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I feel the footsteps padding across the carpet close behind me. One step. Two steps. Three st- my thoughts are cut short as I feel someone breathing down my neck, sending a cringing shiver down my rigid spine. I spin around to find no one there - just the empty hallway. I no longer feel someone’s footsteps, or the hot breath on the back of my neck. The only sound is my loud, uneven breathing; the only sight the empty, dim hallway in front of me.
A creak sounds from behind me and I slowly turn my head; a shadow swiftly moves across the wall and collides with the darkness around the corner. I close my eyes and try to tell myself I didn’t just see that, that there was no one in my house but me - only me.
But I hear another creak and my eyes pop open. I’m facing the wall where I saw the lurking shadow. I feel someone’s footsteps again…but this time, I feel them right in front of me. My heart begins to race and I subconsciously take a step back. I freeze as I feel the same hot breath, but not on my neck, on my face. I don’t see anyone…just darkness. I can hear them breathing - whoever they are, I don’t know. The breathing is heavy, and raspy. I begin to shake and cold beads of sweat are on my forehead.
I slowly begin to reach out my hand, but just like that, the breathing disappears and I am alone. My bottom lip is trembling with the need for me to cry. I’m terrified. I’ve never felt so unsafe in my very own home before…
With difficulty, I head off to bed. I’m still trembling as I slip under my covers and pull them up to my chin. I’m afraid of closing my eyes. They burn with exhaustion, but I can’t close them. For I know when I close them and begin to dream, the poison will seep in, corrupting my sweet dreams and turning them into menacing nightmares. This happens often. Every night, you could say.
After stubbornly refusing to give in, sleep defeats me, and I fall into unconsciousness.
My dreams begin with only innocence: I’m somewhere on the countryside, the aroma of blooming tulips and apple pie linger on the soft breeze. I’m relaxing on a hammock between two old, oak trees. The grass is a bright shade of green, and the sun kisses my cheeks tenderly. I close my eyes and listen to the birds. They sing a beautiful melody I hum along to.
I open my eyes and look into the oak trees above. Their leaves rustle with the slight breeze, and the wind chimes on the small porch clink and clank together. A question suddenly pops into my mind: Where am I?
A truck suddenly zooms past me on the dirt road and disappears down the hill. I sit up on my hammock and try to see it. I can only see the dirt road for miles and miles. I shrug and realize I’ve never seen this place before. I am suddenly alert, and concerned. I slide off my hammock and begin to walk down a small hill. I look down at my feet as my toes dig into the soft earth below. I feel dazed, my mind not entirely with me. I look up from the crisp grass and I’m somewhere entirely new. It’s raining, pouring. I’m standing on a road in the middle of nowhere and the only thought I have is: I have to get away. I have to get away.
A pair of bright headlights appear about a mile down the road I am on, and they’re getting increasingly faster. I try to move my feet, but they won’t budge; almost as if they have been glued to the ground. I begin to panic as I realize that the car down the road is going to slam right into me!
The car is close to me now and I close my eyes and await the impact…
I don’t feel anything. Nothing at all. I slowly open my eyes, revealing the inside of a pick-up truck. I’m sitting in the passenger seat and I’m drenched from head to toe. Jerking my head to the left, I see the driver…except, I don’t really see them - they’re wearing a hood, which covers most of their face.
They act as though they don’t know I’m there - as if they can’t see me. I look ahead and all I see is illuminated rain splattering the windshield. The driver is speeding and swerving. Looking at their hands, I notice they’re trembling immensely while trying to grip the steering wheel. The driver’s clothes are stained with a dark substance I can’t quite see and I strain to see out the back window.
I don’t have time to think. The driver slams on the breaks and swerves violently off the road and into the tall, dried grass. My head hits my window and begins to bleed down my right temple. I feel dizzy but am still conscious. The right side of my head stings like lemon juice on an open wound, and I don’t know what‘s happening. I weakly look out my window and see a lone deer run across the road. The driver must have swerved to avoid hitting it…
I tap the driver’s shoulder. They’re hunched over the steering wheel and not breathing. I pull back my hand with some of the dark substance from the driver’s coat sticking to it. Smelling my hand, I suddenly realize what the substance is: blood!
My heart rate picks up and I am suddenly aware of everything. I jerk my head around the car and a sack in the back of the truck catches my eye. I hop out of my seat and into the back. I slowly begin to open the sack; my breath catches in my throat. I feel all the color leave my face as I see what’s rotting inside:…me.