The light was blinding. It struck her as she awoke, white and burning. As quickly as her eyes opened they were screwed shut, Cindy’s arms flailing to cover her face.

After a few seconds of self-pity, she blinked her eyes open again. Slowly her retinas started to adjust, growing accustomed to the overly aggressive light.

And then she realised she was in some kind of fucking field. With grass stretching out all around her, a forest growing to her left and an unrealistically beautiful field to the right and- was that a house? Yes. Yes, it most definitely was.

She stared at it. Stared at its white walls, its windows which only reflected the outside, its somehow unsettling… aura. Was that even a thing? In any case, something was off. It didn’t look right, Cindy could feel it. It was mesmerising, and somehow knew she shouldn’t look at it because it was wrong. Deep in her core, she knew this wasn’t--

… wasn’t a place where she should be afraid. No, this was a wonderful place. She was safe… But she did have an awful lot of questions about how she got here, didn’t she? She’d just been somewhere else. Where that was didn’t matter, but she wanted to get back to her friends or family or whoever else she cared about. Yes, that was it. In that house there were people who could help her.

All she had to do was knock. Simple.

It barely registered to her that she was walking toward the beautiful, safe and warm house. She was on autopilot, she didn’t have control over her own body - but it didn’t matter. She was on her way to find help, after all.

Her hand formed a loose fist (though calling it a ‘fist’ was being generous, her fingers had just curled) and she knocked twice. Didn’t she usually knock in a seven-beat tune? No. No, she’d always knocked twice like this.

Nobody answered. She stared and stared at the wooden door, memorising every small rough patch in its handiwork. There were a few splinters that stuck out, but they seemed out of place. Darker and almost ominous - but that was ridiculous. Some goddamned pair of splinters couldn’t be ‘ominous’.

“Hello?” Her voice was strangely detached. While, yes, she had meant to say them, they didn’t seem to be hers. It wasn’t… out of the ordinary. This was normal. This was fine, and she would soon be safe. Since nobody answered, maybe she could step inside? She just had to open the door and take two small steps. Easy.

Her hand clasped the rough doorknob, the gold paint chipping off. Strange, but- no, no, it wasn’t strange at all. She twisted the knob, and stepped inside without even looking in first.

It was dark, but that was fine. Nothing to worry about. She had nothing to worry about-

The door smacked closed behind her, and it was like she was startled awake. The fog in her mind cleared, and she spun on her heels (which she only now realised were clad with her lovingly named sleepy-slippers, which was very odd. Or maybe not, considering the situation she was in).

It was dark, god so dark and she could barely see. But she could at least make some shapes out - the most important being the door that had closed on its own.

She grabbed the knob again, twisting it and it didn’t work. It didn’t fucking work.

Frantically, she began to pull and push and screw it around but nothing managed to get it to open.

She was stuck. She couldn’t get out.

Her anxiety clawed at her. And was the room getting smaller, by the way? It seemed like it. It was so dark, so, so dark and so quiet. So quiet it was deafening.

She forced herself to take deep breaths, inhaling the dusty and somewhat damp air. Now wasn’t the time to have a panic attack, she couldn’t do that when she needed to find a way out. Swallowing thickly, as if that would wash down the fear and hopelessness, she shakily started to walk further into the darkness, like the classic dumb blonde in a horror movie (even though her hair was brown, but that didn’t actually matter). 

There were low thuds as she walked, accompanied by only the creaking of the wooden floor. Her eyes had started to adjust to the darkness now, and she almost wished they hadn’t. The walls were moldy, broken in some places to leave gaping black holes. There were only a few patches of semi-white paint, as if someone had tried to hide the wallpaper underneath before the whole godforsaken house started to crumble. The floorboards were uneven, sticking out and had she been barefoot, there would be about a thousand wooden needles in her feet by now. She hated the air. It didn’t seem to have enough oxygen in it, and it was cold and she could almost feel a layer of grime coating her lungs.

At least she was dressed comfortably. In her pyjamas. Because that was normal, and didn’t at all freak her out even more than she already was. There was obviously a totally rational explanation, like getting kidnapped while she slept and waking up to be hypnotized. Totally made sense.

