After dinner, we all piled onto the couch. I found myself squished between Melissa and Nathan, with Jennifer on his other side squished against Ryan. My brother was on Melissa's other side, and Michael was stretched across all our laps, with his head in Jen's lap.
Normally, we would've all taken to mine and my brother's room respectively, but tonight it was different. I knew I was the only one who felt like this was better – safer. The rest of them just thought they were feeling lazy. I didn't care – really, after a moment of registering the feeling of safety, I was more focused on the fact that I was curled up against Nathan, who had his arm wrapped around my shoulder, while Melissa snuggled into my side.
I shifted a bit, trying to get comfortable, my cheek rubbing against his shoulder. I thought that due to all of us all piled onto one couch, and the heat that it caused, we'd all take a while to fall asleep. I was wrong – most of us were out within moments, and I fell asleep listening to Nathan's heartbeat.
The next time I opened my eyes, it was still dark. We were all still piled together, but Melissa had turned to face my brother and was curled against him, giving me a little more room. I groaned softly and closed my eyes again, wanting desperately to sink back into Nathan's warmth and go back to sleep. But my body wasn't having any of that.
I shifted and squirmed gently out of Nathan's grasp, running a hand through my tangled hair. The house seemed so quiet and I couldn't understand why – I couldn't even hear my friends breathing. I turned to look at them, suddenly feeling my stomach turn with fear. But there didn't seem to be anything to fear. I couldn't hear them breathing, but looking at each of them I could see their chests moving with every breath they took.
I scolded myself silently for being so paranoid, and turned back towards the hallway. My hand reached for the light, but I stopped myself. The lamp beside the hallway was bright enough to light the entire hallway – and would end up waking my friends up. I didn't want to do that. But the very thought of going down the hallway in the pitch darkness made my stomach turn.
I didn't really have a choice, however – my bladder was extremely insistent. Shaking slightly, though I wasn't sure why, I started down the hallway – the bathroom was at the end of the hallway, between my room and my brother's. As quietly as I could, I went running and pulled the bathroom door shut behind me quickly, flicking on the light.
I stared for a long moment at the mirror, breathing heavily and trying to calm my racing heart. I'd always had a fear of the dark, but ever since we'd moved here it was just worse. Especially going through that hallway. But I couldn't help but wonder – was I just paranoid? Maybe going crazy?
I contemplated this as I did what I needed to do. As I was washing my hands, I stared at the mirror – my face was pale, my eyes were still wide, and there was a thin sheen of sweat on my face. I turned off the water, and froze. I heard a sound – I couldn't quite tell what it was at first. Then I moved over to the door, and I realized it was the sound of a doorknob turning, of a door opening.
I thought my father was waking up. At least that was what I told myself I thought. Dad was getting up to go to the bathroom – in which case I needed to get out to give him the bathroom. I was okay with that – I honestly just wanted to get back to the couch, curl up next to Nathan and go back to sleep.
I opened the door, keeping the light on, and looked towards my father's room. The door was closed – and dad only left the door closed if he was inside. I thought I was going to throw up. I turned to look at my brother's door – also closed. As was mine. Slowly, not wanting to think about it, my eyes turned down the hallway towards the living room.
The basement door was standing open.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to scream and wake up the entire house and make sure I wasn't crazy. But though I opened my mouth, it was as though my vocal cords had been cut. The only noise that rose from my throat was this choked, hiss of a noise. And then I heard it – that same, hissing laughter that I'd heard while we were downstairs.
I stood, frozen, in the bathroom doorway. The noise was getting louder – as though something was coming towards me. I could see shadows – which I thought was impossible. The only shadows that should've been there were mine. But a shadow came up the stairway – it looks distorted. I wanted to close the door and lock myself in the bathroom, but it was as though I was frozen in place. I couldn't move.
I couldn't see whatever came up out of the stairs. But that noise kept getting louder and louder, until it all but filled the house. Not the hallway – not the bathroom. The entire house. I wondered how no one was waking up – how no one could hear it but me. I didn't know how someone wasn't coming to see what the cause of these bone-chilling noises.
I saw something coming up finally. A head peaked out through the doorway. It was turned away from me at first, and for a long moment I felt relief. And then it's head turned towards me, and I started shaking. The face was terrifying – it was cloaked in shadow, but I could see bright red eyes. There wasn't pupils or anything – just solid, bright red, like fresh blood. It almost looked human – but as it crawled out, it was distorted, far too large, twisted around and walking on all fours.
"Anna?" The voice was rough, like someone walking on gravel, and my jaw nearly hit the floor. I started shaking my head and I could feel tears of terror flowing down my cheeks. I started saying 'no' again and again, backing up and falling over the bathtub.
"Anna!" The scream chilled me to the bone, and whatever it was started coming at me with a terrifying speed. I screamed, sobbed with fear—
I shot upright, finding myself on the floor. My head was throbbing, and my brother, my friends, and his friends all circled me, Nathan at my head, looking worried. Melissa looked terrified – hell, everyone was some degree of scared.
"Anna," Nathan sounded relieved, and I felt his hands brush my face. Melissa looked up at me from where she was kneeling by my side.
"A-are… are you okay?"
I could barely breathe. But I was relieved – it was just a dream. No, not a dream – a nightmare. I turned my head to look – it was daylight, if only just. I took a deep breath and sat up, scooting back slightly – unintentionally pressing into Nathan, who wrapped his arms around my shoulders, trying to comfort me.
"You're dad's making tea."
I could barely think – all I could feel was relief. How wrong that feeling was