She appeared every night. She stood at the foot of his bed and watched him sleep; weekdays, weekends, holidays. No exceptions. He didn’t know her name. She never spoke a word as she glared down at him, unblinking, not moving a muscle.
On the first night she appeared, Peter had just come home from a night at the movies with some friends, drank a steaming cup of cocoa, kissed his mother good night, and went to bed like he always did. He took off his watch and put it on the dresser, in the same place he always put it. He changed into his pajamas and put his clothes in the hamper the same way he normally would. He wriggled under the blanket and went to sleep immediately, just like always.
He didn’t dream that night. His sleep was more for rest than entertainment, so only the darkness behind his eyelids greeted him. At least until the middle of the night.
His eyes popped open, and that was the first sign something was wrong. On this night, his eyes were panicked and paranoid, desperate for an exit.
2:13 AM flashed on his alarm clock. He had gone to bed only three hours ago, so why was he already awake? Something trickled down Peter’s brow and he reached a hand to wipe it. Why was he sweating? He wiped his wet hand on his bed sheets and noticed that there was someone else in the room.
An old woman with skin like a weathered plastic bag stood at the end of his bed. Her eyes were abysmal, and if you stared too long, they would probably suck you inside, never to be seen again. Her mouth was a violent line and her nose was shaped like a fishing hook. Her moss-like hair hovered just above her bony shoulders. The woman reeked like a New York City dumpster, ammonia, and gasoline. Peter’s body tried to gag, but couldn’t.
“Who the hell are you!?” He tried to say, but no sound would come from his mouth. His eyes darted, horrified as he tried to repeat the question, but the words died on his lips. The woman and her abysmal eyes stared back, still as a statue.
“ARRRRRRGGGHHHH!” He tried to scream at the top of his lungs, but his voice box failed him. This was unreal, he had to go get help. Peter tried to sit up, but his body remained pinned to the bed like it was tied with ropes. He tried to swing his legs over the bed, but they wouldn’t budge. Panic set in. He couldn’t leave his room and nobody could hear him scream. His windpipe tightened. It was like someone was choking him; hard enough to watch him suffer, but soft enough to keep him alive.
Who was she? Why was she there? Would she kill him? Sell his organs on the black market? Steal his soul?
But she just stood there. Blue electricity radiated off her figure and adrenaline vibrated through Peter’s body.
The minutes and hours moved at a snail-like speed until the sun shone through Peter’s window. The incoming sunlight flooded the room and the old woman vanished into thin air. Her disappearance left Peter gasping for breath. He put a hand to his chest and felt his marching band of a heartbeat, relieved that his body could move again. Shaking, Peter swung his legs around the edge of his bed so he was sitting. He collapsed his head into his hands and sobbed.
Of course, his mother didn’t believe him. She said something like “That’s what you get for watching those horror flicks, it’s all in your head,” but he knew the truth. No matter how many times he told her, she wouldn’t understand. He couldn’t tell his friends either; they’d just say he was imagining things and tell him to “Man up, dude.”
Ever since that first time, Peter awoke every night to the creepy old woman at his bed. He never knew her name. He never knew why he couldn’t breathe or why he couldn’t move. He never knew what she wanted with him. But one day, that woman would speak, and her words would change Peter’s life forever.