Author Topic: Night Terrors  (Read 6946 times)

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Offline NicTei

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Night Terrors
« on: March 22, 2015, 11:28:01 PM »
NaNoWriMo 2014 success!

Brought to you in original format, with minor (read:  no) editing, no less!

Disclaimer:  this is in no way, shape, or form an attempt to outsource editing to my fellow forumgoers.  Fo' realz.

Updates every Wednesday!



Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Click Here!     Chapter 9 - Click Here!     Chapter 17 - Coming Soon     
Chapter 2 - Click Here!     Chapter 10 - Click Here!     Chapter 18 - Coming Soon   
Chapter 3 - Click Here!     Chapter 11 - Click Here!     Chapter 19 - Coming Soon     
Chapter 4 - Click Here!     Chapter 12 - Click Here!     Chapter 20 - Coming Soon     
Chapter 5 - Click Here!     Chapter 13 - Coming Soon     Chapter 21 - Coming Soon     
Chapter 6 - Click Here!     Chapter 14 - Coming Soon     Chapter 22 - Coming Soon     
Chapter 7 - Click Here!     Chapter 15 - Coming Soon     Chapter 23 - Coming Soon     
Chapter 8 - Click Here!     Chapter 16 - Coming Soon     

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« Last Edit: March 13, 2017, 06:22:38 AM by NicTei »
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Me Am Robot     |     Night Terrors     |     Sailing the Seven Skies     |     The Old Gods     |     Vagabond

Offline NicTei

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Chapter One
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2015, 11:29:24 PM »
   “She needs a bit of work, but she’ll keep the rain off your head.  The snow, too.”

   I cast a sideways glance at Everett, the owner of the house.  He was a heavyset man, still trying to catch his breath from climbing the stairs up to the second floor of the house.  Based on the pictures he had sent me a few weeks ago I had planned on renting a room from the third floor, but I the last thing I wanted to have to do was call an ambulance.  He pulled his Twins cap off and wiped his brow, resting his other hand on the banister at the base of the spiraled staircase that led to the third floor.

   By ‘a bit of work’, he meant several fresh coats of paint, new carpeting, permanent light fixtures in the hallways, and no fewer than a dozen air fresheners; the previous tenants had clearly been rough on the place.  The light we were standing underneath in the hallway was a bare bulb hanging from its wires, and I had noticed earlier that Everett hesitated to flick the switch on the wall, like he was anticipating a shock.  Though the kitchen on the first floor had looked passable, what I could see of the second-floor kitchen through the doorway was just shy of a warzone.  Still, with only four days to go until my junior semester of college began in full I was running out of options, and this was the last house with any vacancies in walking distance of the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota.

   Having a monthly rent payment tacked onto my list of responsibilities—which already included a full load of eighteen credits and a job in the tutoring center—was going to be a drag, but it was going to be worth it to finally live off-campus.  No more floor meetings, no more roommates complaining about my habit of falling asleep with the TV on, and, most importantly, no roommates period.  I knew that the difference between having housemates and having roommates was small, but it was enough of a difference for me.  The first twenty years of my life had already been spent sharing a room with someone, and I would be damned if I was going to have to share for another year.

   “That door across from the kitchen would take you into the biggest room in the house, but I’m already renting that out to a young couple,” Everett said, having caught his breath.  “Doesn’t look like they’re home right now, but you’ll probably meet them tomorrow.  Let’s go upstairs; I’ll show you the last two rooms.”

   I followed behind the landlord as he ascended the spiral staircase up to the third floor landing, completely aware that if he lost his balance he would run me over like a steamroller.  There were only two doors on the third floor, one on either side of the landing; continuing ahead from the top of the stairs would have put me in front of a small window set at waist height that looked out onto the street.  A very short table with a chair that looked like it was made for a child’s room was sitting in front of the window.  Everett gestured to the table and said something about a study area, but I could not imagine any circumstances under which sitting on a chair that small would be comfortable enough for studying.  Instead, I turned my attention to the door on the left—the door on the right was shut, and presumably locked.

   Though it was larger than I had expected from an attic-level room—the pictures Everett had sent me with his phone were a little hard to use to judge scale—the slanted ceiling was going to make standing anywhere but the middle of the room difficult.  A window the same size as the one out on the landing was set into the far wall, and I was happy to see that it gave me a view of the lake, only partially obstructed by trees and the houses across the street.  It was too small to fit my bed into, but I had already made up my mind.  I turned to Everett.

   “I’ll take it.”



   Later that evening I was sitting in my new room, my arms sore from carrying things up to the attic apartment and my legs sore from going up and down two flights of stairs, over and over again.  I had bought a cheap desk at the Shopko up in Hermantown, and my father and I had taken a good hour or so to build it while my mother set up the cot I would be sleeping on for the next nine months or so.  We had gone out to supper afterwards, and I now had some leftovers in the fridge on the second-floor kitchen, but they went back to their hotel down on the lakefront, leaving me alone in the house.  I wasted no time in setting up my television, placing it on top of a stack of empty boxes from the move-in process.  My laptop and Xbox were also plugged into the same outlet block I had used for the TV, though I left the fourth outlet alone; there had been a small show of sparks when I tried to plug in my fan as well, so I decided to leave well enough alone and open the window to get some air and cool the room down.

   While I was signing the contract, Everett had talked a little more about the house, my new room in particular.  He had been stating the obvious when he told me that the third floor was usually a great deal warmer than the floors below—stepping onto the third floor landing had been like walking into a wall of heat.  It wasn’t too uncomfortable at the moment, and I was already anticipating how welcome the additional warmth would be when the temperature really started to drop in a few months.  What had bothered me was that whoever had painted the room managed to paint the window shut.  Getting it open had required several minutes of effort with my pocketknife and a few harrowing moments when it sounded like the hinges were beginning to pull away from the frame.

   Another point of contention was the smoke alarms:  from the first floor to the one set into the ceiling beside my light, they all looked positively ancient, and were clearly out of date.  I couldn’t remember even seeing one in the basement, though smoke alarms had been the least of my concerns down there; it looked like a horror movie set, with the windows painted over, a thick blanket of cobwebs in one corner of the ceiling, and rusty bits of metal and nails on the floor.  The washer and dryer looked no better off, and were older pay models.  Living on-campus had been a terrible experience, but at least I never had to pay to do my laundry.  I rarely carried change on me as it was, so keeping a cache of quarters at the ready was going to be a hassle.

   Regardless of the shortcomings of the house, I was looking forward to the year ahead of me.  Between a messy break-up in May and getting fired from my job back home in July, I was looking forward to the fresh start that a new set of classes and classmates would bring.  I was also looking for a new job, but that was a lesser priority; I had enough money in my checking and savings accounts that I could easily fund my entire nine month stay in the house, including groceries and other miscellaneous expenses, and still have a comfortable amount left over when I moved back home for the summer.  If I moved back home for the summer; I was already toying with the idea of renewing my contract at the end and keeping the attic apartment for the remainder of my college experience.  Rent was relatively cheap, after all, and it was a good distance from campus:  close enough that I could walk to class, but far enough away that I wouldn’t have to deal with everyone in the surrounding houses and apartment buildings being college students.  Too many nights in the past two years had been spent staring at the ceiling because the people down the hall were being too noisy, or because there was a party going on in the front yard of the house across the street.  I had never been big on parties, and college had done nothing to change that.

   The alarm clock on my desk beeped, snapping me out of my thoughts.  It was midnight already.  Tomorrow was Saturday, but with my parents in town I would be up and about just as early as if I had class.  No trip to Duluth as complete in their eyes unless you had walked the entire length of the boardwalk and back, or stopped in every one of the little shops that lined the streets down by the aerial lift bridge.  With a sigh, I put the lid back on the box that I had been sorting through and pushed it up against the wall beside my desk.  I was mostly finished unpacking, but I had been hell-bent on finishing in one night so I could get it all out of the way.

   There were still a few things unaccounted for:  a picture of my entire family taken at my last birthday, a jar of change I was hoping to find a few quarters in, and the four or five games that I had brought up—for weekends only, of course.  There were only two boxes left unpacked—including the one beside my desk, so it was no great mystery where they were, and I doubted it would take too long to fish them out, but I was determined to go to bed on time.  Adhering to my schedule now would make the school year easier in the long run, especially with classes at eight o’clock every morning.

   After turning on my Xbox and navigating to Netflix, I pulled on a pair of pajama pants and slipped under the sheets on my cot.  The mattress pad I had bought to put on top of it was a little too large, with a couple inches hanging off the sides and no less than a foot hanging off each end, but it was surprisingly comfortable.  Putting on the last episode I could remember watching of whatever mid-90s sitcom I had on when I fell asleep the previous night, I settled my head back on my pillow and closed my eyes.  The last thing I heard as I fell asleep was the laugh track, mixing with the sound of cars on Woodland Avenue.


« Last Edit: April 02, 2015, 09:25:18 PM by NicTei »
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Me Am Robot     |     Night Terrors     |     Sailing the Seven Skies     |     The Old Gods     |     Vagabond

Offline HelenNightengale

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Re: Night Terrors
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2015, 01:09:01 AM »
I really like this Nic.

Looking forward to the next one.
I love how there is still the option for an MSN address...

