Dread

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It was too cold. Rachel twined her fingers together and wriggled her toes, but it didn't help much. She probably just needed to go put on socks, but it was still strange. The rest of her family didn't seem to mind, as they sat in the living room with her, watching some stupid movie. Even Raven was fine, and Rachel thought it was somehow unfair she of all people could better tolerate a chill. "Does it feel a bit cold to anyone else?"

"Nah, I'm fine." Her dad shrugged.

"Oh, no. But do you want me to turn up the heat?" Her mom looked at her, about to get up off of the couch.

Rachel waved a hand dismissively. "No, that's fine. I'm just a little chilly. I can put on some heavier clothes, we don't need to bake everyone for my sake."

Raven giggled. "Yeah, thanks for taking one for the team. I think the temperature is finally starting to catch up to the time of year. I wonder if the weather will, too, or if we'll just get another storm tonight."

Rachel all but groaned at the thought. "I sure hope not. I really don't need a storm waking me up early for the third night in a row." She got up out of her comfy chair, and stepped over to the window to look outside. It was dark out already, and she could see the room reflected in the glass. She tried to look past the four seated figures, to peer into the yard. But there wasn't much to see, no hint to how the weather was going to pan out. Rachel stared for a few long moments anyways, before a chill crept up her spine. She shifted her eyes a little.

There were four seated figures in the reflection. Her mother and father on the couch, and Raven in one of the chairs, looking towards her. Her own pale face stared back at her at full size, with all her familiar piercings and a slightly unnerved expression. And in her chair, where she couldn't quite focus her eye— she spun around to confront the empty recliner. Of course. She took in a deep breath, and put a hand to her forehead.

Raven furrowed her brow. "Hey, Rachel. Is everything okay?"

"Oh, yeah. Sorry, I just thought I saw something." She regretted that as soon as she said it. Her parents were both looking over at her too, now. "I think it was a bug. Anyways, I'm going to go get some socks already." That seemed to settle things satisfactorily for her parents, but Raven was still looking at her with some concern. Why did her twin sister have to be so perceptive when it came to her, specifically? It was stupid to be annoyed, but Rachel didn't want anyone worrying over her. It was nothing. It almost felt like other people acknowledging it would make it something, somehow. She was being stupid, but...

She walked over to her room. She rifled through a dresser drawer to find a pair of socks, and settled on a pair of thick black ones. She bent down to put them on, but then stood back up. She stepped to her windows and pulled her curtains shut. Then she put her socks on, and that little bit of her brain that screamed she was being watched didn't go off. That was better. She stretched and yawned, and then dug out her phone. It was 9:29, apparently. Too early for bed, but she felt like she could go to sleep. And what did her schedule even matter anymore? Besides, it had been dark for like three hours already.

She headed back out to get some water before bed. While she was in the kitchen, she looked over to the living room. "I'm going to go to bed. Night, everybody." Her family wished her goodnight back, and Rachel yawned again. She went to the bathroom and brushed her teeth, then slowly looked up to the mirror. No surprises.

She went back into her room, and shut the door behind her, with a good click. She yawned again, and went about changing into a pair of warm pajamas. Then she spied one of her curtains wasn't quite covering the window fully. She stepped over to fix it, and saw her reflection in the glass. And behind her, she could see an indistinct round silhouette, like a head looking over her left shoulder. She wasn't directly looking at it, but it wasn't hiding at the edge of her vision either. She took care not to move her eyes to look closer at it or turn her head back towards it, and slowly reached back with her left arm. She moved it to where the silhouette would have been, roughly. She only touched air, of course. But the silhouette moved away from her arm, as though it was being pushed, and a whole humanoid figure was pushed out from behind her. Rachel's eyes instinctively tracked it, and it didn't go away when she looked directly at it.

Even when in focus, it looked indistinct. It kept moving, stepping backwards and away from her arm, then darted out of the span of the reflection. Rachel swallowed, and turned around. Her room was empty. Of course. She sighed, and rubbed at her eyes. She couldn't quite brush that aside. Was it just sleep deprivation? Or was this something serious? Rachel sighed, hit the lights, and got into her bed. She could try to figure that out after a good night's sleep.

But when she closed her eyes, she couldn't get the creepy images out of her head. She tried to think of nothing, counting sheep, happy memories, but nothing barred the thoughts of imaginary monsters from slinking back into her mind's eye. Further reinforcing them in her subconscious was definitely the last thing she needed. Rachel eventually gave in, and got up out of bed.

She plodded back into the living room, yawning again. "Hey, Raven. I changed my mind. Could I borrow your radio? I need something to fall asleep to."

"Oh, yeah of course. Here, I'll go get it." She smiled warmly, and got up off the couch. Rachel wanted to say she didn't have to get up, but it didn't really matter. And maybe Raven would rather be the one to take things out of her own room, anyways. It only took a moment for her to come back out and hand over her small silver radio.

"Thanks a bunch. I'm actually going to sleep, now. Night, everyone, for real this time." Rachel lazily waved, and went back to her room.

