Don’t Make Eye Contact, Prologue…
Ivory moonlight slanted through billowing white lace curtains. On top of a polished oak nightstand, an electric alarm clock blinked on and off: 1:30 a.m. … in eerie red numbers.
Cassie lay on her bed with her eyes wide open. She sat up stretching her long catlike legs and slid her feet to the carpeted floor. Flipping her long jet black hair over her bare shoulder she walked over to the open window where the curtains puffed out around her like soft clouds. Suffering a chill from somewhere deep inside, she reached out and slammed the window closed. Peering out into the night she saw one light casting its sickly yellow glow on the corner, where a crippled dog was limping its way across the street.
Halfway through its journey it stopped and cocked its head to one side, listening intently. Then it raised its head and howled long and loud at the moon. As she stared at the dog she heard, in return, another howl. One so deep and guttural she almost wondered if it could even be a dog. Then it changed, slowly rising in pitch until it was screeching like a banshee, and her nerves were vibrating, electric shivers racing up and down her spine. Then it stopped as suddenly as it had begun. The crippled dog turned and limped as fast as it could in the opposite direction, yelping as if all hell were behind it.
Cassie locked her window and started to return to her bed, then she started wondering, “What woke me up in the first place? I wasn’t dreaming and I know I was damn tired”, she thought to herself as she wrinkled her nose up and scrunched her brows together trying to recall something. She gave up and decided to grab a glass of water, walking quickly into the kitchen, passing through the dim dining room and by the dark door of the den.
Her kitchen’s decor of white and yellow had always looked cheerful and sunny, but now as she looked, it turned into a bright, fake sunny-ness, almost inspiring depression as if it were just trying too hard anymore. She poured a glass of water and grabbed a pickle out of the fridge on impulse. She wasn’t hungry, but she wasn’t ready to go back to bed just yet. She nibbled on the pickle and thought about the long day ahead of her, how tired she was going to be, how emotionally overdrawn after what she needed to do. That thought shocked her back to reality and she wondered why she had even felt that strange fear now that her nerves had calmed down, only to be jerked tight by something worse. But she had, she realized. One like Cassie had never felt…strong, stubborn, realistic, logical Cassie.
Now everything was quiet and she couldn’t see any sense in it. silently scolding herself for her foolishness and cursing at the time as she padded back down the hall having flipped the light switch in the kitchen on her way back to her room. She slowed only a little to let her eyes adjust to the dark, passed the door to the den, then the door to the basement where she paused and took a step back, suddenly listening intently. Standing there she felt the same heat flush across her face for being silly when she heard the gentle rustling and, was that scratching? As if someone was scraping fingernails on cement or slate very softly. It stopped and she continued to stand there staring at the door wondering what in the hell was up with her imagination tonight of all nights.
She reached out and locked the door even though there were no windows or other entrances into her cellar than from where she stood. Cass continued on into her room where she checked the lock on her window and lowered herself back into bed.
OOOOOOooooowwwwWWWW! Cassie bolted upright and looked at the clock.