Offline Rabbit

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Re: Night Terrors
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2015, 01:25:59 AM »
*pulls up a chair*

I await the spookiness!
:owl:

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Offline Angel

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Re: Night Terrors
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2015, 09:48:46 AM »
*pulls up another chair*

I too await dah spooks.

Enter Helena's world of light.
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Offline NicTei

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Re: Night Terrors
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2015, 06:49:17 PM »
Thanks for the encouragement, guys!  You'll have to let me know about the pacing on this one, though; rereading it after NaNo was over, I felt it started off a little too slow, even for a horror novel.  Like I mentioned in the topic post, this hasn't really been edited since I finished it, so feel free to be as brutal about it as you wish. :)

Anyways, after some deliberation, I've decided on a rough posting schedule for my three currently active threads:  The Old Gods will update every Monday, Night Terrors every Wednesday, and Vagabond every Friday.  Because of how little of Vagabond and The Old Gods I have to post, I'll probably be filling in with an interactive or a few other things I've been working on as needed.

As always, thanks for reading! :)

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Me Am Robot     |     Night Terrors     |     Sailing the Seven Skies     |     The Old Gods     |     Vagabond

Offline NicTei

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Chapter Two
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2015, 07:08:54 AM »
   As I had predicted, I spent the majority of the next day down on the lakefront with my parents.  There was nothing inherently wrong with that; I had been coming to Duluth with my family for as long as I could remember, and I had always enjoyed walking on the big rocks that lined the shore.  After the first few years, falling was a nonissue, though I had never been able to remember what happened following the last time I had tripped on the rocks; one minute I was down at the lakefront, the next I was waking up in a waiting room at St. Mary’s.  As concussions go, it wasn’t the worst, but my parents had kept me on the boardwalk and off the rocks for a good long while afterwards.

   Still, when I spent most of the year up in Duluth and made it down to the lakefront every weekend, some of the novelty had worn off.  Truffles from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory were still good, for example, but when you had one every week it was less of a special treat and more of a weekly routine.  The same principle applied to walking the boardwalk, and stopping down at Canal Park to watch a freighter pass under the bridge:  it was fun, but some of the majesty had worn off now that it had become more commonplace.  Before moving up to Duluth, I had been certain that I wouldn’t get used to it, and that it would feel like one long summer vacation.  I had been wrong, of course, and had long since settled into a comfortable routine.  The city was no less special to me, of course, just more familiar.

   When they were done down by the lake, my parents took me out for lunch and then brought me back to my new house so they could head back home.  They had several hours of driving ahead of them, so they wanted to leave early enough to get back before dark.  As always, I was a little sad to see them go, but that was nothing that couldn’t be cured by a few mindless hours of Netflix, or finishing with my unpacking.  I needed to find that damned change jar if I didn’t want to spend my second week of class haunted by the ghosts of unwashed clothes.  The family picture was important too, of course, but it couldn’t wash my clothes for me.

   As I was climbing the stairs to the second floor of the house, I paused; there were voices up on the landing, a man and a woman.  Someone else was finally home.  The sooner I could get meeting my housemates out of the way, the sooner I could jump straight into the school year.  I coughed as inconspicuously as I could when I reached the landing, but there was no need to get their attention; the couple had already heard me coming.  They had stopped in the middle of putting their groceries away in the kitchenette, and the woman was poking her head out the door.

   “Oh, you must be the guy who moved in on the third floor!  I’m Myra, and this is James,” she said, indicating the man behind her.  They were both around my age, but James was a good foot and a half taller than me.  Myra was a little closer to my height, but still a few inches taller.  Both were blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and fair-skinned.  If I’d known that I was moving into a house of Nordic giants, I might have taken a little more time to think before signing the contract.

   Smiling, I extended my hand.  “I’m Leon.  I take it you’re the couple Everett mentioned?”

   James grinned and nodded.  “That’s us!  Everett told us you moved in when he was here earlier this afternoon.  We’re just sorry you got stuck all the way up on the third floor!”

   I shrugged.  “I’ve got a view of the lake, and it’ll probably be about as hot in the winter as it is now.  I suspect I’ll cope with my misfortune somehow.”

   “Oh, I’m sure!” James shot back.  “So, have you met anyone else in the house, or just us?  Pat lives in the room next to ours, but we don’t really see him out of his room all that often.  We’re not sure about the two guys living down on the first floor, though.”

   While he talked, I couldn’t help but notice his use of ‘we’ instead of ‘I’.  It was almost as if they were some sort of collective being, at least in his mind.  Resisting the impulse to picture the couple as some sort of weird Siamese twin was difficult, especially since they were both so similar already, but I managed remarkably well, I thought—for all of twelve seconds, anyways.  Then the only thing I could think of while they talked to each other about…something.  I had lost track of the conversation because of my overactive imagination, but before I could feel bad about it they both turned to me.

   “So are you at the University, or Scholastica?” Myra asked.

   “I’m at UMD.  I’m majoring in History and minoring in Psychology,” I answered.  “There’s not a whole lot for jobs with a combination like that, I know, but I’ve always liked studying History, so I figured I might as well stick with what I like.  What about you two?”

   “Well, I’m a Business major, and James is going for his Master’s degree in Civil Engineering,” Myra answered.

   “We were trying to get an apartment at that new building they just set up on Woodland, but it was just way too much there.  We’ll probably have to wait until we’re done with college to get set up there,” her boyfriend explained.  “And you?  How did you find this place?”

   “I was just looking for anywhere off-campus.  I couldn’t take living in the dorms or the apartments anymore.  If I had to put up with just one more drunk or pothead roommate, I think I would’ve just quit and gone to some two week bartending school.”

   “Hey, we know what you mean,” James replied, continuing his crusade against referring to himself in the first-person singular tense.  “The first place we rented was right next door to a party house, basically.  Well, as close to a party house as you can get in an apartment complex, anyways.  But yeah, the constant partying just got so annoying that after a while we finally picked up and left.  There were a few other places, but this one has been the best so far.”

   Considering the state of the house, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what the ‘other places’ had looked like if this was the best.  Thankfully, I was spared the imagery by their continued attempts at small talk with me.  I had never liked this part of meeting the new roommates—or housemates, in this case.  They always wanted to keep the conversation going, find out as much as possible about you while at the same time trying carefully not to be creepy about the whole interrogation process.  It was the best way college students could come up with to figure out who among them was likely to be an acceptable person to share a living space with, and who was likely to stuff them in the crawlspace under their parent’s house.

   After half an hour had passed, they finally seemed to lose interest in the conversation and let me go.  Back up on the third floor, I was just beginning to unlock the door to my room when I noticed that the window at the end of the hallway was wide open.  There was no screen on the outside, either, which seemed to me like a serious oversight on Everett’s part.  Even though I was sure it had been shut when I left in the morning, I reasoned that Myra or James, or maybe whoever was living across the hall from me, had opened it to cool the place down a little. 

     Whoever had done it, I had to remember to buy them some flowers, or some chocolates; it was still bordering on uncomfortably hot on the third floor, but I had no doubt that it was made more tolerable up there than it was when the window had still been closed.  Thankfully, it was already the beginning of September, so I would only have to wait a few weeks for the temperatures to drop drastically and the blizzards to move in.  If there was one thing I could count on in Duluth, it was snow before Halloween.

   Reasoning that there would be plenty of time to think about snow later, I unlocked the door to my room and stepped inside, immediately hit by a small wave of heat.  My own window was closed, the latch firmly in place even though I was positive I had left it open through the night and couldn’t remember shutting it before I left.  Irritated by my absent-mindedness, I crossed the room and opened the window again.  Given how reluctant to open it was, I reasoned that some paint had probably found its way into the hinges, and I couldn’t help but think of the irony of the situation:  Everett had complained the previous day as he was showing me the house that the previous tenants had decided to paint the house themselves and had no idea what they were doing, and yet he himself had managed to paint a window shut.

   Now confident that there was ample airflow through the third floor of the house, I pulled out the box I had been looking through the previous night.  I had an entire afternoon to finish unpacking and get everything situated, and I was going to take advantage of it.


« Last Edit: April 02, 2015, 09:25:55 PM by NicTei »
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Me Am Robot     |     Night Terrors     |     Sailing the Seven Skies     |     The Old Gods     |     Vagabond

Offline Angel

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Re: Night Terrors
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2015, 01:24:29 PM »
I'm really enjoying this one so far. I like the voice of our narrator and his dry, sardonic tone.
It was a solid chapter and I look forward to seeing how Leon's relationship with his housemates develops, I have a feeling that the more reclusive member of the household will play a bit part in how the story unfolds.

One tiny thing, towards the end of the chapter you mention "on the third floor" or "the third floor" 3 times in four paragraphs, so I think that should be changed. Really the only one necessary is the first one in the 4th paragraph from the bottom imo. Anyhoo, I look forward to more. :thumb:

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Offline HelenNightengale

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Re: Night Terrors
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2015, 12:03:29 PM »
^^ completely agree with Ang. Another good chapter!
I love how there is still the option for an MSN address...

Offline Treegum

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Re: Night Terrors
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2015, 04:41:34 AM »
This is really good (by my shoddy standards for writing critique)!  I like that you used a familiar location to set it in, even if that's just because it brings back some memories.  The tone is also awesome, as previously stated.  I also apprieciate the slow build up so far.

