When Ethan and I bought our first
house, he decided to make it a smart home.
live in the future. Why not act like it?” he said. “Imagine – being able to
unlock our front door from our phones! It’ll be like The Jetsons!”
It was the kind of talk that
should’ve scared a small-town girl like me. My world, before marrying him, was
all feeding chickens and mucking out stables. I didn’t even see a
smartphone until I was in college, and even when I got one of my own, it was
often just left on the kitchen table and forgotten about.
I saw how much it excited him, so I let him do it.
came! It came!” he shouted one morning, carrying a small box in from the porch.
After tearing through the cardboard like a rabid animal, he held up a small
dial. “A smart thermostat!”
came the lightbulbs. Then the occupancy-awareness sensor, which apparently
could tell us how many people were in the house based on CO2 levels. Then the
security system, that locked up the entire house with the tap of a button.
course, nothing is perfect.
started going downhill about six months in. Little errors at first, creeping
into the automatic perfection we called home. “Ethan, I’m locked out,” I yelled
over the phone to him, one rainy afternoon. I had gone out for a quick walk
with our dog, Benji, and forgot to take the keys.
you have your phone? You’re calling me from it. Just press the –”
tried. It’s not working,” I said. Drops of icy rain pelted down on me like
bullets; Benji whined.
it now. I just unlocked it from my phone.”
Clack, clack. I jiggled the doorknob. “No,
it’s still locked. Can you just come home and let me in?”
He let out a disgruntled sigh. “I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
next incident was just a week later. Ethan and I were fast asleep after a
tiring day of errands, when we were woken at 4 am.
lights were on.
“Dammit,” Ethan groaned, pulling out
his phone and tapping at it madly. On, off. On, off. Every
time he clicked them off, they turned back on.
wrong with your phone?” I asked, pulling the covers back over my feet.
He sighed. “I installed this app a week ago, and since then, my phone’s been
acting up. I think it might’ve given me a virus.”
averted his eyes, and said, embarrassed: “It’s stupid. It’s called, uh, ‘How
Will You Die.’ Supposed to predict your death or something.”
“Ha! And you always
laugh at me for reading the horoscopes?!”
different,” he mumbled.
raised an eyebrow at him. “Sure, it is.”
I’m going to uninstall it. Maybe that’ll help.”
lights turned off, and we were once again bathed in darkness.
next evening, we were in middle of packing up dinner’s leftovers when I got a
notice on my phone.
detected at front door.”
weird,” I said to Ethan. “You weren’t expecting anyone, were you?”
he replied, pulling plastic wrap taut over a plate of broccoli.
opened the app and clicked on the video.
was someone standing just past the stairs of our porch, nearly
indistinguishable from the surrounding shadows. Two pinpricks of white stood
out against the black, and I suddenly felt cold.
someone out there, Ethan.”
didn’t reply. Instead, I handed him the phone and played the video.
“It’s one of those teenagers, I
bet,” he said, tapping the “LOCK” button. Click – all the
locks clicked shut in unison. “I saw them the other day at the end of the
street, all in a huddle, smoking cigarettes. I mean, where are their parents?!”
detected at back door.”
tapped on the live feed.
video showed a woman. Dark, long hair, hanging over the right side of her face.
Standing several feet from the backdoor, staring into the camera.
The hidden camera.
leapt to the door and pulled the blinds over it. They clattered against each
other loudly. “There’s someone out there, Ethan.”
are you scared?” Ethan asked, swinging the fridge door shut.
“Of course I’m
scared!” Something about those white eyes, glimmering in the pixelated shadows,
unnerved me. We’re not safe, the voice in my head
screamed. Not safe, not safe –
it’s just some kids. Looking to steal money or something. I mean, I wouldn’t
open the door and welcome them inside, but it’s not like they’re going to –”
“She was right there!”
I’ll tell her to get lost.”
Ethan, don’t –”
But before I could stop him, he
parted the blinds and peered out. “There’s nothing out there,” he said. Clack,
clack, – he tugged at the cord, and they shifted away. “See?”
was nothing out there – just the dark, empty backyard.
looked back down at the phone.
the video, she was still there.
in the shadows, I could make out a smile.
detected at front door.”
detected in garden.”
detected in driveway.”
tapped wildly at the screen. Ethan watched, his eyes widening, as each video
feed came up.
single video was of her.
the doors!” I yelled, running across the foyer. “Your phone wasn’t working the
other day – we have to make sure…” Panting, I jiggled the doorknob.
must just be some sort of malfunction,” Ethan said, utterly confused. “The
backdoor’s locked, checking the garage now –”
pulled out my phone.
this time, the notification wasn’t from the security system.
was from the occupancy app.
finger trembling, I tapped on the icon.
text came up, stark white.
ONE PERSON HAS BEEN ADDED TO