Winner of Note

With the Night"


Sweat stung her body as it erupted from her pores and burned its voyage in trenches down her flesh. Her arms, covered in puckers of terror, tensed in rigor; her legs bound by thick air and uncertainty froze in the stillness of the shadowy room. Her hollow eyes could take in nothing but the darkness around her, yet she knew it was near and she waited, waited for it to slither into her room and work its foul command that every night before had come to pass.

Did it trickle down from between the dots on the ceiling tiles like water through leaking pipes? Did it squeeze in through the window screen leaving the flies behind outside? Regardless of how it arrived, it always arrived—in through the thickness of night—in through the bone-dry air. There. It had come.

From seemingly nowhere, it made its move toward her. Shapeless (though real, she could feel it) it had no face, no voice, and no mercy. Through a stinging inside her head it called her name. "Kate", it pined. "Kate." The stinging grew stronger as its longing for her grew. Though it was in great need, it was not hurried in its approach. Time slowed down at its whim.

A wave of icy cold and then burning heat washed over the room. Over and around her it froze her in her stillness then blistered every inch of her trembling flesh. As it approached the side of her bed she could feel the changing temperatures drifting over her body in flashes. She whimpered quietly knowing it was looking into her, without eyes but with something more. It stared at her body, wanting to invade it and make her its hostage once again.

Slowly, it encircled her paralyzed form and, in deepening waves, it writhed upon her. Starting at her toes, pointed in anguish, it nipped with merciless vigor, leading up to her stomach and then her face. It stopped and whispered words inside her ears that made her face twist in sickness. Rope and leather could not have strapped her down as strongly as the fear that kept her constrained upon her back.

Her body clenched tighter in dread and her eyes bulged, seeking something in the darkness that seemed more real than this moment. Time was real, but an hour had become only a minute, and the pain she suffered felt like a day. It coiled its indefinable mass about her neck and constricted itself there. It grew tighter and tighter and although she wanted to escape she was unable to fight back or make a sound in protest. The veins in her neck pounded inside her and grew larger in an attempt to allow blood free flow. The pulse caused her body to heave in frantic throes.

It tightened to the point where she was almost unconscious and then it loosened itself. It allowed only a short time for her blood to rush back in scorching pumping spouts—her breath once again becoming stable, though she was still terrified, and then once again it would tighten. For its own satisfaction it continued stealing her life and then bringing her back into the darkness. She wanted to scream out. The agony in her belly was boiling, scratching its way up into her throat, but she knew she couldn't scream. It would only swallow her screams in its perpetual hunger for her.

As it was, it grew more powerful through her every breath. Each cry and each deep sigh brought on by the distress only nourished its urge to have her completely. It wanted to burrow inside her and make its home in her chest beside her heart, which it hoped she never again would need. Though it was strong, it was not strong enough to penetrate her will. She refused it time and time again and it grew jealous—angry, at the rejection.

With claws and fangs unseen it next released its anger upon her flesh. It scraped slowly and teasingly and then in one deft thrust it slashed a line just below her left breast. The blood trickled down her sides and pooled as it carved the words of its fury into her skin. "Mine." "Mine." "Mine."

The sheets became coated in her blood, seeping beneath her—the warmth of her life slowly cooling on her back. An invisible tongue lapped up the blood that remained on her chest and, satisfied, it raised itself up above her and away from the bed.

Out through the ceiling tiles or back out through the window and into what remained of the night, it left her, but still it lingered teasingly in her mind. She curled into a ball and cried the tears she wished she could have cried a short time ago. The tears melded with the darkening blood and she screamed out in leftover agony and relief that loneliness had finally gone—For now.

The End