In spite of the pleasant weather forecast prediction, a rogue thunderstorm struck Friday evening, the likes of which had not been seen since the days of Noah and the flood, ruining the plans of revelers looking to get a headstart on their wild weekend festivities.
Titus Shelton’s plans hadn’t been affected by the unexpected downpour in the least, as he had always been a bit of a homebody. Even as a child, he was perfectly comfortable being alone with his books, preferring the company of fictional characters, and losing himself within their fantasy worlds. Sometimes, he would even combine the characters from different novels and create better stories and more exciting worlds within his own vivid imagination. And now, this weather, considered ghastly by most, provided him with the proper backdrop for a perfect evening spent at home.
Entering the spacious high-ceilinged living room decorated in dark wood furniture, Titus strode across the carpeted floor, past the curio filled with odd knick-knacks, and the baby grand piano, to the inlaid mahogany bookcase. Running a delicate finger across the numerous title-embossed leather spines, he made a selection, and carried it to his favorite seat, the plump armchair positioned closest to the fire burning in the hearth.
He loved this chair because it contoured to his shape, offering maximum comfort as he read, which he did this night until he dozed off, and as happened on many an occasion, he brought aspects of the novel with him into dreamland. This particular book had been a gothic horror tale about an ancient nocturnal creature who feasted on the evil that existed in every human being since the original sin was committed. In the dream, he was alone in a dark, foggy petrified forest, being chased by a figure he could not see clearly, who traveled from shadow to shadow. Through dream logic, he knew his only hope was to reach a well-lit area, for the illumination would have provided a barrier against the darkness. But the creature was gaining ground…
There was a noise.
Titus woke abruptly, confused. Was the noise a part of his dream, or had it come from within the house? He pricked his ears, listening in silence for the noise to sound again. Nothing. When he tried to move his head, to verify that he was alone in the room, Titus discovered he was locked in a sleep paralysis.
The noise again! A scritchy-scratchy sound, like nails clawing at the inside of a coffin lid. Something was definitely inside his house…and it was coming for him! Rationality abandoned him as his mind, overtaken by his imagination, grasped at straws. He wondered if the book he was reading contained some sort of incantation and had he unknowingly summoned something from an ancient dark realm? And, in dreaming it into existence, had he brought this nightmare into the waking world?
Titus looked at the burning logs in the fireplace. Surely they cast enough light to keep him safe within, he thought. But the security of that thought was short-lived, for a fog impossibly began to roll into the living room, and when it touched the logs, the flames dimmed. Then, the temperature in the room dropped drastically, becoming so cold that he saw the condensation of his breath that was coming in frantic little gasps.
Although he could not see behind him, Titus imagined a creature slinking from shadow to shadow, drawing closer and closer…
He struggled in his mind, his brain commanding his body to stand up and flee to the safety of a place filled with light, but nothing moved, not even a pinky. He was still in the thrall of the paralysis, still locked to his favorite armchair.
More scratching noises, this time closer, and the cold air filled with a hot, sickly sweet, fragrant cloud of burning sulfur that singed the edges of his nostrils.
From the corner of his eye, he detected movement! Impossibly long white fingers crawled in a spider motion across his shoulders, and he felt a mouth crowded with sharp teeth kiss the tender flesh of his exposed neck.
“Oh, it’s you, Mother,” Titus breathed a sigh of relief, as the sleep paralysis finally loosened its grip. “Welcome home.”
©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys