It was about four weeks ago when it started. I have a subscription to receive my town's local paper by mail, as I like to get caught up on current affairs over breakfast. Every Thursday for the past ten years, this had been my routine, except one day, the paper arrived a day late. I was a little annoyed, but I didn't particularly mind. I just went without on Thursday Morning and read it Friday instead.
The front page story was about how a crazed serial killer had escaped from a maximum security prison on the outskirts of the town, belonging to our neighboring city. That was a little worrying, but I had faith that he would be caught quickly. A crazed serial killer would stick out like a sore thumb in this quiet town.
The same thing happened the next week. The paper did not show up on Thursday. I rang up my delivery man, and he promised me that it had been delivered. I found this odd, and decided to wait until the next morning, where sure enough, the paper was delivered.
As I read through it, I noticed that certain words had been circled throughout the issue. They didn't make much sense, so I wrote down every single word in the paper that was circled. They read "You," "thanks," "the home", "living." This puzzled me. I began to suspect that somebody was vandalizing my papers. It then clicked in my head that this was the reason they were late. Somebody was taking them from my lawn, circling random words, and then giving them back the next day. It was probably some punk kid's idea of a prank. Next week, I was going to catch this punk.
On Thursday morning, I got up extra early, and kept a lookout from my bedroom window, waiting for 8:30, the time the papers usually arrived. Then my clock hit 8:30 there was still no sign, but a margin for error was only to be expected. That's when I heard something smash in the kitchen.
I stormed downstairs, wondering if it was that kid. All I found was that a window had blown open and knocked over the vase on the window ledge. But it wasn't windy...
It had been a diversion! I ran out to my front lawn, but the paper was gone, and I could still see the delivery man driving away down my street. I should have called the police there, but foolishly, I decided to wait until tomorrow morning, to try to catch this kid then.
I kept watching from my bedroom window, able to see most of my front lawn, and the street beyond. If he approached, I'd see him. But at about 8:35, I heard something slide through my letterbox downstairs. How could I have missed him?
I sat down over breakfast as per usual and opened the paper. Many more words were circled this time. On the first page alone, they read out "Sorry", "For", "the", "break", "Cannot", "LET", "you," "see", "me".
The second page message read "going", "to", "gut", "you", "Like", "a", "Fish"ing. The third page had nothing, and there were no circled words in the rest of the paper, but written inside the crossword puzzle were the words "Please god have mercy on me".
At that point, I called the police. This was no longer a prank. I had been threatened. I told them all that had transpired, including the messages, and my address.
As I sat at the table, unmoving, I thought I saw a shadow pass by outside my window. I froze for what felt like eternity, and then, arming myself with a claw hammer, ventured outside. There was nobody there. Nevertheless I raised the hammer, the hand holding it shaking. After a while, I went back indoors. My fears of an outsider had not receded, but I was too afraid to stand outside the security of my own home any longer.
When the cops arrived, they searched my house top to bottom. They told me that these circled messages were the calling card of the serial killer that had escaped two weeks ago.
The police found the man hiding in my bedroom with a knife, waiting for when I would go up and get ready for work. He was going to kill me.
Further search of my house revealed he had been living in my attic, and eyewitness reports from my neighbors told of how he would climb from the attic window, snatch up the paper, and climb back up, before dropping it back down the next day.
Even though it was all over, I still had trouble sleeping, knowing how close I had come to being murdered. It gave me some relief to see the paper delivered on Thursday the following week. I took it inside and started to read.
I stopped in my tracks and stared down at the headline. It felt like my heart was going to stop beating. The story was about how the serial killer was caught, but slaughtered his detaining officers and is now on the run again.
I turned to the second page, and scribbled all over it in black pen was the word "Sorry" in gigantic letters, covering the page entirely. It was the same on every page, except the last one, where there was a drawing of my house, and a stick figure with a knife standing where the back door was.
There was suddenly a knocking at the back door.
Credited to CyanWrites