The first thing Lizzie felt when she woke up was an immense pain in her temple and that sense of being pulled out of some other world. The one she was now in still was rich in haze from the fog of slumber and remnants were still fresh in her thoughts from the one she left behind.
Had it been real? Had any of that just happened? It had been so real to her. It felt more like memories than dream fragments, but if that was the case why had she been Jessica. She had known her thoughts, her past, things that Jessica had never told her about herself. About her friend. She couldn’t have made all that up, could she? She was unsure, but it unsettled her, because if it was real, then her friend was dead.
The rock formed in her stomach. She had wanted to warn her earlier. She had tried to warn Jessica that something was coming after her. She had known they were next, but maybe it was because of that premonition that she had dreamed about it.
The dream had been so real. Too real. She still felt the bone deep cold inside her, and as she opened her eyes and exhaled a puff of mist formed from her lips. Lips that had just hours before been kissed by Roland. How could she have slept with him after everything that has happened between them. She could never have been that stupid, but she had.
The heart wants what the heart wants.
“But honey, that hadn’t been your heart talking, that had been something else. That was you pussy talking and it was hungry for the ‘D’.” A voice said to her in her head. She recognized it as a voice from long ago, though who it belonged to, she couldn’t recall. It was a voice from out of time floating in from some forgotten past.
As she tried to focus on it, more of the dream faded away yet the cold remained. It was very cold, too cold even. A shiver ran through her and that shouldn’t be right. She shouldn’t be shivering from a dream, should she?
Something tapped into her back, and she remembered she was still in the hotel room. He was there too, asleep behind her in the bed.
How could she have been so stupid?
She wanted desperately to get out of there. She didn’t know how long she had been asleep, but the little of it she had was enough to clear her mind. God! What had she been thinking?
Didn’t matter. The deed was done and tomorrow he would wake up and remind her of it, maybe even try for a repeat as if everything was forgotten and forgiven. Men.
She wished she had driven herself. Then she could sneak out into the night and disappear, letting the miles between them build until maybe this would become another ungodly nightmare.
First, she needed to call Jessica, make sure she was okay. It was the middle of the night, the outside light filtering through the hotel’s curtains confirmed that suspicion, and she would probably wake her friend.
I just need to make sure she’s okay.
But you know she’s not.
I don’t know that, just the dream had been so real.
The conversation played out in her mind, and she continued to lie there in indecision. She should wake up Roland and tell him about it. He would calm her down, tell her she was being silly, but hey, here’s my cell phone if you want to call her. He’d do all those things, as he was a good guy who cared for her. So why did he also have to be such a lying, cheating bastard?
Last night she had believed all his bullshit. Why couldn’t she believe him now? Because she had come to her senses, that’s why. What had she been thinking?
She could feel him shift in the bed behind her and let out a soft moan.
He probably sensed that she was awake and was waking up too. He had always been good about waking up with her whenever she couldn’t sleep. He was usually a heavy sleeper, but the moment she had a bad dream, he was up and had her in his arms. When her parents died, he had slept over a lot, and there were many of these nights when she would find herself crying on his chest.
She didn’t want him knowing she was awake. Damn. Maybe if she was still and stayed on her side, he wouldn’t know, but she wanted to call Jess. Damn. What if she fell back to sleep waiting for him to fall back to sleep? Damn, damn, damn.
She pulled the blankets tighter around her. It was so cold in the room. They must had forgotten to turn on the heat when they had come in. Considering how they had been with each other, she wasn’t surprised. They had been generating their own heat.
Now the room was an ice box. She could use the temperature of the room as a refrigerator, their bottled water would be nicely chilled for drinking where it sat on the little table across the room. The temp must of dropped down lower than forecasted if the room was this cold. She hadn’t brought enough clothes.
Roland moaned louder. Then he moaned even louder. This wasn’t him waking up.
Then he screamed and she turned over to see that she had gone from dreaming one nightmare to be living in another.
“tik-a-too, tik-a-ted, there’s a dead man in your bed.” The hideous voice cackled. She could see the dark shape that was sitting on Roland. It was hovering over him but watching her and smiling at her. Even in the dimly lit room, and his obscured form, she saw the bright whites of a chilling smile as he laughed at her. He was so close. Too close, she couldn’t do anything, but get away. Immediately she jumped out of the bed and twisted to never take her eyes on him. She didn’t stop backing away until she hit the wall, then she pressed herself against it as hard as she could. She would have melted into it if she could find away.
Run. She should just run away, get herself out of there and make her escape, but it had Roland. It had turned away from her, ignoring her because for now it had what it wanted.
Roland. She looked at him, and she could see that the shadow thing had one of its hands deep into Roland’s chest. It hadn’t broken the skin, it was like the shadow man was only part way into this world and because of that, his hand didn’t have any substance. He was was in Roland’s chest, but it had gone through the skin, not breaking it.
That wasn’t true, as Lizzie watched Roland shake violently, the shadow man laughing as he squeezed inside. The shadow was killing him. It was suffocating him from the inside or squeezing his heart. She didn’t know, but it didn’t matter. This was how it really enjoyed taking lives.
