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While it Watches

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It seems that almost everyone on the planet has a similar fear. If you’ll allow me to set the scene; you're lying in bed at night, the darkness embracing every inch of you, and you feel a little tingle on the back of your neck which you initially dismiss as nothing. There’s a small part of your brain, however, which seems to be unusually active at night that tells you it’s something more.

That tingle, far from being a slight breeze that wafted gently over you, becomes a strained breath over your nape and your gut begins to tell you that you aren’t alone. You try to fight it but the thought has taken up residence and squats on its haunches in your mind, breeding and feeding on your fear to grow stronger and stronger. You shut your eyes tightly against the outside world and try to stave off the paranoia just long enough to fall asleep.

It's a vain fight, though, as once you’ve reached this point you know there can be no dropping off and you reach the epitome of the night-time quandary; do you lie there for hours trying to achieve slumber, or do you open your eyes and look around the room to prove that there’s nothing there? Logically it's obvious that the latter is the only real option; that if you glance around you into the darkness there will be no intruder and you’ll finally be able to go to sleep unhindered.

The problem is that the logical part of your brain seems to speak much more quietly at night and is easily led by the primitive, child-like portion of your mind which gives full credence to the fears that have now taken firm hold within you. Now you know for a fact that if you do sit up in your bed and slowly, fearfully take just a glance around you’re going to be met with two dully glowing eyes staring right back at you.

In your mind those eyes give off almost enough light to make out the rest of the hideous face they are attached to. Your imagination begins to run away with you and starts to snowball. Are those slit-like nostrils quivering with the excitement at the stench of your terror or are they wide and flared from rage at having been discovered? You imagine you see a wide grin spread across its face, perhaps partially from the joy of finding its next meal but mainly because of the sheer number of needle-fine teeth crammed within. It shifts in your mind, becoming a circular, lamprey-like maw filled with rows upon rows of saw-toothed protuberances. It then becomes just a small hole with a spiny tongue shooting out and back in repeatedly. The longer you try not to think about it, the more the creature twists and distorts in your mind, coming ever closer to the most nightmare-inducing terror your vicious mind's eye can come up with.

Now the terror has taken full hold and it's too late to open your eyes. You resort to the only thing left you can think to do. Slowly and deliberately you clutch onto the top of your duvet so tightly that your knuckles turn white and draw it up above your head. You make sure to keep it close to you so you don't accidentally touch the thing staring at you. You hope, almost pray, that this will hold as a final barrier against monsters like it always managed to when you were a child. You feel a brief moment of relief knowing that there is now at least something between you and it. You notice your mistake when you realise it could now be doing anything at all out there and you would have no idea.

Your heart skips a beat; you're certain you just felt the mattress compress right at the edge. It was only slight but you know that evil being has just clambered up and is now hunched right over you with its face so close that if it stuck out its vile tongue you'd be able to feel it licking through the covers. You mind changes, however, when you feel the blanket move just a little down by your feet. It wasn't on the bed at all; its now reaching a gnarled hand out to clasp you by the ankle, drag you out and take you away to its lair.

That's when you hear something; a wheezing, groaning, strained breath. You try to stifle a whimper but fail miserably and let it know you're still awake and terrified. Now it knows it has you just where it wants you and you can feel it reaching out to shred through the sheets and tear the flesh from your bones. All you can do now is pray that it kills you quickly so you don't suffer too much.

Another hour passes of the knot tied down in your gut conspiring with the images in your head to keep you awake and, finally deciding enough is enough, you force logic back to the surface and determine to prove that you are indeed alone. Clenching your eyes tight and your teeth tighter you slowly pull the covers back down and expose your sweaty flesh to its mercy. The relative coolness of the room flows over you; you hadn’t realised just how hot you’d been getting under there. This slight relief steels your resolve just a tiny bit.

When your throat doesn’t get ripped out you open one eye just enough to let some of the ambient darkness in. So far so good. You open it up fully, soon followed by the other and see a total lack of anything staring back at you. Feeling more confident by the second you lift yourself up onto your elbows and look around the room. Absolutely nothing; no grotesque face, no toothy grin, no gnarled claws and, above all else, no dimly glowing eyes watching you from beside the bed, across the room, through the cracked closet door or anywhere else.

All you are faced with is the absolute darkness of the room and the nothing that dwells within. You chide yourself for your foolishness, for letting the frightened child of your psyche get the better of you and flop back onto the bed, utterly relieved. Now when you feel that tingle on your neck you accept it as the movement of cool air that it obviously is and you refuse to let your imagination turn the rumbling of your worn-out refrigerator motor into the sounds of breathing or creaking floorboards settling into scampering footsteps.

I understand this fear, it's one I've held much closer to me than many others for my own reasons. There is one thing I don't understand, though: Why? Why one earth did you think its eyes would glow?

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