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The door closes, my mom's footsteps fade out soon after as she heads downstairs and I'm alone in the dark again. I know I shouldn't be scared, I know it; I am a big boy now after all. And yet I just can't close my eyes. The sleep refuses to take me. I listen and I listen in the dark, but there's only silence now. Except the rain, of course - I hear it, pitter-pattering on the window. Usually the sound is calming; I've always loved the sound of rain just as I love the smell it leaves behind. It makes me feel all warm and happy inside.

Not tonight. Tonight the sound feels different. Like something is scratching the window, again and again as if it - whatever it is - is trying to dig up a hole in the glass. The sound is unnerving, makes me look at the window constantly and each time I glance at it, I half-expect to see something standing outside - despite the fact that my room is on the second floor - a shadow with crooked limbs and no face, scratching and tapping on the window. There's nothing, of course. Monsters aren't real. Everyone knows that!

Monsters aren't real. Yes, there are bad people in the world: people that do terrible things to others... but the monsters - the real ones; the ones with sharp teeth and wicked claws and fiery eyes... these monsters are made up just to scare the little kids. And I am not a little kid anymore, right? Of course not! I'm a big boy!

But the rain outside sounds so wrong tonight. And there are other sounds too - creaking and crackle and squeaking. "The house is old and these are the sounds old houses make", Dad explained to me once and I remembered that. For a while these words used to calm me. But why all of this sounds so... weird tonight? Old house, I whisper to myself. That's what the old houses sound like. Mom and Dad are downstairs, you are not alone. There are no monsters and you know that!

It takes me a while until I finally manage to calm myself down enough to relax and close my eyes. I can't wait to just fall asleep and wake up in the morning, leaving the night behind. Oh, how I will laugh tomorrow when I think about tonight! Haha, why I was so scared of some old hose noises and a little rain? What am I - a baby?! It'll be so fun to think about it.

And then I hear it.

A sound. Very different sound. My eyes are wide open now, when I realise what the sound is. Crawling. Like how the babies crawl before they learn to walk. After a little bit of silence, the crawling noise starts again. And it's coming from under my bed.

I'm petrified. My heart beats so fast I feel like it'll tear my chest open. I want to scream for Mom and Dad, but my throat is suddenly very dry and I cannot do anything. I feel warmth down there and realise that I've just peed myself. I have no time to think about that, however, because at this same moment the thing under my bed crawls in the open and rises up.

I look at it, terrified, as it unfolds itself in front of me. Something tall and pale, its head round at featureless, but its eyes are big and human-like. I stare and I want to scream again, but no sound leaves my lips. I try to move, to run, to do anything, when the thing suddenly tries to climb on the bed with me, but my body doesn't listen to me.

It wraps its long arms around me in a hug and I'm sure I'll die in this very moment. The thing will tear me apart right here and I cannot even call for my parents to come and save me. A little part of me creams that this is just a nightmare - it all happens so fast that all of this must not be real; it has to be a nightmare. But the creatures touch - just like my utter terror - feels more than real.

It... doesn't tear me apart. Instead it pulls me closer, hugging me. Its touch is warm and surprisingly gentle. It cuddles me and holds me tight and under all my terror, I suddenly realise that the monster is trembling. As if it feels cold.

And then it speaks and the voice that comes from it too different from what I expect. It's dry, but warm and so sorrowful that despite my fear I suddenly feel sad.

"I'm sorry", it says and hugs me tight again. "I tried. I pleaded and pleaded, but I can't do anything to save them."

Save who? I think that, but I can't ask the question; there's no breath enough in me for that. But I find the answer almost immediately.

I hear the screams from downstairs. Mom! Dad! Screams and cries and wailing so loud they sound like they are coming from the other room. The monster cover my ears with its hands. "Shhh," it says. "It'll all be over soon." And then, again: "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

After what feels like an eternity it takes its hands from my ears. The house is silent now. The only sound is the sound of the rain. And then - footsteps. Coming up the stairs. Slow steps. Uneven. Inhuman. When I look at the monsters face I see its eyes at this moment. They are wide-open. Horrified.

It pulls me towards its body even tighter, wrapping its arms around me and hunching over me as if to protect me. "No", it whispers. "No, that shouldn't happen. Liars!". The steps are getting closer now. Then, right in front of the door, they stop. And then other steps join them. At least a few... things... are now gathered in front of my room. I can sense them. Mom, I think. Dad. But they are gone now. Gone and I have no time to feel anything but fear. I hear... whispers from outside. Voices so alien and old and evil that I pee myself for a second time, but the monster that's hugging me doesn't seem to mind.

"Make no sound if you want to live", the monster under my bed says to me in a bit. "The Hollow Ones are here."

And then the door slowly, oh, so very slowly, opens and the things standing outside, enter the room, one by one.

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