I slam the front door shut behind me as I trudge into a caliginous living room. Home at last. Well, not exactly home, for the temporary soul of an apartment will never match the enduring soul of a house, but close enough for this twenty-year-old. There is an awful crick in my neck, so I roll my head and adjust my rather cumbersome purse to a more comfortable position on my shoulder. I reach up to the ponytail on the back of my head, take the hairband holding it up off, and let my raggedy brunette hair fall down. It reeks of cooking oil and pickles, as it does every night after work.
I share this apartment with my longtime friend, Gabrielle, in order to make the rent affordable for the both of us. We each pay two hundred for this two bed, two bath place with a fully furnished kitchen connected to a rather spacious living room, in which I am currently standing. Having lived here for hardly a month, the only furniture adorning this room is a threadbare, brown couch. We have great plans for the future of our transitory home, but as of right now we are struggling to keep food in the fridge and a Wi-Fi connection.
“Gabrielle!” I say in a loud, exacerbated tone. “I’m back from work.” I drag my feet across the ill-lit space, making my way toward the hallway that leads to our bedrooms. As the warm, inviting atmosphere of the apartment engulfs me, my eyes begin to drift shut against my will and this stupid purse slips halfway down my shoulder. A taunting image of my bed hovers in my mind’s eye, and I want nothing more than to collapse onto that oversized cushion and enter the vast expanse of unconsciousness known as sleep.
“I know, Lilly. I am pretty sure the entire floor heard you come in,” Gabrielle calls from her room, her soft voice made raspy by exhaustion. She was scheduled to get off about an hour ago and had likely just fallen asleep when I woke her back up by slamming the door. Roommate of the century, right?
“I’m sorry, Gabrielle,” I mumble as I open the door to my room. I do not think I can muster another word, because the greedy grip of exhaustion has now taken possession my voice as well as my body. I close the door behind me, with a little less force this time, and I flip the light on with my other hand, dispelling the darkness from the room. The first thing my eyes gravitate toward is the laptop sitting on my desk in the far corner of the room. I have an important English paper due in two days, and I know I should probably work on it, being as I am only halfway done. The next thing that catches my eye makes any idea of writing vanish from my mind. My digital alarm clock, which is situated on the edge of the same desk, reads one-forty-five, and I have a seven o’clock literature class. I just love all the joys of being an English major. I do not know what I would do without it; probably just enjoy life.
With a lazy shrug of the shoulders, my purse collapses to the wooden floor, making a dull thud. I look down dejectedly at my feet and realize that if I try to bend over in order to untie my shoes, I will just end up falling down and sleeping on the floor still in my work clothes. So, I pry them off along with their respective sock one at a time with the other foot, which is not good for the shoes but I really do not care. I reach into the shallow confines of my left pant pocket, pull my phone out, check it disinterestedly to make sure no one has messaged me, and toss it down onto my unkempt bed. Picking my wrinkled sleeping shirt, which is almost long enough to be a dress, up off of the cluttered floor, I take my work shirt and bra off in one fluid motion. I learned the trick of slipping my bra off without unlatching it in high school; laziness often breeds intuition, especially in me. I toss them into the pile of dirty clothes in the corner of the room, and slip the shirt on to keep the sharp chill that is in my room off of my body. I wiggle out of my black jeans as I make my way over to the dresser against the far wall, which also serves as a stand for my radio. I turn the radio on as I kick my pants over to the previously stated pile, and the pleasant, nasal voice of John Lennon comes through the speakers, “Lying there and staring at the ceiling.”
A robust yawn pulls a copious amount of air into my tired body as I turn on the rotating fan, which stands next to my bed, to its lowest setting, sending a soft hum throughout the room. I turn out the light and let myself fall onto the inviting bed, my phone digging into my spine as I do so. I bend my arm at an awkward angle to pull it out from under me instead of just moving my body. As I squirm around in order to get into a better laying position, I check the phone with a little less apathy this time. Still no new notifications, so, with more effort than it should have taken, I roll over to the edge of the bed, plug the phone up to its charger, lay it on the little nightstand I have next to my bed, roll back into a comfortable laying position, and pull the covers over my body.
