Image: Pixabay

Image: Pixabay

Rich’s eyes water from fatigue, the bags under his eyes are dark from weeks of not being able to sleep through the night. The sleep specialist he had finally gone to see gave him specific instructions to reset his circadian clock. He cannot take naps and he has to stay up until 12:30 A.M. for the first week, and then get up at exactly 6:30 the next day. The amount of sleep he can expect will incrementally increase an hour each week until he can hold a six- to eight-hour straight sleeping pattern. Such a possibility inspires Rich to do all he can not to succumb to a quick nap on his recliner chair, where he has dozed off so many times. Before he gets too comfortable, he decides to go outside and take a walk. At 11:30 at night he can be assured of getting that extra hour of jolt.

Zing. Dodging a bullet from a drive-by shooting, he drops down to the sidewalk. Hurriedly, he gets up to cross the street before he runs into a group of drunken young punks who sound like they’re looking for a fight. He walks to the little patch of green they call a park in the area, breathing in deeply only to inhale smoke from a bum savoring the last tip of his cigarette. Quickening his pace, he goes further down a street he doesn’t think he’s ever been through. Always learning something new, he thinks, as a howl pierces through his thoughts. Sounds too close. He looks around. A few feet down he sees two glittering red eyes sitting atop a hairy animal face. Without further curiosity, he turns and tracks back to his home like he’s never done before.

Upon reaching his place, he opens the door and immediately shuts it. As he finishes locking the last of the three deadbolts, he hears someone clearing their throat. Slowly, he turns around. A very pale man with arched eyebrows smiles, revealing two particularly sharp teeth gleaming on either side of his mouth.

“How’d you get in here?” As soon as Rich asks, he simultaneously recalls going outside and not locking up because of the screech of tires and the shooting that followed.

“When the door is unlocked, it implies an invitation,” the man replies, walking toward Rich with arms extended, as if drawing him in. “As your guest, I thought I’d give you a gift.” He gets closer to Rich, who is paralyzed and mesmerized at the same time.  Then, all becomes dark.

When Rich comes to, he finds himself sprawled on his La-Z-y Boy recliner. “Oh no, I took another nap,” he says, getting up from his chair and heading to the bathroom. He washes his face and looks at the mirror. He notices two puncture holes on the side of his neck. He shivers. Behind him is a pale man whose grin is not reflected in the mirror.