By 10 pm the last of the trick-or-treaters had come and gone. I gazed up and down the street for stragglers before closing and locking the front door for the night. I put away my empty glass and gathered discarded candy wrappers for the trash bin. Then, turning off the lights, headed up to bed. Sleep came without a fight.
I can’t tell you what roused me, but I suppose it’s not really important at this point. I was wide awake. It was the middle of the night. The curtains had been drawn together tightly, preventing even the tiniest sliver of light into the room. I stared into the quiet darkness, listening. The beating of my heart ticked away the minutes. In the distance, I heard the faint sound of a lonely train clickety clacketing it’s way to parts unknown. My eyes searched for the dimmest of illumination and settled on the dim pattern of moonlight filtered through the trees and dancing on the wall just outside my bedroom. I watched the shadows of the leaves shimmer and then fade, as a cloud shrouded the moon, leaving the room enveloped in blackness. I counted the moments until the moonlight returned, briefly, then disappeared again. My eyes stared into the empty space where light once was, waiting. To track time I counted heart beats. One minute. Two. Three minutes. Four. The minutes ticked by. My eyes strained to make out the faintest light. Then, as the moonlight slowly returned, there it was.
On the wall just beyond the bedroom door, a shadow; an almost human form materialized. I don’t know how long I watched, waited, wondering. I stared, unblinking at the spectral form. I dared not move a muscle. My eyes glued to the ghostly shadow. Was I dreaming? We’ve all had those moments between sleep and wakefulness when our imagination plays tricks on us. But was this real? Was I awake? I bit down on my tongue and winced at the sharp pain. When I opened my eyes, the ethereal image was still there.
I was terrified. The drum beat of my pulse echoed in my ears. I fought to keep my breathing steady. In. Out. In. Out. I could hear him breathing, or was that me? No. The rhythm is different. Time to take stock of the situation.
I needed to keep my head, perhaps literally. If there’s someone in the hall, more than likely he thinks I’m asleep. There must be a reason that’s important. Why else would he just stand there? Then I had a thought. What if there’s more than one of them? My brain was in overdrive. My options were limited. It’s so deathly quiet, even the smallest move is bound to be heard. If he’s armed, any sudden movement on my part could be fatal. I was in a tough spot. So I watched, and waited, while the moon danced among the clouds, creating a slow, hypnotic rhythm of light and dark.
Sleep must have returned because the next thing I knew it was morning. Early sunlight washed away the haze of the night before. I chalked it up to a bad dream and made my way to the bathroom for my morning rituals. That’s when it happened. As I passed through the door to the bathroom a dark shadow enveloped me. The oppressive darkness squeezed the air from my lungs. Gasping for breath, I tried to pull myself out from under the impossibly dark veil of doom which had me in it’s death grip. This can’t be happening! This can’t possibly be real!
My oxygen deprived lungs burned. My vision dimmed. With one last ditch effort I screamed, “Please! Wake up! Why can’t I wake up?” But no words escaped my lips. In fact, nothing was heard from me again.