The sound of a car backfiring ricochets through the streets and past the houses, disappearing as abruptly as it came, off into the night.
As silence blankets the world outside once more, her mind reaches out to these very streets and houses. Houses which contain men, women, children and pets, all wrapped up and likely dreaming contentedly in their own beds.
She hates them, she thinks bitterly, all the while feeling like the last person awake in the world.
As she turns over the nagging urge to check her phone returns.
Unsure of exactly how much time she’s lost trying to fall asleep since she last looked, she clicks the button and has to squint at the bright light as it comes to life:
Calculating exactly how much sleep she could still squeeze in if she manages to fall asleep within the next eight minutes, she fusses with the duvet and pillows, hoping that the cause of this particular night of restlessness was just discomfort. As she closes her eyes the dark expanse of the room once again becomes infinite.
She tries counting to settle her mind: 1…2…3…4… the quiet makes her hyper aware of every noise, and as she hears something creak, her brain attempts to process what could have caused it. Her morbid imagination supplies the image of a creature slinking out from under the bed on all fours, and perching itself across from her…5…6…7…She knows it’s not really there. That it’s just a fantasy conjured by her sleep deprived brain, but how can she really be sure of anything unless she checks?
She pictures its face.
It is gaunt with pale, grey skin and hollow eyes, and sits there like a gargoyle, waiting for her to look…11…12…13…14…Its mouth slowly cracks open and reveals nothing but a toothless abyss…15…16…so dark inside like it’s made entirely of darkness…17…18…Its mouth gapes wider and wider and she just knows that at any moment it will lunge towards her and attack…19…20…
But, the attack never comes. It just sits there, and she knows it won’t go away until she opens her eyes.
She feels a puff of cold air hit her face, and her skin breaks out into goosebumps. It’s likely just a breeze from the window. She had left it open a crack because with summer approaching the room was hotter than usual. Even so, she felt the strong desire to wrap her covers even tighter around herself: an armour to shield against possible attack from the unseen threat. Eventually though, the stifling heat just becomes another discomfort.
Deciding this is ridiculous, she finally relents and opens her eyes, feeling a flutter of nerves at the thought that, for just a split second, between her eyes being open, there is still the possibility that the creature exists.
But, as she opens her eyes fully and scans the dark shapes cast by the furniture for movement, once again she is alone, with just her thoughts to keep her company.