I floundered on my nightstand for the flashlight. It was gone too. Crap. Maybe I wasn’t actually awake. Maybe this too was a dream. I pinched my arm. “Oww…” I probably hadn’t needed to pinch that hard.
“Is there someone there?” I asked again.
Was I really expecting someone to answer?
Then, someone did, and I realized I would have preferred them not to.
“Piper?” a raspy snarl said.
“What do you see, Piper?”
Whatever was out there wasn’t human. It sounded like it had teeth. Did you lie to something that sounded like it had a mouth full of teeth?
“Who are you?” I asked.
There was a snicker and the voice hissed, “Don’t you ever answer questions?”
Well, that was just rude. Whatever was out there didn’t know me well enough to make snap judgments like that. “I’ll answer reasonable and intelligent questions put to me face-to-face by people not afraid to show themselves.”
“No, you don’t.” The voice sounded… reptilian. Was it a monster? Was a monster arguing with me? “What do you see, Piper?”
“Where are you, and who are you? If you show yourself, I’ll answer your questions.” I might. I might not. To be fair, until I knew what was in my room, I wasn’t sure what I’d do.
“No, you won’t. Trust me… some things are best done in the dark.” It snickered again.
I rolled my eyes. “Are you some sort of lecherous… thing?”
“Answer my questions, and I’ll hand you your flashlight and be gone.”
“Fine!” I said, nearly shouted. I went still as someone else in the house moved in their sleep and a headboard scraped the wall. No, I couldn’t get anyone else involved in… whatever this was. When no one called out, I whispered, “I can’t see anything. I can’t see in the dark. The doctor calls it the poorest dark adaptation he’s ever seen. He told me to take vitamins….”
“You were too stubborn?”
“No.” Well, a little. “They never worked.” Well, they hadn’t worked in the month I gave them—not even a bit. “Besides, are you supposed to be insulting me… whatever you are?”
“What do you think I am?”
How should I answer that? Whatever it was… I felt the air stir as it prowled in my room. It could see in the dark. It could see well. It didn’t bump into anything. It smelled less sulfurous than the others. This one smelled deeper and richer like a freshly turned field. It was nice. “I don’t know. I don’t know what any of you are.”
“Any of us? So, you have seen something or can see something?”
“I don’t need to. I can feel the air get cold when you’re in here. Some of them knock things over. They move my stuff. Usually you don’t talk, so you’re sort of breaking the rules there.”
“I’m not one of them,” it said.
Whatever that meant. It wasn’t exactly comforting to know that there were different types of monsters living in my room at night. I had multiple bogeymen? That was creepy. “Did you kill my dog?” I asked.
“No.” The end of the word trilled as if its tongue was long.
I had to know. “Did I kill my dog?”
“Shouldn’t you know that?” it asked.
It was mocking me. Of course it was. Why was I expecting whatever haunted me at night to be any kinder than the people that saw me during the day? I swung my legs back into bed. Stumbling around in the dark would probably amuse whatever creature was here tonight. I lay back down and closed my eyes. It would leave or it would kill me, but there was no way I’d just let it make fun of me.
“Shouldn’t you?” it repeated.
“Go away,” I mumbled. “I’m pretending you don’t exist, and it’s more difficult if you’re talking. So, either kill me… or go away.”
“I’m on your side, Piper,” it said.
Right. No one and nothing was on my side. Jester might have been close, but he was dead. My parents wanted to be as long as I didn’t act like I was different in any way. No one was on my side. No one. I was alone in the dark even when it wasn’t dark.
Something heavy fell at my side, and I tried not to jump. The cool smell of metal—steel came with it. The flashlight. I snatched it and a rush of wind fanned my face as I managed to whip it around and slide my thumb along the cylinder to the switch. The light illuminated my empty bedroom… and the curtains blowing around my window. There was a pop and my nightlight flooded the room with its pale blue glow. A moment later, my overhead light flashed on.