The only qualm I have is that these two chapters have been a helluva lot of summary and not much for scene, but then again it does work fairly well with the first person view.  I gather that the narrator spends much more time in his head than in the moment, which is a good way to get to know him.  So there, I just [desc=typed]talked[/desc] my way out of my qualm, congrats.
Bears really don't dig on dancing.  :cheers:

Offline NicTei

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Chapter Three
« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2015, 05:39:35 AM »
   The next morning I managed to oversleep and missed church.  Considering how often I set my alarm for the right hour but the wrong time of day, I was amazed I ever made it to class on time.  Of course, if the church I attended switched service to nine in the evening instead of nine in the morning and my professors followed suit, I would be fine.  Until then, I was going to have to remember to double-check my alarms to make sure they were set correctly.

   Slowly getting out of bed, I stopped at my door and glanced in the mirror the previous tenants had apparently nailed onto it.  With black hair and green eyes, my default costume every Halloween when I was younger had been Harry Potter; all I ever needed to buy was a pair of thick-rimmed plastic glasses and a temporary lightning-bolt tattoo, and I was good to go.  I had inherited both traits from my mother, but the speed with which my hair grew was undeniably something my father had passed down to me.  For as far back as I could remember, I had needed almost monthly haircuts to avoid looking like I was ready and willing to hug trees and protest the Man.

     After running a comb haphazardly through my hair, I stepped out onto the landing.  The wooden floor was surprisingly cold, and I took the time to shut the window at the end of the hall.  I had clearly forgotten where I was living, or I would have shut it the previous afternoon, long before the temperatures dropped for the evening.

   Staggering downstairs for breakfast at one in the afternoon was something I hadn’t done since the previous summer, and it was a habit that I didn’t really want to get back into.  To add insult to injury, there was someone I hadn’t met yet standing in the kitchen, whipping up some scrambled eggs on the stovetop.  He was just a touch shorter than James, but his hair was brown and reached almost to his shoulders.  Telling the two apart at a glance wouldn’t be difficult.  I was more concerned with how I’d managed to move into the only household on the block that seemed to be comprised mainly of giants.  The obvious answer was that I was short for my age, but my pride refused to let me accept that possibility.  They were the abnormal ones, not me.

   “Well, good morning!  You’re Leon, right?  Myra and James said they ran into you yesterday,” he said, adjusting his glasses.

   “Yeah, I’m Leon,” I replied groggily; I wasn’t really a morning person—or an afternoon person, as the case may be.  I looked between his button-down shirt and slacks and my baggy T-shirt and pajama pants and suddenly felt incredibly underdressed.  “Just coming back from church, or are you one of those guys who dresses up every day?”

   He laughed.  “A bit of both, honestly.”  Setting down his spatula, he shook my hand.  “I’m Pat, by the way.”

   “And I’m still Leon,” I replied, feeling incredibly stupid the moment after I said it.  “I’m sorry, I’m just not really awake until I’ve had some breakfast.”

   “I know how that goes,” Pat said as he returned to his eggs.  “I’m useless without a hot cup of coffee in the morning.  I’ve probably got a serious case of caffeine dependency going on now, but I figure I can wait to take care of that until after I’ve got my degree in Web Programming.  Speaking of degrees, what are you in for?  I think Myra said History and Psychology, or some weird combination like that.  Well, not weird, but unusual.  Not that having an unusual major or minor is a bad thing.”  He stopped talking for a moment and rubbed his temples.  “Can you tell I forgot to buy coffee grounds this week?”

   “History and Psychology,” I confirmed.  A brief look in the pantry reminded me that I hadn’t really done any serious grocery shopping, so I had to settle for some sugary cereal with marshmallow bits in it.  Clearly, my misfortunes would have no end.  “And don’t worry about it.  I know they don’t seem to go together all that well, but they’re both my strongest subjects, so it works well enough for me.  The worst part is going to be the four-hour history class on Tuesday nights.”

   Pat shook his head.  “I couldn’t handle a four-hour class.  My two-hour blocks are bad enough.”

   I shrugged.  “I’ll get used to it, I’m sure.”

   When the pause in the conversation went on for longer than I was comfortable with, I mumbled some excuse and took my breakfast—lunch, really—upstairs.  I had finally found the family picture I had been looking for last night, and it was sitting proudly on my desk, my family smiling at me from behind the glass of the frame.  The jar of change had been a much more disappointing find; there were plenty of nickels, dimes, and pennies, but only one lonely quarter had been stuck—of course—at the very bottom of the jar.  Getting it out wasn’t worth the trouble of dumping everything out and sifting through the coins, so the jar just sat on my desk behind the picture, taunting me.

   In keeping with my usual weekend tradition, I turned on my Xbox and started up whatever game was still in the disc tray.  During the school year I never really had much time to play video games, so I had fallen into the habit of only bringing four or five with me, and none of them were heavy on story or involvement.  Perhaps not surprisingly, three of the four that were sitting beside my console were first-person shooters, though I would have been hard-pressed to distinguish between the three if they were all being played on separate monitors in the same room.  The only exception was an RPG, but I had only brought it with in case of a snow day, when I was cooped up in my apartment with nothing else to do.  Or, in this case, the weekend before classes started and I didn’t have a clear idea of what I should be studying—if only because I hadn’t looked too hard.

   Afternoon soon shifted to evening, and I grew tired of getting killed and watching other players jump up and down on my corpse, or killing another player and hearing a high-pitched string of expletives that would have made the saltiest old sailor proud.  Pausing only briefly to shift my Xbox over to the Netflix app, I reached down to grab my dishes from early in the afternoon, only to get a handful of carpet.  Confused, I looked down to the foot of the chair I was sitting in.  My bowl was nowhere to be seen.  I figured I had taken it down earlier between rounds of getting my butt handed to me by foul-mouthed twelve-year-olds and didn’t worry about it any further, instead heading down to the kitchen to make myself a light supper.  Sure enough, my bowl and spoon were already in the sink, ready to be washed.

   My food shelf hadn’t magically filled up while I was upstairs, so I had to settle for a simple turkey sandwich and a box of crackers for supper.  I had lived off of worse before, but I was looking forward to getting some real grocery shopping done later in the week.  Cooking was one of the few practical skills I had, and I liked to flaunt it whenever possible.  Granted, it was mostly limited to simpler dishes—pasta, vegetables, rice—but I was always practicing whenever I had time to make something more complex than a sandwich or a cup of noodles, and I was steadily getting better at it.  Baking, on the other hand, somehow managed to elude me.

   As I reached the third floor landing, food in hand, I noticed that the window in the hall was wide open again.  The latch had probably slipped—or I had just forgotten to secure it—and a breeze had forced it open while I was downstairs talking to Pat.  I moved to shut it, but reconsidered when I remembered that it was just going to get hotter upstairs anyways.

   Flopping back down into my chair, I continued my Frasier marathon.  I had finished the entire series once already, but I had started up again late last summer.  It was one of the rare few television shows that I found consistently funny, even after several viewings, and had been a big factor in helping me choose my minor in psychology.  I knew the show was about psychiatrists and not psychologists, but as much as I loved college I couldn’t bring myself to commit to eight years in medical school just for the possibility of landing a job listening to other people talk about their problems all day.  I wanted to help people, just not that badly.

   My choice to major in History, on the other hand, was tied directly to seeing pictures of ruins and perfectly preserved temples in the monthly issues of National Geographic that would arrive at my house when I was younger—and the Indiana Jones movies, of course.  While taking a degree in archaeology or Nazi-punching was probably a lot closer to what I wanted to do, I had also wanted to attend the University of Minnesota in Duluth, partly because of my love for the city and partly because it was a good distance away from home:  not so close that it would encourage constant visits from my parents or other family members, but not so far away that I would only ever see them when it was time to move back home.  As a result, I’d selected a History major, figuring that it was close enough to what I wanted to do.

   The sound of footsteps on the stairs outside caught my ear, bringing me back out of my thoughts.  I paused the TV and listened; the hall window closed, and soon after I heard a key in the door across from mine.  Thinking for a moment, I got up and went to my own door.  I would have to meet whoever was living on the third floor with me sooner or later, and the longer I went without making introductions, the more I would seem like a jerk.  I wanted to avoid that if at all possible, so the best thing to do would be to introduce myself now.  Opening the door, I started to say hello, but stopped.

   There was no one on the landing.  Caught off-guard, I stayed rooted to the spot for a moment.  The window was definitely closed—my ears hadn’t been playing tricks on me for that part—but the door across the hall was still shut tight, and there was no key in the keyhole.  Hearing Myra and James talking on the second floor landing, I settled on believing that one of them had thought it was getting too cold and closed the window, and what I thought was the sound of the door being unlocked was the sound of Myra or James going back downstairs.

   With that matter settled, I retreated back into my room.  I wasn’t sure if I really believed the explanation my mind had cooked up—footsteps and door locks don’t sound that similar—but I couldn’t think of a reasonable alternative.  Wind could have closed the window, but the footsteps on the stairs would have been difficult for a gust to replicate.  No one could have come up and shut the window, then tried to unlock the other door without me seeing them, either.  Like it or not, the only thing that made sense was James or Myra making a quick run upstairs.

