Caitlin sat on the edge of her bed and opened her sleep tracking app. She used it to listen to recordings of noises she made in her sleep. Among them, she heard snoring, lip-smacking, and sighing. But in the last one, she thought she said something. She couldn’t understand what it was at first, so she turned the volume up and played it again. In a faint whisper, she heard herself say, “Soon…”
“Good morning, Caitlin. I’m Dr. Rosenthal. I understand you’ve been having some issues with daytime sleepiness?”
Caitlin shook the doctor’s hand and then sat at the desk in the office. She glanced at the wall and saw a framed medical degree next to a certificate in sleep medicine.
“Yes, I’m always tired throughout the day and I don’t know why. It has been like this ever since I returned from my expedition.”
“I’m a geologist, and my team and I were in Antarctica studying peculiar rock formations for several weeks. We returned about two months ago. Since then, I’ve been drowsy all the time, but I don’t know why. I’ve started using an app to track my sleep patterns to see if that helps. The app also records any sounds I make while I’m sleeping.”
“Interesting. Do you mind if I have a look at it?”
“Not at all.”
Caitlin reached into her purse to retrieve her phone and then handed it to Dr. Rosenthal. The doctor then opened the app and played the recordings of Caitlin’s sleep sounds aloud for them both to hear. When they got to the last one, instead of the sound of Caitlin’s voice, all they heard was snoring.
Caitlin awoke and sat up in her bed. Confused, she blinked her eyes and saw moonlight spilling through the bedroom window. It took her a moment to realize that her comforter lay bunched against the wall across from her bed. It looked as though someone had thrown it there. Before she could react, someone smacked her hard across the face. She screamed and curled up into a ball on her mattress. Several moments passed, then she looked and saw that her room was empty.
Her phone buzzed against the headboard. The sleep app opened by itself and then a sleep recording began to play. Caitlin heard her own voice speak in a soft, raspy, voice.
“It arrives soon… soon… soon...”
Caitlin awoke and sat up in her bed, her eyes wide with anxiety. Rectangular slices of sunlight shined into her room through the open window blinds. Her comforter covered her body, and she felt no soreness of discomfort on her face.
She grabbed phone and opened the sleep app to see that there was a recording from the previous night. With trembling hands, she pressed the play button and listened. She heard herself let out a quiet snore, and then a muffled giggle.
The doorbell rang.
Pulling herself out of bed, she took her phone with her as she crept to her front door. She looked through the peep-hole but saw that no one was there.
With trepidation, she unlocked the door and inched it open, peaking through the crack. On the porch sat a small package wrapped in butcher paper and tied with twine. Caitlin picked it up and looked at it with morbid curiosity. Then she took it inside and shut the door.
Bringing it to the kitchen, she laid the package on her table and stared at it. Her phone buzzed in her hand and she jumped. The sleep app opened, and a recording began to play. She heard her voice say, “Open it.”
Caitlin put the phone down next to the package. Then she pulled the twine away and tore open the butcher paper to find a small, leather-bound book inside. It had no title, nor was there any other writing on its cover. She opened it to a random page and saw esoteric symbols arranged in bizarre patterns inscribed upon it.
She tried to drop the book but found she couldn’t, as if something had taken control of her body. It then forced her to walk back into the bedroom and lay in her bed. She placed the book upon her chest with her arms crisscrossed over it, then closed her eyes.
Caitlin awoke and found herself kneeling inside a cold, dark space. She looked around and discovered that she was now inside of a cave. On one end was a small opening through which she could see the night’s sky filled with stars. A fire with dark purple flames flickered in the center of the room. A circular rune written in chalk surrounded it on the floor.
The book lay open next to the fire. The flames licked its pages, yet it remained unburned. She heard a muttering chant echoing off the walls and realized it was her own voice. She was speaking in tongues.
Tentacles dripping in vomitus ichor emerged from the book’s pages. They wriggled in the air with nausea-inducing spasms. A horrific stench filled the air. Caitlin stared in horror, unable to move.
One of the tentacles touched her wrist, and at once she felt she could control her body again. She leapt up and ran straight for the cave’s opening. A tentacle wrapped itself around her ankle as she went, but she kicked free and continued her escape.
Arriving at the exit, she saw that she stood at the edge of a cliff a hundred meters off the ground. There was no other way to go, up or down. Waves from a tempestuous sea crashed against the jagged rocks below. She looked behind her and saw that tentacles writhed ever closer. She was trapped.
“This must be a dream,” she said.
Then she closed her eyes and jumped.
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