The Shortest Hour by Coco Jane
Halloween Flash Fiction contest entry
The front door was unlocked when Travis arrived home. He entered to the smell of lavender but did not see his wife Ashley. Hm. Unusual. He set the bag of trick-or-treat candy on the kitchen counter as she emerged from the bedroom in her robe.
"I'm taking a long, hot bath," she said. "After Halloween with 22 Kindergartners, I need it. If anyone calls, I'm not here for an hour." She laid her phone on the kitchen table and disappeared into the steam-filled bathroom.
"Okay, honey," said Travis. "I'll man the doorbell."
He poured the candy into the big salad bowl and carried it to the table by the front door. He had just turned on the porch light when he heard a shriek from the bathroom.
"Auauauaugh! Get away!"
Travis hurried to the bathroom and was shoved by his soaking-wet wife streaking past him, dripping bubbles all the way to the bedroom.
"What is it?" Travis asked.
"Get him out!" she screamed from behind the door.
"Get who out?"
"He's in the bathroom! Get him ouououout!!"
Travis stepped into the kitchen and found the ten-inch butcher knife. Slowly he approached the half-closed bathroom door. Had someone sneaked into the house while Ashley was undressing? Was a Norman Bates hiding behind the shower curtain? He could hear Ashley whimpering.
Travis slowly pushed the door and entered the bathroom, careful not to slip on spilled water. Hot, moist air enveloped him. He stared into the steam, but saw no one.
Quickly he pulled the door back to expose--nothing.
He took another step toward the tub. He listened but heard nothing but the quiet popping of soap bubbles. Who was behind the shower curtain, waiting in the water to strangle, stab, or shoot?
Then Travis saw it.
A half-inch-long brown spider with hairy legs crawled along the inside of the shower curtain. It stopped at a little fluff of lavender suds that Ashley had left in her hasty retreat.
Travis smiled and set the knife down on the counter. He used a piece of toilet paper to dispatch the spider and flushed it down the toilet. Then he put the knife away and returned to the bedroom.
"You okay?" he asked as he gently opened the door.
Ashley sat on the bed, panting, holding a damp tee shirt she had used to dry herself.
"Is it dead?"
"Yes. You're safe now. You can go back to your bath."
"No way. I'm done bathing for life."
"Well, honey. That was the shortest hour ever."
"Get the doorbell, will ya?"
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