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Gretchen’s eyes fluttered under closed lids as she dreamt, her body twisting and turning under the covers.
She had seen this all before; standing upright at the foot of the master bed in her parent’s chambers at 49 Chicory Lane. Despite the light showing through the frosted window panes, the room was cast in a gloomy haze.
A thick layer of dust lined her mother’s vanity and the place before the chimney was covered with soot, as though it hadn’t been properly cleaned in some time.
A movement by the bed caught her eye and she spotted her father sitting in the parlor chair. He looked ragged and fatigued; his skin was pale and he had dark circles under dull eyes. His hair had grown grey around the edges and he wore a perplexed and saddened expression as he gazed at a figure lying in the bed.
Mira came in, carrying a tray of tea and Gretchen drew in her breath. ‘My how she’s aged.’ Mira’s beauty and vitality had been one of the few constants in her life. Now it looked as though her dear friend had aged beyond reason. Her once glorious red hair was streaked with white and tied into a stiff knot at the back of her head. Her dark green eyes were sunken and lined by fine wrinkles. She set down the tray with trembling hands and asked Mr. Grey if he’d ‘be needing anything else’. As she turned to leave, Gretchen saw her throw a concerned glance at the master bed before making her way out of the room.
Gretchen came up beside her father, but his eyes never left the bed. Before them her mother lay still, her head supported by large cushions. Her light brown hair had been let down and she was wearing her nightgown under the down feather quilt.
She didn’t sleep soundly. Her head twitched every few moments and she whimpered and mumbled in her sleep. Her features were pale and drawn tight and beads of transpiration lined her skin. Gretchen knelt beside her mother, reaching for her hand. But before she felt the touch of cold pale fingers, her attention was drawn to a strange shadow that was cast down upon the bedcovers. It was moving, almost pulsing. Gretchen frowned, leaning in closer to examine.
Before her eyes, the shadow lifted, becoming a dark form, almost like a cloud. It began to stretch and elongate; shapes springing from its sides; arms, legs, hands, and the round of a head.
As Gretchen watched in horror, the figure of a dark man appeared over her mother’s body. He gazed down at her; an aura of hate, disgust, vengeance and madness emanating from his black form. It made Gretchen’s stomach churn and her head feel dizzy. She wanted to stop it, to tell it to go away, but it was as if she were frozen in place. And then the monster turned its head away from the bed and look at Gretchen, its red eyes ablaze. Features continued to form in the cavity of a skull; a pair of slim nostrils and a mouth that grew into a wide, cruel smile; the light reflecting briefly off a single gold tooth….
Gretchen’s eyes were wet as they fluttered open and her nightgown clung to her skin. “Gretchen! Wake up!” Samantha whispered. Gretchen turned and Samantha’s worried features entered her field of vision. “You were dreaming again.” She sighed and bit her lip, her eyes searching Gretchen’s face. “Was it still the same?”
“Yes.” She swallowed hard, fighting the nausea that overtook her as she remembered her nightmares. “I’m sorry I woke you, Sam. God, I thought that these dreams would be over since….” She shook her head and her hands balled into fists for a moment before she released them and patted Samantha on the shoulder reassuringly.
“Thanks for waking me.” She turned back into her pillow but knew that sleep wouldn’t find her. Guilt and remorse had taken up permanent residence in the pit of her stomach.
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2nd Prize winner of the 30 page critique from the members of the ‘3Critics Club’ (my critiquing group) on The Word Cloud is:
3rd Prize winner of the choice of champagne or gourmet chocolates shipped directly from yours truly (in France:) is: T.J. Carson for her 'Harry Ring Lord' entry!
Thanks to everyone who entered and for all the follower support! Winners please be sure to email me so I can give you the details and congratulations!