I awoke shivering. As I rubbed my eyes, attempting to adjust them to the darkness swallowing my bedroom, I noticed the open window across the room. The curtains danced delicately as the chilly night's air gushed through them. For a second, I relished in the beauty of it, smiling weakly as I did so. The smell of the air was intoxicating as it rushed towards me, causing goosebumps to rise all over my body as I threw my exposed legs over the edge of the bed. A hint of dewy grass permeated throughout the air, as my feet slowly met with the cold, hardwood floors beneath me. I muttered to myself as the moon's rays seeped through the window's glass, creating a shadow that appeared upon my skin as I approached it.
"Mom," I whispered, recalling the countless nights she would invade my room as I slept, opening my window.
She had a strange obsession with turning off the air conditioner at night. As all parents swore by, she felt the cold of the air conditioner caused illness, although that theory had long been disproved. Still, even if her theory was justified, and I would befall to pneumonia eventually due to my exposure, why on earth would the cold of night be excluded from the disillusioned hypothesis?
After a brief debate within my own mind, I turned my attention back to the open window. As I closed it, I looked out over the sleeping neighborhood; it was so peaceful to look out upon. Knowing everyone slept, oblivious to the beauty surrounding them as they dreamt, was mind-boggling to me. Even though I was awoken prematurely from my own dreams, I was proud to have at least gotten the chance to see the beauty of the night so many missed out on.
Once the window was secure and locked, I turned back towards my bed, hopped in its diminishing warmth, and closed my eyes. Once the darkness of my own eyelids enveloped me, I heard something strange. The sound reminded me of the countless days in school when everyone shuffled through their bags, attempting to find a book they knew they had left at home. Immediately, my eyes shot open, and I arose from my stunted slumber. There, at the edge of my bed, was a darkened figure. Shock immediately rushed throughout my body, alerting the hairs on the back of my neck into action.
"Alexandria," it spoke, its voice a deepened rasp.
As if I wasn't already frightened enough, its horrifying, dry voice and the fact it knew my name, added to my increasing anxiety. As my heart raced, beating against my chest as a hammer to a nail, the being grew close, slithering towards me as a snake would its prey.
"W-what?" I stuttered, as a black mist surrounded us.
The hood over its head, providing a sufficient shadow to hide its face within, seemed to move as agile as running water. The iridescent glow radiating off of its cloak, captivated me momentarily as I stared upon it. Once my trance had broken and the amazement was once more replaced by overwhelming fear, within its hands, a dusty book came into view. Though I was trembling, choking on the thick, black fog within the air, I couldn't take my eyes off of the archaic book resting in the being's hands.
"I wish to read you a tale," it said, looking down at the book.
The atmosphere seemed to thicken, almost as if a running car was present. The creature conveyed no signs of discomfort and it, in no rush whatsoever, nestled into a cozy position as it cleared its throat, releasing a heap of dust into the air. I sat still, unwilling to make even the slightest of movements in fear of what the peculiar creature would do should I reject its reading.
All logic would suggest I was experiencing some sort of lucid nightmare, but the chills down my spine felt real, and so did the thing sitting adjacent to me, even though I knew it couldn't have been.
"There was a girl that lived in a sleeping town. She snuck out of her house, meeting up with her friends against her parents strict curfew. After too much to drink, she hitched a ride with a boy she had met at the bonfire. Her friends were much too drunk to take her home."
"As they drove, the boy decided the ride home would not be free. The girl explained she had no money, but the boy shrugged his shoulders. He explained money wasn't the only way to settle debt. Immediately, the girl shook her head, asking the boy to stop the car, but he didn't comply. Instead, he slapped her across the face, threatening her as he did so," it said, its tone darkening as it turned the page.
"The girl didn't have much of a choice in the matter as the boy pulled over to the side of the road, locking the doors of his car. No matter how hard she screamed or how much strength she put into fighting back, the boy did not let up. Her efforts were fruitless," it said, glancing at me dramatically before turning back to the book.
"After the debt was settled, the boy unlocked the car door and let the girl go. Once she was sure he was gone, she wiped away the freezing tears falling from her eyes. Being that she was miles away from home, she began walking, clutching onto her sides as she proceeded down the street."
