Her throat rattles from the closet, alerting me it’s midnight. She’s coming. I face away. Melatonin hasn’t kicked in so I count backward trying to flee. Five. The door groans. I shrink into the mattress, paralyzed. My therapist said, "Breathe slowly," but broken fingernails scraping bedrails induce hyperventilating. Four. Crippled limbs crackle closer. She wheezes onto my toes. I retract them. Three. Sheets tugging, I pull firm! Another tug, then Another! Two. The bedframe squeaks. Her weight becomes enormous. I suck empty air. Clicking grows louder. She sniffs at my ear.
One. I have to look…
Jawbone unhinged; She screeches!
“Dare,” I said.
“I dare you to stick your hand in the hole.”
I rose to the challenge. Shining my torch on the cave wall, the familiar hole we’d spun many a terrifying tale about stared back at me open-mawed. Hungry.
Every possibility played in my head: masses of spiders consuming my arm, roiling snakes and poisonous fangs, giant black and yellow centipedes with stinging pincers, starved rats chewing my fingers.
My hand entered, and my blood ran instantly cold. Sweat poured down my back, tears streamed down my face, an inaudible scream lodged in my throat.
We shook hands.
Ever felt there’s something behind you, but you can never see it, because everywhere you turn, it stays behind you? And you can’t hear it. Or see its reflection. You just feel it there everywhere you go. That eerie unseen presence. That silent watcher. It could be a ghost or demon. And they say you only feel the presence with your sixth sense. It’s the only way you can know it’s there behind you, taking in all your movements, all your actions. And there’s nothing you can do about it until it’s too late. Can you feel it right now?
Beyond the attic stairs
Holding onto a trembling candle, its wavering flame cast eerie shadows across the surroundings.
“It's just an attic, Sydney said.”
The light of the candle quivered as she ascended the unstable staircase. Amidst the oppressive darkness of the attic, a sinister chuckle came from within the darkness. An evil presence materialized from the depths.
"Grandma," Sydney cried out. With hollow eyes and a wicked grin, Grandma lunged forward from the abyss. Her hair matted clinging to her exposed skull. At that moment, the candle slipped from her grasp, and the room plunged into darkness as her vengeful spirit drew near.
Midnight on Halloween, drunk off tequila and bourbon, they laughed and shushed themselves to the iron gate of the old cemetery. Skip opened it and glanced back.
“You gonna chicken out?”
“Fuck you,” Pete shoved him. “How do you know there’s an open grave?”
“Old man Fielding died. He’ll be buried tomorrow. Grave was dug today.”
“It’s pitch black,” Pete whispered, “how can you see?”
“Shhh,” Skip replied, stopping short. “Here it is.”
Pete peered into the hole. “How will I get out?”
“You won’t,” Skip growled, knocking him in the head with a shovel. “Now who’s the starting QB?"
The Body at the Bottom of the Stairs
And then particles rolling, gaps in sound. Gaps...missing teeth across long front stairs.
I knew even as I lay in bed calming my heart. Three bathrobes, a ski cap, wool slippers, sliding with the shadows to the front door, and turning the knob. Paint chips, like always, crackled to the floor as I peered out to the gold condensed Halloween morning.
Chunks of chimney.
I'd held the ladder countless times. Now my turn was up. Alone.
I mixed mortar.
Blocked wobbly legs.
"Hold," I said to the ghosts.
Then climbed, bowl-n-trowel in-hand teetering, over-40'up.
Afraid of heights.
In her grandparents' attic, Emily found an ornate antique mirror framed with grotesque faces. Curiosity overcoming her, she whispered the local legend: "Mirror, reveal your hidden tale." Instantly, her reflection grinned malevolently, mouthing, "switch?" before vanishing. Terrified, Emily ran downstairs. Her family gaped at her in horror, their eyes filled with dread. Confused and alarmed, she sprinted back to the attic. Her reflection appeared again, smirking, "Miss me?" Emily tried to scream, but her reflection cut her off: "Too late; I like it here." Trapped forever, the real Emily watched as her doppelgänger locked the attic, sealing her fate forever.
I remember when I first met my Sheila three years ago. I set up her router, looked in those big, blue eyes, and the rest was history. She doesn’t know yet, but I’m going to marry her. I have my grandmother’s ring in my pocket — just waiting for the right time to ask. I’ve stayed out of sight for the past three years, only coming out for food while she’s at work. Tomorrow, I’m going to introduce myself, tell her how much I love her, and we’ll start our lives in the house below the attic I’ve called home.
Late night at the lab
Edmund's supposed to defend his PhD on sleep science, but he's got nothing. I've done more this year than he's done in four. Only one trial left for this study.
"Hey, can you run it on me tonight? My participant ghosted me," I ask him.
Several dreams later, I'm half awake but my eyes feel glued shut. I can't move. I hear footsteps, then Edmund's voice.
"Your work will make a fantastic thesis."
I feel cold fingers suddenly clamp down on my nose. I can't breathe. I try to scream but sleep paralysis has me on lockdown. I can't–
Despite the streetlights, the city was dark. The air was chilly, and tendrils of steam stirred from the storm drain. It was harvesting time. He licked his lips, a smile forming. "My sheep have grown over the past year and have fattened." His freezer would be restocked by morning.
Wiping drool from his chin, he secured a mask over his face, and exited the van. His entire body, from his head to his toes, was concealed by a popular Halloween costume. Blending in, he slinked his way into the crowd of trick or treaters. The van had room for more.