By Melissa L. Webb
Joy Westcott stood at the window. Streaks of light danced across the sky, heralding in a dark bank of clouds. She shivered as the first rain drops struck the glass. They beat out a hypnotic rhythm, lulling her into false tranquility.
She breathed; condensation coating the glass where her foggy exhale touched it. Stepping back, she checked the thermostat on the wall. 70 degrees and holding. She tapped at it, convinced it was broken.
“It’s so cold,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around herself as her teeth chattered. She moved back to the window, the lightning mesmerizing her as it tore apart the sky.
Thunder boomed overhead and the floor shook, quivering like a frightened child. She glanced around as confusion fogged her mind. When did the ground ever react to the sky? The tremor grew stronger, then stopped, falling silent before the storm.
Joy gasped as the air chilled even more. It felt as if she was on a tundra, exposed to the harsh elements instead of tucked away in her own home.
The lights flickered, then went out as another rumble split the sky. She glanced at the emergency candles glowing in the gloom. Thank goodness, she’d thought ahead. Tonight wasn’t a night to be in the dark. It wasn’t safe.
That thought surprised her. This was her home. Her haven. She’d always been safe here. Why would one little storm change all that?
But, as she watched the clouds drawing closer, she realized it was true. A prophetic shudder crept up her shoulders. It weighed upon her as much as anything alive would. It might be the last night of her life. It might also be the end of every life in the world.
She pressed her face closer to the glass. Lightning flared, turning the large bay window into a mirror. Immediately her eyes moved to the reflected candlelight burning behind her. In that instant, a figure moved, blocking one of the candles from view.
Joy gasped as the lightning died, once again gazing out onto her neighborhood. Fear flooded through her, fast and hard, cementing her to that spot. Something was behind her.
That was absurd. She was alone. All the doors were locked. There couldn’t be anyone behind her. Yet…she knew there was. She’d seen it move.
A jagged gasp emitted from her throat as a slithering occurred behind her. She wanted to turn, to see what lay in wait for her, but fear held her body tight. It constricted around her as real as any solid bands. She was helpless, nothing more than prey for whatever lurked behind.
Hearing a sharp hiss of breath, the room filled with darkness. A scream ripped from Joy’s throat, terror crushing the sound into nothing more than a gurgle. This was it. She was going to die and she wouldn’t even see it coming. Her mind raced. Why her? Why now? If her life was going to end tonight, shouldn’t she at least be given that much?
Opening her mouth, she tried to force actual words past her lips. “Did you blow out the candles?”
The slithering sounded again, moving closer. “Yes,” a voice answered, barely more human than a garbage disposal. “After all, it is my birthday.”
Joy cringed at its choice of words. Something had been born into the world. Something dark and sinister. Something that shouldn’t be. “What are you?” she asked.
“Hungry,” it hissed, moving close behind her.
Closing her eyes, she shook in despair, waiting for her demise as the storm raged on.
© 2015 Melissa L. Webb