Truefire sniffed and rolled over. Her duvet rustled as she shifted, twisting to find the perfect sleeping position.
No dice. She kept shuffling, eyes clamped shut and lips pursed as she fought the eternal battle of pony vs. bed, with a comfortable night’s sleep the coveted prize. Her forehead crinkled into a frown as she tried one la-
Truefire’s eyes snapped open.
The noise had been low, sibilant. Her ears pricked as she tried to pinpoint where it had come from, but it had been too faint to make out clearly. For a moment, she panicked, then rational thought kicked in and she settled back into the mattress. The pipes had been playing up and Socket hadn’t been round to fix them yet. No doubt she’d have a minor leak in the morning, but frankly she was far too tired to b-
Truefire jumped and she threw the covers from her body, sitting up and taking a glance about her room. Illuminated faintly by the rays of moonlight creeping through the curtains, she could see nothing but the shadows clinging to her walls and the scattered recipe books she was currently researching. She swallowed and wiped a bead of sweat from her forehead.
The shadows in one corner of the room seemed to thicken. Truefire bit her lip and peered closer, raising the covers to her neck.
Nothing moved. Perhaps she had been imagining it. She lay back down and pulled the thick linen over her once more, chuckling to herself. She was acting like a frightened filly, jumping at things that went bump in the night. She muttered to herself as tried to settle into the position she had come so close to perfecting. How did that old rhyme go?
“The hissing thing, it preys at night, when sun is low and moon is bright…”
She smiled to herself, nuzzling her pillow. She could almost remember the first time her grandmother had told her that sto-
The noise again, louder this time. It was coming from one corner of the room. That corner. She huddled herself tighter, willing herself to ignore what she knew could only be the workings of her rickety old house.
Louder, closer. She bit her lip as the panic rose. There was something in the room with her, and her scattered thoughts placed the sound between her and the door. The acrid smell of rotten meat began to creep into her nostrils. Her mind raced through the rhyme, grasping for something to understand.
“The waking world is where it walks, but only outside sleep it stalks…”
That was it! Sleep! She had to get to sleep, and everything would be fine. She would wake up from this silly nightmare and everything would be fine.
The smell was stronger now, the air thicker. She screwed her eyes as tightly closed as she could and clutched the covers close about her, flattening herself against the mattress that not an inch of her was exposed. She was a filly again, a defenceless child building a wall of linen and hope against anything that would harm her.
The hissing and the thuds she dared not contemplate were getting faster, and her bed was shaking with every impact. She could hear breathing now, a ragged gasp of infinite hunger. She began to cry, willing herself to drift away into blissful oblivion, but her mind was full of fear and the restlessness wouldn’t leave her.
The spell! The spell her grandmother had taught her! She desperately cast her mind back to that night on the veranda when her grandmother had told her so many things, of the hissing thing and the beast of many eyes.
The spell at last came back to her, and she summoned the magic as fast as she could.
Her bed shook. Something grabbed the covers and ripped them away. She screamed and cast the spell, and felt the magic settle over her mind like a pillow.
Even as she drifted into unconsciousness, she heard the hissing, felt the hot breath on her face. Her eyes drooped closed and the shadows descended…
Ooh, a suspense story! I was hoping someone might take the prompt in this direction, too. And this is a really nifty one, too! You can really feel the buildup as this thing gets closer and closer, and the ambiguous ending only heightens the aesthetic. Good job!