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A Last of Days

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<sub><i>Oh, God… Oh, God…</i>

Renee sat on her bed, gripping the bed covers so tightly with her fingers it hurt.

Not being able to stop herself, Renee's eyes drifted shakily to the clock on the wall.

Six. Six 'o'clock. Oh, God, she thought. <i>Only six hours till midnight.</i>

Renee didn't understand. <i>Why does he want</i> me? She knew she was no prettier than Carrie Whitlock or Shelly Read. In fact, she knew they were much prettier than her.

But the note said <i>Renee.</i> It didn't say Carrie; it didn't say Shelly. She carefully let go of the bed covers, which were now wrinkled from being bunched up so tightly for so long, and reached across the bed to her nightstand.

The note had been placed at her front door early that morning, along with a bouquet of white roses. <i>Roses splattered with blood…</i> The bouquet had ended up in a corner of her bedroom, left to wilt and rot.

The note hadn't particularly surprised her. After all, she'd been receiving cryptic messages for awhile now. <i>Days? Weeks? Months?</i>

Scarcely able to open the note for the thousandth time that day, Renee struggled with the seal. The envelope was crumpled and torn, as was the note inside. Finally, the girl was able to pull the note out. It took her a moment to focus on the words, her eyes were so blurry from terrified tears.


<i>On the stroke of midnight
Your fate will come
Renee will be dead
And long, long gone</i>




On impulse, she flung the note across the room. To her dismay, it landed in the fireplace. The flames burst forth, licking at the air, devouring her only evidence.

Not even realizing it, Renee's eyes crept to the clock. Seven fifteen. <i>Oh, God…</i> Each tick of the clock pounded in her ears. Each tick pulsed through her veins. Her heartbeat grew a little faster with each passing second…

<i>Oh, God, not even five hours left… Five hours left to live…</i>

Like a ghost, she stood off the bed, her feet burning from sitting so long. She padded across the room to the open window, where the cold November night thrashed outside. She could see the trees waving wildly, surrendering the last of their leaves to the wind. And the wind! She could hear the wind! It was calling her name! <i>"Renee… Help me…"</i>

Gasping, she slammed the window shut and quickly darted back into her bed. Her breath was ragged and fast; shaken and uneven. She didn't know how long she was under those covers, but eventually she fell asleep. A sleep so dreamless… A sleep so deep…

It was the phone that had awoken her. Its ring called out in the dark silence. Screaming, Renee bolted out of her sleep. Her clothes were damp and sticky as they clung to her cold body.

She cautiously picked up the phone and brought it to her ear. "Hello?" she whispered at last, her own voice frightening her.

She heard the line click and go dead. Suddenly angry, she crashed the receiver back on the hook. <i>God, this isn't fair. Who does that sick pervert think he is anyway?</i>

<i>It's just someone from school trying to scare me. Just some kids thinking it would be a real hoot to scare the daylights out of Renee…</i>

But something deep inside Renee told her that it wasn't a joke. This was the real thing.

She forced herself to look at the clock.

Ten thirty-five.

<i>Oh, God…</i>

Renee shrank back in her bed. She tried to calm down. She tried to think of someone who would do something like this.

But she couldn't! Because she <i>knew</i> that this was no joke! She <i>knew</i> that there was no escaping the inevitable.

<i>But why? Oh, God, why? Why does he want</i> me?

Feeling sick, she glanced around the room. She saw the bloody white roses she had thrown into the corner that morning. The petals had wilted now; the blood had dried to an ugly shade of brown.

<i>Eleven fifteen.</i>

<i>Eleven fifteen…</i>

<i>Only forty-five minutes to my fate…</i>

Once again, Renee rose up from her bed and went across the room to the window. I used to love looking out this window, she thought angrily. <i>But he ruined it for me! He's ruined</i> everything <i>for me! My friends! My family! My whole life!</i>

She opened the window again; she knew she needed the fresh air. The cool, crisp air washed over her face and <i>it feels so good!</i>

She stood there forever, closing her eyes, smelling the wonderful dead leaves.<i> And a fire. Someone's having a bonfire. And rain's coming soon… I can smell it…</i>

But then another smell filled her nostrils. She gagged at it; she retched. <i>Oh, God, what is that?</i>

And then it was clear… So horribly clear…

Decaying… Rotting… A decaying body…

Her eyes fluttered open, and she tried to find the source. But she couldn't. The rotting stench came from nowhere… And everywhere…

She looked down at the sidewalk. The only light came from the street lamp in her yard. Its small circle of light seemed so comforting compared to all the shadows that loomed around it.

And then she saw it. A man. The shadow of a man, lurking around outside.

"Renee…" Her name was called, but she couldn't tell where it had come from. Terrified, she slammed the window and leaped back in bed.

Her heart had never beat so fast; she had never been so afraid. <i>That's him! I just know that's</i> him!

Eleven forty-five.

Renee shrouded a blanket around her shoulders and leaned against the headboard. Like flood gates breaking and bursting open, a million horrifying thoughts washed into her mind

<i>Oh, God, what is he going to do to me?</i>

Part of her wanted him to just get it over with. She wanted to be shot or stabbed. <i>No pain. Just a quick shock and then it will all be over.</i>

Eleven fifty.

But another part of her wanted him to take his time. She wanted to see who he was… She wanted to know who he was… She wanted to <i>feel</i> who he was.

Eleven fifty-five.

Renee almost felt like laughing. It all seemed so silly. <i>Who would be stalking</i> me? She even let out a little chuckle.

<i>I'm really going insane…</i>

Eleven fifty-seven.

<i>I'm going insane… I'm going mad… I'm dying… He's</i> killed <i>me! I'm already dead! I'm not even here! This is someone else's nightmare! And I'm just being forced to watch the horrific ending!</i>

She let out a real laugh now. It was high-pitched and shrill and she didn't recognize it herself.

Eleven fifty-eight.

<i>So this is it…</i>

Eleven fifty-nine.

Renee's eyes were glued to the clock.

She crawled under the covers.

<i>Fifteen seconds…</i>

She propped her pillow upright and rested her head against it.

<i>Twenty seconds…</i>

She could hear something downstairs. The faint sound of the front door opening and closing quietly.

<i>Thirty seconds…</i>

His footsteps were slow and torturous… Each step so slow and heartbreaking…

<i>Fifty-five seconds…</i>

And she knew he was right outside her door.

<i>Fifty-nine seconds…</i>

Renee held her breath as the knob slowly turned.

And she let out a scream on the stroke of midnight when the door finally burst open…





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