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Outside, the night air breathes, shaking the tree branches and making you so much gladder that you were inside, snuggled up on the couch. You had just changed the channel, from cartoons to the news so you could know the weather for tomorrow; instead of the weather, you were greeted by a straight-faced reporter standing under a streetlight in front of an empty house. He was giving the details on another disappearance and then going on to remark that detectives suspect this to be related to a number of similar kidnappings — the victim in question suddenly disappeared and there were no glaring suspects, no one person who had the failed alibi or the motive to have done it.
The only thing anyone knew was that most of the victims were teenagers — all supposedly “good kids”, whether or not their records said otherwise.
You narrow your eyes and sigh. This had been going on for a while now; you weren’t bothered at first and you knew that all you could do was feel some sort of sympathy for maybe a moment or two; you didn’t know any of these people and it didn’t immediately affect you. However, now that this had had spanned over at least a month, you were beginning to grow worried, mainly for Nemi.
Nemi was your best friend; some time back, you needed a place to stay and Nemi was kind enough to offer.
(She had kept offering until you had agreed.)
She told you that you didn’t need a job or anything; you were just supposed to clean up after yourself. She would do the work and bring in the money.
Now that you thought about it, Nemi’s job is a sort of mystery; she never did tell you about it (because you had never bothered to ask). All you could gather was that it required her to be out of the house by midnight. “Nemi,” you call.
A feminine grunt answers from the adjacent bathroom.
“Where do you work?”
“I work as a bartender in a club,” she says after a pause, “why do you ask?”
“Why do you need to be out at midnight?”
“My shift starts at midnight.”
You glance at the clock. It was 11 p.m. “Okay, just wondering.” You change the channel to a black-and-white movie.
Nemi steps into the room, glances at the T.V, then at you. She is combing her hair out with her fingers, her head tilted to one side.
“Have you seen my silver hair clip?” She sounds agitated.
“Uh, no? Isn’t it in your room?”
“Oh, right.” And she turns to leave, her heels clopping with urgency.
You listen for the familiar click of the door and its lock, then pull on your headphones and return to your laptop. You wonder why you’re watching pony videos and decide to leave Youtube for Google for a bit. It’s 11:45 p.m., but you aren’t ready for bed yet; far from it. It was as if you were a creature of the night. You laugh a bit at the analogy then type away, the music blaring. Fifteen minutes pass, maybe twenty. You begin to think about your routine day-to-day life; you never really had questioned that you never knew what time Nemi came home. You just knew that by the time you were up, she was already dressed and making breakfast. You also knew that the breakfast she made was the best; it always had meat in it – usually beef – and you also knew that she never ate what she cooked either. Now that you thought about it, you’ve never seen Nemi eat anything before. In the back of your mind, you briefly hope she isn’t an anorexic or anything of the sort and then go back to staring blankly at your computer screen. Your suspicions and doubts, however, linger.
You had fallen asleep in front of your computer again. The blanket wasn’t there before, though; Nemi must have draped it over you. As you gain consciousness and awareness of the waking world, colors and sounds gradually reach your senses: the fresh gold of morning sunshine streaming in through the windows, sizzling coming from the kitchen, the heavy smell of meat wafting to your nose.
You sit up slowly, bones popping, and dragg yourself to the bathroom to wash up before going to greet Nemi, who stood at the kitchen stove. “Morning, Nemi,” you yawn.
“Morning,” she answers robotically.
“So, uh, when’d you get home?” You take a seat at the kitchen table.
“Before you woke up.”
“Oh, uh. Right.” You glance away and rub at your eyes.
“Did you enjoy your sleep?”
Your stomach gurgles. “Uh-huh,” you say absent-mindedly, wiping the drool from your lip.
Breakfast is silent on your part; you ate and Nemi sat across from you, speaking. She tells you that last night went better than she expected, and that she wouldn’t be out for very long tonight. You don’t know how to respond to that; after all, the time Nemi comes home is still a mystery as far as you are concerned.
But then she reveals the news that she would be purchasing a new house soon. That shocks you. She explains that it would be for the best; she figured it would be a good little gift to celebrate her moving up in the world. You smile; you’re happy for her.
The rest of the day is routine; you help Nemi with housework, then the two of you part ways – you to your computer, Nemi to her books.
You learn that there was another missing person: a sixteen-year-old boy. He was reported as missing earlier that morning and there’s been a frantic search party ever since. You sigh, mumble an “oh well” and scroll down the page further to look at the included images – just in case you happen to see this kid.
Beneath the picture of the victim, there is a blurb of witness testimony: last night, they had seen two small figures together. What actually worried you about that was that the witness stated they saw these figures at a time when Nemi was out – midnight.
You let your mind wander about this. What if Nemi had been nearby? What if one of those figures was Nemi? You break out into a sweat. You decide that maybe you should just leave your laptop for a bit so you could think and consider the large possibility that one of those figures wasn’t Nemi. There are a bunch of small people in the city, after all.
You glance at your digital clock. Maybe you should go see where Nemi goes out at night, just in case. You deserve to know.
“I’m going!” Nemi called.
“Ok!” You answer as you pull on your jacket. You wait for the door to shut and Nemi’s fading footsteps before you set out to follow her.