She shut the door and listened for the click, and then saw that her curtain was half-open. Hadn't she just shut it? Rachel shook her head, and walked over to pull it closed. She made a point not to look for any reflection. Then she pulled out the antenna of her radio and turned it on. Instantly, there was a young woman's voice listing off numbers with no inflection or emotion. "Two six four one two one four" Rachel turned a dial on the side, and the numbers were replaced by static, and then an advertisement. After some hunting between the stations, she found something playing classical music, and lowered the volume a little. That would have to do for lullabies.

She climbed into bed, shut her eyes, and let her thoughts focus on the soft sounds of string instruments and woodwinds. It made for a good distraction, and she managed to finally drift off to sleep.

A sudden crash woke Rachel up, a clatter and metallic hiss ringing in her ears. Then came another crash, and this time she realized it as the clap of cymbals coming from the radio. She was suddenly relieved, and almost laughed it off. But she didn't laugh. She couldn't laugh. She couldn't move. All she could do was look around the dark room, hear the music swell to a thundering imperious march through the tinny speaker, and wait to fully wake up. She tried to stay calm and collected, and made sure to breathe, despite the feeling of weight on her chest.

Her door was shut. The curtains were drawn closed. There was just barely enough light in the room to tell. Something was glinting off the doorknob, though she couldn't see its source. And then it went dark, no longer reflecting that spot of light. Rachel watched as the glint came back, testing her fingers and failing to move any of them. The music on the radio reached a crescendo, with more cymbals, triumphant horns, frenetic drumming and a sound like sliding fabric that somehow stood out above all the rest. More light started to shine into the room. At the other edge of her vision, Rachel could see that her curtains were now open, and the moon was shining through the window.

And in the glass was a dark silhouette. It looked like a human figure, flat and indistinct. It moved in the window, and then reached out an arm. It seemed to stretch and warp, and then Rachel realized it was coming out of the window. The music started to trail off in a final blast of sound as another arm was thrust forward, and the shape peeled itself off of the window. It staggered and fell out of sight, then rose up in front of her bed.

It was dark and indistinct, even when she looked directly at it. A gap started to form in its head, stretching into the form of a grin. Then its face started to twitch, and Rachel watched it mime laughter. Her heart started to race, and the hallucination started to reach towards her. It was slow and drawn-out, and she watched the arm stretch out inch by inch, as though it was a shadow falling over her bed. She tried to will herself to move and bat the hallucination away, but she couldn't. She just had to watch the arm stretch closer and closer with a long, low creak, which felt hauntingly familiar.

Her eyes flit over to her door, which was slowly opening itself. The silhouette paused for a moment. The radio started to play a new song, with a quiet, shrill opening. Some of the tension was easing out of Rachel's mind. There was nothing to worry about. She was just getting jumpy about hallucinations and one defective door. And looking at it, a blurry silhouette wasn't actually frightening. It was just... there. She wanted to laugh again, overcome with relief. She had to be about to wake up, because she was coming back to her senses.

And then an arm reached through her doorway. It was slender and pale and stretched out too long, ending in a disturbingly familiar hand. The spindly fingers bent at odd angles and gripped around the door. Then those fingers tensed, and the arm wrenched itself forward. The thing fell into the room, lurching forward. It was larger than a human, and Rachel watched it stretch and compress seamlessly as it unfurled itself from the ground. Rachel's heart fell just looking at it. It was the monster from the other night, but now there was enough light to see by.

Rachel could see its legs now, long and gaunt things that bent sharply at too many points, and standing on five spindly points that couldn't have held its weight. Instead it hunched and leaned on its hands, fingers splayed out unnaturally to drag it forward. Its head extended out, almost all hidden behind a mess of dark hair that trailed on the ground. Its neck stretched out, and then bent sharply to point its face towards her. The hair fell out of the way, exposing a massive, bloated eye. It was staring straight at her. Rachel's heart was starting to pound, and she still couldn't move.

Her eyes flitted around her room, and saw the silhouette was still there, now moved back to the window. It almost looked like it was cowering. Rachel turned to look back at the other monster, and its eye wasn't looking at her anymore. Instead, it was staring at the shadow by the window. It raised itself up on its hind legs, then moved forward alarmingly fast. It fell, almost spilled forward, and it grabbed the silhouette in its too-long fingers. The silhouette contorted itself and pantomimed a struggle, but the fingers just wrapped around it more tightly. The song from the radio played an ill-fitting accompaniment to the silent struggle.

The monster finally dragged the squirming silhouette towards the curtain of hair, and then it kicked wildly, and went limp. Rachel couldn't take her eyes off of the thing as it devoured the shadow. She couldn't actually see it happen, but the memory of its yawning jaws, full of sharp, misshapen teeth filled her mind's eye. Eventually, it finished, and set its hands down on the ground. It swiveled its head around, fixing her with one half-lidded eye. Rachel stared back for a moment that seemed to stretch on endlessly, than squeezed her eyes shut. She tried to focus on the song, and to fall back to sleep.

Eventually, she managed to calm down and drift off, as the song came to an end.


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