...It is three o'clock in the morning.
It had been one of those days- you know the kind. When nothing seems to go right, and nobody seems to be in a good mood. Of course you would wake up at three in the morning.
You jolt awake, not sitting upright, rather contorted in an odd little fetal position. You might think that it was because you were cold- the heat must not be on. Of course the heat wouldn't be on.
You toss and you turn, but there is nothing comfortable about this once-satisfying bed on which you rest. Each time you turn, you feel another knot creep up into your back, each muscle ﬂaring and spazzing in its own little rebellion against your body. You try rolling over onto your stomach.
It would be a relief, except for the fact that you have to crane your neck to one side in order to breathe. You turn yourself onto your right side, facing your wall, and you just try and mindlessly explore how black the darkness is. You cannot see your wall, though it might have been only a foot from your head. It's funny. The darkness when you open and close your eyes is almost the same.
That's when it hits you. As soon as you close your eyes, the images come ﬂooding back. You had been having a nightmare- one of the kinds where you can literally feel, or in your case, smell, what is happening to you. It wasn't too big of a deal. A man. A dark man.
A man in ragged clothing had come into your room. He had been breathing on you. His breath smelled like burnt popcorn and black licorice, as odd as it may have been. He reminded you of a man you once saw at a carnival- you know the one. He just stared. Just stared, with his grey eyes. And black mouth. And dripping hair.
A shiver goes down your spine. It was almost as if it were... a memory. But that would be impossible. Right?
Even now, your over-active imagination conjures up the stench of burnt popcorn and black licorice, and you can almost hear the carnival man's wheezing breaths right at your ear. You stare intently at the wall, engaged in a battle of wills with yourself. You're smarter than that- there is nobody in your room. You should turn around and prove that. But... there is always the chance... even the slightest occasion... that you could be right.
You ﬂing your head away from the wall and examine the looming darkness closely. It is still thick. It is still cold. But no decrepit man breathing down your shoulder.
No grey-eyed carney reaching out to caress your head as you lay there. But... there isn't much of anything. Your fears only momentarily allayed, you spring out of bed to dash for your light-switch- that magical and majestic device which eradicates all imagined evils.
You can feel your eyes get wider as you frantically ﬂick the switch back and forth. But there is no electricity. No power. You are powerless. Against Him. Against that old man who has just crept up behind you.
You whirl around. And ﬁnd nothing but darkness.
You whirl around again. Nothing. You think that you can hear him breathing down your neck, and you might even be able to feel his moist breath upon your collar. Frantically, you ﬁght. You ﬂail your arms around you, making sure that, if there were any solid object in your path, you would indeed knock it unconscious before it could do the same to you.
You hit something. It was the wall. Your hand stings, and you clutch it in the other, cursing slightly. The pain brings with it rationale. Are you honestly up at three o'clock in the morning ransacking your room for some ﬁgment of your imagination? You sure are silly.
Your eyes have adjusted to the darkness- even if your mind hasn't- and you dig through your room to ﬁnd that old ﬂashlight. It works. Finally, you can see for yourself that there is nothing and nobody in your room. You can see your own breath by the light, and you realize that the heat and the electricity truly are not working tonight. Well, you're already up and about, so you go towards the fuse box to see if anything blew. Nothing. Everything looks to be in perfect order, as far as you can tell.
You go through the house, trying switches left and right, but none of them work. You, being a smart and independent individual, do not call anyone to come have a look at your sorry state of freezing affairs. But... you do take a few looks at your doors. They were all locked... except for one. The back door. It was unlocked, but nobody had come in. Right?
You were sure of that. Almost. That door would have made such a terrific screech as its cheap plastic bottom scraped along your ﬂoors that it would have woken the dead. Nobody could have come in. You make sure that it is locked before you go back to bed. Having scouted out your house and your nearly impregnable defenses- those deadbolt locks- you return to your bedroom, grabbing a few extra blankets and a lit candle as you go.
You pile into your bed, the candle safely on your desk in the corner. Your eyes have ceased to be accustomed to the darkness, and so you are right back to square one. Though much less frantic this time.
Just your luck. Your day was awful, your night- or morning, you would probably say; you're a little anal-retentive about specifics- has proven to be just as bad. Why is it that the early hours of the day are so startling? Everything seems to just come alive around then. Your mind plays tricks on you. Your eyes too. You thought you saw a shadow moving, ever so slightly, in the candle's light. But you're alone. While you were up, you made sure to check the doors. You locked them all. Right?
Nobody could get in, and even if he were going to try, he would have to make a great big noise doing so. You could see him coming a mile away. Of course you could. But... if nobody can get in... that means nobody can get out. What if he had come earlier?
You hadn't locked that back door all way, perhaps he had come in and sat in your closet, just waiting to pop out and strangle you to death like to saw in that movie a while ago. And if he was already in the house... that means that you just locked him in. With you.
No. No. Do not focus on that. That was a nightmare... right? You had just looked all around your house, though not inside the closets and cupboards- only paranoid people do that, and you are definitely not paranoid. Focus on the good things. Like the fact that the heat has apparently kicked in.
A warm breeze ﬂoats over your neck, accompanied by a frigid blast. But... your heater is on the ﬂoor on the other side of the room. You turn over, and as you shine your trusty ﬂashlight around the room, you can understand just what that shadow was.
Your curtains are blowing in the night's wind. You didn't notice it before, you were too busy trying to ﬁnd that licorice-mouthed man. That means that your window is open. The ﬁrst ﬂoor window. You jump out of bed and hurriedly close that window, too quickly to notice that the screen has been ripped off. The heat must be on. You can hear its light humming, its vaporous aspiration. It must have been on this entire time, the cold air must have canceled it out. But that isn't the heater.
It was me. Don't look behind you.