he first claw was so faint upon the door he barely raised an eye from the page.
It could have been the wind – it sounded almost like the wind.
Wind at other times. and in other places, might blow such a sound – but not this night.
As his thoughts returned to what lay before him, the tiny scrabble, hesitant at floor level, moved slightly to the right, aligning itself more closely to the doorknob.
The noise skittered up the wood, making a metallic sound. His head swivelled toward the door. The first thought he had was for the paint.
He could sense, by the sound alone, the movement was groping in the dark It was unsure where it was. He closed the book on his lap, still keeping his place with a finger.
His eyes remained fixed on the door. He thought he saw the light of his lamp glint off something through the keyhole.
The doorknob twitched – a slight movement counterclockwise. Then a brief turn clockwise. He let the book slide down the side of his chair as he put his hand into a pocket. He felt the key between his fingers. He held it tightly.
There was fumbling with the knob, muffled sounds as if a grip was hard to get. The knob turned once more, and then the pressure on the outside was released. He could hear shuffling against the wood. Then he saw, through the keyhole, light reflecting off a muddy iris.
He stared back through the keyhole, only to see the eye blink and move slowly away. He started to rise from his chair, but was stopped by a thump near the floor, as if a clumsy foot had bumped the wood by mistake.
He realised all the sounds he heard seemed uncoordinated. The doorknob was once again twisted, but the motion seemed to lack an ability to grasp.
He was wondering whether to turn out the lamp, when a hesitant, hollow knock came upon the door.