She wasn’t sure how she knew, but as soon as the thought occurred to her, she was certain she was right. It liked death and took it in any way that it could. When Sarah had been killed, it had no way of killing her directly. Same way with Josh and Elisabeth, it couldn’t touch them directly. She didn’t know why, and there was much of it that didn’t make sense. There must be some set of rules this shadow had to play by, and killing directly was a no-no. It used surrogates and manipulation to take most the lives, so it was less accustomed to the joy of taking life within its own dark grasp.
So, what had changed the rules? Why was it there now, killing Roland? Was it getting stronger? She vaguely recalled something Josh and Sarah had been arguing about. There had been many things, but something Sarah had wanted Lizzie to notice.
There had been the picture. Last night, oh God had it really just been last night that Josh had appeared to them? It had and this had easily become one of the longest days in human history or at least she’d ever had because it seemed like so much shit just kept rolling her way.
But the picture. It fell. The two fighting had been able to move it and the picture fell and then it broke. How had she not noticed that before?
She thought back to the hospital room and how Sarah by herself hadn’t been able to move anything no matter how hard she tried. Oh, and then there was the touching each other. They had both made each other sick trying to do it, but at the coffee shop Sarah had no issues with choking her.
You still don’t know if Sarah was even there. It hadn’t been like before. That could have been just you. You know your losing your mind, right?
She wished she could silence her own thoughts, especially with some of the newer thought voices that kept giving her their opinions.
It had been Sarah and she had been choking her. They were getting stronger. He was getting stronger. She was feeding it somehow.
It was all the people around her that was doing it. They kept dying. It fed off the death. It wanted her friends to die, her loved ones. It was killing them, all of them, and was going to keep doing it until she stopped it.
If she could stop it. Her uncle hadn’t been able to.
Her uncle hadn’t been able too. How did she know he had fought it? Because it all made sense. He had hidden himself back in the woods, away from everyone, cutting himself off from the outside world because anyone he cared about was killed.
She couldn’t think about it right now, but it all was rushing at her. This thing had killed her parents. It killed her aunt. It had been after all of them and when her uncle couldn’t handle it anymore, he had killed himself and now it was killing everyone she loved.
Tears rolled down her cheek, but she paid them no attention. Instead, she looked around the room for something, anything she could use. She heard Roland’s wheezing breath, and knew she had to be quick.
But why even try. Her uncle had years to fight this thing and it had never done any good. How are you going to stop it?
She didn’t know and the thought voice was becoming increasingly annoying. She wished it would just shut up. Shut up and let her think, dammit!
In the dim light she could see Roland, his face was turning grey, dark lines stretching along his cheeks and bulging from around his eyes. She feared those were his veins. His blood was being replaced by the shadows darkness and now his veins were visible through his skin by their black hue.
She wasn’t sure what possessed her to throw it, but she had unplugged the coffee maker by ripping it from the desk. The cable struck her, and she grabbed it, quickly wrapping it around the little gadget and them flung it across the room. She didn’t wait to see the thing react as she grabbed more from the desk. She used the tray the coffee maker had been on, a local phone book, and a folder that must have contained local delivery options or the TV guide directory. It didn’t matter because if she could lift it, she had thrown it. She didn’t stop until she tried to lift the large lamp at the end of the desk only to find that it was mounted in place. She was pulling at it, trying to shake it back and forth, wrestling it free when she heard the laugh coming from behind her.
She couldn’t get the lamp free, and she had nothing else to throw. Slumping her shoulders, she turned to look back to the bed wrestling with another idea, one that was crazy and not like her at all…
She stopped thinking when she saw the thing was looking at her. Its eyes burned red with some internal flame, and they burned into her. Its smile was wide, and somehow the light that flickered from its eyes never touched his teeth, as they were white to the point that they seemed to glow and they were sharp, each tooth ending in a narrow point.
“Hello.” It said, speaking to her for the first time without that sing-song cadence. Now it was fixated on her, and she was hypnotized as the unseen lips moved, only noticeable for how they blocked the glow of its teeth when it spoke.
“Get away from him,” she said. She could hear the tears in her voice but was surprised at the anger. Where had that come from? She wasn’t sure but as she stood there, clenching and unclenching her fists, remembering what this thing has taken from her, her friends that it has killed. She knew the anger, and she embraced it. She wanted to be done with allowing this creature to come into her life and steal everywhere cared for from her.
“Why should I? What is he to you? A lover? A friend? You care about him that much?” The voice grated on her nerves. It was rough, a gravely voice that echoed in her ears as though many voices tried to speak as one.
Lizzie took a deep breath and let it out through her mouth. Her fists unclenched and she shook out her hands before she clenched them again. She could feel her nails digging in, the uneven edges from how she chewed at them threatening to break her skin.
