“Coming to bed soon, babe?” He asks me, as he stands behind me at my desk. His warm, warm hands caress my head, my neck, shoulders. His strong fingers stroke the sides of my throat before he rests his palms on my shoulders.
“Ummm…” I reply as I continue to type, to finish that one thought. I take my hands off the keyboard and place them over his. Looking up and back at him, I smile, “Feels good, sweetie.”
“It’s supposed to.” He smiles tiredly. “See you upstairs?”
“After I finish this scene. I’m in the thick of it now.”
He sighs. “Sure, sure. Not too late, okay? It’s your turn to get up with the kids tomorrow.”
“I know, I know. I’ll be up within the hour.” I tilt my head up to his, and kiss him softly, “It’s your sleep-in Saturday.”
“Mmm-hmm… Yeah, right. Little Miss Writes-a-lot. Goodnight.” He gives me another quick peck on the lips and then heads upstairs. “Make sure the doors are locked and the alarm is set…” He calls down.
“Will do.” I call up.
I listen until the creaks from the floor above go quiet, and I’m finally alone with my work. The house is dark except for the glow of my screen, quiet except for the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard.
Ten minutes later, twenty, thirty, maybe, I sit up straight, shake out my hands, and crack my knuckles. Done for the night.
I sigh contentedly and click the save icon. While the program shuts down, I’m stretching my back, and thinking longingly of my blanket and pillows waiting for me upstairs.
I see something, a flash of movement behind me reflected in the monitor screen.
My heart skips a beat.
I spin, jerkily, in my seat.
Nothing but the darkened kitchen behind me.
The window shade is open. Must’ve been a bird or something outside.
Yeah, must’ve. My heart resumes its normal rhythm.
I click on shut down, and gather up my cell phone and wine glass and head to the kitchen.
I hear the tink-tink-tink Tink tones of my PC going off.
I turn on my heels back towards my desk.
Just the darkening computer and my usually messy menagerie of books, scraps of paper, phone chargers, and a couple of jar candles.
I pause for a beat before going to the sink to deposit my empty glass. It catches the edge of a dirty spoon abandoned in the deep porcelain basin and tips over with a clank.
My whole body starts at the seemingly loud sound in my quiet, sleeping house.
I shake my head and smile. This is what I get for trying to write a horror novel, I think to myself. Still, I turn on every light on the way to the bathroom, feeling quite ridiculous nonetheless.
I continue to feel silly as I pull off my sweat pants and tee-shirt, toss them in the laundry basket, and pull my nightshirt from the hook on the door- all while avoiding looking in the mirror. To test my bravery, I turn towards the bathroom vanity, and watch myself pull on my jammies in the mirror. Reflection all normal, see? Just me, the shower curtain, and the towel rack.
Scrape, shuffle, taptaptap.
The sound is coming from the other side of the closed door.
I go still, eyes locked on the door, but the sound doesn’t repeat.
I convince myself it was the wind outside or the house settling. I take a few deep breaths, give my reflection a crooked smile, and continue my night time routine.
Teeth brushed and flossed, eyes slathered in wrinkle cream, and still rubbing the excess hand lotion on my dry elbows, I am walking towards the staircase, shutting off lights as I go.
Shuffle, scrape, shuffle. Sigh.
I see its shadow cast across the floor, in the moonlight coming through the kitchen window.
I stop in the doorway. Frozen in place. One foot on the cold tile of the kitchen floor, one on the dining room carpet. My eyes still adjusting in the dark, I still clearly see the shadow moving, a figure coming closer to where I stand. I cannot lift my head up, I will not.
My skin has gone cold, tingly, alive and aware. Danger. I feel my heart pounding in my throat, hear it in my ears. My mouth goes dry. The shadow comes closer. I have to look up, I know this, but I can’t move a muscle. I am stone.
It’s so close now that all there is is shadow before me on the tiles. So close that I should hear its breath, but I don’t.
“Look.” She speaks.
I’ve begun to tremble, my entire self vibrating with tension. With concentrated effort, I stiffly lift my head, my eyes meet hers. Shocking blue. Wine red hair. Skin so pale, translucent. The breath I didn’t even realize I was holding comes out in shaky puffs.
“You…” I exhale and now my breath has quickened to shattering gasps.
A wide wicked smile parts her pale, full lips to reveal glistening fangs.
The last sensation I feel before darkness pulls me under is the burning, piercing pricks on my throat.