   Regardless of the reason, the whole matter was quickly forgotten as I returned to Frasier.  After tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t be able to waste my time with Netflix like this, at least not for very long; with classes and my duties in the tutoring center starting up on Tuesday, time would be short, so I had to enjoy what free time I had while I had it.  As much as I looked forward to the beginning of courses and work, I couldn’t deny that I would miss lazy days like this.



Table of Contents  |  Next Chapter



So, I've been reading this through as I'm posting it, and realized just how slow the whole beginning is.  Sorry about that.
I checked ahead and things start picking up in the fifth chapter, so I hope you can all hold out until then. :panic2:
« Last Edit: April 08, 2015, 11:56:01 PM by NicTei »
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Me Am Robot     |     Night Terrors     |     Sailing the Seven Skies     |     The Old Gods     |     Vagabond

Offline Angel

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Re: Night Terrors
« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2015, 11:33:09 AM »
Don't fret over the slow beginning. I like it like that as it tease out the strange things little by little. And the odditites appear to be coming out more and more with each chapter so far too. More please!  :teabreak:

Enter Helena's world of light.
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Re: Night Terrors
« Reply #12 on: April 01, 2015, 08:13:05 PM »
I agree with Angel. This is a genre where a slow-burning setup serves to build a good sense of atmosphere, establishing normality before the walls start bleeding.

Another solid chapter. More please!
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Chapter Four
« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2015, 11:55:09 PM »
   Monday, Labor Day, had passed me by before I knew it, and suddenly it was Tuesday morning.  My alarm blasted me awake at six-thirty sharp, and even though I had made sure to go to bed early the previous night I was still reluctant to get out of bed, even if it was just a cot with a few blankets.  I managed to get away with setting my alarm back an extra half hour before my own conscience got the better of me and forced me to get up and head to class.

   From where my house was situated, it was only a short walk until I was on Woodland Avenue, and from there it was a straight shot up to campus.  The trip was easy enough to make in fifteen minutes, putting me on campus about forty-five minutes early.  I usually didn’t like to be more than ten minutes early to class, but since today was the first day of classes I was willing to make an exception.  Between class and the tutoring center, I would be on campus from eight a.m. until nine p.m., so I figured I might as well get there bright and early and get it over with.

   But, before that, I needed to make one quick stop:  the Northern Shores Coffee House.  I wasn’t quite the caffeine addict that Pat claimed to be, but I did find that my mornings went easier if I had an iced latte in my system.  A blueberry scone didn’t hurt, either, if I was being completely honest.  The only downside, of course, was the line that always built up at the entrance, especially at opening time.  With how much of the student body they had hooked, I couldn’t imagine the coffee house was in danger of going out of business any time soon.  I found myself stuck in the middle of the queue, but that was alright; the line usually moved quickly enough that I would probably even have time to sit down for a while before I had to be in class.

   Sure enough, I had my drink and scone in hand before five minutes had passed.  Now all that remained was the daunting task of finding a place to sit in the crowded shop.  There appeared to be plenty of other people with the same asocial inclinations that I had; most of the tables only had one occupant, over half on their laptops and the rest just doing what I would be doing and watching people walk by outside, or scanning the faces in the coffee shop.  Just as I was giving up hope of finding somewhere to sit where I wasn’t likely to get the death gaze from some caffeinated coed, I found my mark.

   She was sitting at the counter that ringed the outer perimeter of the coffee shop, completely engrossed in whatever she was doing on her laptop.  The green shirt she was wearing went well with her auburn hair, but I wasn’t going to tell that to her face.  Given her complexion, she could have easily passed as a stereotypical Irish girl, but her eyes were grey, not green.  Though, to her credit, she could do a mean Irish accent if the situation called for it.  Tapping on her shoulder, I dashed around to her other side and out of her view.  I was a little disappointed at how easily she fell for it, but brushed it off and grabbed the stool on her other side.

   “Hey babe, come here often?” I said with my best lopsided grin.

   The speed with which she spun around—presumably to stab me in the face with the pencil she had just picked up off the counter—was impressive, but her murderous look shifted to recognition when she saw me.  A moment later I was almost knocked out of my seat by a hug that could have easily been mistaken as a flying tackle.

   “Leon!  You didn’t tell me you were back in Duluth!”  She let me go.  “Seriously, you should have given me a call yesterday.  I was bored as hell all day.”

   “Sorry, Alex, but I was busy all day,” I lied.  “Not even one free minute.”

   She simply stared at me.  “Netflix and video games?”

   I nodded, defeated.  “I didn’t even bother getting out of my pajamas.”

   “See?  You should have given me a call.  We were both doing the same damn thing, anyways,” she replied, taking a sip of her coffee.

   A glance at her computer screen revealed that she had a Word document open.  I should have guessed.  Alex was in the same basic situation I was in:  her ideal major wasn’t offered at UMD, so she had chosen the major that she thought was closest.  Ideally she would be a Creative Writing Major, as she was an avid writer and had already self-published one novel she had written, but was instead in the Writing Studies program.  Of course, she had to one-up me and throw in an Art double-major, but I didn’t envy her that; painting and drawing were way beyond my ken.

   “Still working on the sequel to your last book?” I asked.

   She angled her screen away from me.  “Yes, and no sneak peeks.  You can buy it when it comes out.  Not that you bought the first one, of course,” she sniffed.

   “That would be because you sent me a free copy for helping you proofread it,” I pointed out.

   “And?  You could still buy one to show your support, you know,” she shot back.

   We had this conversation about once a week, and never once had she meant it.  In fact, I had bought a copy of her book, but she had paid me back for it when she found out.  Regardless of the front she put on, she was a genuinely good person deep down.  That I was one of the only people to see that side of her spoke volumes to our friendship.  As far as I knew, she didn’t voluntarily socialize with anyone but me, and I was the same way with her.  It wasn’t that I was antisocial—if someone started talking to me, I’d humor them for a while, but it was rarely more than a temporary time killer for all parties involved.  Alex was the same way, by her own admission.

   “Well, I need to get going for class,” she said suddenly, reminding me that I needed to do the same.

   “I’m headed to Cina Hall. You?” I asked, picking my backpack up off the floor.

   “A.B. Anderson.  Walk me there?” she answered.

   I smiled.  “Twist my arm, why don’t you?”

   The distance between the Northern Shores Coffee House and the humanities building—where A.B. Anderson and Cina Halls were located—was all of five feet in reality, but that was alright.  Alex had to go a little farther for her class, which I was assuming was an art course in one of the studios down on the basement floor.  I had taken one art class down there when I had a problem with registration my second year of college, and the trouble I had in getting there was just the first indicator I had of how close to hell that semester was going to bring me.

   Unlike the layout of a sane person’s building, the rooms in the humanities building were jumbled around, seemingly at random.  The section designated as Cina Hall, for example, was technically one floor removed from the section actually designated as Humanities, so while the room I was headed to was Cina 102, the room just down the hall was Humanities 212, and so on.  A.B. Anderson Hall was ridiculous to the point of defying explanation; the easiest I could describe it would be that the studios in the basement could only be accessed through the basement of the Humanities building, not the upper floors of A.B. Anderson Hall.  All in all, I had always assumed that the architect who designed the humanities building had been either incredibly high or incredibly drunk, and quite possibly both.  I refused to believe there wasn’t one controlled substance or another involved.

   “Well, this is where I leave you,” Alex said when we reached one of the stairwell entrances; I was headed up to the top level of Cina, whereas she was headed down.  “When are you free again?  I was thinking we could hit the food court or the DC.”

   I thought for a moment.  “I’ve got an hour open at noon.  You?”

   She nodded.  “That works for me.  Meet you at the DC?”

   “Sounds good.”



   Four hours and two of the most boring class periods of my life later, I met up with Alex outside the dining center.  It appeared that I would be starting every Tuesday and Thursday with a class about the dawn of modern Europe—which was shaping up to be just as dry as expected—and following it with Theories of Psychology.  My outlook on the coming year had suffered a slight upset, but for the most part I was still optimistic.  After all, the other three days of the week weren’t looking too bad, at least according to the schedule builder the University provided on their website.

   Work would complicate things, of course, but not too badly.  I would be in the tutoring center from the end of my last class for the day until it closed at nine o’clock.  Most days that amounted to a four hour shift, though Fridays the tutoring center closed at two, so I was generally off the hook.  At my summer job I had played the religious exemption card, so I didn’t have to work on Sundays.  Now that I was paying rent on a monthly basis, though, I was going to take any shifts that were available to me at my new job.

   “How were classes?” Alex asked after I had tossed my backpack into the coatroom outside the DC.

   “Well, I’ll certainly be exercising my right to drink alcohol come next month,” I replied.  “How about you?”

   “About the same.”  She paused.  “And by that I mean I’ll be exercising your right to buy alcohol and praying that your parents taught you the value of sharing.”

   “Oh, come on; it can’t be that bad,” I prodded.

   The look she gave me said all I really needed to know:  yes, yes it can.  We went through the lines separately, mostly because I only grabbed the day’s special and went to look for a table while Alex was going to the trouble of making her own salad.  Not because she was on a diet, or anything; it was just her first course.  She had mastered the art of college eating in a way I didn’t think was possible, and she would be sitting in the DC for however long she had off, eating the entire time.  I, on the other hand, would probably be fine with my plate of…whatever the hell I had picked up in the line.  Maybe a bowl of soft-serve ice cream, if there wasn’t too much of a line.

