When sleep finally took her, it was as if she were not merely dreaming, but had been transported to some other place and now lay, still awake, in a different bed in a different house, waiting for something to happen. The room was empty, the floor bare, the window tacked with newspaper from which moonlight cut across the room through a tear, dust swirling in its beam. There was no longer a skylight above her head, but a jagged hole over which plastic had been stapled, that bulged slowly in and out with the whistling of the wind outside, as if the house itself were breathing. She knew, somehow, that something was going to happen, something horrifying. She couldn’t leave the bed; she was frozen in place; she knew there was no escape. It was dark, and cold, and windy outside, but whatever came for her, would come from inside.
The quilt that lay over her was the same as from her uncle’s house, but had somehow become scuffed and threadbare, thin and creased like tissue paper. Her body lay beneath it like a tiny wilted flower. The hole in the ceiling began to breathe more heavily, crumpling in and out. The cat tucked at her feet, sleeping soundly and unaware.
From far below--how big was this house?--she heard a crash, something large and ungainly moved about. It had to drag itself, running into things, whatever it was, making a great deal of noise. It scuttled through doorways and up stairs, moving slowly, climbing the house to where Kate lay frozen in bed. The sounds it made grew closer, ascending stairways, coming up, level after level.
Kate willed her legs to move, but they remained motionless, as useless as planks of wood. The ceiling was breathing more and more rapidly--excitedly. The thing below her was scratching walls and snapping banisters. The room was growing hotter and hotter, as if tied to the proximity of the approaching thing. The air was thick and wet. She could feel the floor, the walls, the house trembling and creaking.
Then the thing began to thump up the final set of stairs.
Kate’s entire body seemed covered in sweat and she was terrified this wasn’t a dream--how could she be sure? If she knew it were a only dream, all she had to do was to wait for the end, that moment when something jumped out at her and she woke up screaming. If it wasn’t a dream...
She tried to move her legs again.
If she was awake, the thing crossing the hallway and coming up to the room was going to get her.
She heard it more clearly now, rasping heavily. It was on the other side of the door. She knew it was massive, writhing and black. It pushed against the door, making it bulge and the hinges creak. The ceiling hyperventilated. Kate lay with her body still motionless and her head turned to watch the door, eyes wide, chest blazing with fear.
But the door did not splinter and burst, but opened slowly, as if from a subtle breath. It was dark beyond--blacker than shadow. Muggy warmth spilled into the room like a roiling fog. A figure stepped forward, then another. They stood with their faces obscured, looking at her. This is no dream, she thought. This is really happening.
“We knew this would happen when we took you in.”
It was her mom and dad, but their voices were raw and scraped.
“Now we wander...wander in the dark...and in the cold...”
Behind them, the darkness churned.
“You killed us, bitch. You filthy little bitch!”
Kate began to scream.