What was happening outside? How long would it take? Rebecca had hidden under the bedclothes before, when an attack built up. She knew it would build up slowly towards the end of the night.
At least she had Sassycat with her this time. She could feel the warm weight against her legs at the bottom of the bed. Sassycat would guard against the supernatural, she felt sure.
When the air under the sheet grew hot and stuffy, she rolled over and made an airhole at the side of her pillows. She was wearing her wristwatch and the luminous dial glowed in the dark. Ten to four … five past four … quarter past four … The minutes ticked past, and still nothing had happened.
She was very afraid, but she was also very very tired. She hadn’t slept properly for so many nights. Desperate to stay awake, she dug her fingernails into the palms of her hands. But her body had a will of its own and kept slipping in and out of sleep. Her tiny brief naps left her more bleary and tired than ever.
Then the weight moved suddenly against her legs. Sassycat had tensed and stiffened. What was it?
The air coming in through the airhole had changed. It was colder, of course, but not because the temperature had dropped through the night. Somehow the air was thinner and sharper, almost brittle, like the crisp feel of a frosty morning.
How close had they come? Her watch said 5:17. The changed air had happened before, but then there had been sounds as well. Tonight, everything was hushed as if frozen under ice.
Having Sassycat there made her bold. She decided to risk a quick look.
She slid higher in the bed, propped herself up on one elbow and drew down the sheet.
The room was dark but not completely lightless. She could see Sassycat in silhouette, crouched and bristling. And coming down the walls …
She took it all in a split-second flash. There were shadowy shapes slithering down the wall like long-fingered hands. On her desk, a puddle of black liquid was spreading and crawling over her books. The doors of her wardrobe glistened with something like hot wet trickling tar.
She dived back in under the sheet. All her worst imaginings had come true. She had wanted to know it was real, and now she wished it could be a crazy hallucination again. The things were in her room and descending to the floor. When they reached the floor …
She pulled one pillow down into the bed to make a protection for her back. The other pillow she bent at an angle in front of her face and chest. She curled up her legs, but not so far she couldn’t feel the warmth of Sassycat against her feet.
When she looked up between the pillows, her view was limited to the patch of wallpaper directly above her bedhead. Yet she could see strange variation of light in the room reflected on the wallpaper. Lighter and darker, lighter and darker … If the curtains had been open, it could have been clouds passing across the moon. But the curtains were closed and there were no clouds.
She could hear sounds starting up too, the same sounds she had heard on previous nights. Faint swoosh-swooshing sounds, like things that flapped through the air and dropped from the walls to the carpet.
Sassycat started to growl, a deep growl very low in the throat. Rebecca felt her vibrating like an engine. She must be willing the things away, repelling them with her mind. Rebecca tried to repel them too.
Go away, go away, go away, go away …
Still the growl and vibration continued. Ten minutes passed, and Rebecca couldn’t hold herself in any longer. She had to have another look.
She took a deep breath, parted the pillows and plunged out into the open.
Horror! The things had entered into the patterns of her carpet! Where there were lines in the design, now there were long black ridges sticking up. Where the lines intersected, now there were blobby lumps like blind bloated slugs. It was a spreading disease!
Not spreading at random, though. She observed how it was advancing along two main tracks, moving to encircle her bed on either side. A pincer movement! She could even foresee the lines in the pattern to be invaded next!
She plunged back under the bedclothes and re-assembled her pillows. Her heart was pounding and she was shivering from head to toe. Only Sassycat stood between her and – what?
(Photo is Holly McTrustry - not the original for Rebecca, but could've been. Holly has co-written a book with Chris McTrustry, titled Dancing Queen, published by Five Mile Press)