Tom wasn’t sure how long he had been in the closet, but eventually he noticed that there were no more sounds coming from outside the door. He started to notice how much his hands hurt from gripping his bat, he had stopped trembling, he was out of breath from trying too hard to breathe quietly, and he was sweating.
Rising, still holding his bat, he opened the closet door and peeked into his room. It looked just the way he had always left it.
He curled around the door as silently as he could. Hastily he dropped to his knees to peer under the bed. No ninjas.
In fact, his entire room seemed clear. But he noticed that on the carpet, at regular intervals there were little black spots, as though the carpet had been burned.
Creeping out of his room and into the hall, he peered wide-eyed into every corner, holding his bat for all the world like he was about to hit one out of the park. All was silent, and something smelled funny, but those black dots continued down the hall. It seemed like they made a trail toward the bathroom door. The closed bathroom door.
Tom stepped softly, silently until he came to the bathroom door, and nearly retched. He was used to the bathroom having funny smells, especially after his dad had used it. But this was something else. It was like morning breath and soggy snowboots and rotting fruit all at once. Whatever the ninjas were doing in there, it was horrible.
With a little more speed, Tom backed away from the bathroom door and headed toward the living room. There were little black burned spots all over the living room floor. Hesitating just a moment, he sprinted over to the front door and put his hand on the doorknob.
Then he heard that skritch-scratching on the outside of the door.
Backing away, breathing hard, gripping his bat once again, he stared at the door, listening to that noise. He turned toward the kitchen, but to his horror he saw shadows playing on the wall, and heard the noise coming from there as well. The only other place he could go was the basement door next to him. No sounds coming from down there. Without thinking, he fumbled the door open and ducked through, slamming it behind him.
The dusty darkness was quiet. And it didn’t stink.