by Danielle La Paglia
Jodie’s heavy lids pressed on her eyes. Her muscles relaxed as her breathing slowed and her body melted into the comfort of the warm bed. A gentle fog rolled through her mind, covering over the last thoughts left over from the day, replacing them with a calm haze of nothing. As the remnants of consciousness slipped from her grasp, she heard it.
Eyes flying open, her stomach clenched, and she held her breath, listening for the sound. The all too familiar sound.
She waited, telling herself it couldn’t be, praying that it wouldn’t be. But even above the sound of her heart hammering in her ears, she caught it. The sound of finger nails scraping along the hardwood floor. More like claws really.
A scream lodged in her throat. Yanking the blanket over her head, Jodie curled in on herself and began to hum the childhood lullaby she thought she’d long since forgotten.
The bed rocked as the beast jostled his way out from beneath it. She held her breath.
It’s just a dream. It’s just a dream. It’s just a dream.
His raspy breaths grew louder. Closer. A heavy hand gripped the blanket above her head, jerking it from her grasp. Frozen in fear, she stared at the beast. Red eyes gleamed down at her. Spittle glistened at the corner of his mouth. A growl grew up from his belly and echoed from his twisted lips.
A flash of teeth. The slash of a claw. Pain.
The neighbors heard the screams, but when the police arrived they found nothing but an empty house and an unmade bed.