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I remember that, when I was younger, I had a strange dream. Now, I've always had strange dreams; the one where everyone was a spy, the one with the zombie VS sports equipment, the one where my friends and I were sold to an evil family and my best friend was riding a dolphin wearing a loincloth (I've never understood that one). However, this dream, although it seemed like the most normal of them, seemed the most prominent.
It would begin normally; I'd be having a small party with some friends, eating cake and laughing, singing, playing games. I remember that there was pastel pink and blue bunting and there was this rose marzipan cake I had always remembered. It seemed very pleasant, it had all the things I loved; my best friends, the rose cake, I associated these things with safety and home, so I always felt happy during the start of this dream.
Once, however, during this dream, I walked out (I never remembered why, I presume it was because I may have needed the bathroom or something), but I stopped as soon as I reached the kitchen door. On the stairs was a shadow. A large, looming shadow, lurching slowly down our stairs as I stood, frozen in the doorway.
I don't remember much of the dream, apart from being, for some reason, terrified (which is strange since I have no idea why I was so afraid), as my friends called for me but I was too scared to move. The shadow moved down and down.
I'm not sure what exactly the shadow was, but I do remember that it looked a lot like... some sort of giant snail.
At this point, I'm sure something happened, as I woke up in a cold sweat, screaming, but I could never remember what happened at the end. My mind would always replace it with something like me walking back to the kitchen or my mother calling for us to go outside, or even a giant robot smiting the snail, but I knew there was something, something I've been hiding from myself. I've always pursued the ending, only to find some ridiculous crap that makes no sense or to wake up with still no answers.
Stranger still, my brother reports to have had a similar dream. He'd be lying in his bed, looking out of his bedroom door, when a large shadow would appear out of the corner of his eye; but coming up the stairs this time. He'd lie there, transfixed, until he woke up, again with no memory of how it ended. When I asked my mother, usually a sort of wise woman for all our young, childish questions, she'd crack a joke about her cousin and refuse to give a further answer on the subject.
Now, I'm at least eight years older, and I still remember that dream. I've read 'Quest For Blank Claveringi', and a friend of mine has started a comic about a giant superhero slug. All of this is irrelevant, though, since I still can't find the ending of my dream.
I may go insane, hunting my subconscious for what happened after that shadow made its way down my stairs, and I may find, some day, that ending, but go insane, totally unsatisfied with what I have found.
Fortunately, that will not be.
Recently, hunting through the cupboard under the stairs (not the attic; it's full of spiders) I found a box. It was one of our old boxes of pictures, as we had many of, full of pictures from when I was young. I smiled, looking through them. My brother in his school play. My sister on her first day of high school. Then I found some of me on my birthday.
I looked so happy in the photo; my friends, a cake, bunting. My hunt through the cupboard was a few days ago from now; I'd forgotten all about my dream. A sponge cake with white and red icing and a red marzipan rose. Blue and pink bunting.
I looked through more. My friends laughing. Me blowing out the candles. My cat. TV. My cat again. Most of these seemed stupid, especially those of my cat. Then I found one. It was me, standing in the hallway wearing the new shirt my grandma had given me, in front of the stairs.
In the background?
The landing was barely a blank shadowy mass, but I could remember seeing, upon further inspection, under a magnifying glass, what looked like a pair of eyes in the dark. Grey, glassy, with big black pupils. I carried on looking.
The next picture was of me, sitting with my friends, a blanket around my shoulders. My friends were smiling painfully. I was grinning weakly, clutching the blanket. Although I must have been very young, I looked quite scared. I flicked through more, but they were mostly plays, recitals, my cat. I put the photos back, shaken. That hadn't been a dream.
The snail dream wasn't a dream, it had really happened.
Realizing the door had swung open again and that the photos had fallen out, I knelt down to clear them away. One had scattered far from the others. I picked it up first. On the back, the date was a day or two after my birthday.
It was a picture of me in a hospital bed.
Home alone, with only my old and slightly senile cat to keep me a lonely sort of company, I cleared away all of the pictures and went up to my brother's room. I knew he kept a diary. I just hadn't read it. He was okay; he didn't need me poking around in his private business. But now I needed answers, and God only knows how far man will go to get what he wants.
When I entered, I found his diary under his bed. It wasn't a diary so much as a large box with a book in it, and I found the key in one of his shoes. I read through it but the entries ended quickly. He must have grown tired of it, I guessed. Also in the box was a video tape. I didn't pause to wonder if this was a good idea, to rifle through my brother's stuff like this, I just put the tape in my player and began.
“Uh, hi. This is Mark,” he said. He looked very tired; and the video must've only been filmed a few days ago, in our garage; the walls had been painted fresh. “If you're watching this, you've either been going through my stuff or I've told you to get this tape.”
He paused and sighed.
“Okay, so, I've, uh, found it out. I found out that, when I was younger, something came into my room. It hurt me; it... it hurt me pretty bad. This was about a... a day after my sister passed out at her birthday party. I thought it was some dumb dream I'd forgotten the ending of, but, well, it wasn't.
“There's something in our house. Something on the landing. It doesn't want us here. I don't know what it is, it just wants us out. It knows where we are at all times. It can get us anywhere. God, it got me when I was in bed. I... I don't know what to do, I'm just...” (He paused for a moment, he had begun to cry)
“I was so scared, I'm scared now, not because I know, I know it'll get me, but because now it's coming after her, it's coming after my sister, that... that thing that lives in our house, that has invaded our home, that monster that lives on the stairs, I'm sorry, oh God, I'm so sorry, just please, please get out of the house, get out of the house now, it's here, it's here, just get out...”
As he broke down crying, the tape ended and ejected itself. I sat, alone, in my room, staring blankly at the screen in the silence.
I was shocked out of my half-trance by the phone's shrill ring. I ran to answer it; the silence would have driven me insane otherwise.
There was a short silence. “Hello, is Mrs. Hughes there?”
“No, I'm her daughter. What's going on?”
“This is the hospital. It's... it's your brother. Mark.”
I felt sick. I had to sit myself down on the bed to prevent myself from collapsing.
“He's... attempted suicide. In his football practice. We don't know why, he just began screaming something, something like 'the snails, the snails' or 'get her out'. Mark's very sick. And we believe it'd be best for you to try and... get out of the house.”
I stopped, taking a shallow breath.
“Yeah. Yeah, I'll get out. Goodbye.”
I wanted to get out. Run, scream, break my leg going down the stairs, take the cat, throw that goddamn cat out a window, just run for it. But I froze in my steps. I had barely made it out of my room when I was chilled down to the bone.
Coming up the stairs was a shadow.
Accompanied by large, glassy eyes.
The shadow resembled something like a snail.
With thousands of rows of teeth.