I instantly spring up in my bed at the loud noise.
“What the heck was that?!”
I don’t know but it seemed to have come out of the heating vent on the wall above my dresser.
I’d been lying quietly in bed on this chilly autumn night, half asleep yet still awake enough to know that was a real noise. And it startled me.
Sitting up in bed now, I listen for more noises and, hearing none at the moment, try to imagine what it might have been. It definitely wasn’t my upstairs neighbor walking in her condo. That’s more of a thump, thump, thump. No, this was a…
There it is again! But it sounds a bit softer this time.
Now I’m really on alert. I sit and listen.
Five minutes. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes pass and nothing more do I hear from that vent.
Well, I tell myself, maybe it’s just the various metal parts in the furnace and duct system adjusting themselves to a new range of temperatures. The joints of materials with different thermal expansion coefficients can do that, you know. Earlier that day, after all, I had turned on the heating system for the first time in this new heating season.
Before long I’ve got my head on the pillow again. In a hypnagogic fog, I see the most fantastical things…things so preposterous words can barely do them justice. I see a skinny, big-toothed horse with a deck of cards fanned out in its mouth, a giant flying earthworm wrapped in yarn, trees talking to toddlers, a flexible television curling iron candy bowl.
Hey, that’s a color-morphing fingernail flying carpet with an old-fashioned radio driver hitting a golf ball into the small opening of my middle school desk with the veneer stripped off the seat. Too bad it missed Mr. Kelley, I think, as the desk seat turns into a window. And now the window has bars…
I surface into a tenuous consciousness, look over at the clock on my nightstand, and see that it’s 2:15 in the morning.
Wait. Did I just hear something?
Musta been part of my dream.
I fall back asleep and my dreams take on a disturbing tone. Something evil is on the periphery. I can’t see it but I know it’s bad. And it seems to be coming for me.
The furnace comes on, waking me briefly before helping me drift off to sleep again.
The white noise of the air blowing out of the vent soothes me and makes me forget the disquiet I was feeling in my dreams before the furnace came on.
I drift off…
The dreams turn dark again. The menacing thing is nearby. It’s getting closer.
Unnnnnnhhhhhhhhhh, I moan.
It’s coming down the duct. Closer and closer to the vent. I can hear it.
The sound has taken on a rhythm, as of something moving forward, one step at a time. Or is it a crawling motion?
This feeling of dread is real. This is not just a dream!
My heart pounds so loudly in my chest it’s nearly all I can hear…
Whatever that thing in the duct is, it’s coming to get me!
It’s there! It’s right there! It’s at the vent!
I’m trying to scream but I can’t.
Harder! I put all the force I can behind another scream…
Still just a frustrated wisp of a scream. Why can’t I scream?!
This damn thing is going to come out of the vent to get me.
I’m trapped in this room.
It’s in the room now. I hear it on the dresser!
No, no, no, no…
Where is it now?!
WHERE IS IT?!
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