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To Love and to Hold

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Marie was a freshman student when it happened.

She used to live with her roommates in an old apartment building in the center of the city. The apartment was old but refurnished and renovated. They had moved there after the owner of their previous apartment kicked them out without any reason. Still, she liked it there.

Marie had a boyfriend. A college graduate. Someone who she pictured herself with, as she said "Forever together". He loved her dearly and vowed to keep on loving and protecting her as long as he lived.

She also suffered from panic attacks mostly in the night. She took no medications, since these attacks were brief and didn't actually affect her quality of sleep.

Some time after the girls moved, her friends started telling her that they've been hearing sounds, as if someone was breathing heavily, walking across the hallway of the apartment, and sometimes gently scratching on their door and whimpering unintelligible monologues.

The girl first shrugged off her roommates' delusions, but told her boyfriend about it anyway. She thought that it would make a funny topic for conversation.

Some time after that, Marie's roommates went back to their home town, and she was left alone in the apartment.

That night she was awoken by that same murmur her friends described, same scratching on the door and heavy breathing... She got a little scared, but nonetheless she went back to sleep, giving no second thought about the strange sounds.

Later that night she woke up again, to see that the door that led to the hallway was now opened. There were no sounds whatsoever, but something was wrong and she slowly started to feel it. She checked out her surroundings through the darkness...

To her back, there was the window that dimly lit the room with moonlight, to her left was the kitchen counter and kitchen table, to her front was the TV and bookshelf...She then turned to the right of the shelves, only to notice a small black head bob throughout the shadowy crack the door left. Its eyes, pale as pearls, shone through the dark like diamonds in a pitch-black cave.

For a single moment, and as the thing realized it's being observed as well it disappeared with a whimper...

Then the sounds came back, but louder than before...It seemed as if the creature rejoiced the fact that she saw it...

She cowered under the blankets and didn't sleep until morning.

Her friends came in the afternoon of the day.

She was restless and shaken, determined not to spend another night in that apartment.

She called her boyfriend and told him the story. He laughed it off, saying that she must be having one of her panic attacks, but hearing how she was persistent and disturbed, he decided to have her sleep at his place for the night.

That night everything was normal, and her roommates didn't recall hearing any noises. She decided that it was a panic attack, caused by the stories she heard from her roommates. Still, she asked her boyfriend to sleep at her place that night, just in case.

Sure enough, it was lights-out and time for bed. Her boyfriend lay next to her, to keep her safe.

That night she awoke again, only to see the head of the creature again, but this time the kitchen light was lit...She slowly turned to her boyfriend to wake him up while keeping her eyes on the black head staring at them...

She felt his hand grab hers through the blanket as he muttered silently.

"I can see it..." Marie turned her eyes away from It, and saw that her boyfriend and the creature were staring at each other...She also noticed the silvery kitchen knife in her boyfriend's other hand...

"I got up to get some water...And I saw it hide when I turned on the light...I took the knife when I was going back to bed... and I've been staring at it ever since..."

She shrugged and cried, cuddling next to him in hopes that he would protect her.

The thing became restless...it started to shake its head as a dog in an attempt to discourage them...silently hissing and gargling with an almost "human" voice...

She felt her boyfriend's fist tighten.

"Stay here" - she heard him say as he slowly got in the upright position.

She clung to his hand, silently begging him to stay with her, crying and pleading him not to go...

The apparition noticing the boyfriend's figure getting up and nearing it, started hissing and growling even louder. The boyfriend kept moving towards it, not losing grip of the silver knife in his hand, not losing sight of the monster that lurked behind the door... Suddenly with a scream that would shake the heart of the bravest man alive, the shadow lunged at him!

He shouted and screamed as he stabbed the creature over and over whilst pushing it through the door. They both fell through the door, and continued their struggle. There was a shattering of glass as they battled throughout the corridor. In the end, there was another, ear-piercing animalistic scream and the fighting seemingly stopped.

A couple of minutes afterwards, the police came through the door, answering an anonymous call from one of the flat's tenants who probably heard the screaming. Since there was a police station very close to the building, they came soon after they were called.

They found the girl shaking under her bed covers, silently crying with a vacant look in her eyes...They found the boyfriend in the hallway, lying face down in shattered glass and a pool of what looked like very dark blood, with the knife through his heart. He seemed to be still alive, so he was transferred to a hospital at once.

The two roommates were too afraid to go out of their rooms so they locked themselves in and were found crying under their beds. They moved the next morning.

After an extensive surgery her boyfriend's heart was saved and the bleeding was stopped...but he was left in a form of coma, because of the huge amount of lost blood. The doctors had little hope for his recovery, but he was still left for observation.

The girl was transferred to the hospital as well to undergo a series of psychiatric evaluations. Some time passed before she could stay calm and sleep at night...She visited her boyfriend often and spoke to him, hoping he would hear her and wake up. None of the police officers and psychiatrists believed her story...They chalked it up to manic depression and an attempted suicide. She was heavily medicated, and sometimes even strapped to her bed so she didn't hurt herself.

Then one night, as the hospital lights were shut off, and medical personnel was scarce around the hallways, she was awakened by a cackling sound and scratching on the door...She was strapped in, unable to move, so she shook violently, struggling to get free as the scratching became louder and louder and the cackling grew into a maniacal laugh. Then, it stopped again, as if waiting for the fear of anticipation to tear up its victim's heart from within, right before it's shadowy hand reaches and rips it away... The doorknob cracked, and the door opened...

Marie could see it's eyes shining through the dark; she could see it whole now, as it looked like a short, skinny man, wrinkled and worn, walking on all four, like an animal...It' had almost no hair on its head and naked body, and under the wrinkled face she could make out broken, sharp teeth that glittered into the night...

The creature started to move towards her...but suddenly stopped in its track just a few feet from her bed....

She thought that it wanted to play with her, like a predator, certain of it's kill...But this wasn't it... The creature's eyes widened in fear as it looked at something next to her hospital bed...She turned to see what it was looking at...

It was her boyfriend.

Sitting on a chair, bruised and bloody, with cuts and stitches all over his half naked body...

And in his right hand, she saw the shining kitchen knife... He stared at the monster, sliding the blade between his fingers, not even blinking...

The thing started to retreat into the shadows, loudly hissing and murmuring. It seemed to stay there, waiting for an opportunity.

With tears in her eyes, she turned to her boyfriend one last time...

Without even averting his gaze, he said to her... "It's okay hon, I can see it...Go back to sleep."

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