The white burst of lightning seemed to light the bedroom on fire, forced Victoria’s eyes wide open, and her heart to slam into her throat, which was followed by a hard crack of thunder that rumbled the house and refused to allow her back to slumber. Victoria curled her body closer to her husband. His skin cold, his form rigid and unwelcoming. The fight from dinner had left him silent and distant. His body opposite hers, he gave no gesture for Victoria to cuddle closer. She didn’t care, needing the closeness during the storm, Victoria shuffled across the expanse of the crisp sheets to her sleeping husband.
A pillow wedged behind his back made it difficult to touch him. In his anger, he had built a barricade around himself. The rain rolled over the lawn outside the window as if a giant watering can move closer. The noise was too loud to bear, and Victoria had already been teetering on edge lately. The violence of the storm so close to her window was as if fear itself were coming for her. She felt as though the lightning would shatter through the single glass pane and snap its power on her. It wouldn’t help me, and she thought as her lips trembled, it wouldn’t save me.
She fought the sweat reeking pillow until it came out from under Thomas’ shoulder. She dared not look to where she threw it. Victoria closed her eyes, an old voice in her head told her the boogeyman would come. She tossed the pillow, and it landed with a soft thump against the door. The hinges creaked in response, but the door hardly shuttered. Another bright snap of lightning and Victoria wasted no time as she nestled her face into Thomas’ cold shoulder blade.
Thunder followed the lightning with a roar so loud it seemed to send the closet door rattled again, but she knew it was impossible. She squeezed her eyes shut as she felt the energy pull around her. The smell of her husband’s body wash calmed her fluttering heart, but it did nothing to stop the creak of the closet door as it closed, allowing more room for the strange man. Victoria’s skin crawled, and her hands shook with adrenaline and fear as she pushed her body harder into her husband, “Thomas,” she whispered. She was hoping he would wake and make the monster go away. He never believed her, no matter the times she would tell him. It was a monster she had to endure alone. This had to be the hundredth time. Her mind’s voice chanted a quick prayer for the lightning to crash through the window as she only moments before imagined, take her life and save her from this torture.
The door pushed from the corner of the wall, screeching and causing Thomas to stir, but no matter what Victoria did, he wouldn’t wake. His rhythmic breathing sounds stopped as he grunted slightly and pushed Victoria away from him, making room for him to roll onto his stomach and lay face down. His arms above his head, snoring resumed, and Victoria put herself back into the nook of his armpit. It wouldn’t save her from her fear, but it was something, and still, she refused to look at the rattle of the closet door.
She laid so still trying to convince herself her husband was stroking her hair and reassuring her fears as a lover would.
The thunder echoed the flash of lightning so fast it had to be right over the top of their box-like townhouse. Victoria peeked her eyes open and shifted her head toward the window, and the sky was an unnatural shade of purple, an ominous feeling made her consider the fact this was the moment she lost her mind. Another lightning snap crawled along with the ceiling of the sky. A godly bolt of electricity shattered into a finger-like flashed, stabbing into her bedroom. There was no darkness left in the room; every inch illuminated except the corner bead behind the closet door was now closed and fully exposed. It had a dark form bent and filled the space by the second.
An eerie shadow lived in her nightmares, so many nights filled out and were real. It sucked in the light, absorbed the horror of the thunderstorm outside, filled with the energy of her fear. It coursed through its veins as if it were life-giving blood, but it was Victoria’s absolute terror. She slammed her lips shut to prevent a scream, and her eyes refused to close again. They were forcing her to watch the shadow grow into a lean, ominous creature. As if her scream empowered him. The monster shouldn’t have been able to move from the wall. Many nights she had sensed him watching her as she fell asleep but never had it moved. Now, it turned and twisted outward as a white outcasted brute.
His head so large that the neck failed to hold it upright, it was cocked at an angle. Not a hair on the creature. No hair, eyelashes, or eyebrows. Where his ears should be were slumped into red holes. Angry lines crowded its face, and bare brow bones furrowed over black beady eyes. A wheeze emitted from it’s dripping mouth as the creature forced oxygen in its lungs. He was licking the air, tasting the emotion Victoria’s fear put on it.
