I wake up at the sound of the doorknob turning. Someone is trying to get in the apartment. I can feel it to my bones. I can see it on the walls, the shadows from the trees, streetlights trying to pry into my window and extend shadows to my forehead.
The metallic clank of the doorknob stops. I wait for the door to move, for the deadbolt to slide into “unlocked” and my face grows cold while my ears are burning, straining to hear a clue, a noise, anything to tell me what is real and what is near.
Sweat forms, pores leaking and droplets tensing on my cheeks. My temples are wet, my pillow soaked through already, and my shoulders tense, locked in place to protect the rest of my body. I can open my eyes, but what if I see something? Will I be able to close them ever again?
Did I lock the door when I got home? Or is that doorknob turning at someone else’s apartment and the hallway is throwing acoustic waves in multiple directions? Who is about to enter my apartment? What will they do?
I hear footsteps, paws padding across the carpet. My cat sometimes wakes me in the middle of the night — a food dish running low, water somehow tainted — but tonight I hope he won’t jump on the bed.
But, what if something jumps on the bed, and it’s NOT the cat? What if something else is stepping across the floor, making its way to me, watching, hoping I turn to face it and open my eyes so it can suck out my soul?
I can’t move. My toes are curled and starting to cramp but I won’t extend them and it takes every fiber of every tendon to resist the urge to turn over, or to climb out of bed and run to the door to make sure it’s locked. Whatever is watching me can see movement, it can feel warm breath when I exhale, it can absorb fear and use it as strength.
And so I lie there and wait, sweat trickling down across my nose and tickling me, teasing me to make a move to wipe it away. My ear lope trembles, and feels something, a vibration in the air, an interruption in the space around me.
Then there is stillness, and silence. I look for sleep, reaching into the depths of consciousness for an escape.
Wipe me away into a dream and I’ll be able to avoid looking up at the horror that stands over me and wants to take my soul.
Sleep comes and takes me away, and in the morning the cat watches me do my morning routine, wondering why I’m nervous to get out of bed and then staring at the doorknob while I cook breakfast.
Maybe he’s waiting for something, too.