I gasped for air as my head recovered from being jerked out of REM sleep. My eyes were blurred and my thinking slow, I couldn’t even remember what I had just seen. Somewhere deep in my subconscious it was burned, stayed just out of reach of what I could recall. I glanced at my alarm clock at my bedside, taking note of the time. 2:22 AM. It was too early for this, I thought to myself. I shook it off and sat upright, trying to collect my thoughts and regain awareness. My head held in my palms, I chuckled without opening my mouth.

“It was just a dream.” The darkness encasing me didn’t respond. Part of me thought it would have, but the rest called me an idiot. The last bit told me to get something to eat, and subsequently gave the signal to my stomach; which gurgled in anticipation.

I stood up and walked to my bedroom’s door. The layout of the room carefully memorized so as to not break a toe on the television stand or a stray bedknob. The first few times I was here, I’d slammed my foot into almost every object in the room, cursing loudly each time. Nowadays, it’s almost routine to wake up and move about.

The door swung open, and in its stead I took a step forward into the beckoning dark corridor ahead. Using my hand, I felt the walls to make sure I didn’t pass the stairs, and once I felt my hand dip, I took the turn. Now usually, they tell you to never go down stairs in the dark, but it was late, I was still tired, and I wasn’t gonna bother burning my retinas by turning on the lights. I knew where I was going anyway.

With each step down I took, a small echoing creak would sound from the panels underfoot. At the last few steps, a blue light reflected off of the white carpet, and ensured that I didn’t trip on the last leg.

This moonlight, however, didn’t do much for the rest of the abyssal dark of the place. I sighed, I didn’t want to turn on a light, but knew that I had to. I shielded my eyes, and flicked on a lamp, flooding the living room in a dull orange glow. I made a beeline for the kitchen connected to the room, my stomach grew ever eager. God only knew why, I never kept much food around the house.

The eerie still grew more present, all sounds--even the light whistle of wind blowing outside--had all but ceased. The quiet was interrupted yet again by the opening of the cabinets, and my rummaging around for anything I had. I settled on a browning banana I found on the counter.

I always liked this time of night, where it was deathly still and nothing was around to bother you. It was just me and the emptiness of the after-dark world. The heater was usually automatically turned off by this point, so there was a calm chill all around the house, which made climbing back into bed after a midnight venture that much better. However tonight was off. The air was a little colder, a little more bitter, the still ever more unnerving. I felt like I had someone’s piercing gaze constantly on me. I only just noticed that I was gnawing on the banana peel by this point.

As I left, my stomach satiated for the time being, I had noticed the basement door cracked open. When I looked in, behind the veil of dark were two small lights, beamed right at me. I laughed, at first, thinking it was just a hallucination. The beams suddenly darkened and dashed deeper into the darkness. This experience had caused my heart to skip a beat, and I sprinted to my room, and hid under the covers.

It took a couple hours, but I had finally fallen asleep, listening to the creaks and moans of the house. Someone was getting a cup of tea downstairs.

It was stormy today on my morning commute to work. Every driver decided today they would act like a complete idiot and cut me off or almost cause an accident at every possible turn. Over the years I’ve built up a tolerance to the halfwits on the road, but today I was feeling especially irritable. I’m not even sure why, I had my coffee, so it wasn’t withdrawal, I just felt angry. I wanted to swerve into a fool a hundred times, I had to beg myself not to half the time. Maybe I need to change my sleep schedule.

The drive was long, and it irritated me, but I had made it to work. It was the usual desk job, I’d sit around for a good amount of hours typing away and doing financial stats and stuff like that; but since the job had a lot of slow moments, I was typically bored and either talked to my co-worker Kyle, or played a pirated copy of DooM on my machine. Today I had opted for the former.

“Dude.. Your eyes are really red and dark today. You feeling okay?” He started, as I walked into my office and hung my jacket up.

“Yeah, yeah. Just, guess I didn’t sleep too well.” I didn’t mention last night, figured he’d assume I just sleepwalked or dreamt badly.

Want a nap? I can take over your shift for a few if you promise not to be asleep all day.”

I considered it heavily, but in the end I just sat at my desk and muttered a half-hearted “Nah.” He shook his head and chuckled, going back to his own work. Something seemed off though, his voice.. Trembled, on certain vowels, and his eyes seemed dead. His personality was like a block of wood.

Suddenly, a bout of narcolepsy had seemed to hit me full force, and my face slammed into the keyboard. Kyle had called my name just before I slipped out of consciousness. However it was not in panic. It was trying to soothe me.

I woke up in my bed, with a start, not quite past stage 2 of my circadian rhythm yet. I checked the clock, which read 2:22 AM. All four corners of the room were pitch black, just like the night before. The door was closed and locked, like I had left it when I came in. At least, I think I did.

I pulled the covers back over my head, and tried to fall back asleep. My stomach pleaded to be fed, but I didn’t budge. I fought through the pangs until the clock finally changed to 2:23 AM. As the clock changed, so did the air in the house. It got more tense, and the sudden drop in temperature was accompanied by a dull knock on the far end of my room. I remained under my covers; I started to shiver.