   “So how does the rest of your day look?” Alex asked when she joined me at my table.

   “A couple more classes, and then work,” I replied.

   She raised an eyebrow.  “You actually got a job?”

   “Working in the tutoring center,” I confirmed with a nod.  “I was hoping that I could get home and make myself some supper, but it looks like I’ll have to run to the food court and order something before my shift starts.”

   Alex almost dropped her fork.  “You’re working at the tutoring center?  So am I!  I’m scheduled on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from four to seven.  How about you?”

   I froze.  “It’s not a daily job?  Damn it, I was hoping I’d get a full schedule.  I’m at least getting paid, right?”

   Before she could answer, her phone went off.  Mumbling some apology to me, she picked up the call and walked towards the door.  Anyone else would have thought her rude, but I knew she only would have taken the call if it was someone important.  She wasn’t the kind to just abandon someone in the middle of a conversation to answer a call from an unknown number.  More than likely, it was her mother, calling to check up on her during her first day of school.  Her parents were weird like that.

   “Sorry about that,” she said when she returned to the table twenty minutes later.  “My mom just wanted to call and see how my first day was going.  I swear, I never should have given my parents a copy of my schedule.”

   “That’s why I only get calls on the weekends,” I replied.  “They don’t want to call and catch me in the middle of class, so they just wait until Sunday when they know my schedule is wide open and I don’t have anything better to do.”

   We continued talking until it was time for me to go.  Making tentative plans to meet up with her later, I left the DC and headed towards my next class.  Now that I had a clearer grasp on what my work schedule would look like, I was starting to consider finding another job, not necessarily on campus but at the very least within walking distance of my house.  Since I didn’t have a car, location was the first priority, with wages coming in at a close second.  I only hoped that I didn’t get stuck working at a fast food place.  I didn’t have a whole lot of dignity, but I wasn’t that desperate for money.


« Last Edit: April 15, 2015, 06:45:34 AM by NicTei »
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Me Am Robot     |     Night Terrors     |     Sailing the Seven Skies     |     The Old Gods     |     Vagabond

Offline NicTei

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Chapter Five
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2015, 06:45:05 AM »
   As it had turned out, Alex and I had the same work schedule, and we were both done at seven o’clock.  Since I had forgotten to buy myself some supper before my shift, we decided it would be a good opportunity to go out for supper and properly catch up with each other.  Before this morning, we hadn’t really spoken much since the end of the last school year.  I had always found it reassuring that we had the kind of friendship that could essentially pause for three whole months, then pick back up again as if we had never stopped talking to one another.

   We opted for an actual restaurant instead of the food court—the DC closed at seven-thirty, which had always seemed to me like a serious error on the part of whoever was in charge of the operation—and wound up eating at Grandma’s Bar and Grill down in Canal Park.  Despite what I had heard from what I assumed were freshmen, the downtown area was usually pretty safe after dark.  Most of the people in the area were tourists or college students looking to celebrate the end of their first day, and while some of them may have been drunk, they were also Minnesotans.  It was a polite kind of drunk.

   When we finished eating, we hung around the restaurant talking for a few hours.  Since last year, she had apparently bought herself a new car—a red Prius, and I was determined to never let her hear the end of it—even though she, like me, had also been fired.  In her case, however, she had been let go from three jobs, though she wouldn’t tell me why.  I was also surprised when she told me that she had also moved out of the house she had been renting with some of her friends and into the Mount Royal apartment complex on Woodland Avenue, a little further than halfway between my house and campus.

     Though I asked her why she moved, considering how much she had loved that house, she had just shrugged and said she thought it was time for a change, and the apartments were cheaper.  I had the feeling that she wasn’t being completely honest with me, but I wasn’t going to press the issue.  If there was something she wanted to tell me, she would tell me when she damn well felt like it, and on her own terms.  Nothing good would come from pressing her on the matter, and definitely not from insisting that whatever was wrong, I could help.  Alex was an incredibly independent person, and even implying that she needed any sort of help was likely to ensure that I got my ass handed to me.

     As the clock struck nine-thirty we decided it was time to call it a night and head home for the evening.  Since I had been living in the on campus apartments last she knew, I had to direct her to my new address.  She was well aware of my issues with living on campus, so she was almost as glad as I was that I had managed to move; I was much less likely to complain about it now.  When we pulled up to my house, however, she got a strange look in her eye.

“This is where you live?” she asked uncertainly.

“It’s where I’ve been keeping all of my stuff, anyways.  Why?”

“It looks familiar, but I can’t figure out why,” she said absentmindedly, still looking at the house.  Finally, she shook her head. 

“I’m sure it’s nothing.  I’ve probably just driven by once or twice.  Nice-looking place, though.”

“When the landlord is through fixing it up, I’m sure it will be,” I remarked.  “Until then, I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t invite you up.”

Her smile was wicked.  “Well, you did buy me dinner.”

I rolled my eyes.  “Only because someone forgot to bring her purse into the restaurant.”

     Alex threw my leftovers at me and I decided that it was time to bid her goodnight.  Waving as she drove off, I fumbled with the keys for a moment in the darkness before I finally got the door unlocked.  Making a mental note to mention that the motion-activated light above the door was out the next time I saw Everett, I was halfway across the kitchen before I remembered to lock the door behind me.  It was a habit I had never had to get into before, since back home I lived in a pretty safe neighborhood and when I was on campus my roommates came in later than I did, taking care of the problem for me.

   For how early it was, the house was remarkably quiet; I almost felt guilty with how much noise I was making ascending the stairs.  My guilt disappeared when I got to the second floor landing and ran into James.  He looked angry, but on seeing me his expression changed to confusion, his gaze shifting back and forth between me and the spiral staircase leading up to the third floor.  I started to ask what was wrong, but stopped; I could hear laughing and shouting coming from upstairs, as if there was a party going on.

   “If you’re here,” James asked suddenly, “who the hell is upstairs?”

   I shrugged.  “It’s probably whoever lives across the hall from me.”
James looked at me as though I had just sprouted a third eye or a second head.  “Leon, as far as we know you’re the only one living on the third floor.  That other room is empty.”

     I froze in place, simply listening to the sounds drifting down the stairs.  The assumption that someone lived across the hall from me had been based on the fact that the door was shut.  That had been a stupid mistake on my part.  Even so, if I was the only one living on the third floor, where the hell was all the noise coming from?  I had made sure my television was off before leaving for class in the morning, and even if it had somehow been left on I never had the volume turned up loud enough to be heard from the third floor landing, let alone the second floor.

     Almost as if they were aware we were talking about them, the noises stopped.  James and I looked at each other.  Both of us were as confused as the other, that much was plain to see.  Finally James shrugged.

“We must have been wrong.  Look, just tell whoever is up there to quiet down.”

   As if on cue, the noises stopped the instant the words had left his mouth.  We exchanged another glance, but he just shook his head and retreated into his room.  I stopped in the kitchenette long enough to put my leftovers in the fridge then made for the stairs, pausing at the bottom.  While I had never been a superstitious person, or one to give into fear so easily, I couldn’t deny that I was far from eager to go up to my room.  Myra and James had been in the house the longest—just over a month according to Pat—so they would know best if someone lived in the other room; if they said the room was empty, I wasn’t going to doubt their word.

     Shaking my head, I started to climb the spiral staircase; they had to have been mistaken, as James suspected.  That was the only explanation for the noises.  I thought back to the footsteps on the stairs and the window closing the other day.  I supposed that if someone had moved fast enough, they could have unlocked the door, made it inside their room, and closed the door again before I had been able to look out into the hall.  As for why someone would want to do that, I guessed it could have been due to some sort of social anxiety, or something.  Maybe he—or she—was just eager to get into the room and turn on the TV.  There were any number of reasons for that sort of behavior, but as before, I couldn’t bring myself to believe any of them.

     I stared at the door opposite my room for a good long while before deciding it would be best to just call it a night and go to bed.  The noise had stopped, so making a point of disturbing whoever was in the room would have been a waste of time, both theirs and mine.  Making a point of locking the door, I changed into my pajamas and turned on my TV.  More than just background noise, I needed something to take my mind off of the room across the hall.  I didn’t believe in the supernatural, but I had seen enough horror movies to know that the minute I started sticking my nose where it didn’t belong, I was as good as dead.



   Something wasn’t right.  Sitting up in bed, I looked over in the direction of my desk, but my chairs were blocking my alarm clock from view.  The sky outside was still dark, and my Xbox had shut itself down, so I had to assume it was well past midnight.  Listening for a while, I couldn’t hear anything out of the ordinary.  I didn’t feel sick, and I hadn’t eaten anything strange for supper, so there was no good reason that I could think of to be awake so early.  All I had to go on was the feeling that something was wrong.

   Cautiously, I got to my feet and started towards my door.  I had no idea where exactly I was going; I just knew that I wasn’t going to stick around in my room with nothing but the subtle feeling of dread to keep me company.  The instant my fingers wrapped around the doorknob, I froze.  I wasn’t alone in my room.

   The closet where I kept my clothes was short and shallow, just tall and deep enough for me to hang my shirts from the rack inside and keep them off the floor and inside the closet door’s threshold.  There were no lights built into the ceiling or walls of the closet, but I had a small LED push-light sitting on top of the cheap plastic drawers I was using to hold the clothes I couldn’t hang.  Besides space, the only thing my closet was missing was a door, and it was because it didn’t have a door that I was able to see the pale, grimy hand slowly worming its way towards me from between the shirts I had hung up.

