oh, I’m sorry, Bob. You think I enjoy waking in the middle of the night so those–What did you call them–ditchers can indulge their malicious urges?”
Bob put his hands up. “Hey, sorry. It’s your system. Call them whatever you want.”
“I’d call them criminals, deviants, little imps spawned by awful adults and let loose to terrorize the neighborhood,” Gary said. “Now. Do I need to sign anything?”
“No. You’re all set.” Bob stood silent for a moment, then, “Go easy on the kids. We all did stupid–”
Gary reached around Bob and opened his door. “Have a good day.”
* * *
Gary sat in his study and watched the fire, a glass of nice Cabernet on the table beside him. His iPhone rested in his lap next to a legal pad and a pen. He grinned. He couldn’t help it. He was just so damn happy he’d finally bring his tormentors to justice. They’d ring his doorbell, and their snot-smeared faces would appear on his phone. He had made careful note of all the kids in the neighborhood so he would recognize them on sight. He knew they called him Scary Gary, he knew they hated him because he didn’t give out Halloween candy or tolerate them riding their goddamn bikes across his lawn, and he knew they rung his doorbell to fuck with him.
Tonight, though, he’d write down the names of each little shit that dared ring his doorbell. Then, tomorrow, he’d march over to their houses and demand justice from the parents. It would be glorious.
He looked at the time on his phone: 10:37 p.m. It would start soon. If it went like the last two weeks, they’d ring his doorbell into the wee hours of the morning. He’d have a lot of names.
The doorbell rang–gong–and his cell phone buzzed in his lap. A message from SpyDoor read: Your doorbell has detected a visitor.
Excitement thrummed through him, and he stabbed his finger down on the message bubble. The screen showed a live feed of his stoop. He could see his welcome mat, the street beyond, and the bushes next to his entryway. Other than that, nothing.
“Damn,” he said. “Not fast enough.”
It didn’t matter. There would be others.
He drained his wine glass and poured another. Instead of leaving the phone in his lap, he held it in his hand, his left index finger poised to stab the screen.
He didn’t have to wait long. At five minutes past eleven, the doorbell gonged again, and the message appeared on his phone. Like a descending meteor, his finger smashed the message bubble, and the feed of his stoop appeared again. He caught a flash of movement, something dark, and the bushes shook next to the entryway.
So close! They were fast. He’d give them that. Maybe they saw the SpyDoor technician and knew what it meant. They were cunning, like all low beasts.
“Next time,” Gary mumbled.
He resumed his position, phone held close to his face, finger hovering above the screen.
Gong. The doorbell rang again, and he hit the SpyDoor message bubble. His stoop popped into view once more. This time, a short dark shape was visible on his welcome mat.
“Gotcha!” Gary said. “Now look up at the camera, you little fucker.”
The head tilted, the face catching the dim shine from his porch light. Gary screamed and dropped his phone. It had not been a child’s face on his screen, at least not a human child. It was elongated, pushed forward, with a pointed nose and chin, with two glaring yellow eyes peering over a slit-like mouth. That mouth had spread in an awful grin, exposing a forest of needle-like teeth.
Gary sat in his chair, shaking, silent, his stomach roiling. Minutes passed, and he took a long pull of wine. The sensible part of his mind reasserted control. “Okay, they saw the SpyDoor technician, and they knew I would see them tonight. So they put on masks to scare me.”
Gong. The doorbell rang, and his phone buzzed on the floor.
He shook his head. No, no more. Not tonight.
Gong. His phone buzzed again. He refused to acknowledge it. Maybe they’d go away. But, of course, they never had before.
Gong, buzz. Gong, buzz. Gong, buzz.
Gary looked down at the phone between his feet. The doorbell rang twice more. He didn’t want to see, but he knew he’d look anyway.
He picked up the phone and touched the message bubble. Horrid misshapen figures crowded his stoop, leering up into the camera. Glowing eyes and sharp teeth filled his screen. Beyond, terrible shapes dotted his lawn, and a line of little monsters wound into the dark street, all waiting for their turn.
Gary hurled his phone across the room, and it shattered against the wall. He covered his ears and closed his eyes.
Gong. Gong. Gong.
About the Author
Aeryn Rudel is a writer from Seattle, Washington. He is the author of the Acts of War novels published by Privateer Press, and his short fiction has appeared in The Arcanist, Factor Four Magazine, and Pseudopod, among others. Aeryn occasionally offers dubious advice on the subjects of writing and rejection (mostly rejection) at www.rejectomancy.com or Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.