Attacked By a Nightmares
He didn’t come to her.
Paige opened her eyes but left her arm over her face. In the darkness of her room, all she heard was the comforting tick-tock of an old wall clock she had found in a garage sale.
Why couldn’t she will him back into existence?
With a soft groan, she turned to her side and reached beside her bed until she found her phone. She squinted as the light came on. Five am. It was way too early in the morning.
Disappointment sat like a lump in the pit of her stomach as she tossed and turned but by now, sleep eluded her. She had been looking forward to seeing Shade. It wasn’t even the sex. After meeting his double in real life, all she wanted was a cuddle and comfort to wash away the haze of confusion that clouded her mind.
It wasn’t like he came to her every night. Tonight must just be one of those skip nights. That must be it. Paige sat up and slapped her own cheeks with both hands. No use dwelling. The extra hours would be useful to do some upkeep, reply to emails, and write a new blog post for that book tour.
Paige paused as she slid off the bed. Something was off. Her skin crawled. Her eyes darted back and forth around her bedroom, trying to pick out anything that seemed out of place. The shadows formed odd shapes across her furniture but everything else appeared as it should be. So why did unease chill her blood? With agonizing slow movements, afraid to draw some unseen attention to herself, she bent her knees until she reached under her bed. A minor sense of relief helped her breathe a little easier when her hand grasped the wooden baseball bat.
Holding it up, cocked and ready, she began exploring her room. Swept. Cleared. Next. All those action movies she binged the other night was helping.
Paige emerged from her room and jumped at a dull thud that rattled her door. Another one. It sounded like a body slamming against her door over and over. The wood creaked in protest.
She wished she had a backdoor. Or even windows big enough for her to climb out of. Nopes, no such luck. The only other door available led to her landlady upstairs and being upstairs was too exposed. Another thud, then another, this time in quicker successions. At this rate, her door wasn’t going to hold. She dove back into her bedroom and grabbed her phone, readying 911. And then came a loud whine. There was no way that sound came from a human throat. A large animal? In the middle of a city? Wait, should she be calling animal control instead?
That was when Paige realized that the sound had stopped altogether. Silence resumed. Hands still shaking, Paige clutched the bat, the makeshift weapon looking even more ridiculous at what she may be up against. But it was still better than nothing. She pocketed her phone then began to venture out once more. One step, then another.
Something made her look up at the half window that showed above ground. A glimpse, that was all it took. Paige pressed herself flat against the wall underneath the window with haste, her hand lifting to cover her mouth lest the screams of terror that threatened to spill did.
Malevolent red eyes peered into the window before the creature lifted its head to show a grotesque mouth dripping with spit, fangs protruding past lips that stretched to points in what looked like a permanent macabre smile. It snarled like a dog but it was nothing like any dog Paige had come across.
She squeezed her eyes shut, clinging the bat to her chest, willing herself to be still, to be invisible. Her mind blanked from the terror. There was no deity she’d pray to, the atheist she was but oh how she wished Shade was real and was here to protect her.
“Please, please, please,” she mouthed silently, willing the creature to go away. It panted. Paige heard its heaving through the window. And then, with a chuff, it padded off.
Paige stood rooted to her spot for a good fifteen minutes more, listening for any sign of movement. Willing herself to step away from the wall, she glanced around once more. Nothing. Instead, the first notes of a bird song that heralded the sun rising filled the air. Only then did she find the strength to loosen her fingers to let go of the bat. It dropped to the rug beneath her feet with a heavy thump.
She winced at the sound then looked around anxiously. No scary dog came back. As the first rays of the sun shone through the window, Paige slumped on the couch and sighed. Maybe she was dreaming? Oh, how she hoped she was just having a dream. It must be a dream, okay, a nightmare or hallucination? Her mind sped to rationalize as she sat in a stupor on her couch. With a hesitant touch, she reached up to touch her forehead. No fever but perhaps she ate or drank something funny. She remembered not feeling well last night. Yes, that must have been it. Mind made up, everything explained in a tidy little box, she began to focus more on her breathing. In. Out. In. Out. Her shoulders, achy from holding tension all night, began to drop at last.
Over the course of the morning as the immediacy of the imagined attack faded, she became functional again.
It was too nice a day for her to spend inside. As fingerlings of sunlight reached across her suite, the horrors of her early morning ordeal began to fade, enough that by the time she emerged from her shower, fully dressed, she was once more ready to tackle the world. With a nod of determination to put the night behind her, she got dressed, packed her laptop in her backpack and readied on her quest for coffee and breakfast.
