A repetitive scratching noise disturbed Mr. Smith’s peaceful slumber. It took several moments for him to decide if it was real, or just the echo of an interrupted dream. For all he knew, his overactive imagination was trying to sabotage the last remaining winks of the night.
The annoying sound increased in volume and intensity, which suggested it was no coincidence. The predictable pattern even stopped and started at regular intervals. He decided it was too deliberate to be a tree limb or other inanimate object scratching against the house. Someone was definitely at the front door, trying to get his attention.
He raised up from his pillow and strained to read the digital clock on the nightstand. The time was 5:12 AM. “What damned fool would be at my doorstep at this hour?”; He lamented. As before, the insistent summons continued on, unabated.
He quickly put on a robe and trotted downstairs in an angry huff. “Only bad news comes this early”, He muttered to himself. Still half asleep, he unlocked the door and flung it open in rapid succession. “Who in the HELL scratches on my door like a damn dog? I have a doorbell, you asshole!”; He snarled brashly.
In the split second it took for the door to swing open, the chilly pre-dawn air brushed against his face. Instantly it sobered him to the serious gravity of berating an unknown stranger on his porch at 5 AM. He realized he hadn’t even bothered to check to see who he was yelling at. Now that he was fully awake, it was too late to do anything about the breach in his personal security! Defensive adrenaline kicked in. He desperately waited for his eyes to adjust to the blinding darkness outside. Slowly he became aware of the early morning visitor on his doorstep… at least the general outline of him.
Trying hard not to sound afraid, Mr. Smith apologized for his previous outburst and then nervously asked what the predawn caller wanted. Dressed entirely in black, the mysterious figure’s features were completely hidden by a dark hood. Without uttering a single word of reply, he reached into his robe to retrieve something.
Assuming the worst, Mr. Smith recoiled in fear from whatever was hidden inside the cloak. Instead of a weapon however, a yellowed scroll was handed over without the slightest explanation. After he reluctantly accepted possession of the worn parchment, the shadowy courier bowed to him with a theatrical flair, and turned to leave. His uninvited guest silently walked down the sidewalk with a hollow, creaking gait that one would expect from an elderly soul.
With a palpitating heart, Mr. Smith watched him mount a white horse and gallop off into the twilight as if that were an ordinary occurrence. After the initial shock of the bizarre turn-of-events wore off, he stepped back inside and dead-bolted the door. Twice afterward he double checked to make sure it was locked.
After a few moments to catch his breath, he reflected heavily upon the surreal experience. He might have assumed the whole thing was a walking nightmare except he was tightly clutching evidence of its actuality.