Bewildering Stories



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Night Terror

Byron Starr

Nathan awoke from a nightmare to find himself safe in his own bed, unable to remember his terrible dream. Although his heart was hammering away in his chest and sweat had caused the sheets to cling to him like plastic wrap, Nathan was still quite numb from his unusually deep slumber. In fact, he felt drugged. His mind was sluggish, his body drained, and when he blinked it was only with tremendous exertion that he managed to reopen his eyes.

Unable to fully shake the cloud in his weary mind but unwilling to give way to sleep for fear the dream might return, Nathan occupied himself by surveying his familiar room. Much to his surprise, he found his room wasn't so familiar after all. There were no major changes, just minor blemishes. The shadows in the dimly lit room were longer and darker. Perhaps the security light outside the window was at fault; for some strange reason, it seemed to be glowing a strange shade of deep blue. But it wasn't just the lighting. The furniture also seemed different; all the perfectly square and rectangular oak pieces seemed to have been geometrically warped, giving them strange sharp angles and bent surfaces. Even the walls themselves appeared bent and warped in a similar fashion. Overall, these changes gave the room a grotesque appearance, like the room itself had been twisting in agony then frozen its throes the very instant Nathan awoke.

The phone beside the bed rang. It was a strange, unnatural sound; not the beep or pulse of a modern phone, nor the rapid-fire crisp bells of an older model, but a sharp, quick tempo series of taps, not unlike a seven-stroke drum roll played on a plastic bowl. Despite the unfamiliar ring, Nathan still tried to reach for the phone. However, he found his arms refused to cooperate. He lay paralyzed while the phone emitted four more series's of taps, then the room was silent. The fright that had been building had swelled to terror once Nathan realized he was lying helpless in his own bed and couldn't so much as move a muscle. He was lying on his back, ridged as a board with his legs straight and his hands casually crossed over his waistline, not unlike an embalmed corpse laid out for viewing. The sweat-damp sheet was still tucked in at the foot of the bed and pulled tight to his chest. The thin white blanket, on the other hand, was lay crumpled and twisted just below his knees.

Down the hall, through the kitchen, and across the living room, the front door suddenly burst open, slamming against the wall with such force that Nathan not only heard it the clap of wood on wood, but he also felt the vibrations. This abrupt entrance was followed by a slow measured dragging sound as something heavy pushed its way through the door. A crisp popping noise made its way to Nathan's ears; the sound of the wooden doorframe cracking as some monstrous abomination pushed its bulk through the doorway.

His breath now coming in pants, Nathan tried to get his uncooperative body to move. It was no use; he was as helpless as a newborn.

Nathan could hear his unwelcome guest pushing its ponderous body through the living room and then the kitchen. The sound of the furniture being shoved aside was accompanied by the moist, sticky sound of the creature's body as it flowed toward the back bedroom. Then the groaning and popping of timber returned as the hall stretched to accommodate the massive creature. As the horror grew closer Nathan began to hear a slow rhythmic pulsing, like he was hearing the abomination's black heart pumping blood throughout its vile body.

Nathan tried to scream, but his vocal cords were every bit as paralyzed as the rest of his body. All he managed was to crack his mouth open and whimper.

The terrible sounds grew as the creature made its way up to the bedroom door. It paused there, but only for a moment. As the abomination tried to force its way into the bedroom, the door began to swell, as if the wood had been turned to flesh and was now beginning to blister. Moisture beaded on the surface of the wood/flesh like sweat. The door and the surrounding wall continued stretching to impossible dimensions. Nathan knew it the door would burst open any moment now.

Nathan had no control over his body, but he did manage to blink his eyes. When reopened them he found the swelling at the door was gone.

In an instant, the room had reverted to normal. The furniture and the walls were no longer warped and twisted. The shadows had receded, and the light coming from the window was the customary yellowish white of time-stained security light.

A nightmare - it had all been a nightmare.

Nathan lay still in his bed for some time, listening to his own hammering heart. Relief swept over him and he suddenly felt like laughing; how silly for a grown man to get so worked up over a simple nightmare.

He started to reach for his bedside lamp, but found his arms still wouldn't cooperate; Perhaps they were asleep.

But why was the light outside the window dimming, and, was it his imagination, or was the light slowly changing to blue? His heart began thundering away once again. Beside his bed, the phone rang and Nathan knew something was at the door.

Copyright 2002 by Byron Starr.