She woke drenched in sweat, completely disoriented.
The dark room slowly came into focus, but some parts of it remained murky. It was almost like her eyes refused to get used to certain spaces. She focused on the areas they seemed comfortable with and slowly picked up shapes and colors.
Only, there weren’t a lot of colors to pick up on: just grey, white, or shades of black tinged with blue. Mostly an endless black.
She sat up suddenly. The wet sheets were too white, her mum would never have allowed it. So that meant she wasn’t home.
Was she safe?
The dark and heavy curtains to her right framed a large frosted glass wall. The edges of the curtain blended into the wall so naturally that she couldn’t tell where the walls ended and the curtains began. She couldn’t tell what was behind it either. The mildly dim light was not the yellow of streetlights. What was on the other side of the wall that was so monotonously white?
She was suddenly very aware of the uneasiness that had been creeping up on her from the moment she woke up. Her lips felt dry as sand, dry as the tongue that licked them. Her eyes stung.
She didn’t feel safe. At all.
She willed herself to look to her left. And saw nothing but black. A long corridor of darkness. A darkness that seemed alive and dead at the same time. A shimmering black that seemed to seep into her heart, replacing uneasiness with dread. There had to be a door there. It had to lead outside. She didn’t care what was out there, it had to be better than the dark that was starting to play tricks on her mind.
She took a deep breath and pushed herself to get out of the huge bed. She tried to ignore the feeling of fright that seemed to hold her body in a lock. She didn’t know where she got the courage from. All she knew was that the more time she wasted, the more she would suffer for it.
Her legs felt paralyzed, only her heart raced. She felt the monsters in her imagination take form under the bed. Her panic was giving them time to materialize, to dart out from under the bed and grab her ankles, to pull her away into the unknown. She mustered all the will she could and ran towards the darkness on her left. A darkness that almost felt solid as it embraced her frail figure.
The corridor ended abruptly. There was a door. But she couldn’t see it. She felt it, though. Almost like it was pulsating, promising her relief from this nightmare. She thought she saw the faint outline of a light switch nearby and lunged for it, but her fingers encountered nothing but smooth wall.
She remembered her phone and pulled it out of her back pocket. Her flashlight could help her find the switch. And once bright lights flooded the room, she felt sure her terror would abate. The pressure on her chest would reduce. And things would make sense.
She could feel the phone vibrate in her clammy hands, but she couldn’t see the screen. She shouldn’t have waited to fix the screen. She tried the screen -off gesture for the flashlight. Nothing.
Her body tightened and she turned instinctively. She found herself staring at the bed she had left behind, transfixed.
Her mother was silhouetted against the feeble white glow from the glass wall. There was no mistaking the thick head of curls, the curves of the soft, round body she had snuggled into countless times.
There was also no mistaking the aura of menace that surrounded the figure. The evil that swirled and crashed around it as it stared straight at the opposite wall. She prayed it wouldn’t turn around. She knew she wouldn’t be able to handle it.
It didn’t seem to sense her presence. It was lost in the evil that was coursing around it, spreading, solidifying, swallowing her mother’s figure whole. It looked far away. It felt like she was in a tunnel of darkness. Except there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Only evil and despair in a human shell.
It stared straight ahead, away from her. Chillingly motionless.
She had to stay still. Breathe less. Buy time.
But time seemed to worsen her peril in ways she could feel, but not understand.
Suddenly, she felt lighter. She could sense her mother nearby. They were separated by the door that she couldn’t find. She had to get the lights on somehow. Her mother would see it and come barging in through the door, or even the wall, to get to her. She would bring all the light in the world with her. She would make sense of this nightmare.
Holding her breath, she started her frantic search for the light switch again, only to be met with unrelenting wall. She was sure her desperate fingers had scoured every inch of the wall around the spot where she saw a faint outline of the switch. But she must have felt something by now. If the switch existed.
She felt a low moan escape her throat and felt her hands clawing at the wall in desperation. Pure terror washed over her, flooded her senses. Blocked out sense.
She felt movement to her left. She knew what that meant, but she was too terrified to confirm her fear. In her mind’s eyes, she could see the dark head turning her way, the soulless blackness realizing her presence. Could it think? Was it calculating the odds of her escape, the same way she was? Or did it know that it had all the time in the world to consume her? Did it know that she was trapped?
She felt all restraint disappear and made a frantic break for it. She shouted out for her mother, over and over, louder and louder. She yelled from the depths of her being, long drawn guttural sounds of agony and dread escaping her body. Willing her howls to break through the door and hit her mother’s ears. Reducing her nails into a bloody mess trying to gouge her way out of the darkness.
She mustn’t stop screaming, no matter what. Her keening hurt her ears, but they also drowned out her fear. The strength of her cries gave rise to a new emotion: hope. She would be okay as long as her voice held out. Each new scream meant she was still alive.
She shrieked for her mother long after she felt the darkness closing in on her, pouring into her, choking her. Her defeated wails echoed in her head even after her lungs gave out, even as her heart slowed down. She screamed as her eardrums ruptured, as her thoughts ceased to exist.
She didn’t realize it when the screaming stopped and the rotting began.