The first steps out of her apartment stole her breath away. She stood, frozen in fear, her heart racing as if it wanted to crawl out of her throat. The lawn was a mess, great track marks ripping the lawn to shreds. The flower beds tended to by her landlady upstairs with living care, laid dead and tattered. No worse. They weren’t just ripped out or shredded. It was like they all wilted overnight. Paige took one step back as she began to hyperventilate and almost tripped over a displaced rock from the flowerbed. Her hand reached out to brace against the door frame and her head turned when it landed on unexpected rough splintered wood.
Something had rendered large diagonal marks into the frame and door as if some creature was trying to claw their way into her suite. A bear? No, the claw marks were nothing like a bear’s. No other animal that would venture this deep into the city. Paige’s mind could rationalize a lot of things but confronted with undeniable proof; she had to concede that something unnatural happened in the wee hours of the morning.
She should gibber with terror. Instead, she stepped back into her home with a kind of numbness settling in and closed the door, ensuring all the locks were in place. The creature had tried to get in but wasn’t able to so it stood to reason that home was the safest. All perfectly reasonable. Her trembling hands were the only sign of how close she was to a complete nervous breakdown.
A sudden knock, this time on the back door that led upstairs. Her heart jumped to her throat
“Paige? Paige dear. It’s Lillian”
She scrambled to unlock the door.
“Oh, thank heavens you’re up and okay.”
Her landlady stood before her, silver hair poking out of the loose bun a large apron over a flowery dress. Large and portly, Lillian looked like everyone’s favourite grandmother and in some ways she was. When she saw Paige, her eyes lit up like they always did.
“Lillian,” Paige started, half turning to gesture towards outside.
“Oh I know, dreadful thing, isn’t it! I’ll call the city today to report it. Must be some poor animal, half-starving with madness. Nevermind that. I was struck with a fancy this morning for pancakes and made too many. Would you care to come up and share some with me?”
The upstairs still felt too exposed, and she wasn’t sure she had the appetite to eat but Paige’s stomach rumbled right on cue, proving her wrong.
Lillian laughed. “Right then, come along.”
Breakfast helped settled some nerves, enough that she was a semi-functioning adult for the rest of the day. But by night, the nerves came back in full force. Paige tossed and turned in her bed. Every time she closed her eyes, all she saw were the glowing red-eyed and grotesque grin as if they were mocking her, daring her to sleep. Eventually, Paige gave up, changed back into jeans and T-shirt in case she had to make a run for it and ended up sitting on her couch, baseball bat in end all night, remaining vigilant in her watch for the creature’s return.
Paige remained like this for three days and nights. Unwilling to leave the house during the day, unable to sleep at night, by the fourth day, her eyes were bloodshot and the thought of another attack frayed her nerves to the point of startling at every little noise. She had placated Ainsley with false cheer over text messages, unwilling to drag her friend into danger but otherwise, she was not sure what to do. This cannot go on.
Paige was still reading up on folklore and superstition, trying to track down any description of what she may have seen when finally, exhausted to the bone, she nodded off, slumped in her office chair.
She was in some kind of maze but instead of trimmed tamed hedges, brambles forced her path this way and that. Hesitant at first, Paige remained rooted to her spot until she picked up a snarl, reminiscent of last night. It set her feet to a mad scramble as she sprinted down this way and that, anything to get away from that sound. There were no choices, no junctions for her to pause and consider so she ran where it led her. At least the sound seemed to fade further away as she ran. She must be moving in the right direction.
And then she stopped. Dead end. Once more, this time in her dreams, Paige froze as her sick subconsciousness treated her to a full view of the creature. Midnight dirty matted fur covered its emancipated body, at least three times larger than a full-grown Saint Bernard. It had four legs, a tail and pointed ears like a dog but that was about where the resemblance ended. Fortunately, with its back turned towards, Paige was spared the sight of its face. Unfortunately, it was gorging on something, something that was so far gone there was no saving.
This was a dream. Paige tried to exert her will, to shape the dreamscape as Shade had taught her. Nothing. Okay, she would deal with this. She couldn’t die in a dream. The reasoning gave her enough courage to move her feet. If she backed away ever so slowly…
Like something straight out of a horror movie, the body the monster was still devouring began to move. A head turned, vacant eyes opening to stare at her.
Paige’s mouth opened in a wordless scream. Her. The beast was eating her.
Caution and any other semblance of logical thought fled from her mind. Paige turned to run and smacked straight into a strong chest. When she managed to find her voice once more, she screamed. As arms surrounded her, restraining her, she began to flail, fists pounding against the immovable wall she was held tight against.
“Paige. PAIGE.” A male voice broke through her terror and she stared up in shock.
Shade. Oh, thank god.