The hallways were like a labyrinth. Twisting and turning, and she was either walking in circles or the house's corridor didn’t have an end. She hated how quiet it was, at the same time as she thanked heaven for it. While she absolutely despised when there was no sound, because being so alone meant she had only herself for company, she was also thankful as that meant no one was nearby. No one could get her.

But, of course, the silence didn’t last.

After an eternity of walking, after an eternity of pushing back the panic, after an eternity of asking the universe why she of all people deserved this; she wasn’t alone.

A series of quick footsteps thudded behind her, sounding almost bug-like. Cindy was fairly sure it wasn’t supposed to be physically possible to turn around as quick as she did, but there was absolutely nothing behind her.

The hallway was empty. There was only her, and the stained walls which lightly echoed whenever she moved. She couldn’t hear anymore footsteps, as though whatever moved had disappeared the moment she turned her eyes toward it.

Fear crawled up her spine, settling deep in her gut as a cold sweat broke through her. She’d at least seen enough horror films to know not to call out a ‘hello’, so she just stared for a few moments.

But she had to keep on moving. She wasn’t alone, she knew that now, and if she didn’t get out this would without a doubt end in the same way any scary story did. She could ponder just what the hell had happened when she was safe, because she was going to be safe. There simply was no other option. She didn’t allow there to be another option.

Her steps quickened. The sound her slippers made seemed so loud in comparison to the stillness of the house, so much so that they might as well have been replaced by a pack of barking dogs. The only comfort, however small, was that there were no more sounds than those she herself made.

Then, there was light. Streaks of it filtering into the dark hallways, particles of dust floating in its beams. A flicker of hope shot through her, and she darted straight toward it.

There was a window. Covered in dust, so filthy you couldn’t see through it, with white cracks covering it like a spiderweb. The wooden frame around it looked fragile, as though it was built a hundred years ago and had weathered far too many storms. While getting shards of glass inside her wasn’t exactly something she wanted, it was preferable to staying where she was. Especially since there may or may not be a scary bug-creature with her.

She stepped up to it, preparing to crash her bare hand through the glass. Fuck, it was going to hurt, but Cindy had been through worse. She braced herself, fist just about to throw a punch when a face that wasn’t her own reflected on the dirty surface.

A yelp of alarm tore itself out of her and she practically fell backward. In the brief second she looked at it, she took in far more detail than she could have ever asked for.

Whatever the thing was, it was without a doubt non-human. The colours were muddled by the dust on the glass, but she knew without a doubt that its eyes, or rather lack thereof, were just two large holes. Completely empty and soulless, ready to suck the life out of anything it could. It had a large, gaping mouth that resembled a wicked smile, stretching from one side of its face to the other with rows of yellowing teeth. Too many rows to count, and they were all sharp enough to maul even an animal with the thickest of hides without problem. It was almost like a sick, twisted version of a cat or a dog with how two ears stuck up on the top of its head. The structure of its face vaguely resembled that of a wolf, or maybe a lynx, she wasn’t sure, but in either way it terrified her.

But, as she landed on the broken and uneven floor, the face was already gone. She frantically looked around, the thing memorised in her head without any missing details; and she wished she could forget it. The wretched thing would without a doubt plague her dreams for the rest of her life.

However, she was alone. There were no creatures lurking in the shadows, no horrific faces peering out of the holes in the walls - so where did the sensation of being watched come from?

Hands shaking, she forced herself to get back up. She briefly considered going through with the plan of breaking the glass despite what had just happened, but something was screaming at her not to do it, don’t do it, just don’t do it. You’ll die.

It was irrational. She knew it was, yet she couldn’t force herself to break the window however much she tried to.

She started walking further in again, praying to a god she didn’t believe in that she’d make it out alive.

This time, she wasn’t alone for long.

A sticky, cold and wet substance spilled onto her bare neck, getting another yelp out of her as it met her skin. She swiped a hand at whatever the fuck it was, looking at her fingers as she drew them back from behind her head. They were covered in some black goop, with small yellow drops mixed in. She nearly heaved in disgust.

