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Many stories are written about the dark; what it consists of, what lies in its shadowy embrace. The monster under the bed, skeleton in your closet. However, at the end of the day, most people walk through darkness unharmed, sleep through the night practically undisturbed. It's all in their head, the monsters, the noises.
What most people don't realize is that the things in their head don't always like to stay there.
She woke up shivering. A sheen of cold sweat shimmered upon her visage, her armpits damp, the sheets below her slick and sticky. The TV was turned on, as per usual; she couldn't fall asleep without the comforting voice of the sitcom characters buzzing, the dry humor and pre-programmed audience laughter like a lullaby as she slowly drifted off. But there was something strange about the television screen. Every few seconds or so, the image would flicker a bit, then return to normal. If she squinted real hard, she could just make out a bit of static lining the edges of the picture. She sighed and got up, smacked the side of her monitor, then headed off to change her nightgown. Coming back from her closet, her slippered foot caught on to a cable, and she fell head-first, her elbows hitting the gritty asphalt, followed by her once-soft cheek. She lay there for a moment, quietly laughing at herself for her clumsiness, until something hit her. The thought came smashing in like a baseball through a window, the shards exploding to form an uncomfortable realization. Her floor wasn't made of asphalt.
She looked down, and sure enough, she was lying on some sort of blacktop, similar to the one her playground had in elementary school. Looking around, she saw that her room was the same; all except for the floor. The woman jumped onto her bed, burrowing under the covers. She rubbed her eyes thoroughly, and looked again. Beige carpeting stared back at her. Chastising herself for having an overactive imagination, she turned her head back to the television. It was black. She lay back on her pillows, exasperated, thinking she must have tripped over the plug and accidentally disconnected it. Too lazy to get up, she just rolled over, and closed her eyes. She smiled, settling into her new mattress, thinking what a great buy it was. On sale! She had gone to the mattress store, her back aching from a few springs that had broken through the fabric of her old one, and the sales guy immediately led her to this baby. Sighing contently, she closed her weary eyes.
The TV flicked on. She opened her eyes in shock, only to see Jerry Seinfeld pacing around his apartment, raving about something or other. She looked to the side of the television, where it was plugged in. Just like she thought. The TV was unplugged. Huh. The Twilight theme music began playing in her head, but she just smiled.
Whatever. At least I don't have to get up now.
The woman fell asleep, and she dreamt. Well, more accurately, she nightmared.
She was standing in her little white blouse at the edge of the playground. Holding a letter in her shivering fingers, she glanced at her watch, then up at the blazing sun.
It sure is hot! She thought, as she once again glanced at her Powerpuff Girls watch. Scanning the playground, she was on the lookout for a mane of brown, shaggy hair, the type she had always dreamed of brushing, touching. And there he was. Resplendent in his summer-blue shirt, the most popular boy in high school had come. And he wanted to meet her! A fifth grader! She beamed at him, and he slowly crossed the blacktop towards her.
'Hey, babe. You waited long?'
She blushed. He cared how long she had waited! Little did he know she'd been waiting since third grade, when she first caught sight of him, laughing with his 7th grade friends. Her mom had said third graders were too young to have crushes, but she had fallen heels over head for this one. She opened her mouth to answer, when, in a flash, his face came to be mere centimeters from hers. He grinned, wolfishly.
'There's no one around''
Using her peripheral vision, she saw not a soul on the playground. She was confused. Why would the boy say something she already knew?
'Yeah, I can see tha-'
Covering her mouth hastily with his large, calloused hand, he pushed her down onto the blacktop. She didn't move. Her little fifth grade mind struggled to grasp the meaning of his actions.
She woke up with a gasp. The TV was loud, white noise emanating from the now static-filled box. The cable must have gone out, because the TV was still plugged in. She lay back, shuddering at the awful memory her subconscious had conjured up. Billy Davis.
Such a beautiful boy.
Turning around, she stared at the wall. Images of that day, the too bright sun, the lollipop pink slide glistening in the light, flashed through her mind. In the back of her mind, she registered that the static from the TV had stopped. She turned back to the monitor.
And there it was.
Her childhood playground. A still picture. It remained unchanged; she could even see the missing monkey bar, from when that obese girl had accepted a dare in second grade. Picking up the remote, she pressed the POWER button. The TV stayed on. She pressed it again.
No luck. Stuffing her face into a pillow, she willed for herself to wake up, to get out of this horrible blast from the past. She was just beginning to relax when she felt something gliding on top of her butt. She stiffened, and turned her eyes toward the window. Closed. Back towards the door. Closed.
Sighing in relief, she turned around, her eyes settling on the television. The screen was cracked open, a large hole in the middle. Her eyebrows furrowed.
A sudden creak from her bathroom made her jump. Her eyes were everywhere; the bathroom door, the window, the TV, the door'Everything became blurry, and finally she just had to close her eyes, to escape the oncoming nausea. She counted to ten in every language she knew. She opened her eyes. The TV screen was intact, as was everything else in the room.
She sighed, and turned over.
Billy Davis. Why was this the first night she really thought about him?
Last she heard, he was working at some chain store. Minimum wage. The name escaped her.
King, it was something that ended with King. Burger King? No'no'Taco King? No. Not food. Something homey, something'something else'
OH! She grinned, she had found the answer.
Something grabbed her waist, a hand. It was big, calloused, rough. Familiar.
'Hey, babe. You waited long?'