That Night

Chapter 1

The nausea and the smell that seared the insides of her nose almost knocked her off the piano bench. The next thing she knew, the bulb overhead flickered half-heartedly and promptly shattered, raining glass splinters down over her head. A vile stench filled the room. Blood, and rotting flesh. With it came the wave of nausea and a pounding headache that made her vision blur yellow as she stumbled off the bench. The lid of the piano slammed shut, dissonant keys ringing out as she turned. Had she closed it? She couldn't remember. The room lurched and shifted around her as she half crawled into the bathroom, clutching at the sink. She gagged but vomited nothing into the white marble sink. Again and again she dry heaved into the basin until her stomach cramped and she gasped, in between spasms, for air. Weakly, she groaned, looking up at the mirror to see if she looked as horrible as she felt. What she saw made her freeze, a look of pure terror crossing her face. She felt a warm hand on her shoulder.

Behind her in the mirror stood a hooded figure with mottled grey skin and open sores oozing puss all over its face and hands. Its lips were pulled so far back that the mouth looked skeletal—rotting teeth rooted in bleeding gums. Its rasping breath was uncomfortably warm and wet against her neck. She screamed a bloodcurdling scream loud enough to wake the dead—no pun intended. The dead had already woken.

As she recoiled, the edge of a blade tore through the skin between the figure's thumb and forefinger, drawing blood as he carelessly tore it from its scabbard. He licked it clean. Still retching at the stench, she staggered away from the creature towards the door. The noxious smell filled her nostrils, even more pungent than before. Each breath brought a fresh wave of nausea. The touch of that warm hand lingered and filled her with revolution, but when she turned, ready to flee and slam the door in the thing's face, no one was there.

Relief. She should have felt relief, but she didn't. She only paused, her hand clenching the doorframe. Then the unmistakable sound of rasping breaths snaked down her right ear, coiling around her insides, fueling her terror. It was still here. Petrified, she sprinted for the stairs. Grabbing her cell phone, she flew towards the backdoor, clumsily punching in the keys to speed dial her brother. Pick up! Pick up! She prayed. Fingers slippery with cold sweat, she reached out to yank the door open. Locked—from the outside. She pounded helplessly on the glass. As a child, she had thought it a blessing when her parents told her it was bullet proof. Only terror filled her now. The answering machine beeped. No. Heavy breathing on the end of the line seemed to chuckle at her, replacing the familiar sound of Jason's answering machine.

She looked at her phone wide-eyed in terror, screaming "JASON!" as she flung the phone to the floor where it shattered into three pieces, spinning away along the glossy tiles. She closed her eyes, sobbing, and again she felt the hand on her shoulder. Her eyes flew open before she could see the face again on the insides of her lids. Panic. Trapped. A new smell registered on the edge of her barely functioning consciousness, this one bitter and sharp. In her crazed state, it took her a moment to realize what it was: oil. The kitchen floor was greased with it. It was a miracle she had made it as far as the door. In the dim light that filtered through the hall from the piano room, the layer of gasoline shimmered slightly with a faint hint of rainbow at its edges where the light hit it. She choked on her uneven breaths. It was almost beautiful.

And then her world went up in flames and he was there with her, lips pulled back somehow even farther back in a gruesome smile. Hot searing flames lapped at her feet. Her scream was inhuman as the burning ate away at her flesh. She tried to run. There was nowhere to go, but she needed to be somewhere, somewhere other than here. Her feet slid out from under her as she lurched forward. Her head hit the dining table with a sickening crack and everything went still.