Another drop hit her, this time right in the crown of her hair. Finally gaining access to her last brain cell, she looked up to see what the hell the source of the grime was.

She was met by the very same face from the window, mouth gaping and eye-holes wide with glee. Its mangy, almost skeletal body clung to the ceiling with its claws which bore into the wood. She could see its ribcage through its grey, leathery skin. There were a few maggots crawling in a hole on its hind leg, and she swore to god that was the grossest thing she’d ever seen. The black goop that had dripped down on her came from its mouth, like some kind of weird drool.

It was silent. Not a sound left it as it silently stared right back at her.

Cindy didn’t know what to do. If she made a dash for it, maybe she could outrun whatever this thing was?

Then came the horrifying realisation that she couldn’t. move.

She was frozen, like her feet were glued to the ground and her limbs had locked themselves in place. The creature unblinkingly twitched its head, its mouth closing. She was fairly sure it shouldn’t be possible for a mouth to go from that big to so small. It almost looked cute, if you ignored the rest of its body and gave it a pair of eyes. A weird thought to have in this situation, but Cindy had never been the best at coping with whatever shit she’d gotten herself into.

It lifted one of its feet out of the wood of the ceiling, a few scraps of it falling out in the process. Some pieces hit her, but it wasn’t even something she realised. 

Then there were more of the sticky, bug-like steps. More creatures, just like this one, in different sizes - some small and scrawny which had without a doubt never eaten, some large and looking as though they’d had access to at least some food, and some who didn’t even look like the others (one with ten spider-like legs, one whose skull was showing, and some more odd mutated version of whatever these things were) - crawled closer, and the anticipation in the air was choking her. They almost looked like shadows. Incredibly sinister shadows ready to pounce and kill.

She wasn’t coming out of this alive.

Just as this thought came to her, the creatures sprung all at once. Almost like they were some kind of hive-mind.

A scream ripped its way out of her as teeth sunk into her. She uselessly flailed her arms and struggled against them, but if anything it just made it worse. The pain was unbearable, too much. Her leg was severed off her, and the howl of pain she sobbed out snapped her vocal cords - she could literally feel them tearing. She couldn’t see anything through the mass of bodies climbing over her, all greedily trying to get a bite of her flesh. Blood gushed out from wherever the hell they tore out chunks of her, she couldn’t tell anymore where any wound was. There were no thoughts in her head, all blocked out by the sickening sounds of bones cracking, muscle being shredded to pieces and her own blood-curdling wails.

One of the creatures bit into her neck, which she almost wanted to thank it for at this point, and everything went dark.

It was blissfully silent once again, and there were no shadows ready to kill her anymore.

But then there was hunger. So, so much hunger. It clawed inside her and it tore her insides out. If she’d thought the creatures eating her alive was bad, this was hell. This wasn’t what she wanted. She had to satisfy the hunger, she had to eat and get rid of this throbbing ache.

Her claws dug into the old wood beneath her, and she let out a screech of agitation. This was torture. This was so horrible, she had to eat. She was so hungry. Anything would do. Maybe she could eat some of the walls? It wasn’t exactly good food, not by any means, but maybe it could remove the agonizing craving for at least a little while?

She then felt it. Another Dreamer had entered their realm, and this was a strong one. It had so much energy, so much potential pain-relief. She had to get her here. She had to, she had to, she had to.

The shadow crawled into the walls, stepping on her fellow friends. They didn’t care, knowing very well she had to hide amongst them. None of them had names anymore, but those were unimportant when you were a part of something as big as this. Their only goal now was to get whoever this new soul was inside, and then the next one and the one after that. What was important was to end their endless starvation. All of them were equals and no ones hunger were more important than the others.

Sure, they could go outside and attempt to eat some of the creatures outside - but they weren’t energizing. It took more of their vitality than it gave to leave the house. The only occasions that had them going out were if more humans walked nearby. The thought made her excited; more food, food, food, food.

And now, there was a real feast outside. All they had to do was to get it inside, inside, inside… 

You’re safe. Come inside the house, they can help you…

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