It was unmistakable. Two distinct words. Whispered into her ear. Close enough to feel the soft puff of breath at the end of the last consonant. Sharon’s eyes refused to open. If she opened them she might see something. Something she didn’t want to. Her husband Jack was downstairs. A thousand miles away. Not right next to her.
She held her eyes shut and could feel her whole body tremble. She waited in nervous anticipation. Every terrible possibility played in her head and she thought perhaps knowing would be better than speculating bigger fears.
She opened her eyes to the vast nothingness of her dark bedroom. There was nothing there. Nothing around that she could see in the pale light provided by the digital glow of her alarm clock. Finding nothing around did not help her fear.
It couldn’t be gone and she was convinced it wasn’t in her head. She had read about night terrors, being paralyzed and trapped between consciousness and unconsciousness, having no option but to stare in horror as your nightmares played before you in stunning reality. But she wasn’t paralyzed. She could move and she was very awake. And the words were still echoing in her head.
She steadied her heart. It was hard but she managed. She was trying to convince herself that it was a sound from the house being amplified and distorted by her own fear. It was one of the biggest pitfalls of living in the country. They were miles from anyone and without the white noise of the city, a “quiet country night” wasn’t nearly as quiet as it should have been.
Before they had moved in, Sharon had checked with the realtor enough times that she was sure she came off as annoying, the house had definitely not been the site of a gruesome murder or built on some old graveyard. Sharon was very superstitious and Jack wasn’t, every fear she had was dismissed as nonsense.
She continued to calm herself and in time she fell back to sleep and awoke in the morning.
Even though Jack would arguably be dismissive she brought it up to him at breakfast.
“Hey, I heard something last night.”
He was staring at his phone while he ate his cereal. “O yea?” he said absently.
“It was a voice.” She wondered if that would bring him into the real world.
Jack looked up at her, “You heard a voice? Where?”
“In the bedroom.”
“Were you dreaming?”
“I don’t think so. It was very unnerving.”
He was in thought. “It was probably just the wind then, or a stray cat.”
“It told me to get out.”
He was looking at her skeptically now. “You think it was ghosts?”
Her face turned to stone. She hated him belittling her. “I didn’t say that, I just said it was unnerving.”
He sensed her anger and tried for a more amiable suggestion
“You’re sleeping in a new place. Just give it time. I’m sure things will get better.”
She thought it over while they finished breakfast, as much as she disliked his approach he was probably right. Sleeping in a new place was always a bit rough and the fact that they were in the middle of nowhere wasn’t going to help.
The day progressed as uneventful as it could, she woke up, got dressed, went to work and came home. Jack called and said he was going to be working into late into the night, which wasn’t unusual. So she would be falling asleep alone.
Her mind was alight with all the fears she had spent all day trying to push down. She read well into the middle of the night trying to keep her mind occupied and tire herself to a point where she would just pass out without thought. It worked. Sometime shortly after midnight, with the reading light still on and her book opened, she was fast asleep.
On the edge of her sleep she felt a presence that pulled her into consciousness. A great weight was pushing her into the bed. More than her weighted blanket. More than her husband. She couldn’t move. Her eyes wouldn’t open, although she could tell the light was off now from the fact that she was enveloped in total darkness.
The voice came again, feminine and familiar, but it didn’t whisper, it didn’t shout, it screamed into the small room its demand.
Sharon’s eyes shot open and she was drenched in a cold sweat, her skin clammy. There would be no more sleep tonight.
She threw back the covers and rushed out of the room and flew down the stairs away from whoever or whatever was in her room.
At the bottom of the stairs she nearly collided with Jack.
“Whoa! What’s going on?” he said as his arms spread out to catch her.
“The voice! I heard it again” she realized she was winded and paused to catch her breath, “but this time it screamed for me to get out.”
Seeing she was rattled Jack tried his best to calm her. “It’s okay. It’s okay. You’re fine now.”
“I can’t go back up there. Not tonight.”
“It’s okay. You don’t have to.”
Her face twisted into confusion. “What time is it? Where were you?”
He was confused at the questioning but answered. “I was at work, like I said there’s a big project coming up. I got home about an hour ago. I went up to check on you and saw the light was on and your glasses were still on so I put everything up and turned off the light. I just came back down here to get something quick to snack on and mellow out before I went to bed.”
Her heart was still racing and she was looking around for what she didn’t know but she was hyper aware of everything around her now and that feeling wasn’t likely to go away anytime soon. Jack saw all of this play across her face and advanced the conversation cautiously.
“So…do you want to try setting something up down here or in the guest bedroom?”
Her eyes were wide as she looked at him, the idea of sleep was a inconceivable now.
It was going to be a no.
“Do you want me to stay up with you or…?”
“No,” she said shaking her head and then coming slowly back to reality continued “No, it’s fine I’ll go watch TV or something.”
“Yea I’m fine. I just need to…I dunno….not think about it I guess.”
Jack lingered for just a moment before heading upstairs. Sharon went into the living room and turned on the TV and collapsed into the couch as the dark room filled with blue light.
She channel surfed until she found an old movie she liked. It was something from her childhood. A safety blanket. Something easy on the mind. Comfortable enough to slip into without having to pay too much attention.
Before too long the weariness of the day combined with the exhaustion from the rush of fear based anxiety pulled her back into a dreamless sleep. The TV played memorable scenes from her childhood and a face emerged in the absence of dreams with soft indistinguishable features.
The face was calm.
Was it from the movie? No. More recognizable but alien to her.
The longer the image stayed the more pronounced the features got till she recognized the face as her own. It was moving its mouth in slow rhythmic patterns. The features becoming sharper until it was a mirror image.
The face, her face, pulled into a hideous scowl and words once silence became a roar as she opened her mouth again.
Her eyes snapped open to a dark silhouette in front of her. The once faceless apparition from her nightmares made flesh.
Her eyes tried to refocus looking for a face but then there was an earsplitting explosion with a brilliant flash of light. An intense burning sensation and then nothing.
Nothing but eternal dark and cold.
Everything happened in a snap.
As soul left body, she recognized the figure, it was Jack, with his arm still fixed holding the gun. The end of her life written in stone in a blink of an eye.
Pulled from her existence and unable to fully grasp what was happening, she slipped between the folds of time and space and found herself fixed in a place and time frighteningly familiar.
She saw her own body, alive and well, asleep.
She moved down to her corporeal form and whispered to herself to get out, knowing full well she wouldn’t listen.