   At least, I thought it was a hand.  There was no distinguishable elbow, but it was much too long to be all forearm.  The fingers were also too long, and as they got even closer I could see that they had no fingernails, and though the room was too dark to see clearly, I was willing to bet they had no joints, either.  It was completely repulsive, and it was getting closer by the second.   I tried as hard as I could to move, but my legs wouldn’t budge.  Every fiber of my being was screaming at me to get the hell out of there, but there was nothing I could do.  I was completely paralyzed.

   When the first finger brushed against my cheek I immediately felt bile rising in the back of my throat.  The sensation that began spreading from where it was touching me was indescribably revolting.  As the other fingers groped at my cheek, the feeling multiplied until I was absolutely certain that I was going to vomit on the spot.

   Just as the sensation was becoming too much to bear, the hand shot back into my closet and I regained control of my body.  I collapsed to the floor, and scrambling back as far away from the closet as I could.  My heart was pounding so hard in my chest that it hurt.  On a stupid whim, I pinched my arm.  Definitely not dreaming.  Still pressed against the wall, I shuffled back to my bed, grabbing my pocketknife from my desk and holding it tightly as I crawled back under the covers.  I honestly had no idea if this was really happening, or if I was dreaming after all, but either way, I felt a hell of a lot better with that knife in hand.

   Predictably, I didn’t sleep well for the rest of that evening.  Every little noise—every creak, every groan, every beep from my alarm clock—had me gripping my knife even tighter under my pillow.  Every time I closed my eyes, I could feel those cold fingers brushing against my face, the overwhelming nausea building as I was frozen to the spot.  Never before in my life had I wanted so desperately for the sun to rise and the night to be over.

   When the sun did finally peek out from between the treetops across the street it found me as wide awake as ever, eyes fixed on the closet door just daring that hand to creep out from the depths of the closet again and start groping at the air.  But, mercifully, whatever the hell was in my closet stayed there.  As the sunlight stretched across the floor of my room from the window, I could have sworn I saw two long white fingers dart back into the shadows, but I couldn’t be certain.

   Slipping cautiously out of bed, I stopped my alarm clock before it went off and, after waiting for some eldritch horror to burst out of my closet, dropped my pocketknife back on my desk.  Nothing horrible happened, so I prayed that meant I was in the clear.  I didn’t bother checking the time; whether it was seven-thirty or five-thirty, I was getting the hell out of the house.  Gathering everything I would need for the day, I went straight for the door, keeping my eyes focused straight ahead and not giving the closet a second glance.  That turned out to be my fatal error.

   No sooner had I unlocked the door than the ghastly arm exploded from within, wrapping around my chest and knocking the breath out of me.  Thrown back across the room, I staggered to my feet just in time to watch the beast begin to emerge in full, the several pale limbs dragging its weight out of the closet.  Unable to process what exactly I was seeing, I could only look on in horror as hundreds of thousands of eyes fixated on me.  Once again I was paralyzed, and as the nightmarish creature approached I could only watch as hundreds of mouths opened at once to devour me, body and soul.



   “Leon!  Leon, are you alright?!”

   I sat bolt upright in bed.  Sunlight was streaming in from the window, and Pat was calling out to me from the other side of my door.  There were no impossible monstrosities looming out of my closet, and my knife was lying on my desk, where it had been before I gone to bed.  I wasn’t dressed and ready for class—judging by the time displayed on my alarm clock, I was several hours too late for that—and the door to my room was still locked.  Pat shouted my name again, and I scrambled to my feet to open the door.

   “Yeah, Pat, I’m fine.  Sorry.  Bad dream,” I apologized.

   He simply stared at me.  “It must have been; the way you were screaming, it sounded like you were dying or something.”

   “I’m really sorry about that.  Believe me, this isn’t a common thing.  It’s probably just the new house, or maybe it was something I ate,” I reasoned.

   Pat nodded.  “Good thing James and Myra aren’t home, though; James probably would have broken down your door looking for a murderer or something.”

   I ran a hand through my hair.  “You’re telling me.  Again, I’m really sorry to bother you.”

   He shook his head.  “Don’t worry about it.  I grew up with three younger siblings, and I didn’t always have pleasant dreams myself.  Hell, I managed to break my dad’s nose during one of my worst nightmares.  As long as all you’re doing is screaming in the middle of the afternoon, it’s alright with me.”  He paused for a moment.  “Just don’t make a habit of it, alright?”

   “I promise,” I answered, raising my right hand in oath.

   Pat went back downstairs and I closed the door.  Sighing, I stared into my closet for a little while.  That thing I had seen in my dream would never have fit into such a small space.  Still, I opted instead to grab the shirt I had worn yesterday out of the hamper, rather than take one off a hanger.  Dressing quickly, I stuffed my books and notebooks haphazardly into my backpack and bolted out the door, hoping I could salvage the rest of my day.


« Last Edit: April 22, 2015, 05:52:10 AM by NicTei »
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Offline Angel

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Re: Night Terrors
« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2015, 11:58:42 AM »
 :faint2:

Oh my. The weirdness intensifies!!

Sorry it's taken me so long to get around to reading these. Had a busy couple of weeks and this week all I've wanted to do is sleep and watch Daredevil after the marathon.

Anyhoo, this is still keeping me interested. The second chapter of the two I had missed was the better imo. The first one could have had more in it although I did like the introduction to Alex. That dream was creepy as fuck, Nic. My heart was actually beating so fast reading it.

I did notice one thing though:
Quote from: Night Terrors
    Almost as if they were aware we were talking about them, the noises stopped.  James and I looked at each other.  Both of us were as confused as the other, that much was plain to see.  Finally James shrugged.

“We must have been wrong.  Look, just tell whoever is up there to quiet down.”

   As if on cue, the noises stopped the instant the words had left his mouth.

The noises stopped twice!

Other than that, I didn't notice anything else.

Looking forward to reading the next instalment.

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Offline NicTei

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Chapter Six
« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2015, 05:51:16 AM »
   After that Tuesday night I didn’t have another nightmare, and I completely forgot about it until two weeks later, when Alex and I were talking in the DC.  She mentioned that she hadn’t been sleeping well due to a recurring nightmare, but she wouldn’t give me the details.  Thinking it might help, I shared my experience:  I had a terrifying dream, probably convinced one of my housemates that I was a weirdo, and remained awake for over almost forty-eight hours afterwards until I finally fell asleep in my chair watching Frasier with a bowl of pasta in my lap, the terrible advice I imparted being “Just stay awake until your body forces you to go to sleep, and you’ll be too tired to be scared!”  She told me not to write my self-help book just yet.

   Since neither of us had anything going on that weekend, we made plans to have lunch together down by the lake.  I expected lunch to turn into an all-day affair, as our plans usually did.  It was never intentional, but we had accepted it as inevitable and had fallen into the habit of setting aside an entire day if we made plans, not just a few hours around lunch or supper.  Of course, leaving an entire day open was easy for me, considering that Alex was really the only friend I had in Duluth, let alone on campus.  I mostly worried about what she might be giving up or what she might rather be doing, but she had always told me that she had no plans, either, so I had learned to push those concerns to the back of my mind and ignore them.

   When Saturday afternoon finally rolled around, I walked down to the lake to meet Alex at Perkins.  I knew she would give me a ride if I called, but I needed the exercise.  It didn’t hurt that I liked the walk, either.  There was something about seeing the lake get closer and closer that I enjoyed.  I knew that I could watch the lake as I rode down the hill in a car, but it just wasn’t the same.  Since the walk would take a half hour at least, and an hour at most, I left a good long while before I was supposed to meet up with Alex.  Luckily, she was just pulling into the parking lot as I was crossing the street.  My timing couldn’t have been better.

   “I’m surprised you’re awake enough to walk all the way down here.  Isn’t this pretty early for you?” Alex asked when I reached the door where she was waiting.

   “You’re assuming I’ve slept,” I pointed out with a grin.

   My joke backfired.  “Have you been having more nightmares again?” she asked, concerned.

   “No, no, I was kidding.  The only things keeping me up recently are video games and studying,” I assured her.  “My dreams have been pretty tame since that last one, really.”

   For a moment it looked like she didn’t believe me, but then she turned and opened the door.  She was as reluctant to press matters as I was, though I couldn’t decide whether that was a good thing or not.  It didn’t really matter, in the end; I had told her the truth, and even if I had been lying there was very little she could have done about nightmares.  Last I knew, she didn’t have one of those machines from Inception.

   In short order we were seated in a booth just under a large window that looked out on the lake.  There were other restaurants with a view that was just as good or better, but not many of them offered a breakfast menu all day long.  As it had been a while since I’d had a good omelette—or a bad omelette, for that matter—I ordered the cheapest one on the menu.  It may have been a day off for me, but that didn’t mean I was going to stop watching how much I was spending.  Alex ordered an appetizer and an entrée, and I had the distinct feeling she would be ordering dessert, too.

   “You did remember to bring your purse in this time, right?” I asked as casually as I could.

   I had always admired the amount of venom she could put into a simple look.  “Of course I did.”  She proved it by dropping the bag in question on the table.  “And since you asked so nicely, I was planning on covering your bill, too, since you got the last one.”

