Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
It was on the wall, right in front of me, over my bed, hung like a painting. It had one limp hand draped, with bony, serpentine fingers, just above the clock, and its skeletal body cast an eerie glow into the dusty haze that had formed around it. I could feel Half-and-half’s muscles tense up in my arms. I took a pace forward, feeling a pearl of cold sweat slink down my brow. Its massive bulging eyes pinpointed directly onto me, tracing my movements, and its starchy white hair drifted lethargically across its decayed visage, that maybe at one time appeared human. From behind rows of cracked teeth, water pooled up and sluggishly dripped onto my bed from its maw, which now hung painfully agape and unnaturally crooked to one side. I silently passed closer to the radio, casting my face away from the translucent apparition. The woman’s chatter turned into furious shrieks, and I slapped the radio off of the nightstand, unplugging it in the fall.
From my room on the second floor of my house, I stared unblinkingly at it: that figure under the pale yellow cast by the street lamps that guarded the suburb. Their crooked necks were bent over like monks occupied in scriptures, but there was no presence of holiness there. There was no sanctuary, or consolation on my street that night, not while it was watchingd. For a while, everything was still, with an energetic sort of tension that draws tight, as a line threatening to break yet never does. The lights watched the street. I watched it, and it watched me, just as it always did. The line was growing tighter.
My chest was thrumming with such intense, pounding reverberation that my teeth chatters with every surging beat. The clicking in my mouth kept time like the second hand, and with each passing moment, the rhythm grew increasingly uneven and chaotic. So I withdrew from the window. A bead of sweat dripped from the end of my clammy middle finger, and Half-and-half, my cat, approached to sniff the salty pool, unaware of the interloper’s ceaseless gaze. I could feel his downy fur brush against my leg as he crawled under the folds of my night gown.
For a while I just stood there, backed away from the large window that stretched from my ceiling to my floor, allowing a cascade of undisturbed moonlight to pierce into the bedroom, and even though I could not see it, I felt the weight its watchful eye. I took a quaking step to the right as to encroach slowly back upon the glassy portal once again. It had moved, but not by much, maybe a couple feet or so, out of the ring of street light and into a dim penumbra.
The small radio alarm-clock popped with a surge of power behind me, on the far wall of the room, and a white hissing filled the space around the room like a thin gas. That was the third time that night my radio tuned into a deserted frequency, completely unaided. My stomach quivered, threatening to relieve itself at any moment, as I cautiously backed my way to the radio, with eyes locked on the silhouette of Half-and-half as he sat, rigidly scrutinizing the street outside. Shooting a quick glance at the clock to find the radio’s off button, I deftly silenced the ambient sizzling and caught the time. The flashing display read “12:00,” as it did when thunderstorms shut the power off, resetting the electric clock’s hour back to midnight. I dared another look out the window, and at that very same moment I was startled by the faintest of sounds.
The disturbance came from downstairs, and from my room it sounded little more than the scratching of a cat on the door. I darted my eyes across the room, hoping, praying that Half-and-half had exited and was the cause for the scraping. With reluctant realization, I noticed that Half-and-half had not moved a single muscle and was yet still on the edge of the widow, his milky fur scrambling in the draft of the air conditioning vent that sat at his feet. The moon was bulbous and massive that night, making him appear very small. His ears perked though, with every successive scrape against the front door. Tears pooled up into my eyes, obscuring my vision, and I jolted out of the room, into the hallway, down the stairs, and to the door of my parent’s. I could hear clearly the raspy grazing against the front door as I called out to my parents for the third time that night. The scoring got louder. “Mom, Dad, please there is something trying to come in the house!” I whimpered, tapping on the bedroom door.
The claws on the front door resounded so heavily that I could only imagine the deep gashes that were being made. My parents were unknowing, though, and tired of their daughters constant night terrors. They did not reply; so, I tapped even more earnestly, pleading for sanctuary. My father, exhausted and unsympathetic, flung open the door. My heart seized up for a moment from his sudden appearing, as panic stricken as I already was.
At first he said nothing and just frowned, but after a condescending glare on his part and desperate sniffling on mine, he spoke up, “There is nothing wrong. Bed. Now.” Then he sliced the gap between the two of us as he shut the door, leaving me even more alone than I had been before.
My stomach quivered again, this time more violently, and I wrapped my arms around it, trying not to wretch. I noticed something at that moment though, something queer and vacant. A void had filled the house, an unhinging silence had taken the place of the scratching, and a terror, dreadful and icy cold, slithered its way down the column of my throat and into my chest where it stayed, nearly suffocating me. I gasped short, urgent breaths until the knot in my chest loosened and became manageable. Like anxious deer, I stepped forward, toe first into the deluminated living room in front of me, into the encroaching emptiness, into the heart of darkness itself, and I was alone. I began to cry again, falling to my knees as quietly as I could. To form myself into the smallest area possible, I curled into a tight knotted ball and rocked myself slowly. Back and forth, I swayed, for a time not measured by seconds but by passing, battering heart beats which shot hot blood to my face, making me woozy.
