Rayne was nearly asleep when she heard it. A voice, loud and urgent, entoning desperately, " This is it... this is the night you're going to die..."1
Rayne's eyes that only a moment before had been so tired and heavy, closing slowly as her mind began its slow descent into the oblivion of sleep, instantly flew open, and she sat up quickly, eyes darting around the room as if to seek out the source of the voice. Exactly why she did this, she could not explain, for she knew already that there was no one in the room, no reasonable explanation for the words. For the voice had not been spoken by an outside source- it had come from inside her own mind.
Rayne's fingers tightened nervously around her blanket, and she was aware of her heart beating faster than it had been before. She did not know what had caused such a thing to flash through her head so suddenly, with no apparent provokation, and of all times, just as she was drifting off to sleep.
She tried to calm herself, to slow her increasingly rapid breathing, to lower her heart rate to an acceptably normal level, telling herself that there was no reason to become so freaked out. It was just one of those weird things that happened every now and then to everyone, like a brain fart almost. It was weird, all right, certainly a very odd thought to flash thorough your mind at a time when you were so completely relaxed, but it wasn't sinister- it didn't mean anything, Rayne told herself. It certainly wasn't going to come true! There was no reason to be so frightened over such a silly thought.4
But even as she thought this, Rayne knew with clarity that she WAS frightened, she was very frightened... in fact, she was close to terrified.
She slowly lay back down in her bed, squirming around in an effort to relax, to get comfortable once more, but she could not stop her heart's wild knocking in her chest, could not protect herself from the chill of fear that swept over her, could not suppress the icy dread that enclosed itself tightly around her heart... and she could not bring herself to close her eyes once more.
Stop it! she told herself sternly. You're being ridiculous. Why can't you go back to sleep- you know you're not going to die tonight!7
But even as she told herself this, Rayne could not stop thinking of the ominous words that had been entoned inside her head so urgently... and could not help half believing, half dreading that they might come true... even as she told herself to go back to sleep, she was thinking that she could not, that if this were her last night alive, she wanted to be fully alert, ready, when her death came.
She lay there in complete silence, her body rigid and still from her tenseness, eyes open wide as she waited...waited... her fear growing stronger with each moment that passed. She could feel her breath coming faster and faster until she breathed in shallow pants, but she made no sound, doing all she could to keep quiet. Even as she berated herself for her paranoid stupidity, she felt irrational terror overwhelming every pore of her body... she felt as if her room were getting smaller and smaller, the walls moving in slowly, closer and closer toward her, steadily, steadily, and then the ceiling was lowering too- all surrounding her, pushing closer, ready to crush her in her bed.
Horrified, panicking, Rayne closed her eyes tightly, squeezing them shut as she breathed in and out raggedly,her blanket clutched up to her nose. It's ok, she repeated to herself over and over, trying desperately to convince herself of her own words. It's ok, it's ok, it's ok... that's not really happening. It's not real. you're only thinking it is. When you open your eyes again, it will all go away. Everything will be ok, and you can just go to sleep.
Counting to 10 shakily, she steeled herself and opened her eyes once more. She had been right- the walls and ceiling were back in their normal positions, they were no longer closing in on her. But this brought her no relief- for she was now suddenly surrounded by people.
There were dozens of people inside her room now, all crowded around Rayne's small twin bed... men and women, girls and boys, children and teens of all shapes and sizes and races... all strangers, unlike any people Rayne had ever seen before... and all with their eyes fixed upon her...12
Rayne could not look away, could not close her eyes, could not do anything to avoid looking at these strangers clustered together in her small room... her fear froze her so she could barely breathe, hardly think, could not comprehend anything except her terror... it could not be real. None of this could be real, it had to be a dream... but somehow, she knew it was not, she knew she was very much awake.
She noticed then that all the people were suddenly doing something very odd... each person was moving their lips, in a very fast, urgent manner, as though speaking to her, instructing her... but nothing came out of their mouths... no words were spoken, she heard no sounds, and they made none, there was only the soundless moving of their lips.
Eyes widening, face tightening into a contorted semblance of horror, Rayne opened her mouth to scream... but to her growing terror, no sound emerged from her lips. Nothing but silence... she could make no noise, could have no release of her fear, could alert no one to what she was experiencing... she tried once more to scream, and the silence that resulted seemed to mock her petrification.
She tried to move, to thrash in her bed, but found that just as she could not speak, she could not move... her limbs were frozen rigid, she could not control them, could not force them to work... she would not be able to escape...16
As her terror rose, nearly choking her in its intensity, she fought her body's invisible restraints madly, trying wildly to scream, to move, to do something, anything, of her own will... and found that she could not.
And then suddenly the people were moving towards her, advancing slowly, deliberately... their mouths still moving with no noise... she could only watch,heart spasming wildly in her chest, her body icy with dread... her mind circled back to the thought that had first frightened her that night, and she was more sure than ever that she would indeed die tonight.
Then the strangers were upon her, surrounding her on all sides, staring down at her expressionlessly, mouths opening and closing like dummies with no ventriloquist... Rayne tried to scream as she felt their rough hands grabbing her, pulling at her body, brushing up against her... she could not fight them, could only lay helplessly as they loomed over her, hands upon her mindlessly.
" GO AWAY!" she screamed at them hysterically, but no sound exited her mouth. " GO AWAY! LEAVE ME ALONE! GO AWAYYYYY!"20
And yet even as she screamed at them in her mind, even as she wept and whimpered with no tears and no sound, even as the people and the room and the hands and the silence, the terrible, suffocating silence, closed in on her, there was another voice in the back of her mind... a small, flat voice that whispered, " At least you won't die alone tonight..."21