Does it scare you, going to bed all alone in the dark? Do you wonder whether it's the house settling or someone walking, even when you know everyone is in bed? Your Mommy always told you that there's no such thing as monsters, but you know, like every child knows, that the grownups are wrong. Oh, you know, little girl, you know.

The hallway seemed neverending. The floor flew by beneath her. Her legs appeared and disappeared beneath her, peach colored blurs protruding occasionally from beneath her black Sunday skirt. She studied them, not looking up because she knew, knew absolutely that she was not getting any closer to the door.

Behind her, something slammed - something heavy. She choked on a scream and tried to pick up the pace, but she couldn't run any faster. She squeezed her eyes shut. If she could just make it to the door - the door-

She forced her eyes open and checked her progress. The huge, carved double-door set in front of her was still so small that if she reached her hands toward it then it would be covered. She whimpered pitifully. How long had it been? How could she not be any closer?

Something thumped behind her again, closer this time. Her heart skipped. There was someone there. But who? Hadn't she been alone? How had someone managed to creep up on her so quickly? And WHY WASN'T SHE MOVING?!?

There was another thump. The vibrations from this one shook her legs. It was right behind her, and she would never get away, there wasn't enough time, it was with her now -

She screamed.

The years pass slowly, so slowly. The nightmares come and go, sometimes leaving you paralyzed, soaked with your own sweat and tears and sometimes leaving you screaming for reasons that you somehow can't remember. You go months without them sometimes, and you begin to forget how you could be so afraid of sleeping. But they always come back. They'll NEVER really leave you alone.

It was a box. A large cement box. No matter how many times she turned around, no matter which angles she examined, there was no door. How had she gotten in here? She tried to keep clam, but it was hard, so hard. Her neck was craning every which way, eyes darting so fast she was getting dizzy. She sank to her knees weakly. Something was wrong here, something other than the obvious, but she couldn't tell what it was. She forced that nagging feeling to the back of her brain. It probably didn't matter either ways. She crawled weakly across the floor, towards the spot where the light was brightest -

Light?

Suddenly she knew what was wrong. She was in a large cement box with no doors, no windows, and no lightbulb. So how was it that she could still see? It definitely wasn't dark, but how was that possible? She sat up quickly, her terror renewed. There was only one place she hadn't really looked - the corner where she'd first found herself. She whirled around quickly, not sure what it was that she was expecting, but knowing that it was nothing good. At first glance, there was nothing out of the ordinary. The corner was the same as all the others, empty, dark and unevenly lit. She cast a giant, grotesque shadow -

No. That wasn't just her shadow.

THERE WAS SOMEONE BEHIND HER.

She barely had time to blink before the malformation on the wall convulsed, growing darker as it came towards her and she had no time to move -

She screamed.

You think you're too old for this, don't you? You can see that look on your Mother's face while she comforts you, that concern lurking behind every sympathetic smile. Time passes, but nothing ever changes for you. Do you wonder why? Why inside your head, nothing changes?

There's nothing anyone can say to make this better. The shadows on the walls are dancing, writhing above you, and you see them even when no one else does. When the lights flicker in school, you know why. They are near, nearer than they usually are. They never really leave, and in the back of your head you know this. You are never alone, even when everyone thinks you are, even when you should be. And the nightmares are getting more vivid, more terrible. The fuzziness of the lines, the numbness of your body has receded. Now, your nightmares are the same as your waking world.

It looked like a deep black sea. She raised her fingers, stopping just short of touching the mirror. The coldness of the glass shot up her fingertips, cramping in her tendons. She wanted to move back, but for some reason she couldn't.

Her eyes travelled slowly over the surface, searching for her own reflection in the deep black and not finding it. The only corner that wasn't obscured was the top right. It was a light, eerie blue. Tendrils of dark smoke twisted across it, thick and languid. She stared, transfixed. What kind of reflection was this? She tried to turn around, but her back seemed to be made of cement. She struggled for a moment before giving up. She focused on the clear corner again, searching for clues to her surroundings. She felt herself relax. It was just so soothing to watch...

Suddenly she realized that something had changed. The corners of the mirror were becoming blue, the darkness compacting into the center. She caught her breath, inexplicably scared. Now she really, really wanted to move, but her back was still stuck. She shut her eyes and began to count backwards from ten slowly, just like her Mother had taught her.

Ten... nine... eight... seven... six... five... four... three... two... one.