   I shook my head.  “Don’t worry about it.”

   Alex glared at me again.  “I don’t like owing people.  I’m paying for your lunch, so deal with it.”

   There was no arguing with that logic, so I gave up.  Any further conversation would have been stopped, anyways, by the arrival of our food.  Alex’s plate was already larger and fuller than mine, but she had also ordered her appetizers to come with her meal as well.  Even so, I knew that she would probably be done before I was.  With how much she ate at every meal I was amazed that she wasn’t overweight, though I would never say anything like that to her face.  If I did, I could count on those being my last words.

   We ate in silence, mostly because I could tell that something was bothering her.  I could only assume that I had really touched a nerve when I suggested she didn’t have to pay me back.  Still, it wasn’t awkward or unpleasant; I had always found conversation tiring, so I valued the fact that Alex and I could sit and eat quietly without having to think of things to talk about.  However, I didn’t like that she was being quiet because something was wrong.  I was beginning to rethink my policy of not asking her about her problems.

   Before I could ask her anything, though, her fork dropped to her plate with a clatter.  She was staring off into the restaurant, her eyes wide and her mouth slightly open, her bottom lip quivering.  I followed her gaze, but I couldn’t figure out what she was looking at.  Confused, I turned back to her to ask what was wrong, but she had already resumed eating, glaring into her plate and shoveling her food down faster than before.  I cast another glance around the restaurant, but still didn’t see anyone or anything out of the ordinary.  Turning my attention back to her, I noticed that her hands were trembling.  It was nearly imperceptible, but I could tell.  My policy of waiting for her to mention any problems she was having was most definitely revoked.

   She silenced me with a glare as I opened my mouth, and I wisely shut it.  Then, for the first time in the three years that I had known her, she stopped the waitress and asked for a take-out box for the rest of her food along with the bill.  Her message was clear:  we were leaving the restaurant as soon as possible.  I shoveled the half of my omelette I had left into my box when it arrived and stood with Alex, letting her go before me since she was paying.  As I followed her, I cast another look over the people in the restaurant, but no one was watching us leave.  The only set of eyes on us belonged to an infant, and I seriously doubted a baby had scared Alex so bad she had to pack up early and leave.

   I kept an eye out while Alex paid the tab, but no one approached.  We exited the restaurant and I headed straight for the car, but Alex pulled me away.  Instead, we followed a path from the restaurant that led to a large concrete stairwell.  I had taken this route once or twice with my parents, so I knew that it would take us a little ways down the shore of the lake and through Beacon Pointe resort, a set of condos that had popped up a little under five years before, until it eventually connected to the Lakewalk, and the boardwalk further down the shore.  Evidently we were taking the long way back to Alex’s car.

   “Mind telling me exactly where we’re going?” I asked quietly as we descended the stairs.

   “I decided I want a caramel apple for desert,” Alex answered tersely.

   “Good choice,” I remarked.  “Why didn’t we drop our food off in the car first?”

   She kept her eyes focused straight ahead.  “I might get hungry on the way there.”

   “Very good point; I hadn’t thought of that.”  I remained quiet until we reached the bottom of the staircase.  “So what exactly are we running from?”

   Grabbing me suddenly by the arm, Alex threw me behind the main pillar of the staircase, pulling me out of sight of anyone that might be coming down the stairs after us.  Since this was a little-known path, I didn’t expect to see another soul, and I was right.  We watched the path from around the corner for what felt like an eternity until I couldn’t keep quiet any longer.

   “You know, you didn’t answer my question,” I pointed out.

   “Get used to it,” Alex muttered.

   Against my better judgment, I let my irritation get the better of me.  “Look, Alex, you got me involved with…whatever this is.  You owe me an answer.”

   That was the wrong approach; she rounded on me, giving her angriest look yet.  “If you don’t want to be involved, then go home!  I won’t stop you!” she hissed.

   I raised my hands in defeat.  “No, no, that’s not what I meant.  I just want to help you, and there’s no way I can do that unless I know what the problem is!”

   “You want to know what the problem is?” Alex asked, even quieter now.  “Fine.  The problem is mine.  I don’t need your help with it, and even if I did I wouldn’t want it.  This isn’t anything I can’t handle, so just drop it, alright?”

   “It would be easier to drop it if we weren’t hiding,” I muttered, but she ignored me, turning her attention back to the path.

     No one had passed during our exchange, and I didn’t think anyone was likely to.  Apparently Alex had the same thought, and started cautiously towards the stairs.  When she was finally convinced that the coast was clear, she picked up a normal pace and, after a moment of thought, I followed her.  It wasn’t that I didn’t trust her to be able to handle things herself; something had her scared, and I couldn’t stand seeing her like that.  Regardless, I had already violated my rule of waiting for her to come to me with her problem, and it had just made things worse than they already were, so I wasn’t about to repeat my mistake.

     Once we had ascended the stairs we went straight to her car.  I had no intention of walking all the way back to my house; coming down to the lake was no big deal, since the journey was downhill.  Going back up, however, was never something I looked forward to, considering the hill had to be close to a forty-five-degree angle.  Furthermore, if she gave me a ride back to my place it would be that much easier to convince her to come up and see my new place, maybe hang out for a little while longer.  With the mood she was in now, I was genuinely afraid she might just drop me off and go back home, and I was determined not to let her do that, partly because I really did want to spend a little more time with her but mostly because her behavior had me worried.

     Thankfully, my concerns were unfounded; she got out of the car and followed me to the side door of the house without so much as an invitation, and I didn’t question her.  No one on the first floor was home—though I was reminded that I still needed to introduce myself to them—and the second floor was similarly empty.  Climbing the spiral staircase to the third floor landing, Alex took a moment to admire the view out the window at the end of the hall while I unlocked the door to my room.

     To my surprise, my television was on when I stepped in.  The setting had been changed, too, so instead of displaying the ‘no input detected’ screen that usually popped up when I had my TV on but my Xbox off, it was displaying static.  Ignoring the fact that the hair on the back of my neck was standing on end, I turned to Alex and shrugged, pressing the power button on my Xbox and switching the TV over to the proper setting.

“Nice room,” Alex remarked as she settled into one of the two saucer chairs I had set up across from the TV.  “Do you really sleep on that cot?”

“Only on the nights I don’t fall asleep in one of those chairs,” I answered, only half-joking.  If I had a good neck pillow, I would seriously consider using the chairs instead of my cot for sleeping.  “Watch Netflix, or play a couple rounds of something?”

Alex thought for a moment.  “Netflix.”

     We spent the rest of the day watching old movies, silent for the most part.  Once again, I was reminded just how glad I was that our friendship didn’t need constant conversation, and that we would be just as comfortable quietly watching television as we were talking about our day or some other inane topic.  More importantly, I could tell that Alex wasn’t being quiet because something was wrong.  I knew that all was not well, and so did she, but for the moment none of what had happened earlier mattered; we were just quietly spending time together, far away from those troubles.

     The clock chimed midnight before we knew it, and tired as she was, Alex insisted that she was fine driving home.  It was just up the road, after all.  I relented, but only on the condition that she sent me a text when she had arrived.  She was a perfectly capable driver, and I had no doubt she would get home just fine; it was the other morons who might be on the road at midnight during the weekend that I was worried about.  I locked the door behind her after she had left and returned upstairs to find the TV displaying static once again.  Sighing, I switched it once again over to the proper setting and turned it back over to Frasier, changing into my pajamas and collapsing onto my cot as the show’s opening piano riff played.  It had been a long day, and I needed a good night’s sleep to clear my thoughts about all that had happened.  Alex said she didn’t want my help, but I was determined to be ready if she changed her mind


« Last Edit: May 21, 2015, 08:30:40 AM by NicTei »
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Me Am Robot     |     Night Terrors     |     Sailing the Seven Skies     |     The Old Gods     |     Vagabond

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Re: Night Terrors
« Reply #17 on: April 22, 2015, 12:12:56 PM »
Another great chapterino Nic! :thumb: Things seem to be in motion. I wonder what has Alex so spooked...
:owl:

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Re: Night Terrors
« Reply #18 on: April 24, 2015, 10:55:30 AM »
Things definitely do qppeqr to be in motion. I'm wondering if perhaps whatever is going on in the house is connected to why Alex is so spooked. *ponders*

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Chapter Seven
« Reply #19 on: April 30, 2015, 05:00:56 AM »
   Even though I thought that everything was alright after Alex left my place, I got the distinct impression that she was avoiding me over the next few days:  she left work without saying goodbye, the last text I had from her on my phone was the confirmation that she had reached her apartment alright on Sunday morning, and when I did catch up to her between classes she brushed me off.  But, as suddenly as she started avoiding me, she stopped, dropping her tray of food down on the table across from me as I ate lunch in the DC on Friday.

   “If I have to help one more freshman who doesn’t understand the difference between ‘than’ and ‘then’, you’ll have to bail me out of jail,” she complained.  “Seriously, it’s like no one pays attention in elementary school anymore.”

   “Considering how many of my cousins that age already have smart phones better than mine, that really wouldn’t surprise me,” I answered.  “Anyways, it’s your own damn fault for accepting the job as a writing tutor.  I could’ve told you that would be frustrating.”

   “Your rough drafts are perfect, of course,” Alex answered sarcastically.

   I grinned.  “Flawless every time.”