You stay as far from Nemi as you could, keeping her tiny frame just in sight. The streets she travels are dark and lonely, with only the occasional flickering streetlamp to offer any light or friendliness in the night. You aren’t totally sure if there were any other forms of human life besides you and Nemi; the fluorescent lights played tricks on your eyes, casting strange, twitching shadows. There were times when you wished for the moon instead of these stupid lamps, but then you would immediately take that wish back, out of gripping fear of Nemi somehow seeing your own shadow, long and creeping, in the pale, pale moonlight.
You focus on following Nemi. You mimic Nemi’s footsteps so she can’t hear you; you make sure to avoid puddles and trashcans and discarded bottles and other objects that would compromise your mission.
She stops in the middle of a dead end street with no signs, nothing to indicate where the both of you were. There was only one street light, one that spilled ghostly white light at such an odd angle that Nemi’s lower half was completely cloaked in shadow. You took cover in the darkness of an alleyway and held your breath.
The air before Nemi began to waver, then ripple before tearing and revealing a crack of ugly white light with rays that reach forward, grabbing and groping. You shield your eyes and move further back into the shade.
“I apologize for keeping you waiting, “Nemi begins. Her voice is quiet and formal; you strain to hear her.
The light whispers.
“You will starve no more, do not worry. Yes, it has been eating — quite a bit, actually. With this, you shall live longer and no blood is wasted.”
You wonder what “it” is and whose blood she is referring to.
The light whispers once more
“It suspects nothing. I pray that you hold out for a little longer; we are moving later this day. It will not suspect a thing; I will eliminate it like I did the others.”
The light makes some sort of noise of agreement.
You don’t completely understand what they are talking about, but you begin to form an idea and you don’t like it. You slowly begin to tread backwards; if you’re quick enough, you could pack away your things and run away to somewhere Nemi wouldn’t find you.
You don’t know exactly where you would go but you have friends that lived out of state; you could contact them, ask them if they’d let you stay with them for a little while. You slowly turn around, your back to the strange scene and tears budding at your eyes. You suppose you’ll have to think about this betrayal later.
“Where exactly do you think you’re going?”
You freeze. You can feel Nemi’s stare on your back.
“I suppose I’m through with you now; I’d rather have just taken you in your sleep.”
You break out into a run. You don’t know where you’re going or where your feet will take you, but you know you have to get as far away from there as you possibly could. You strained to hear any footsteps behind you; every little hiss, shuffle, creak, and drip sends your heart pounding against your ribcage.
You take random streets, unsure of where to go and hoping you would find some sort of safe house by chance. You fear stopping; you fear slowing down even a bit because your legs might give out from under you and you would be too drained of energy to get back up.
You don’t look back, either. You never look behind you.
You are unsure of how much time has actually passed, but you manage to make it home. The sun never rose; the sky simply lightened up to a deep, melancholy blue.
You make a beeline for your room after getting inside; you need to pack. You need to pack and get out now; you don’t care where you end up, as long as it’s far from here. You’re ready to catch rides and pick-pocket for travel money if you need to.
You stop. Between the chaos of packing and dealing with your own screaming, messed up thoughts, you heard a noise. You heard the click of a door and something shift. You turn around slowly to stare at your bedroom door.
The shifting grows louder and louder.
You forgot to lock it. You forgot to lock your door.
The shifting was right outside now, you were sure of it.
You almost believed you’d be able to lock it in time; that you could sprint to your door, lock it, and jump out the window. But you aren’t that fast nor that nimble, and your legs were still trembling and twitching, unaccustomed to running so far, so quickly.
The doorknob trembles, then turns. You dive for the closet and pull the door toward you until there was just a sliver for you to see through.
You see Nemi open the bedroom door and peer inside. She appears as innocent as ever, even worried as she looked around your room with knitted eyebrows. You feel your mind ease a little, but her blue-tinted skin keeps you on edge
Then, you see Nemi enter the room completely and you feel your heart drop into your gut – from her belly down, there weren’t human legs, but the long shimmering tail of a serpent.
Nemi is a snake-woman. Nemi is a snake woman that talked to dimensional rifts full of light. And you have been living with her this whole time, never knowing until just now. Your moment of revelation would have sent you falling to the ground if it wasn’t for the fact that you were already sitting.
She slithers further into your room, checking under the bed and behind the furniture.
You think back to the conversation, remember how she had said that she “eliminated them” and the heavy emphasis she placed on feeding “it” – “it” most likely meaning “you”. You ponder the incidents of the missing teenagers – could she have been referring to them? You furrow your brow and continue to think about this – anything to distract you from the snake woman slithering closer and closer to the closet.
If “them” refers to the missing people, then that means that Nemi had abducted and killed them all. But what did she do with the bodies? Did she give them to that light? Probably not – feeding that light sounded particularly special. After all, if she just fed it on a daily basis, you were sure that she would have given you to it a long time ago.
Nemi stops in front of the closet and peeks inside.
You piece things together and theorize that she may have been feeding you those people and you never knew. Bile rises up in your throat and you go pale at the very thought – you’ve been eating people this whole time.
She opens the door, revealing your trembling and vomit-covered self.
You back further away into the closet and she approaches, leaning forward, bearing her clean, white fangs.
She steals your soul away.