Insomnia was a hell of an affliction. I felt that I had gone days without sleep, but I know I went to bed every night. I know I wake up every morning and take a shower, and leave for work. But nowadays dreams and reality seem to meld together, especially tonight.

The knocking got louder, until it slid to the floor, and was followed by loud footsteps making their way to my door. A loud bang, like someone had punched the door as hard as they could, rang through my empty room and shook me up. What shook me up worse, was when tiny claws started to scratch at the wood, and gradually grew louder and, deeper, in a way. This went on all night, not letting me get even the smallest taste of sleep.

Today was the worst sleepless day, however. Hallucinations seemed to get worse, going from an ant on the wall, to full-sized shadow people walking around my own home, in my bathroom outside the shower curtain, and in the back of my car on my drive to work. It followed me around all throughout the day, through six hours of spreadsheet making, two hours of break time, the entire day, ceaselessly. It hounded me the entire time, never breaking eye contact (that is, if it had eyes). I sincerely hoped it wasn’t dangerous.

I sat in the living room, watching TV, as the weather outside worsened instantaneously, and thunder clapped. Next to me sat my shadow, tapping its foot on the floor. Something inside me was telling me this wasn’t a hallucination, but, I couldn’t do anything about it. I’d rather let it stay than anger it by trying to rid of it.

It looked over to me, showing beady yellow eyes glowing from underneath a shadowy cloud that it called its face. We locked eyes for a brief moment, and a sudden shockwave of sheer panic overcame me, forcing me to scream and run for my room. It seemed confused, as I was, but calmly gave chase. It grabbed me by my collar as I ran up the stairs, and threw me down them. I sprained my shoulder and it burned horribly, but I didn’t want to let the shadow do worse to me. I ran into the nearest door--the basement--and locked it behind me, I ran into the dimly lit cavern below.

I ran to a slatted wardrobe I kept in the basement, and hid inside of it, trying to escape the shadow before it got more aggressive. I couldn’t see how, but it got through the locked door, and stomped down the stairs searching for me. A low growl emanated from deep within its core. It passed underneath the ceiling light, and I was able to see part of it gaining form. Its face was almost human, but its jaw distended to make room for the hundreds of rows of needle-like teeth. Its hands were no longer formless blobs, but were talons, attached to a humanoid palm. It looked starved, to the point where internal organs were nonexistent, and its ribs were sucked in. Its yellow eyes grew brighter, shining brilliantly as it would turn its head to my direction, and then dim as it looked away. It knew I was here, but it didn’t know where.

I held my mouth to keep quiet, my breathing was growing more and more rapid. The monster, slammed its fist onto a table and screeched. Its screech was ear-splitting and made me dizzy, and sounded like a mix between a banshee and a dying woman. Was-was it trying to weed me out?

The beast groaned, turned its head towards me again, this time, however, made eye contact. It stomped a foot closer to me, cocking its head to the side, opening its jaws slightly, seemingly raring to attack. The inner panic within was telling me to run, but I couldn’t look away from it, or its eyes, which grew more piercing and evil the longer I gazed. Its talons grazed the slats in the closet I resided in, readying to rip the doors from their hinges, but a noise from upstairs attracted the beast. The door, someone knocked at the door.

I burst from the closet, sprinting past the distracted monster, and up the stairs, to the front door. I swung it open, seeing Kyle standing on the other side. He looked worried, even moreso when he saw the fear in my eyes, and the sweat dripping from my forehead. He went inside, not saying a word to me, and saw the door ripped off its hinges. Scratches and blood were covering the wood body.

“Kyle, please help me, there’s.. There’s something in here with me!”

“Calm down, where was it?” He said, as he tried to steady his own breath.

“There, down in the basement, last I checked. But, don’t go down there, just help me get the authorities, or, frickin’, animal control!”

Kyle looked more and more worried, and so went to the basement alone. Not within five minutes of going down there were his screams of terror and pain heard above, and the monster’s roaring began anew, more enraged and hungry than before.

The Alp

I was frozen. The monster drew nearer to me, coming up the stairs, I saw it in full detail. Its dried skin, blood dripping from its mouth onto the rest of its body, guts remaining on his talons. The only difference, was that this time, its face was Kyle’s; and it spoke to me, with a voice somewhat similar to his, but very wrong. “WaKe Up.” That was all it said before its claws pierced into my eyes, and through to my brain.

I woke up gasping for air, holding my heart tightly, tears streaming down my cold face. I was in a cold sweat, taken fever. I looked at the clock, it read 2:22 AM. The darkness around me was claustrophobic, so dark it was nearly tangible, and concealed my hands even though they were right in front of my face.

It smelled like iron in my room. The dream, or, what I hoped was a dream, had ceased, but my instincts still told me to look around my house to make sure. I ran through my doorway, and downstairs. Something wasn’t right, my stairs were made of wood. These.. Had a metallic clang when I strode on them, however.

The whole house smelled like iron, and rust. The windows bore no light, and my eyes refused to adjust to the abyss that surrounded me. I went to my basement door, and felt around. It was still there, but it was colder, harder. It still had the grooves of claws and teeth inset.

“Oh, shit..” I whimpered, before a loud shriek sounded from below.