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The Thing Outside

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Richard awoke in a sweat.

Jolted up from his dream, Richard bolted upright into a sitting position, breath accelerated. His hands were clammy and shivering, cool beads of perspiration dripping down the nape of his neck. He could not tell what it was that awoke him. It was still quite dark out; a glance at his window yielded nothing but a cloudless stretch of night, and a further glance at his digital clock which rested beside him on a desk left his bed told him it was still 3:38 AM. It wasn't a nightmare, as his dreams, although they were fading from his memory in the grasp of reality, were uneventful and frightening to nobody. Everything seemed perfectly mundane.

Yet, it wasn't. Richard was still wracked with shivers of some unknowable presence. Richard could not hear, feel, see, or smell this presence, but he knew that something was there, and that it had, somehow, awakened him. Richard continued sitting upright, corpse-still, as his flurried breath slowly returned to a regular pace and his hands eventually stilled themselves. He was freezing despite being draped in thick covers, and the longer he sat wide-eyed, facing the wall and thinking about this presence, Richard's mind eventually began to tire itself. Whatever it was, it was either gone or didn't exist at all. Sighing, Richard laid himself back down onto the comfort of his bed and shut his eyes as he attempted to return to the careless world of slumber and dreams.

Not three minutes after closing his eyes, Richard could detect it again. Richard, now immediately alert, sat up once more. Something was there. It was undeniable. Richard's mind began to race as he groggily got out of bed and departed from his room. Perhaps someone had broken in? That would be horrifying; someone could be hiding in the shadows of his house, just out of the corner of his eye, and he would never know and he had no way of telling if their intention was malign or otherwise. It could be something comparatively mundane like a wild animal or a broken window, or perhaps it was just his dog was acting up.

Richard noted the second unusual thing as he left his room. His dog, wherever it was, was eerily quiet. Normally, if there was a strange presence in the house, his dog would be stirred into an excited, yowling frenzy, but Richard didn't see or hear his dog as he paced around his house, analyzing everything and looking around everywhere in case someone had broken in. Richard denied his mind was playing tricks on him. There was something here, in his house or at least very close to it, and when he thought otherwise, he openly denied it with a hushed 'no.' Nothing seemed to be touched or moved. The furniture was in place, nothing had been knocked off the tables, all the lights were out, and none of the doors seemed to had been opened. Everything seemed in its place, but the presence did not wane. It did not seem to get stronger or weaker no matter where he went in his house, omnipresent throughout his residence yet never seeming to be anywhere. Richard had swept through the house twice, and was just reaching the top of the stairs from his second scouring of the downstairs. As he rounded a corner into his living room, he noticed something amiss.

The curtains on the living room window had been parted. That was all, as the window itself hadn't been cracked, shattered, or touched in the slightest. Richard, however, very lucidly remembered closing the curtains to that particular window before he went to sleep last night. The feeling of whatever had invaded Richard could now feel closer, and a new feeling of nervousness slithered down his spine as he ventured to the kitchen and took a knife for self defense for a worst-case scenario. Slowly, he approached the window, peered out, and saw it.

There was something there. That was all Richard could definitively say about it. It appeared human, or at the very least humanoid, but its back was turned towards Richard and it seemed to be looking down, almost as if it were in a position of mourning. It was about seven or eight meters from his house, just standing in the middle of the street, bathed in the gaze of the night which obscured any appearance but its shadowed outline. It didn't move. It didn't look back. Not even as Richard glared, unnerved, at it, not once did it make the slightest twitch of movement. No cars were out, the streets devoid of everything but ambiance and this thing. Richard stared unmoving and rigid, his blood freezing and his heart leaping out of his chest. His hands shivered again, but Richard was rooted to the spot, staring at this thing, fettered down by an overwhelming sense of terror he couldn't even tell was real.

The fright of it, though, was not what this thing was. It was not what it was doing. It was what it could do. This thing, whatever it may have been, was not human, or anything close to it. Simply looking at it from the safety of his own house gave Richard the feeling of looking at something incomprehensibly alien. The thing, while humanoid, gave Richard the impression of not a man, not a devil, no monster of myth, but something uinspeakably horrible. Something formless, timeless, abominable, and unutterable. It was like some vast presence that only lived in the darkest parts of the universe - and it was standing within Richard's view. What might it do if it turned? What might it look like? And what if the thing decided to come inside the house? What could it do? Richard's mind flooded with a barrage of thoughts as a supernatural dread crawled into him, a dread that started to eat away at him.

He could not summon the urge to run, to check in more detail, to get out of sight or so much as move. Whatever this thing was, Richard did not want to find out. Some primal instinct within him told him he did not want to know. His fear coming to a climax within him, Richard gripped the knife firmly - and brought it to his own throat. As he shut his eyes tighter than he ever had before and prepared to slit his own throat in defiance of whatever this thing could do, the feeling of the presence relaxed. Richard dared to open his eye a slit, and saw that the thing in the shadows was gone. It was if it had never had been there, and his muscles relaxed ever so slightly.

Then, from the kitchen, Richard heard his dog begin to bark.

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