Your Perfect Sleep

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

There was something not quite right about the window. He couldn’t shake the feeling that the window, or something in the window was watching him as he walked by each day on the way to school. He knew it was silly to think that a window could watch you but something was. He just knew it. He tried not to look as he walked by but he could feel it.

It was an empty brick storefront with a large plate glass window on the left side of the door. It had been several things over the years Raymond had walked by, a small mattress store, a tobacco shop, even a police outreach center. He’d liked to peer inside when it had been a tobacco shop, looking at all the interesting things on close packed shelves. He tried to peek when the owner was in the back of the shop because if the owner saw him he’d walk briskly to the front door and make threatening motions with his hands, and Raymond would scamper off. The scary thing about the tobacco shop owner was his huge gray mustache. It was like something menacing living on his face and Raymond had had a few nightmares about the shopkeeper grabbing him and yelling at him, that mustache spitting venom at him that burned as it hit his face. But somehow he was still drawn to peek in through the window.

There were never any customers in the shop anytime Raymond walked by. In fact when it was a mattress shop and the police outreach center there was never anyone inside at all. The mattress shop had several mattresses, a desk in the corner, and enticing signs hanging from the ceiling and across the door and window. YOUR PERFECT SLEEP IS RIGHT INSIDE. BEST PRICES IN TOWN. WE BEAT ANYONE’S PRICES. But no customers and no sales staff, as far as Raymond could tell. It was a mystery.

When it was a police outreach center there were also enticing posters on the window and front door. THE POLICE ARE YOUR FRIEND. HELP US MAKE THE COMMUNITY BETTER. FREE SODA AND SNACKS. JUNIOR BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT SOON. There were some tables and chairs scattered about, a mini frig and a snack table in one corner, and a basketball hoop at the back end of the building. It seemed rather haphazard. No police officers inside or any other adults or kids. Always empty.

And now it was really empty. Just a couple of crumpled soda cans by one wall, and a deflated basketball lying on the bare floor. There was no reason to look in there any more, but Raymond knew something was looking out.

Raymond had been walking by the storefront for several years, twice a day. The times changed because his school schedule was erratic and he had some after school events that varied too, so he saw the storefront at many different times during the day. The only time he hadn’t seen it was at night. He was afraid to walk by it at night.

What worried him the most is that he never saw the changes happen. One day it was a tobacco shop, the next day it was empty. It was a mattress shop for six months, and then one day it was empty. He never saw anything carried in the building. He never saw anything carried out of the building. The only person he’d ever seen in the building over the several years he’d started paying attention was the mustached tobacco shop owner.

Raymond gathered up his courage and walked over to the window to peer in. There was dust on the floor, and in the dust there was a set of footprints. They started at the back of the shop and ended about five feet from the window he was looking in. There were no footprints leading away from the window. As he watched, two more footprints appeared, closer to the window. Closer to him. A few seconds later, another set of footprints, just a foot from the window. He couldn’t move. The glass on the window moved slightly towards him. Somehow he took a step back. And then another.

He clutched his backpack in his left hand, turning away and he began to run. Behind him, he could hear a small bell tinkle, as the shop door opened.

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