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Julie couldn't sleep. Normally, she relished the opportunity to close her eyes, drift off to dreamland, and escape the pains of the day, but tonight, it was not to be. Something other than the usual was wrong.

Her eyes refused to be torn away from the strange formation in the corner of her ceiling. It was a kind of bubble, but with no definite shape, simply hanging there still in the shadows. She shivered at the sight of it. It had not been there the night before. What on earth could it be? she wondered.

She fought the instinct to call for her mother. What good would it do? If she believed her at all, she'd only scold her for disturbing her, or for not being asleep, or for being childish, or any offense she could think of that Julie couldn't predict. She'd throw in any number of her favorite names for Julie, all of them calculated to cut down and destroy the child. No, it seemed that Julie would have to tough this one out by herself.

She pulled the covers up over her head and rolled over. There, she shut her eyes tightly and prayed for sleep.

The next day progressed as they all did. Julie got up, made herself breakfast while her mother cursed at her morning coffee, went to school, came home, made herself dinner while her mother cursed at the television, did her homework, and then got ready for bed. All this she did while being careful not to cross her mother, or even attract her attention. The less she had to interact with the woman, the better. As this consumed Julie's thoughts, she managed to forget all about the strange formation on her ceiling.

Julie had just finished brushing her teeth and was only her way out of the bathroom when she heard a sound that filled her with dread.

"Julie?" her mother called from down below.

Julie stopped short. Panic seized her. What could her mother want? What could she herself have forgotten to do? She placed a hand on the railing and called down meekly, "Yes, mom?"

"Get down here!" said her mother firmly.

Julie's anxiety intensified. With slow, unwilling steps she made her way down to the living room where her mother sat in front of the blank television screen. The glass of dark red liquid in her hand gave Julie even greater cause for concern. "Yes?" Julie said softly as she entered the room.

"Julie...." Her mother swirled the wine in her glass as she spoke and peered out at her daughter through half-closed eyes. "Come here," she said, softly, patting the space beside her on the sofa.

Julie took a deep breath and did as her mother asked. Once she was there, her mother looked at her for a moment. As the silence stretched on, Julie's discomfort grew. Any moment spent with her mother was a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.

Her mother spoke at last. "We never talk anymore," she said sadly. "You used to talk to me all the time... when you were a little girl.... Why don't we talk anymore?" She leaned her head back and pinched the space between her eyebrows with her free hand.

"Well," Julie began carefully, "I have school and homework that keep me busy."

Her mother lifted her head back up with a sudden speed that made Julie flinch. "Too busy for your mama?" she asked.

"Well...." Julie searched in vain for a response, but feared there was no safe way out of this conversation.

Her mother continued without waiting for a response. "Too busy for the woman that gave you life?" Julie could hear the familiar rage rising in her voice. Her mother's eyes flickered with a mix of booze and misplaced frustration. "You ungrateful little bitch!" she shouted.

With a sudden jolt of energy, she hurled the full wine glass across the room. It shattered noisily on the opposite wall. "Look! Look at it!" Julie's mother demanded. "Do you see what you make me do? Do you see?!"

"I... I'm...," Julie stammered, but her mother steamrolled ahead.

"I am so sick of you treating me---your own mother---like a piece of garbage!" the woman screeched, pulling herself up and off of the couch. Drunken tears filled her eyes and began to roll down her blotchy cheeks as she towered over Julie, who remained seated and shaking all over. "After all I've done!" her mother continued. "All I've sacrificed!" She paused, staring all the while into Julie's eyes. "You," she said at last, "are the single worst thing that's ever happened to me."

As the words filtered into Julie's ears, she felt something shift within her. Somehow, the camel’s back had broken. In an instant, the fear was gone. In its place, rage. The burning need to destroy. "No!" she said in the firmest voice she could manage. This caught her mother off guard, and the older woman nearly stumbled backwards in surprise. Julie continued. "You, Mother, are the single worst thing that's ever happened to me!"

"What?" her mother asked, eyes wide and lips quivering.

Julie stood, noticing for the first time that she was just as tall as her mother. "You," she began, "have done nothing but insult me, abuse me, cut me down, make me cry, hurt me, give me anxiety, and kill my spirit since the day I was born!" Anger burned into her cheeks.

"Julie?" her mother said in almost a whisper.

Julie moved toward her mother, delighting as the woman backed away from her. All the while, she continued to unload. "You think I treat you like garbage? If I do, you deserve it! You are garbage!"

A sudden, swift blow to the side of the face ended Julie's moment of triumph. She staggered backwards, her head spinning, the taste of her own blood swimming on her tongue. "How dare you speak to me that way, you little shit?" her mother demanded. Julie watched as her mother reached down for the biggest shard she could find from the shattered wine glass. "I'll fix your little ass," she said, and she lunged forward.

Julie's reflexes were quick. She turned and ran, clearing the stairs in almost a single motion. Behind her, the sound of her mother drunkenly clunking along propelled her further. At last, her bedroom door was in sight. She raced into the dark room and slammed the door behind her. Feeling safe at last, she pressed her back to the door and slid down, taking a moment to breathe as her mother caught up to her and began pounding on the other side.

It was Julie's heart that began to pound next as an unnerving sight met her eyes. She had forgotten until now about the strange formation in the corner of her ceiling, and yet here it was once again. This time, however, it was moving. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness of her room, she watched the thing wriggle and shake. It seemed to be... growing?

Julie sat paralyzed, gripping the carpet beneath her as the anomaly morphed and changed. The first thing to solidify was a face. It grinned at her menacingly, flashing its rows of dagger-like teeth. Arms came next, long and spindly, which it used to pull the rest of itself into existence. To Julie, it was as if she were watching her bedroom corner give birth to this horrible beast which now stood fully exposed. It was seven feet tall at least with an unnaturally large head and arms that stretched from its shoulders all the way down to the floor. Its sickening grin grew ever wider as it crept toward her.

Thinking her mother's punishment infinitely preferable to whatever this beast had in store for her, Julie leaped to her feet and threw the door open. Her mother nearly fell into the room, but the frightened girl pushed past her and fell to her knees in the hallway.

"What the fuck?" her mother cried out.

"We have to get out of here!" Julie screamed.

"Don't be stupid," her mother said. "What's the matter with you?" She turned and peered into the dark bedroom.

"Don't go in there!" Julie cried. "Please!"

"Why?" her mother asked. "Are you hiding---"

She never finished her sentence. The creature's long arms wrapped around her and pulled her into the room. Julie's screams mixed with her mother's. Her head became light. The hallway began to spin. At last, her vision faded to black.

***

Sunlight flooded Julie's bedroom, running its beams lightly across her face. Gently, her eyes fluttered open. The warm breeze felt sweet against her skin, but a vague anxiety sat heavily in her chest. Slowly, the memory of the night before trickled back into her consciousness. Panic seized her afresh as she remembered the hideous monster that had pulled itself into her room. Her instinct to run kicked in. She threw the covers off of her body and swung her feet over the side of the bed.

As soon as her toes hit the floor, they met with a disgusting squish. It was then that Julie surveyed the room in full. Strewn about, covering every exposed surface, were the mangled, splattered, and tossed remains of her mother. Julie let a scream escape her lungs as the full weight of the scene hit her. The bile rose in her throat as she realized that, not only had her mother been killed, but she didn't remember tucking herself into bed or opening the window.

Shaking, she looked up into the corner of her room. Nothing was there.



Written by Jdeschene
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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