Today’s fiction is brought to you by the fact that I just read a historical fiction book about young Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a little dark. It’s a little creepy. Enjoy. But as always, don’t steal.
There are always shadows in the bedroom. But in the middle of the night, when you wake because of a noise you can’t place in the haze between dreaming and awake, the shadows lengthen and darken. During those times, Emily is always sure she sees something hidden in the shadows. She never mentions it because that’s not the kind of thing an adult woman should admit to seeing in her bedroom. She doesn’t mention the shape that looks remarkably like a crouched figure of a human right there in the corner by the closet. She doesn’t mention the fact that her heartbeat speeds up and she could feel the sweat break out over her skin. Doesn’t mention that she had to close her eyes tight, hold her breath, and slowly count to ten. Doesn’t mention that, eventually, when she does fall back asleep she has awful dreams.
Tonight, Emily can almost remember the noise that yanked her from her dreams. She has a hazy memory of a pig-like grunt. She didn’t want to look over at the corner, not at first. Because a part of her was sure she’d see something. But she had to pee. A side-effect of having children turns out to be that her bladder is much smaller than it used to be. Now, whenever she wakes up at night she takes advantage of that time awake to use the restroom. So, she hesitantly checked the corner and was relieved when she found nothing there except for the normal shadows of the desk and the little banker’s lamp.
She uses the bathroom in the hallway without turning on any lights. The full moon is reflecting through the door she leaves ajar and onto the mirror on the wall. It provides enough light for her to see everything that needs to be seen. Muscle memory finds her the handles to the sink, soap, and a towel to dry her hands. By the time she’s crossing the threshold to her room, yawn already poised on her lips, she’s completely forgotten about the noise. Which is why it is surprising that her body halts right at the doorway as though unwilling to cross into the room.
She holds her breath, not sure what makes her do it. Her eyes travel on their own, around the corners of the room, taking inventory of the shadows. Already she’s embarrassed to catch herself checking the room like a teenager. She tries to shake her head, but her eyes continue their route around the room.
She takes one step forward, battling with her own body and nerves, toward the bed. Then she freezes again. This time the paralysis is more extreme, more deep seated. She feels the cold start in the pit of her stomach. She feels the hairs rise on her arms and her neck. The cold sweat starts on her brow. She cannot bring herself to turn and run. She cannot bring herself to take another step. So she stands there, frozen in the doorway to her own bedroom, and stares at the hunched shadow next to her bed. The one that was certainly not there before.