Graveyard Shift

It all began when someone left the window open. A cold winter wind crept into the house and shook the curtains, and Sharon stared down at him from the space created by the movement of the drapes. He just stood there, unconcerned with the cold or the wind - his eyes fixated on the house, yet where on the house she couldn't determine. His gaze was solid enough to seemingly pierce the outer walls, yet she couldn't decide what exactly he was looking at, or for. The curtains continuously intercepted them from locking eyes. He wore a fedora with the brim turned down on all sides, adorning a cape that covered his shoulders and the front of his body. His hands at his sides, almost one with his clothing, he looked oddly ordinary; so much so that he looked almost abnormal. Sharon is intrigued, "What is he doing?" she wonders. The wind forces the curtains into her face, and when she looks again, the man has disappeared.
She sat on her bed. Unable to focus on anything but the mysterious man standing in her backyard, she grabbed a coat and stepped outside to investigate. The only light in the yard was that of the house lights and the moon, which trickled through the tree tops and barely illuminated the wooded area that laid only just beyond the house. The snow was only a few inches thick, not very packed, and with each step into the dark cluster of trees, her feet sank mildly into the welcoming clutches of the cold beneath her. The forest felt like a graveyard; the winter snow had destroyed all concept of floral life - leaving the trees as skeletal frames of their former selves. Snow trapped twigs and branches that had fallen to the ground; like bones in a crypt. Creepily shadowed by the thin moon light, the branches looked like the thin, malnourished fingers of an elderly man, outstretched and grasping into the darkness, overshadowing Sharon with every step. The silence was loud, yet like the rest of the forest the air was dead and stagnant with a lack of sound until the branches beneath her feet began to break with each step, causing a snap that would send chills up her spine. Cautiously looking around, Sharon couldn't believe what she was doing. Here she was, in the dead of night, the freezing cold, searching for a prowler. Sharon stopped and began to rub her hands; the numbness robbed them of all feeling, as if the life was being drained out of them by the environment that surrounded her. While doing so, she could swear that in the distance she heard footsteps in the area around her. She couldn't place the location of the sounds, and her attention was quickly diverted to a number of swift movements in the trees above her. Her eyes darted from spot to spot, as what few leaves on the trees fluttered ever so slightly. Her heart began to beat a little quicker, the situation felt ever so eerie. "What am I doing?" she wonders aloud, yet her curiosity killed her reason, and she pressed on.
The sounds seemed to follow her, track her footsteps, but stopping the second she paused to listen. The fluttering of the leaves had escalated to ravens taking flight with her every step. The woods had become thicker now, no longer was she strolling - she was fighting through the bony branches. Her focus shifted from listening to sounds to avoiding low hanging limbs. Once again stopping to rub her hands, she noticed a breathing that was not her own. With a quick motion, she whips her head round to the space behind her to see the cloaked man standing at ease. His head tilted down, with the brim of his hat hiding his face. His cold breath emanated from beneath its cover. Sharon stood, her heart beating out of her chest, racing with every breath the man took. She was frozen with fright, unsure if the man would attack her or..
And with that thought the man fled. Disappearing into the darkness, the sound of him tearing through the forest broke the overbearing silence, yet all the noise became oblivious to Sharon as the sound of her blood pumping in her ears drowned out all other noise . She fell to the ground, sending up a storm of snow that buried her within the cold. Paralyzed by fear, she laid in her shallow tomb. Unable to move, unable to think, completely overtaken by her fear. She could feel herself begin to drift into day dreams of her in her bed, back home, snuggled in a warm blanket. The urgency, however, she felt of escaping drove her to rise and run. Sharon jumped to her feet and begins to sprint home. She fought her way through the bony structures, nothing could have stopped her from reaching her front porch and dead bolting the front door. The wind howled into her ears, the trees were no longer stationary and deceased, but now seemed to be vivid and alive. She stampeded through the brush, the skeletal branches seemingly tore at her with every step.
Finally emerging from the forest, she found herself in her back yard. Comforted by the familiar scenery and the knowledge that it was over, she was home. She paused; put her hands on her knees and bent over gasping for air. Trying to find solace in her calamity, she gazed into the open window of her room. She sighed, and a wave of relief drifted over her. She stumbled to the front porch of her door, and peered into the dark living room. A sharp shiver ran up her spine when she realized that she left the lights on when she left. Opening the door, a blast of frigid air collided with her, drying out her eyes to the point that they began to tear salt. Furiously blinking and rubbing her eyes, she walked into the living room and fumbled for the light switch. Right above the coffee table, she flicked it up. Then down, then up again; the lights wouldn't come on. Her vision had not fully recovered, and was quite blurred, but when she turned her head to the right, towards the whole of the living room, much to her horror she could still very easily make out the distinct shape of the figure in the woods. Her heart did not race, she did not panic. She merely fell to her knees on the hard wooden floor, and looked up at the man as he slowly made his way across the room, and removed his hat.

The hospital room was like any other, white in a monotone sort of way, discolored only by pale green shower curtains that separated one patient from the other. Doctor Rowland stood at the foot of the bed making notations on a medical chart when a nurse walks in with a tray holding numerous small cups with pills in them and a few syringes.. She glances at the woman on the bed, and then looks to the doctor with questioning eyes. "Will she ever recover?" Doctor Rowland doesn't look up from his chart. "I don't know. Comatose patients are very unpredictable. She has been out for quite some time, and we still haven't gotten a hold of any next of kin. She's lucky they managed to pull her out of that car. I hear the eighteen wheeler did quite a number on her little Volkswagen." The nurse just blankly stared at the woman on the bed. "What do you think she's going through Doctor?" Rowland closed the chart and replaced it to it's hanger on the foot of the bed. "A number of comatose patients remember having very vivid dreams. Dreams about loved ones, relatives that were long gone, old friends, people they've never met. Anything from nightmares, to dreams about birthday parties and cake. However this is likely not what happens to everybody." The doctor removed the glasses from his face and hung them on his chest pocket, and walked out. The nurse sighed and began to administer the medicine. Once she was finished, she walked over to the wall opposite that of the door, closed the window, and left.

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