by Jamie

She opened her eyes and yawned, her body stretching, her toes curling as she tried to shake off the remnants of sleep. If she wasn't going to be able to fall back asleep, she may as well get up and find something else to entertain herself, she thought. Except she didn't want to. Being cocooned in her blankets, as the warmth settled into her bones, made her feel safe and secure. It was a feeling greater than getting an A+ on a book report or getting chosen first for a team in gym class. And she didn't want to lose that feeling; at least not now, not in the face of the storm which was raging outside, the storm which was breathing fire into the air with every threatening roar, the storm which was so strong that it was able to shake the walls of her house, rattling the soccer, softball, and her old tee-ball trophies on her shelves without lifting a finger. So, she pulled the blankets up and over her head, blocking out everything " every noise, every movement, every being " outside of her safe haven. Or so she tried to do, until she heard It.

It was making a racket, a symphony of destruction louder and more incessant than the cacophonous sounds from the storm. Wondering about the source of the extra noise, she poked her head out from underneath her blankets and she turned around to face the windows. At first she saw nothing. How could she? There was barely enough light to see the lamp which sat on her bedside table. And then lightening struck, illuminating the room in a snapshot photograph. In the brief moment where she could see, her eyes fell upon a shadow, which was seared into her memory long after her room was once again enveloped in darkness. The shadow was unidentifiable, but nonetheless It intrigued her.

The dissonance between It and the storm continued to assault her, leaving behind a sense of uneasiness, of tension, of something wrong, of something incomplete and unfinished. She brought her knees to her chest, pushing her back flush against the wall. Her knuckles were white from gripping her comforter, her lifeline, as she watched the window with the premonition that something was going to happen most likely involving It.

It was then that her window began shaking violently, too violently for it to be a product of the storm. She tried to move backward, away from the window, but the wall behind her wouldn't budge; regardless, her eyes never left her window and her mind never left the image of It. She watched as the glass fell from its frame, falling, tumbling to the ground, landing soundlessly on the plush, faded, pink carpet. There was nothing separating her room from anything and everything and nothing at all. The storm was given an invitation to her room, which it rejected with the dignity of a low, long, rumbling growl. If not for the glass laying flat on the floor, it would be impossible to tell that the window was missing at all. A shiver took control of her body, causing her to pull her blankets closer even though she was not at all cold. She thought about screaming, about getting up and running to her parents to show them what had happened, but she couldn't bring herself to open her mouth, she couldn't bring her legs to move; she couldn't even bring her eyes to leave the empty frame that once housed her window.

And then It came. First Its leg, darker than the room around it, found its way into the room, moving as if climbing through the window was just as easy as walking. Its hands followed, as It pushed itself up and over the sill. After Its feet followed the path of the glass, landing just as softly as before, It straightened Its body and faced her bed. She refused to breathe; she refused to move, she refused to acknowledge the fact that she was still in her room, staring at It, in all Its glory. But It didn't see her; at least she didn't think so. It hadn't even moved closer to the bed to see if she was there. Instead, the ambiguous body walked toward her desk, steps slow, careful, as if It were approaching Its prey. But nothing was there; nothing except the doll " which she named Samantha " that her parents had gotten her for her seventh birthday: the doll she had to beg for, the doll which she had spent weeks upon weeks staring at in the magazine until the day she tore off the pink paper of a box that came up to her mid-thigh and found the doll staring at her, eyes wide, arms open for her hug, for her support, for her care.

She always kept Samantha on a small, wooden chair that she painted herself " white with pink flowers surrounding Samantha's name " which she placed on her desk underneath what was once her window. And that night, Samantha sat in that small white chair, with her back toward the whole in the wall, watching her just as she always did, just as she had promised her owner at her owner's insistence. But now Samantha was in danger. Samantha was in danger, and she could do nothing. She could do nothing, and It was getting closer and closer to the little white chair with the pink flowers that belonged to Samantha.

Samantha blinked and turned her plastic head toward It. Her eyes, the color of mud after a heavy rain, did not leave Its figure. She watched as It moved closer to her, and closer, and closer, until Its body was nearly touching the grey linoleum desk, which was when something It was carrying reflected the newest flash of lightening. The object seemed to emerge from Its darkness as the moments passed. Samantha's gaze dropped to the object, but her face showed no sense of surprise; it stayed just as stoic and innocent as it had been since the beginning of her existence. She watched It as the figure brought the object completely from the darkness of itself.

Her owner watched as this all happened. She could not move, she could not speak, she could not scream, not even after she saw It pull the object from Its darkness. All she could do was watch. She watched as the object was brought closer to her precious doll. She watched as the object was placed against the cloth of Samantha's collar. And then she found her voice.

"NO!" That one syllable, too loud to her sensitive ears, should have made anybody turn around. But It was not anybody. It didn't even acknowledge the one syllable of resistance, the only form of resistance she was able to make. Instead, It continued to push the object farther into Samantha's collar. She watched as Samantha's cotton insides grew up from the doll as Its object ripped through Samantha's body. She watched as Samantha's head began to detach from her body. She watched as Samantha's head lolled forward. Her eyes locked with Samantha's and she couldn't look away. Not even when Samantha's head detached completely from her body and rolled to the floor; not even when it came to a halt mere feet from her bed; not even when Samantha blinked once, and then again; not even when Samantha's eyes left hers to study her body, still sitting in the white chair with painted pink flowers, still in her navy blue dress with black trim and a white bow around the waist.

"Why did you do that to her?" Finally, her voice was back; but it could do nothing useful, nothing but question the past. "Why?"

It didn't answer. It didn't have time to, because as soon as she finished questioning it, her world went black. Not even the storm would defy the darkness. The space before her, behind her, surrounding her, it was nothing, yet it was everything. She could barely breathe; the darkness was pushing down on her, engulfing her, caressing her, choking her. All she could feel was the darkness. All she could see was the darkness. All she was, in that moment, was defined by the darkness.

And then the darkness disappeared, leaving in Its wake her Samantha doll, sitting in her white chair with pink flowers, in her navy blue dress with black trim and a white bow, black stitches connecting her head to her body. She blinked, just once, before the darkness fell upon them both for the last time.

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