Estimated reading time — 3 minutes
After waking up with a jolt, the girl laid in bed a few seconds longer. Reaching over to switch on her bedside lamp, she tried to remember exactly what had stolen her sweet slumber away. When she couldn’t, the brunette swung her legs over the side of the bed and heaved herself up. Checking the time on her phone, she snorted when she saw it was midnight- the witching hour. Knowing that sleep would only evade her, she left her bedroom for the kitchen, a good cup of coffee on her mind.
As she passed by her front door, a chill spread like liquid fire down her spine. It’s only winter, she told herself, focusing again on the coffee plan. Measuring out scoops, water, and preparing her cup kept her occupied, but as the dark liquid boiled, she had nothing left to keep her mind from wandering off. The chill returned and she couldn’t help but glance behind her to the front door. It stood there innocently enough, just like always. The dead bolt was still in place and she could see nothing amiss with it. Turning back to her coffee, she did her best to forget about the feeling.
With her cup in hand, she started back towards her bedroom. As she walked by the front door, she decided that a quick glance out of the peep hole would help calm her restless mind. The chill worsened with each step she took towards the door and further away from the safety and warmth of her blankets. She pressed her empty hand against the cold, metal door and took a deep breath before leading her eye to the peep hole.
At first, she could only see an inky blackness and somehow seemed to swirl in itself. When she blinked in surprise, the void melted away. She wished it hadn’t. In it’s place, there stood what she could only guess was once a man. The limbs were long and inhumanly awkward, with bulky joints branching off into several arms, not unlike the branches of a tree. The creature was draped in a black suit, somehow making the thing more nightmarish to her. The icing on the proverbial cake, however, was what passed as the hellish thing’s face. It was as though her mind blurred the ghastly visage to spare itself further shock and horror.
She shoved herself away from the door with the hand still pressed against it. The scalding mug of coffee fell, the liquid burning her bare legs as she fell backwards and tried to crawl away from the door. She knew, somehow, that her mind hadn’t been playing tricks on her. As she crab walked away from the door, she watched as tendrils as black as the void she first saw snake around through the cracks. The girl was trapped between the instinct to flee and the gut feeling to not turn her back on the door. When the door jolted, the urge to flee overcame her and she slipped in the burning liquid as she tried to make it back to her room.
She knew deep down that she was trapping herself in a corner, but she had to get away from the door. The girl was halfway down the hallway when she heard the previously locked door creak open. She screamed and slipped into a wall, cracking her chin on it and stunning her.
After that, there was only blackness.
* * * * *
“Nicole?” a warm, male voice snapped the woman out of her trance. As she turned around, she was met by one of her sister’s doctor’s. She nodded, not sure if she should say anything, or even if she could find her voice if she did have something to say. That morning, she had gotten an urgent phone call from the hospital, saying that her sister, Lindsay, was there. Before they had even let her see her, the doctor’s had pulled her off to the side and insisted that they talk to her about what might have happened. Phrases like ‘self-inflected’ and ‘assault’ had been thrown around and Nicole felt her mind reel.
She still hadn’t fully understood what they had been saying until she saw Lindsay with her own eyes. Her little sister had a bandage wrapped around her head, covering both of her ears as well as her eyes. They said it was to keep her now deadened eyes from drying out and to try to keep infection out of the wounds Lindsay had made to her ears. The doctors had guessed that either she or someone else had jammed a pencil into them to keep her off balance or to deafen herself against something. There was the mix of first and second degree burns on her hands, legs, and feet, from what was assumed to be the coffee her neighbors found slipped all over the entry to her apartment.
As Nicole walked into her sister’s hospital room the first time, she thought she had spied the silhouette of a man in the window. That, she knew, was impossible. Her sister’s room was on the third story of the hospital.
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