Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
Bella awoke from a horrible dream. Or at least she thought she did. Somehow she knew she was still dreaming, but she now looked down upon herself, as if watching a movie. Something like someone having had recorded her, and playing it back for her. But the edges around the “picture” looked hazy…there was a certain numbness that just told her she was still dreaming. Dreaming but unable to actually interact and intervene.
She watched herself rise, rubbing sleep from her eyes. She was in a cozy little bedroom. One that seemed so very familiar, she was sure she’d seen it, even having been inside it before. Yet it still felt wrong. A small, clean single bed sat in the corner, the one she’d risen from. The air was bathed in artificial heat. It felt refreshing. The lighting was dim and flickering slightly, as if ablaze by candle. But nothing visible seemed to be producing it, and there wasn’t a single window to allow natural light inside.
A sharp rapping of wood startled her, and broke the trance. The dream version of Bella stood still for a second, seemingly frozen in time. She watched intently, as if looking in through a haze filled pane of glass at herself. The rapping continued, someone was knocking on a wooden door somewhere. And they continued to do so until she finally decided to move from the cozy bedroom. The hallway outside the room was long, extremely dark and cold, bone chillingly cold compared to the comforting warmth of that bedroom.
The knocking got louder and sharper, and a chill ran up Bella’s spine as she stepped out into the hallway. The air out here spreading goosebumps over her body. She could feel the chill inside and outside of the dream, it seemed. A faint light crept out from the darkness down the long, unrealistically long hallway. Each step she took thundered around her in a deafening echo. The atmosphere thick and intensely quiet, all except for the constant pounding of the door somewhere down the hall every few seconds.
After what seemed like an eternity she emerged from the hall into the light. The place seemed like some sort of extremely rustic foyer. A heavy oak looking door without a single pane of glass stood before her, seemingly the door that was being knocked on. Bella slowly reached for the heavy looking iron handle bar. Hand clasped around the ice cold metal, but hesitant to pull it open. Everything told her not to open this door. To just ignore the constant knocking and walk back down that strangely long hallway and lock herself away in that cozy little warm bedroom. Whatever was knocking obviously hadn’t tried to open the door itself yet. She was doubtful that it would. She felt this as certainty. It’d been knocking now for at least ten minutes. The trek down the hall had to have taken nearly eight alone, at least it had seemed so.
“Just turn around, block out the knocking, go back into the cozy little candlelit bedroom, lock the door and curl up on the bed therein. That simple, just drift off to sleep and forget about this.” The real Bella intervened here, somehow. “Just fall asleep and wake back up, but for real this time. Put this behind you.”
But the knocking continued to grow louder and more frequent. It seemed insanely loud now. Each knock in quick succession echoing like a thunder blast of an intense storm. Bella’s grip tightened on the door handle, and slowly began to pull. A creak was heard as a small gust of wintry wind swept inside. The knocking ceased, and for a moment she stood frozen. Again she rolled that thought of just turning away through her mind. Just shut the door again and turn around. Instead she quickly, as quickly as she could anyway – as the heavy oaken door weighed even more than it looked, flung the thing ajar. The first thing her eyes focused on was the whiteness of the large yard beyond the threshold . Then her eyes focused.
Before her stood the near skeletal face of a woman. It’s fleshless face seemed to form a permanent grin, ice hanging from it, and from it’s straggly gray hair. There were no eyes in it’s hollowed out sockets, and no sign of anything seeing from them. None the less it stared intently for a few seconds, Bella could feel it’s gaze, feel it in her bones, looking through her. Ragged, white flesh hung loosely from the knuckles of its right hand, still raised as it had been knocking.
Bella was frozen, unable to move, unable to breathe even. Finally the thing, the corpse’s jaw seemed to unhinge, lowering as a shrill, bone chilling wail escaped from within its frozen, decaying body. A thin yellow mist poured from the mouth, and finally Bella found her breath as a thin yelp escaped from her own throat and her feet finally seemed free to move.
And move she did. Running, no, sprinting back down that too long hallway. The banshee like scream continued behind her as she heard the all too quick clattering footsteps chasing behind. Forcing herself not to look back she just continued to run as fast as her short legs could carry her. The wailing and the footfalls seemed to be catching up to her. Bella’s lungs were burning, her energy quickly draining. She chanced a look back over the shoulder and caught sight of the thing again. It ran like an Olympian, the trail of yellowed gas having filled the hallway behind them, and streaming from the gaping jaws of the corpse.
The bedroom was getting closer, Bella could see the light under the crack of the door, even feel the change in temperature slightly. She knew somehow that if she could get back in there she could shut the thing out and everything would just somehow be fine. But her legs were faltering, her lungs burning as if doused in napalm, she felt nauseated. Sweating and gasping desperately for precious oxygen. But it wasn’t just the sheer exertion of the near ten minute long sprint down this freakishly long hall, the air was steadily growing more and more sour and acidic. It stung her eyes now, and burned in her nostrils and in the back of her throat. The hall was filling with the yellow gas that seemed to just gush fourth from the thing behind her with each bloodcurdling scream it unleashed.
The door to the bedroom was now in sight, she could feel it’s radiating warmth, feel the anxiousness in her every pore to dash inside and slam the door shut behind her. But her vision was growing fishy, she felt a warm liquid run down her nose, trailing to her chin, knowing without looking it was blood. Her throat felt ragged, raw and mangled with each wheezing breath that tried to escape. She could not only feel but even slightly taste the rustiness of blood running down into her esophagus.
Her legs felt like jello, her feet numb. Eyelids seeming to swell, she stumbled, catching herself, her hand pressed against the warm door of the bedroom to prop herself up. within arms reach was freedom, narrowed down for the taking. Only wood and a lock to put this horrible nightmare behind her. Bella choked on blood, coughing, her eyes blinded now, she slumped forward against the door, head pressed against it. So close…so very close. She felt the thin, skeletal grip grasp her neck, fingers so cold they burned, literally. Instinctively, Bella jerked back, freeing herself from the searing grasp. A new smell mixing into the noxious, burning chemical odor wafting to her nose for a moment, seared flesh. As she’d jerked back the door swung open, spilling it’s oh so cozy candle like light into the dark, gas filled hallway. The warmth splashing out like a tidal wave.
Bella hit the floor gasping for breath, eyes, nose, ears and mouth oozing darkened blood now. Her swelled, watery eyes glimpsing freedom, it mocked her, laughing at her pitiful attempt to find sanctuary. No, not it, the thing, the skeletal thing was laughing as that searingly cold clutching grip again latched around her neck.
With a start Bella awoke from a terrible dream, it had seemed so realistic. She sat on the edge of her bed trying to sort out the details and feeling a tinge of deja vu. Probably a sick fever dream as she felt like she was coming down with somehing. Her throat and sinuses felt kind of ragged and sore, her eyes burned. The hint of an unpleasant acrid aftertaste lingered at the back of her tongue. She shivered, wrapping a blanket over her shoulders.
Something felt off. This was the bedroom she’d spent a majority of her childhood in, the bedroom in her parent’s house. Not the bedroom of the uptairs apartment she rented now as a working college student. She shook her head, her mind felt hazy and it made her a bit dizzy. She just needed rest.
She decided it’d be better if she just went back to sleep, rest being the best medicine. A sharp knocking came from somewhere seemingly far away. It was persistent. Exhaustion tugged at Bella’s mind as she rose, letting the warmth and comfort of the blanket slide to the floorboards. She trembled as she slowly opened the door, not really understanding why. The hallway beyond was frigidly cold and dark, so very dark. The knocking continued, louder each time, determined to be responded to.