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One at a Time

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Susan woke in a cold sweat. The power was off and the din of silence pounded at the membranes of her mind. The room was a dense and heavy dark save a strange ambient glow of amber permeating through the narrow crack between her door and the frame. The air was thick, moist, and suffocating, almost as if it was trying to kill her and have the room to itself.

Besides a pounding cranium and rash-covered lungs, she felt the utmost sense of unease, the type one gets when they peer down a dark alleyway in the middle of a muggy summer night. She flipped her pillow and lay her head on the frigid cotton weave case. She remained motionless after that, every inch of her being screaming at her to roll over and see what was there. The darkness grew heavier as if it were corpses being piled upon her one at a time. One at a time.

"Heeeewwwuuuuu Huugggghhhhh..."

The sudden noise sent a trickle of icy despair down her spine. She wasn't alone. She dared not close her eyes, for she was terrified at what she might see when she opened them. Who was breathing? Was it her? The hot air stung her trachea as it was pumped in and out.

Every breathe was accompanied with a slight wheeze. Perhaps the ominous breathing had been her, and she just hadn't noticed it. She had no way of knowing though; she had to remain motionless, staring at that amber light. If she moved, it would get her.

One at a time. Dead grins welcoming the reluctant soul. One at a time,

Her eyes were fish out of the water, burning in the heat of a non-existent sun. What was once her lips had become awkward mountain ranges, dry and scaly with gummy dampness in the valley. The wheezing had stopped, and so had the otherworldly breathing. The deep, torturous silence returned. It knocked at her brain, asking, no, demanding access to her sanity. She denied it, but the silence was a fabulous lock pick.

One at a time. Corpse after corpse. One at a time.

The dark outlining the amber glow twisted and contorted into grotesque shapes and beings that words cannot describe. As she witnessed the inborn terrors of the human mind, the glow flickers as if something crept through it. The darkness changed into all the creatures of nightmare, setting her sanity on edge. Another flicker. An impossible tear formed in her eye. Darkness. The amber light died without warning.

One at a time. The stench of the forgotten grave. One at a time.

The door creaked, age old hinges resisting the even older wood. Crying in the distance. The whine of a babe left alone in the unyielding darkness. Icy fingers grazed Susan's face. Rodents began gnawing and scratching relentlessly into the soles of her feet. The metallic whine of a chainsaw in the distance, accompanied with a bloodcurdling scream. Unable to move, unable to blink in fear that it would get her.

One at a time. Blankets of dead tissue. One at a time.

Her heart pounded in her chest, seeking release. A trickle of blood escaped a nostril. Thu Thump! Thu Thump! Thu Thump! Her ribs on fire, her heart bruising. No release from this hell. Laughter! Crying! Yelling and screaming! Eyes red, raw from the air. Sweat pooling. Trembling lips. Demons of the night, dancing dancing dancing! Headless children running about, blood everywhere! Dancing! Clapping!

The eyes of death mocking her! Laughter! Tumbling corpses! Blood! Crying! Begging for the end! She was dying!

One at a time! You're gonna die, bitch! One at a time!

The amber light blossomed through the crack, illuminating the room. Salvation! She let out a cry, a peep, as the darkness swirled away from the crack, abandoning its torment-laden onslaughts. The beauty of it enfeebled her, and in this moment, she blinked.

Never had a single action felt so... wonderful. The beautiful spark of agony as the dampened eyelids moistened the sandy orbs, the coolness of the eye as the lid made contact. She smiled, her quivering lips pulled apart to reveal pearly teeth, yellow in the amber light. She rolled the mountain ranges inward and wet them, soothing the cracks and stings.

One at a time. The dead are leaving, returning to the mortal fields. One at a time.

Clikkety Clack! Clikkety Clack! The patter of footsteps was a killjoy. Once again her eyes grew still, her breathing ragged. Adrenaline soared through her veins. Frozen. The door opened, moaning as it did so. Something entered her room. She saw the silhouette against the amber light. The darkness began to change. She whined, then screamed as something leapt up on the bed, landing on her legs.

She kicked her way up to a sitting position and flung her arm out wildly in the dark, searching for the lamp. Her fingers found it and clicked it on, illuminating the room with a white light. It was empty. No demons, no killers, no rodents gnawing at her feet. She looked at the foot of her bed and relief rushed through her, replacing the incapacitating adrenaline. It was Trixie, her golden retriever pup. The hound wagged its bushy tail and darted up to Susan. She laughed as Trixie licked her face, the oddly comforting stench of puppy breath filling her nose, replacing the smell of her blood.

"Go to sleep, baby," she told Trixie. The dog shook its head playfully, ran around in the bed a bit, and dug in, releasing a wholehearted sigh. Susan lay back down, relief and joy filling her being.

"It was just the dog, you idiot," she smiled and shut off the light. As her head touched the pillow, the door slammed shut. Trixie whined. Susan pulled the dog closer to her. It's just the wind, girl, just the wind. Her eyes grew wide as she realized that the window wasn't open. Something bumped the bottom of the bed. Twice. Trixie let out a growl. The darkness grew heavy. Silence. The heavy, heavy silence.

One at a time. One at a time.


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