My catharsis was interrupted by a single click and column of light, erected from the hallway above and traced to my toes in a solid line of luminescence. I stared at the beam, confused at its appearance. Click. The light retreated into nothingness, and darkness filled its place. Click. The light returned, and I frantically pulled myself on all fours away from it. In the middle of the patch of light, lay a dark patch of amorphous shape. While not quite a shadow, it moved in the flowing way heat does around hot blacktop. It was mesmerizing with its hypnotic fluidity, twisting and coiling in itself like a mass of serpents. Click. Once again, the light withdrew, and the sound of my bedroom door slamming shut erupted through the silence. The crack was startling enough to knock me against the wall behind me. I bit my tongue and dug my nails into my palms, hoping to alleviate even the smallest bit of stress from my self-harm. It worked for a time but ultimately left me with the same fear plus the added ache in my mouth. I wanted to just bite it off. I wanted to scream. I wanted to be free of this terror that had formed from nightmare into living horror.
But I would eventually have to ascend the stairs, and I knew that. Whether it be by masochistic curiosity or the urging of my parents when they found me, I would eventually find myself back in that bed of chaos where it waited for me. Waiting to observe me, closer than it ever had before.
Something brushed my back.
I vaulted onto my feet, and spun on my heels. It was Half-and-half. My eyes had adjusted enough to the darkness by then to recognize his chunky, lithe figure as he walked gracefully toward me, and I figured he must have vacated the room right after the light turned off for the last time. I reached out for him, and he drew his head into my palm. He was shivering and soaking wet; his skin wriggled on his bones. Repulsed, I yanked my hand back into my chest and stepped away. He pursued though and draped his dripping body across my feet. Cold tendrils of sensation crawled up legs like the tentacles of a groping squid. Taking pity on the poor creature, I scooped the soggy mass up into my arms. With his body stretched out, the ends of his back paws nearly reached my shins. He purred lazily on my chest which would have been comforting if it not were for the fact that my arms were now fully occupied. This heightened my sense of vulnerability, and I felt so very small, small as a cat’s rounded outline against the shear face of the moon.
With Half-and-half in tow, I made my way for the steps that were now wet from my cat’s silent descent into the living room. A draft floated from the top of the stairs. I put my foot on the first step and sucked in a lungful of air to hold my breath, hoping it would last me until I reached the top. I had made my way about halfway up the flight, when I heard the radio in my room click on once again with a static hum, but the interference was steadily being drowned out by the sound of my heart in my ears. I ascended, one stair at a time in between every other heartbeat. Thud thud step. Thud thud step. With Half-and-half going before me, this ritual was repeated another ten times until I reached the top, where I could see the closed door to my room. I let out my stale breath. Moonlight escaped from beneath the gateway and patiently faded on a gradient, melding into the surrounding darkness. I could see puddles on the floor where my cat had stepped, like a trail of breadcrumbs leading me back to where I had begun, and I noticed at once how frigid my toes and fingers had become despite my profuse sweating.
The hallway felt distended and exposing; I periodically checked my progress behind me, only to regret it every time, knowing not what I would find when I turned back around. Each time I was only met with my closed door, though. The radio continued on, but I could hear something wavering under the heavy layer of static. A voice. It was a woman’s voice, angrily chanting out some indiscernible phonetics. The voice would undulate and occasionally take a sudden drop in pitch into a dark baritone only to level back out into a semi-human octave.
I placed my hand on the cold metal knob.
My arms trembled uncontrollably as I turned the handle inside one of my sweating palms, still clutching my freezing cat tightly with the other. The door swung smoothly on its hinges, and it hit the wall behind it with a deep thud.
Then it saw me.
It was on the wall, right in front of me, over my bed, hung like a painting. It had one limp hand draped, with boney, serpentine fingers, just above the clock, and its skeletal body cast an eerie glow into the dusty haze that had formed around it. I could feel Half-and-half’s muscles tense up in my arms. I took a pace forward, feeling a pearl of cold sweat slink down my brow. Its massive bulging eyes pinpointed directly onto me, tracing my movements, and its starchy white hair drifted lethargically across its decayed visage, that maybe at one time appeared human. From behind rows of cracked teeth, water pooled up and sluggishly dripped onto my bed from its maw, which now hung painfully agape and unnaturally crooked to one side. I silently passed closer to the radio, casting my face away from the translucent apparition. The woman’s chatter turned into furious shrieks, and I slapped the radio off of the nightstand, unplugging it in the fall.
The figure did not move, only watched.
I raggedly placed Half-and-half on the bed first, and then crawled over him to get in bed myself, where I trembled in silence, ignoring the coils of pain in my skull from the developing migraine. Even with the radio unplugged, I could still perceive the wails of a seething woman coming from an unidentifiable source. It was as quiet as a whisper in my ears. Pulling the covers up to the sides of my head, I tried to take a breath deeper than the tiny gasps I had been settling for up until that point. I could still sense the observer’s prying eyes transfixed on the back on my skull, see its dangling, pale digits over the night stand where my alarm clock had once been, and feel the steady dripping against my mattress. Stifled tears flowed down the contours of my face, and while I made certain to keep my eyes sealed tightly shut, I knew the observer continued to peer at me unceasingly.