She opened her eyes. Nothing had changed, except that the tendrils of smoke in the mirror were moving faster. They moved like snakes, twitching as if they were living beings, dancing to some music she couldn't hear. They grew darker and darker, quicker and quicker, and she could feel her heartbeat increase to the same pace. She stared, unable to look away.

But suddenly there was nothing to at. Two dark slants covered the areas she had just been staring at. What, exactly, had changed...?

Her heart leapt into her throat. All of a sudden she understood. It was a pair of shadows, shadows belonging to living, animate beings, and she knew this because suddenly they were growing, approaching her while she was stuck, not able to scream, not able to do anything.

Two huge, freezing hands grabbed either of her arms.

You know them, know what they are, know where they hide. You know they like chasing you, like tormenting you. You know that everyone else can't see them, and you know that they're only dreams, but you also know that they're more than that. For the sake of staying sane, you fake dumb. It's too horrible of a truth to imagine. You try to live a normal life. You go to school, you make friends, you argue with your parents. You live just like all the other girls your age. You pretend that your problem isn't getting worse, that the nightmares aren't multiplying in frequency and viciousness. But that doesn't fix you. Oh, no. Nothing can fix you.

Something above her fell. She crouched down, breaking her gaze on the dark, carved double doors ahead of her for only a second. She held her breath and waited to see if anything else would fall. When she decided that she had waited long enough, she stood and began to run. There were lights ahead of her, several pools of them that had no source. She used them to judge her distance. It took her her till the count of twelve to reach the first of them, and she counted twelve pools in total. Twelve times twelve was 144 seconds. If she kept going at the same pace, it would be a little over two minutes before she reached the door. If only she knew how much time she had before -

Before what?

She didn't know, but she had a feeling that it would be bad. She tried to keep focusing on the motion of running. Around her, unfamiliar shadows flickered across the walls, strange, tendril - like shapes. Something fell behind her, but she didn't dare look back. She tried to pick up her pace, but she was already running too fast. There were only ten more lights ahead of her. 120 seconds left. How much longer before she was caught?

Another crash behind, this one much closer than the last, answered her question. She gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut. Only nine more puddles to go.

Do you ever wonder, why you? Why they chose you? There are so many people in this world. Why are you the only one they torment?

Eight more puddles. The shadows on the wall were moving faster, thrashing about as if they were in pain. She studied them from the corner of her eye, hypnotized. What were those things?

Seven more puddles.

Why do they want you?

She hadn't heard anything behind her for a while now, but she didn't get her hopes up. Whatever was there probably hadn't left. There were only six puddles left. She was so close, closer than she had ever been to her freedom. Maybe if she could just make it out, just this once, maybe - maybe she could finally be alone.

But she was alone. She had always been alone.

So why was it that, even when she was awake, she could always feel someone behind her?

There were four puddles left.

Are you asleep, or are you awake?

It was still quiet, thank god. Hopefully whatever had been moving was far, far behind her. The door was approaching rapildly. There were only three circles of light yet to be cleared. She couldn't quell the hope rising up in her. Maybe this time would be the time she got away. Maybe she could finally be safe.

There were two lights left and no noises. 24 seconds. There was no way whatever had made the noise could catch up to her now. But still, she didn't dare slow down. She had to get out of here. This nightmare had dominated her for far too long. It was past time for this to end.

One circle left.

She wanted to scream, but for once, it wasn't for fear. A fierce, angry joy took hold in her. She felt as if she could fly if she wanted to.

Only about two yards left now. She was practically close enough to lunge for it. She couldn't suppress her smile. She reached out -

And hit something solid.

"You didn't think we'd let you win, did you?"

His face was leering, grotesque. His teeth were huge, sharp, and shining white, like enamel knives. He loomed above her, huge and demonic.

She screamed -

And nothing happened.

She was still asleep. How could this be? Screaming had never failed her!

"Mom? Mom!?!"

But did you ever stop to wonder what the difference between a dream and reality is? How do you know when you're awake or when you're asleep?

Two pairs of thick, cold hands latched around her wrists.

"Sorry, sweetie. No one's coming here."

"NOOOO!"

Welcome home. We've waited for you a long, long time.


Author's notes: Gah, so hard! I like this story, but it was rather hard to write. It's All Hallow's Eve, and in keeping with my tradition, I have written a story to honor what is quite possibly the best night of the year! I knew that I was going to write a story, but I changed the prototype about a million times. I had so many things I could have done, and I chose this. It turned out a lot longer than I could have hoped, but I like it. For some reason, I didn't think I would, but when I re-read it, I still thought it was good.

Well, happy and safe Samhain to all! I'm off to eat cake!