   We lapsed into more comfortable conversation after that, and it was almost easy to forget anything had happened Saturday.  When I had to get up and go to my next class, she rose as well.  Usually she would stay in the DC until her next class.  If I hadn’t already learned my lesson about pressing her for information I would have asked her about it, but I didn’t feel like having another argument in the middle of the cafeteria and having her avoid me for the rest of the month.  I was beginning to realize that our shared stubbornness when it came to accepting outside help was more of a problem than an asset.

   Since I wasn’t scheduled in the tutoring center on Fridays, I went straight home after I was finished with my last class for the day.  Friday had also become my laundry day, so as soon as I set foot in my room, I dropped my backpack by my desk and grabbed my hamper before making the trek all the way down to the basement.  Though the cobwebs had been cleared and the floor swept clear of tetanus mines, the basement was still the creepiest floor in the house.  I think it had something to do with the single light bulb hanging from the ceiling that for one reason or another was always swaying ever so slightly, making the shadows dance.

   That was enough of an incentive for me to get my laundry done right away during the day, when there was still just a little bit of sunlight poking in through the parts of the windows where some of the paint had chipped off.  Since that nightmare a few weeks back, I had been even less eager to go down to the basement, my imagination easily picturing that pale hand stretching out of one of the doorways that led into any of the three empty, seemingly useless rooms down there.  I didn’t believe in ghosts or hauntings, but if any floor of the house was host to the spirits of the damned, it was the basement.

   I was on my way back up the stairs when I ran into someone I didn’t recognize.  He was built like a wrestler, short and stocky, though the wire-rimmed glasses he was wearing didn’t really contribute to the athletic image.  A laundry basket was in his hands, but he set it down on the floor and extended his hand when he had recovered from the initial shock of our sudden meeting.

   “I take you’re Leon!” he boomed, his voice surprisingly deep for someone his size.  “I’m Brent.  I moved in just a little bit after Pat did, but I’ve mostly been hanging around on campus with some friends of mine.”

   “Yeah, I’m Leon.  Are you up on the third floor, too?” I asked, hoping the answer was yes; though the room across the hall had been quiet for weeks, it was still locked tight.  At this point, I would have been happy knowing that an axe murderer was living there, as long as I had an answer.

   Unfortunately, he shook his head.  “Nope.  I’m down here on the first floor, on the right side of the living room.  There’s no way I was going to climb all those stairs every day,” he remarked with a laugh.  “Anyways, it looks like I won’t be able to do my laundry right now, after all.  Unless you’re using the dryer?”

   It was my turn to shake my head.  “Sorry, I just put a load in the washer.  You’re welcome to use it after, though; I don’t need to do all of my laundry tonight.”

   “I think I’ll take you up on that offer.  I’ve been recycling jeans for the past two weeks, and they’re starting to smell a little funky,” he explained.  “I suppose that’s what I get for leaving them in my friend’s apartment, huh?”

   With nothing to say but ‘ew’, I merely nodded and pushed past him as politely as possible, acting as though the sound of the microwave in the second floor kitchen going off was my food.  Now that I had met Brent, there was only one more tenant in the house that I hadn’t met, and that was whoever lived in the room down the hall on the left side of the living room.  Possibly two tenants, if there really was someone living on the third floor with me.  Sooner or later I was going to work up the nerve to knock on the door and find out if the room was indeed occupied, but so far I was getting by with the excuse that I didn’t want to bother someone for no reason other than to satisfy my own curiosity.


   Later that night, as I was getting ready for bed, I heard a knock on my door.  Unable to think of anything James, Myra, or Pat would need from me at midnight, I put my jeans back on and opened the door.  There was no one in the hall.  Confused, I reasoned that it was probably just the floorboards expanding and closed it again, managing to change into my pajama bottoms before I heard it again.  This time it was definitely a knock on my door; I happened to be looking at it at the time, and I saw it tremble slightly.

   The hallway was still empty, but unlike before, the window at the end of the hall was wide open.  I was absolutely certain that I had closed it; next Wednesday would be the first of October, and true to form the temperature had already been dropping drastically enough during the night that leaving the window open did more harm than good, especially without a screen.  Shaking my head, I muttered to myself that the wind must have done it as I closed the window and secured the latch, pulling on it a few times to make sure it wouldn’t blow open again.

   As I turned around to return to my room, I heard a loud, ominous creak.  The door across the hall from mine had just opened a crack.  A familiar sensation that something was very, very wrong washed over me, but I stayed where I was, refusing to let the dread get the better of me.  I was not a child, cowering in the dark; I was a grown man in his own damned house.  Besides that, if there was someone inside and they only managed to open the door a sliver, that could mean they were in trouble; it was my duty as the only other person on the third floor to help.  Deep down, however, I knew it was just a case of my curiosity being greater than my fear, the same problem I had always run into playing survival horror games.  I could only hope real life was more forgiving towards my curiosity than Dead Space had been.

   Standing in front of the door, I found myself unsure of what to do next.  I couldn’t see much through the crack between the door and the frame; the lights inside were out, and if there was a window in the room it was being covered by curtains.  The interior was pitch black, but I had the feeling that if I went back into my room to grab a flashlight, I would lose my opportunity for answers, possibly forever.  Taking a deep breath, I slowly pushed the door open further, my mind already racing to find an excuse if there really was someone inside.

   Fortunately—and ominously—the room was empty, save for a few pieces of furniture that had been covered by sheets.  It looked as though the room served as a storage space of sorts, and what was inside probably belonged to Everett, or the previous tenants.  He had mentioned during my tour of the house that they left a lot behind when they moved out, so it wasn’t much of a stretch of the imagination that he had shoved all the leftover furniture into the attic room rather than going to the trouble of getting rid of it.  I was just surprised that he hadn’t mentioned it when I moved in; instead of spending money on the saucer chairs and my cot, I could have just grabbed a few chairs and what looked like a sofa from across the hall.

   I was able to make out the shape of a window on the far wall, so I crossed the room and pulled back the curtains, letting in some of the light from outside so that I could see easier.  Out of curiosity, I also pulled the sheets off of the nearest chair.  The upholstery looked very old and worn—definitely not something one of the previous tenants would have owned unless it was a family heirloom of some kind.  A cloud of dust exploded from the arm when I tapped it, so I could rule out that it had been used recently; I would have guessed it had been up here several years, at least.

   Returning the sheets to where they had been, I stood in the middle of the room, thinking for a moment.  Finally, I backed out, careful to keep an eye on the door so that if it started to shut I could catch it.  Back in my own room, I felt around on my desk until I finally found my flashlight.  I knew I probably wasn’t supposed to be in the other room, but something was telling me to keep digging around, urging me to continue my search.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know what the hell I was supposed to be looking for.

   At the very least, my light helped me to confirm that the chair was indeed very old; the colors of the fabric had faded from a vibrant red and green to a very pale pink and sickly yellow-green, and the cushions were covered in tears that bled stuffing into the air.  A rustling noise behind me made me whirl around, but I couldn’t see the source.  Instead, I found myself drawn to the closet.  Like the closet in my room, it was short and lacked a door, but there was an old wooden vanity sitting inside, the mirror covered by a sheet.  Given how often bad things happened around mirrors in horror movies, I was grateful.

   Something on top of the vanity reflected the beam of my flashlight.  Looking closer, I saw that it was a small, leather-bound book with a metal clasp.  The word ‘DIARY’ had been embossed on the front, but a lot of the gold leaf had flaked away—only the ‘R’ was still filled in, for the most part.  Despite everything I had learned from watching bad horror movies on Netflix with Alex, not to mention how much I hated my own privacy being violated, I suddenly realized that I had picked up the book and was working on the clasp.

   Without warning, the feeling of dread came back full force, and I took a step back from the vanity just as the top drawer erupted open.  A long, pale, and all-too-familiar arm reached out, groping at the air.  This time, however, I wasn’t paralyzed.  Bolting out the door, I took the time to shut it behind me and did the same with my own, locking it for good measure.  Running to my desk, I dropped the diary onto my chair and picked up my pocketknife, flicking it open and focusing my attention on the closet.  My heart was beating loud in my ears, but I could still hear the telltale rustling of my shirts on the rack.  It was in there.

   I tried to take a step back, but something stopped me.  It was cold and wet.  An overwhelming wave of nausea ran over me as a clammy hand cupped my face, turning me around to gaze into a set of empty eye sockets that were bleeding black.  A foul smell hit me as another hand gripped my wrist hard enough to make me drop my knife, and another wrapped itself around my ankle.  All the while, my gaze was fixed on those empty sockets; I was unable to look away, even as they began to bleed a thick, black, tarlike substance.  As a fourth hand wrapped around my neck and began to tighten its grip, my vision started to go black.


   I sat bolt upright in bed, covered in a cold sweat.  The sun hadn’t come up yet and my room was dark, but I could see well enough to know that I was alone in my room.  Heaving a sigh of relief, I couldn’t help but scan the floor for my knife.  When I didn’t find it, I glanced toward my desk and saw that it was where I had left it before going to bed, still closed.  I laid back down on my bed and started to roll over, but something else caught my eye.

   It was the light of the streetlight outside my window catching on the metal clasp of the small leather-bound journal sitting on my chair.


« Last Edit: May 21, 2015, 08:29:42 AM by NicTei »
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