My eyes shut on their own volition, and, almost instantly, a wave of unconsciousness washes over my mind and time seems to slow down, the abysmal silence of sleep drowning out the soft melodies of The Beatles streaming through the speakers of my radio. I have been awaiting this moment ever since I got out of bed a little after five this morning, and I feel a slight smile come over my lips as the darkness behind my eye lids deepens. Right as my conscious mind is about to give way to my unconscious one, the world outside of the dark veil lights up for a split second, then returns to its normal darkness. This change in lighting cause consciousness to rush back to my mind. I open my eyes and look over at my phone, which I know is the only thing in here that would cause such an illumination. A blue light at the top of the device is blinking, signaling that I have a new text. I reach over as far as possible can without having to movie my body and I am able to take hold of the phone with the tips of my fingers. I bring it over to my face, knowing that the long cord I have on my charger allows it such mobility, and press the power button to bring up the screen. The new message is from a number I do not have saved in my contacts. With the swiftness and expertise of having done it a million times before, I type my password in and pull up the messages.
Could you throw me a blanket down here; it is pretty cold under your bed.
My entire body tenses when I read this. I look it over four more time in order to make sure that I did not misread the text. Everything in the room is silent and I strain my ears against that horrid muteness, trying to hear something. The feeling of total darkness and absolute stillness surrounds me, encroaching into my very soul, then I hear it. A faint, yet distinct breath from somewhere in the impenetrable darkness. A breath that is out of sync with my own breathing. With a speed I did not even know I am capable of, I send Gabrielle a text telling her to call for help and come into my room with her mace right now. Then I press my phone to my chest, squeeze my eyes shut, and lay absolutely still on my bed. I do not think I would have been able to move even if I wanted to. Prayers learned in Sunday school begin to run through my head. I can feel something moving in my room, a single movement that seems to be happening all around my bed, originating from under this accursed place of sleep. The movement envelopes me and the breathing, which is now right above me, intensifies, becoming louder and faster. Against every ounce of will and logic that is inside of my being, my eyes shoot open and are greeted by an inky blackness deeper than what exists behind my eyelids. A face materializes from the obscurity that surrounds me. At first all I can see is its sinister grin, revealing perfect, white teeth that seem to radiate their own light. A pair of rosy lips are spread thinly around the teeth, but they still hold a plumpness that has an overwhelming attractiveness to them. Its eyes become visible and they look straight through mine and peer into my inner being. The color of the eyes is impossible to pin down, for at one moment they seem to be a dark blue, then a second later they look as if they are a deep hazel, and at other times I can swear they are jet black. At all times, though, the eyes have a purple tinge to them and a joyful sparkle that is supplied seemingly by their own source of light. We stay in this position, suspended in silence, nothing changing but the color of his horrid eyes. I feel the nefarious power behind those eyes reach into me, tearing my soul and willpower to shreds.
I sit straight up in my bed with a thin film of sweat covering my body, and see that normal darkness has returned. “Waiting for a sleepy feeling,” John Lennon’s droning voice says from my stereo. I am out of breath, but I feel as if an unspeakable weight has been lifted off of me. The room around me is still covered in darkness. I can see to the foot of my bed, but beyond that is a sea of black. The faint blue light that my radio screen emits usually casts a tiny bit of illumination in the room, but such is not the case. Goosebumps cover my body as I stare into the lightless world that surrounds my place of slumber, but the soft cords and lyrical words, “Please, don’t spoil my day, I’m miles away” let me know that I am still in my room. My exhaustion is just making everything dark.
As I lay back down, I glance at my phone and see the blue light blinking. Not caring to check it, I close my eyes, and unconsciousness instantly floods back over me. Right as I am on the verge of sleep, something presses down on both of my shoulders and a light breath that reeks of thistle and iris brushes my face. This time, I refuse to let my eyes open. I feel hair brush across my cheeks and the smell of poppies comes along with it. Everything is silent around me; I cannot even hear him breath. Time seems to slow down and speed up at the same time, leaving me adrift in a plane of oblivion where nothing truly exists but he and I. Out of the silence, from another plane of existence, comes a brash voice that I find very appealing, “I’m only sleeping.” A deep but soft chuckle comes from right outside of the protection of my eyelids. I know I cannot fight this time, for I am already his.
Kyle Lawhorn is an under-grad student attending Lynchburg College, studying French and Theatre. He Lives in the small town of Rustburg, Virginia, where he spends too much time watching ‘Supernatural’ and not enough time writing. He passes his free time working on too many novels for his own good, acting in locally Shakespeare productions, and reading high fantasy novels. Patrick Rothfuss, George RR Martin, and J RR Tolkien are a few of his patron saints. 90% of the time he will be caught listening to either Jason Marz or the Beatles He would like to thank his 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Harvey, for telling him that he needed to keep writing stories, and his 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Carpenter, for believing in his writing when no one else did.
I have just a normal profile on Facebook at Kyle Lawhorn, and I have a twitter account at KyleLawhorn6.