"She began to wonder why no one else was around as she walked the barren road, the wind flowing through her raven hair as she did so. The chilly night's breeze travelled up her nostrils, causing her to wrap her shivering arms much tighter around her torso in attempt to keep warm. She continued walking aimlessly, searching for anyone - someone - to assist her. Her efforts were fruitless," it said, turning the page of the book.
As it spoke, I stared intently upon it as if I was a child being read a bedtime story. I couldn't look away. I couldn't move. All of my will had been removed and placed within its hands.
"The girl wandered around the neighborhood, the street lights flickering overhead as she began shouting. She wanted so badly for anyone - someone - to answer back her calls, but her attempts were fruitless," it said, turning the page once more.
"Finally, she saw lights approaching from afar. Instinctively, the girl ran towards it, waving her arms in the air frantically as the lights grew close," it said, clearing its throat as it turned the page.
"But, the girl's happiness quickly disintegrated as she recognized the car. It was the same vehicle she had been held captive within minutes prior. Flashbacks of the vicious attack replayed in slow motion within her head as she began crying hysterically. She wanted so badly to run, dodging the car driving recklessly towards her, but she was hurt. She didn't have enough time to respond; she only had time to blink before the lights blinded her, and an indescribable pain initiated at the base of her pelvis," it said, licking its bony finger before turning the page.
"She laid on the asphalt paved street, choking on her own blood, as her eyes searched for anyone - someone - to help her. All she could do was watch as the light diminished from the neighborhood, leaving her to die alone within the darkness," it said, before closing the book.
Slowly, the being stood up, lowering its hood as it revealed eyes without irises.
"I'll be on my way now. I have others to read to," it said, stretching its elongated arm towards me before caressing my shivering cheek with its index finger.
Just as swift as the words escaped its mouth, it flew out of the open window, a black mist trailing closely behind it.
Once it vanished from sight, the black mist evaporating within the air, I regained control of my body. I let out a loud cry, shaking uncontrollably as I stared out of the window the creature had escaped from.
"Mom!" I yelled, afraid to get out of bed.
"Mom!" I repeated, slowly lowering my feet to the cold floor.
But, it wasn't the wood beneath my feet that I felt. The ground was rough, almost... like asphalt. Quickly, I realized I was outside standing in the middle of the street.
The street lights overhead flickered as a cold breeze blew through my hair. I crossed my arms, attempting to harbor any warmth my body once sought refuge in.
"Hello!" I shouted, my voice cracking as anxiety washed over me.
In the distance, a faint light approached. I wandered towards it, waving my arms in the air to attract the passerby's attention.
"Hey, I- I need help!" I yelled, walking towards the light.
The light grew, expanding its illumination throughout the neighborhood. Worry began seeping out of my skin as I noticed how fast the light was approaching. Rather quickly, I realized the light derived from the headlights of a vehicle.
Unwilling to fall victim to a hit and run, I turned to try to run away but... I tripped over something. There, lying in the middle of the street, was a girl. I approached her, kneeling down as the headlights from the speeding car provided just enough light to illuminate where her body laid.
"Are you o-" I trailed off.
Once I saw the girl's face, all of the night's events became clear. She wasn't some random girl I tripped over coincidentally; she was me.
"No, wake up!" I yelled, cradling my own head.
My body was limp, all signs of life long gone.
"No," I said, lowering myself to the ground before standing up, weakly.
Though I was scared, confused, and angry, I turned towards the headlights.
"You fucker!" I screamed, running towards the car.
The car sped up, matching my anger driven enthusiasm, but when we met, I passed through the car as if it wasn't even there. When I turned to look behind me, there was no sign of that car or its headlights. All I could see in the distance were flashing red and blue lights.
So, instead of denying my reality, instead of rejecting the truth, I sat beside my bloodied body and watched on as the ambulance grew close. As it approached, I could only think about that mysterious being that awoke me in the middle of my slumber. A cold chill swept through the air just then, as I reminisced upon the dusty, old book within the figure's hand. In its raspy voice, I mouthed the words of my own demise before closing my eyes, as the sirens tore asunder the peaceful night.
Written by GreyOwl