July 1998 The little girl had been tossing and turning in her bed for over an hour. She felt strange, hot and cold at the same time. She sighed and turned over to try and get comfortable. Instead of comfort, she was greeted with a pair of eyes glowing like a jar of fireflies, constantly shifting. Her brain didn’t process much else before she flipped to the far side of her bed, curling against the wall. She held still, her muscles straining until hours later when sleep eventually took over. When she crawled out of bed the next morning, there were two oval singe marks in her fuzzy rug.
December 2003 The girl’s heart jumped when she saw the creature again as it crept out from under her bed. This time, she noticed how it’s black skin had an oily sheen, and the almost deformed limbs it crawled upon. She didn’t think it had noticed her yet, she could see no glowing eyes or wide smile. Still, her breathing became shallow, and she inched as far away as she could while still keeping its twitching, slightering figure within view. She knew sleep would evade her as long as the creature remained awake, and when she looked in the mirror the next morning, her under eyes had almost the same look as the creature’s skin.
March 2009 It returned, and the girl thought she would no longer be afraid. But, it was different this time. She was woken late at night by the soft creaking of her bed frame. She shifted around, thinking it might just be how she was laying, and it thankfully stopped. A few heartbeats later, a rough scraping noise came from directly beneath her. The sound of wood grating against itself set her teeth on edge, and she shifted again, hoping it would cause the noise to stop. When she rolled over to check her glowing red analog clock, she was interrupted by a hand resting on the edge of her bed. Her breath froze as she noticed it; it was the same shiny black as the torso, with unusually knobby knuckles and two-pronged claws at the end of each finger. Even as her blood started to rush, the girl knows she was sick of feeling fearful of this thing.
She reached out her own hand, so pale to the shifting black in comparison, and laid it on top of the other, slow and gentle in her movements. They stayed like that for at least a minute, not making a sound. She began to shift, and then she was screaming, her wrist and hand of fire, sticky blood staining her white sheets. The girl curled in upon herself, clutching her arm as loose to her check as she could while still trying to stop the blood. She didn’t dare get out of bed for fear of the same damage to her legs. In the morning sunlight, the girl could see the many angry red and purple cuts swirling around her forearm. To her surprise, they were no longer bleeding, and the edges looked almost burned.
December 2015 The dorm was filled with the chaotic bustle that accompanied finals, and the girl sat on her bed as her roommate snored softly nearby. The late afternoon light warmed her cheeks, and the textbooks she had open pressed indents into her thighs. A faint gurgle echoed through the air, but she assumed it to be her roommate’s stomach or another sound the college was producing. As she looked up and stretched her neck, she saw it clinging to the wall, with its shimmering eyes and iridescent skin. The soft light bounced off the forked claws, and the girl couldn’t think because it was, there, in her dorm room, in front of her, it had followed her— she blinked and it was gone. Her pulse settled as her brain turned to excuse. She had been awake without any sleep for a while now, and her eyes were playing tricks on her. She was seeing things, her childhood nightmare. That was all.
August 2027 The girl, now a woman, was not surprised when her son ran into her bedroom, proclaiming he wasn’t alone in her room. He squeezed in between the woman and her wife, as he babbled about something weird and gross moving around in his room. The woman held him close, reassuring the little boy with calm words, and never denying what he saw. She let him stay through the night, letting her arms wrap tightly around her son before drifting off, familiar slick skin following into her dreams.
January 2076 With a steady beeping filling the room, the woman’s family surrounded her bed, her now-grown son holding her hand in a loose embrace. She felt no pain from her failing heart, nor anywhere else. She did regret leaving her family though, a strange sense of guilt weighing her tongue down from speaking. The all murmured around her, acutely aware of the inevitable. In the dimmest corner, the creature remained. Its eyes no longer glowed like suns and its posture was hunched into a curled ball. The woman closed her eyes, smiling, and snaked her hand out from under the blankets as she heard a familiar scritch-scratch from under the bed. The hand that joined hers was not full of sharp claws, and the disfigurement had morphed into something human-like. At last, the woman felt at peace, this thing of terror, no longer scary, at one side, and her family on the other. She let herself go, knowing that nothing awaited her but quiet rest.
The Next She did wake up again. Her skin felt stretched too tight over her bones, her eyes leaking from the pain. When she opened her eyes, all she was was the narrow wood pieces of bed slats that stretched out in either direction. She went to scream, but all that came out was a faint growl, locked in her throat.
Olivia Wagner is a student in the Creative Writing program at Marin School of the Arts. She enjoys writing, reading, and revising other students’ pieces.