“He’s nobody to me.” She tried to sound convincing. Yesterday she wasn’t sure if she would even have stopped the shadow thing from taking Roland, though she liked to think that deep down she was a good person. Even a good person wouldn’t let a lying, cheating son-of-a-bitch to die when she could stop it.
Today, she found that she still did care about him. Her feelings were still there and that is why she had hated him so much. Because under all that anger, she did love him.
She couldn’t tell this thing that. It had some kind of connection to her. It killed those close to her. So she had to find that anger and hate she had for Roland if she was ever going to save him.
She had to find a way to kill the shadow man.
It had been watching her as she stood there and the longer, she didn’t say anything more, a sound grew from him. It wasn’t until it developed into a sound, she recognized that she realized it was laughing at her.
“You sleep with him. He fucks you, and you say he is nobody to you.” And as it said that Roland writhed in agony below it.
“Fuck you,” the anger now boiling up inside her. She had noticed something. She had just caught the slight glint of metal on the floor and had taken a moment to realize just what it was. The keys to the car had fallen to the floor, probably having dropped out of Roland’s pockets as she had pulled his pants off of him.
“Those you wish about and those you love
From the wings of a morning dove
All those in which you cherish
Will slowly die in agony and perish
They will be mine these dreary few
And once they are gone, I will come for you.”
She didn’t want to hear any more of his creepy words. Each once made her skin tingle and her back tense. She tuned him out the best she could as she made her plan. It wasn’t a good one, and she knew it wouldn’t work, but it was her doing some thing. She was so tired of not doing anything. She had to try something to stop him.
She rushed forward, grabbing the keys as she moved. Her arm rose high, she had her sites set, aimed for where she wanted to strike while fumbling in her hand to have one key out between her fingers. She was unsure of herself, having never been a fighter, but did all she could to put everything she had when she brought her hand down.
It struck just below the eyes. Or it would have, had the shadow man been anything more than shadow. Her hand slipped through him, and then she was slipping through him, her momentum carrying her into him and landing on top of Roland.
This had been a mistake. She had realized it the moment she didn’t make contact, but as she was flung over the bed, she realized just how much of a mistake it had been.
Her skin had turned to near ice as he was just so cold. She couldn’t breathe. Her breath was frozen in her lungs. All of her was frozen. She was trapped and even worse, she was in his essence and there she could see… something.
She didn’t know what it was. Around her there was so much darkness. It was an ether. She knew she wasn’t on earth. It was an ‘other’ place, one where there was no light to cast the shadows. Shadows were not made, they were things, and hid other things.
She could feel that hate that emanated from that place, from all the creatures that surrounded her there. She couldn’t see them, only feel them, sensing that they were reaching out for her. They wanted her, to take her, torture her how they have been tortured. She was a creature of the light and they hated her for it.
How did she know that?
Because she was inside of him. He was from this place, and he felt that way towards her. But that didn’t make sense. If he hated her, all of them so much, then why not just kill her. Why kill her friends?
Because the shadow man-thing didn’t hate her, it hated man. She was a person, one who lived in night and day. The shadow-man wanted all light to be perished from the world.
She was the lock that kept them at bay. She didn’t know how that worked.
Now she was there in the dark place. The things were moving around her. They had noticed her. She could feel them moving towards her. A wave of fear ran through her, but it wasn’t her fear. The shadow man was afraid of these things. It was afraid… of them. It didn’t want it to get her.
She was not sure what to make of that and she didn’t have the time to find out as she found herself ripped out of him, back in her own world and being hurled across the hotel room. She had the briefest of sensations of no control, the weightlessness as she flew, and then the pain. She hit the wall, and it forced the air out of her lungs. She fell to the floor, and everything hurt. Her insides felt like they had been squished, her arms and legs were sore. She wasn’t sure if she broke anything. It felt like if she hadn’t then she had definitely sprained something, everything.
Across the room, cutting through the cold and dark was a blood curdling scream that was quickly cut short.
The room grew deathly still. The only thing Lizzie heard was the repetitive sound of her breathing. Even the hum from the electronics in the room was silent. The darkness felt out of time. She was all alone. She feared what she would find when she stood and looked on the bed.
She pulled herself up. Each movement took a concerted effort as she fought against the pain.
When she stood, she turned and saw Roland on the bed, the shadow man was gone. Roland wasn’t breathing. His skin was ash grey, and she knew he wasn’t coming back. She was alone in the room with her dead ex-boyfriend. A man she had made many public threats against his life and bodily harm.
She was quick putting on her clothes, finding her phone and wallet before grabbing the car keys and getting out of there.
Outside, the world was dark, the streetlights having burned out in the last half hour. She worked her way through the void as best she could and got into Roland’s car. She felt the tinge of guilt as she drove away. She knew she should call the police. There would be plenty of questions and they would wonder why she just left. She wasn’t sure if she had any answers for them.
She was empty. Empty of answers, empty of emotions, empty of everything. She was a shell, and even the tears weren’t coming.
She made her way to the interstate. Within a half hour she was speeding down the road, on her way unsure of where she was going.
End of Part 1