Victoria pulled her feet up into her chest, and she tried to become as small a ball she could. I tried and failed at showing courage. Her distress thickened, and the monster basked in it. The spiderweb hue of his stretched skin made bugs crawl over Victoria’s skin. Its unnaturally long arms stretched to Victoria. She had a sudden vision of the creature, skinning her to make a sweatshirt of her skin. A scream choked in her throat. Then suddenly, it took a step into the wall and disappeared. Returned to the shadow it once had been, and Victoria let loose the scream she had swallowed. Another bolt of lightning struck just outside the window.
Thomas didn’t budge from the scream, not a hiccup, grunt, or flinch. “Thomas?” Victoria whispered, a mouse crying out in pain for no one to hear. The liquid pain drowned her and made her lungs fill in. She felt she was drowning, and not even her husband would wake to it. She jerked him with her hand, grabbed onto his shoulder, and gave it a good jolt. She drove her face into her husband’s shoulder, nearly head bunting him. She tried to forget the image of the monster, and its name stayed burned in her mind.
“Thomas,” her whisper grew frantic but remained nearly inaudible, her throat coarse as if. She looked for love and warmth but met instead with Thomas’ sleeping coldness. How could his skin be so intensely frigid? She smacked him harder, and she needed to rouse him. The nightmare had become real this time, and it was no longer just a shadow looming in the corner. It filled in the room and had a solidity to it.
The drowning of fear finished collapsing her lungs and went straight for her throat, haphazardly choking her, threatening to asphyxiate her unless she could get Thomas awake. Her voice came out the last chance at life croak, “Thomas!” and finally, his bitter form rose.
His head slowly lifted from the pillow, eyes closed, and mouth jagged. As if attached to a string, his head came straight up and then turned to acknowledge her. But he didn’t look at her. His eyes sprung open wide, then the invisible finger holding the lips open wiped them into a scream ‘O,’ and Thomas cried a soul freezing, ‘AHHHH.’
High pitched as a banshee heralding a death. One stable syllable and the scream flooded the room. Victoria’s eyes welled with tears of anxiety, and one hand pinned under her; she used her free hand to attempt to push his head back to the pillow. Her hand still on his temple, Thomas’ eyes glued wide open, and his head refused to stay down. Like a spring, it lifted slow and monotonous once more to stare Victoria down. The full ‘O’ of his lips peeled back to attempt another shriek.
“Please, Thomas! Stop,” she sobbed. The awkward angle of his head, his arms remained folded on the pillow and comfortable, but his neck craned to hold his head up. The ghost vision he held crushed the last courage Victoria had.
A boom of thunder threw Victoria under the sheets, and the chilling scream of her husband muffled by the thin blanket. The rumble outside was constant, with no time at all between the lightning. The twisted man moved to the center of the room. He seemed broken, his shoulders a straight line downward, and his dangly arms are nearly touching the floor. Victoria slammed her eyes shut. Liquid fear flooded her brain, making it difficult to think.
Mirroring the crash of thunder, just the split second before the lightning lit again, she saw the white creature climb on the end of her bed and corner in on her. The white skin drained its light with a flash of lightning, then turned back to a shadow. Blackness and weight. That’s all Victoria knew. It crushed her into the bed, like a nightmare that she got frozen. Pleas are going through her mind, not finding their way to her lips. Smothered by the weight, drowned by the screeching, she couldn’t even cry for help.
Just as quickly, the storm was gone, the weight lifted. The vibration of a word went through Victoria’s mind left her paralyzed. Nought. The name burnt her skin, stuck to her flesh, held her to the bed. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Thomas, his face stuffed into the pillow, snoring softly. No longer screeching like a banshee, his breathing was gentle sounds of sleep. She tried clawing to him, but the weight on her body was too much. She was trying to scream for him, but her mouth would make no sound, her arms heavier than her bed would be.
“Jesus, Vic, go to sleep,” as he rolled away and left her cold once more.
Victoria did not sleep, and she lay awake with her eyes crushed closed until dawn broke.