Don’t

Something woke her.  Was it one of the dogs?  She sat up in bed.  It was quiet in the house but for the whispering heater.  She was nauseous again.  Maybe that’s what woke her.  She climbed out of bed and crept out of the room closing the door behind her.  The kitchen faucet coughed as she turned the handle to fill her glass.   She stood for a moment in front of the sink.  The conversation from earlier in the day replayed in her mind.  She sighed.   Movement from the corner of her eye caused her to jump and turn toward the living room.

She walked closer thinking it must be one of the dogs.  As she neared the dark room, she could make out a silhouette on the couch.  She froze.  The figure slowly came into focus as if through a camera lens.  It sat like a statue, facing her.  Ice spread from the base of her spine over her body.  She was paralyzed — a deer in headlights.  Caught in a nightmarish staring contest with a shadow.  Then the figure slowly stood.  Alex took a short step backward and the shadow flew at her.  It was in front of her now.  It was Karen.  That face, she was making that face again.  Contorted with pain or some other dark distortion.  Gaping, she mouthed something.  Maybe screamed it, but there was no sound.  She pawed at Alex as she stumbled backward until she was against the wall.  The face, Karen’s face so close to hers now.  Over and over her distended mouth moved, like a dying fish.  Alex closed her eyes tight, turning her head.  Tears streamed down her face.  She could feel the weight of Karen against her chest.  She could feel the desperation.  She sank slowly down the wall until she was sitting.  What do you want?  She thought.  And then she said “what do you want?” opening her eyes and looking up.  Karen stood still.  Her face fell motionless.  Her piercing eyes widened.  Slowly she leaned down until their foreheads almost touched.  A vacuum of empty space narrowed around Alex’s head.  “Don’t,” the voice gurgled.   Then, in a blink, she was gone.  Flickered out like a candle flame.

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