The sound of shattering glass jolted me awake. Pulse racing, I fumbled through my bedside drawer for my phone, only for my stomach to drop when I realized that I had forgotten to charge it. The paperback novel I'd fallen asleep reading now felt suffocatingly heavy on my chest, and as my vision adjusted to the darkness of my bedroom I held my breath and listened for intruders.
Tense, heart-pounding moments passed, but I heard nothing—no footsteps outside the door, no strange voices whispering to one another, no gloved hands turning doorknobs or rummaging through my home for valuables—save for the low hum of the air conditioner and my cat Lily's gentle breathing as she slept curled up beside me, oblivious to my panic.
After several minutes without any further noise or an appearance from a masked burglar, it occurred to me that perhaps the glass sound had merely been the product of my unconscious, overworked mind. Lately I'd been spending seven days a week at my office, subsisting on cup after cup of black coffee and combating stress that threatened to eat me alive. What little time I had left for sleep never felt like enough. A weary glance towards my clock revealed that I had precious few hours before the morning alarm rang through my ears and commanded me to begin yet another long day. Exhausted, I closed my eyes and attempted to fall back asleep.
But it was no use. I simply couldn't relax.
With a tired sigh I rose from bed, opened the door, and stepped into the dark hallway.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when I stumbled over some of Lily's toys and sent a ball rolling down the hall. Get a grip, I admonished myself. No wonder you're so anxious all the time.
I took a deep breath followed by another step and never even noticed the broken picture frame until its shards had already sank into my foot.
I shrieked in pain and limped back to my room, peppering the floor with my blood. Fifteen minutes and multiple crimson-stained tissues later, I managed to stop the bleeding and bandage my foot before sluggishly climbing back into bed. If I hadn't been so tired perhaps I would have laughed at the thought of such a spectacle unfolding over something so innocuous as a poorly hung framed photo slipping from its nail and crashing onto the floor.
“What a night, Lily,” I muttered as I rested my head on my pillow and pulled her close to wrap my arm around her soft white belly. The combination of Lily's warm fur and gentle purring calmed me, and I began to doze off.
My eyes flew open when I heard a meow coming from the edge of the bed. I sat up and saw Lily staring back at me, her whiskers wet from a recent trip to the water bowl.
The thing beside me began to laugh.
Written by CertainShadows