The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. This was entirely bad news. The cabin served as a warning signal, and a candle in the window meant imminent danger.
There had been an incident about twenty years ago, the last time the candle was lit. Twenty-foot-tall hairy lamprey like creatures, equipped with four clawed feet and incredible strength had landed on earth and inflicted a massacre. Thankfully, we were successful in vanquishing them before they could us. Every last of these terrifying creatures was slaughtered, every last egg smashed. Many search parties, worldwide, were lead to assure the extinction of the beasts. I pointed the candle out to my husband, which was in clear view from our own house.
Nodding my head and gesturing to the little light I asked, "I wonder what it is this time."
"Oh shit. Really?" He lifted his head from his laptop and walked to the window to get a better look. "Well, the town will send information as soon as possible. I have no clue what it could be, we should know within the hour. It better not be those hairy aliens again. We went through so much trouble getting rid of them."
I laughed anxiously in response, "Yeaaaaah.. I mean. That sucked, but at least we know now how to get rid of them. I hope it's a false alarm or maybe they've decided to do some kind of practice drill."
After two hours of growing, crippling, unease, we finally got an email. The mayor apologized for the false alarm. There had been an accident that looked similar to the original attacks; but after a two hour sweep and lack of tracks, he said the town was fine and danger was not actually imminent.
I let out a sigh of relief upon reading it over my husband's shoulder.
He, however, was still concerned. He muttered under his breath, "I don't know, from what I hear those attacks were very specific. I don't trust it. The government is hiding something. I'm still loading my shotgun and having it ready in the house."
Things were always safe with him, and I trusted his instincts. I did joke a little bit though to ease the tension, "Okay, well I'll get your tin-hat ready too." I squeezed his shoulders to reassure him I was kidding and kissed him on the cheek.
The night proceeded as usual. We made and ate dinner together, swore neither of us was tired enough to actually go to bed, fell asleep on the couch after watching a few re-runs of our favorite office comedy, and at about midnight I woke up to get ready for bed.
I turned on the bathroom light to brush my teeth, and the light flickered a tad more than usual. I did feel a bit worried again, but didn't think much of it. I've been a generally anxious person my whole life, and after the ordeal this afternoon I figured I was just in my head.
I climbed downstairs to wake my husband so could get ready for bed, but he was already awake. The living room was freezing. He was sitting straight up on the couch, staring directly at the television screen. It had nothing but a silent static playing. I asked, "Honey, you.. you know there's nothing on the T.V. right now, right?"
Without turning around he answered hesitantly, "I-I know, I know. The connection was lost." Then he turned to me and asked what had woke me up. He looked truly shaken. His face was pale as the snow that had begun to coat the ground outside and his eyes were wide as saucers, "I-I'm assuming you didn't hear what I did about a minute ago."
"Why, what did you hear?"
"You remember those training videos they played for us as kids? The ones where we'd have to practice hiding from those things that invaded all those years ago?"
"Y-yeah.." My heart sunk and my breaths became shallow as my chest tightened. I knew exactly what he was going to say, and I was not ready for it.
"Do you remember the sound? The bone chilling combination of gurgles and screeches? The recording of the beasts? It was that sound. That is what woke me."
I walked around the couch to try and comfort him. I rested my hand on his knee and looked him in the eye, "I didn't hear it, maybe it was a dream. The mayor did say we were in the clear," I paused a moment to try and regain my own sanity and calm the anxiety, "A-although I wouldn't be opposed to keep the shotgun in the bedroom tonight. Just in case."
I picked up the remote off the coffee table to turn the television all the way off, and reached for his hand. I tried again to comfort him, "And even if they're back, we know what to do, let's go to bed."
About halfway up the stairs, the entire house began to vibrate. We froze mid-step, paralyzed in fear as the vibration grew into booming, rhythmic, thuds. The noise drew closer the lights began to flicker and flare brighter.
In near perfect synchronization we leaped back down stairs and ran to the window. We sat still, breath held, and made effort to exercise logic and reason for what was appearing outside. The snow, shimmering in reflection of the full moon, displayed clawed, elephantine, tracks.
The repetitive earthquake faded back to a faint tremble and the the lights within our house dulled back to their normal incandescence. I looked to my husband, every fiber in my body trembled and the agony of suspense became intolerable as it tore apart rational thought in my head. "Did you see anything besides foot steps? What the fuck was that?"
He slowly shook his head in response, "I didn't see anything."
My mind raced and another set of rhythmic thuds began to draw nearer. The lights began to flare again, this time so strongly the electricity hummed and crackled. For a split second my shuddering terror mutated to unconscionable courage and I leaped to the door to unlatch it. I flew outside to get a better look.
The frozen ground stung the bottom of my bare feet as I looked left and right to see what was making the massive tracks in the fresh snow. Not a beast was in sight, but a single person from each household down our street had the same reaction as I. My husband shouted for me to come back inside, but for some reason I could barely hear him. Instead of turning around, I took another step forward to investigate the noise.
My trance was broken by the sudden shriek of my neighbor across the street. The ground simultaneously had stopped shaking. In place of the deafening tremors, the glow from each house thrummed louder and louder until every lightbulb burst.
To my absolute horror, our neighbor's body levitated as she kicked her legs in desperation. Her screams were muffled and arms were trapped to her sides.
I shut my eyes as a gurgling screech drowned out the remaining howls of the poor woman who had been lifted off the ground by the invisible force.
What I had shielded my eyes from is what nightmares were made of. I opened my eyes after hearing her lifeless body hit the ground. The top half of her body was pierced with a pattern of small uniform holes, and not an ounce of blood stained the snow. Her skin was gray and pulled taught over her skeleton as if she'd been dead for decades.
Whatever was present, both was and wasn't a beast we thought we'd extinguished so many years prior. I looked to the woods for the cabin and my eyes unsurprisingly met a small flame in the window.
My heart dropped as I felt something brush the back of my shirt, was this beginning of another attack? I felt a pressure begin to grip my wrist.
Thankfully, it was just my husband trying to pull me back into our house. As he pulled me, I stumbled, and the feeling of falling jolted me awake.
In our actual uneventful evening, I had dozed off in his lap. I looked up at him and let out a huge sigh of relief. In as single exasperated breath I exclaimed, "THANK FUCKING GOD IT WAS JUST A NIGHTMARE YOU WOULDN'T BELIEVE WHAT MY BRAIN JUST MADE UP HOLY SHIT!"
He didn't say anything in return. I sat up to look at him, confused by his silence. He almost always matched my energy. Instead, he stared directly at the television screen. It had nothing but a silent static playing. My heart fell past my stomach and all the way to my feet. A bitter chill blew though the living room.
Without turning to me he answered hesitantly. He looked truly shaken, his face was pale as the snow that had begun to coat the ground outside and his eyes were wide as saucers, "I-I'm assuming you didn't hear what I did about a minute ago."