Something woke me.
The moon was out and bright, pressing its lunar glow against the curtains along with the gentle push of the wind filtering through the window. Beyond that, the skeletal shadows of tree limbs scratched against the cloth with soundless intent.
I heard a rhythmic dripping sound as the remnants of the storm that raged during the night splashed against the concrete that ran parallel to the house.
I looked at the clock that stood on my nightstand, the glowing dials running about the clock face as if in a hurry, throwing disproportionate eidolons scattering across my room.
My heart started with a stutter.
I sat up and watched the shadows on the curtains curl and scratch, curl and scratch.
A loud boom reverberated through the entire room as the door that lead into the hallway almost gave way to a sudden blow practised upon it, and I whipped around to face it. A wailing scream caught off the walls and concentrated on me, making me clasp my hands over my ears.
I got off the bed, screaming; the instinctual part of me trying to outdo the noise. The wail stopped. I took my hands off my ears, listening to hear any sound underneath the silence, waiting for the obvious pregnancy to explode a second time.
The silence stretched, evolved and became something akin to a living being, listening as intently as I did, watching me from all around.
Having had enough of this nonsense, I rushed to the door; not even contemplating what it was that had struck the enormous blow. However, just as I was about to turn the knob, a scratchy voice called my name.
A chill ran through my entire body and made me stop.
John. The shortened version of Jonathan – a nickname I have not heard for twenty years.
A twenty-year-old memory unravelled itself in my mind and the chill became an icy grip of sheer horror.
She made me freeze in front of the door as I became aware of a presence silently waiting on the other side.
No, it was more than just being aware. I could see her clearly – a haggard old woman with skin as white and translucent as soapy water, her hair falling from her head in clotted strands, her dress black and rotten. She was softly pressing her hand against the door as she placed an old, weathered face with black holes for eyes right next to it, listening intently, her lips pulled into a smile that said she found what she was looking for. The hand that touched the door gently stroked it, as if lovingly, as if this door would give way to the best prize she has ever received in her rotten life.
She listened to my breathing.
She listened to my heartbeat now as fast as that of an overexerted horse.
Mother had been right that night, all those many years ago. Mother had been right all along. She told me if a kid does not behave, the Lamia will come and get him, and gobble him up.
I could see the Lamia’s mouth stretch into an enormous circle, her gums grey and putrid, and her tongue as red as the congealed blood that pushed through my veins. I could see the door bulge inward under the gentle pressure of her skeletal hand, rotting as it gives.
She did not die that night. How can she? She is forever.
She always collects.