Regardless of my misgivings at the start of dinner, Scott follows me back to my place for some coffee “and dessert?” he had asked (even though we’d split a slice of chocolate cake at the restaurant). I set the coffee pot up and returned to sit with him on my beige couch, placing my hand on his thigh as he rested his arm on the back of the couch, behind me.
“So,” he paused and looked at me slyly, “You thinkin’ tonight might be the night we break the no sleep-over rule? You said at dinner that’s it’s been a little while since you’ve had one of your nightmares and, seriously, nothin’ scares me.”
“They’re not nightmares, they’re night terrors.” I corrected him, “Two totally different things. Like the difference between a Mustang and a Ferrari. And, I don’t know, after the day I’ve had, I probably wouldn’t mind the company, if you’re sure it doesn’t weird you out too much.”
“Nah, babe, I can handle it,” he said as he slid his free hand from my knee and slowly up my thigh. Leaning in for a kiss, he whispered, “’Sides, what’s the worst that can happen?” Famous last words, I thought, but let myself become a sort-of willing spectator to the mildly boring, and surprisingly quick, event that was known as ‘having sex with Scott’.
What seemed like an eternity but was probably only really about half an hour of sports commentary (Scott’s idea of pillow-talk), he finally seemed ready to just shut up and go to sleep. His breathing started to deepen and even out between the occasional murmur of a draft pick. Realizing he was nodding off, he leans over and gives me a quick peck on the forehead. I’m going to have to end it. Probably tomorrow, even. There’s no way I can listen to this at night for the rest of my life. I’d rather be alone with my ghosts than hear ‘Whaddup’ whenever I walk into a room.
Having made my decision and worked out just how I would do it and tell him it was over, I allowed myself to relax and prepared to drift comfortably into sleep. We had left the living room light on, in our haste to get to the bed, but I didn’t mind and didn’t want to shut it off. Besides, it was already passed eleven and I was looking forward to a nice, long night of sleep. I pull my blanket up to my chin and roll to face the outside of bed. One ear closed by my pillow, the sound of Scott’s gurgling snore is just deadened enough that I think it won’t bother me. One last glimpse of the illuminated living room through my doorway and I close my eyes, god what a day.
I get this uncanny feeling, as if I’ve forgotten something, but can’t quite put my finger on it. There’s nothing I can think of. But then, as I’m resolving that it was just a fluke thought, this creepy feeling, like you’re being watched, descends upon me. All of the tiny hairs on my body are standing up and pointing, as if to say, “There, at the end of the bed, in the room!” I point my eyes, still closed, in their sockets toward the end of the bed, as if the sound of them moving, once opened, will alert someone to my position.
Slowly, I open my eyes but all I see is a wispy darkness at the end of the bed, as if the pixels that make up a shadow were all playing leap-frog with one another. This doesn’t make sense because my brain is registering the light from the open door but the light just bends around the shadow, unperturbed. I blink and try to focus my eyes on what exactly I’m seeing and the dark shadow begins to move. It sort of unfolds slowly upward from the end of the bed, billowing on the edges like a tattered cloak. It grows and moves as if the darkness in its mass were waves of water or cigarette smoke, gently rolling side to side and up and down. My breath catches in my throat; the scream fills my chest but waits there, held captive until the certainty of no escape from the phantom has been accepted. My brain kicks into overdrive, as if sending more voltage to my eyes, as if in the hopes that they may become powerful enough to finally make sense of this dark, cloaked mass. They begin to burn from the unblinking watch.
The shadow continues rolling higher, as if building itself up from a black steam being spewed forth at it’s feet, now at least seven feet in height and two or three feet wide, I see the building upward of the black steam has almost stopped but the noxious lapping of the moving waves within its breast continue. Once it reaches the full seven feet, the tattered cloak of teeming darkness begins to bend and inch forward until it’s hovering in the air, draining the oxygen beneath it and replacing it with a heavy, vacuum feeling. It has no visible legs or feet but I can see that there is an ‘end’ to ‘it’, the end doesn’t stay solid, just sort of ebbs and flows as if reality couldn’t paint it’s line quite straight. Every inch the end lifts higher, my brain screams, the top reaches closer to me. I look slowly back up, over the body and tattered edges, toward the top of the billowing shadow figure but, with a morbid knowledge that it’s too late to escape, I see that there is now a head. A black and ashy skull, with burnt remnants of flesh still clinging in tiny patches, stares down at me with absolute darkness in the pits of each eye socket, and the hideous mouth begins to open.
I let my scream out with the sheer, petrified horror of knowing that this sound will be the last that anyone will ever again hear me make.