I put my laptop to sleep and stretch languidly. The house is dark. My assignment is far from completed, but hunger sends me in search of sustenance. Something easy. Leftovers. They don’t even have to be warm. After that, who knows? Maybe a Netflix binge…
As I pass the bedroom door, something in the corner of my eye stops me. I turn and stare. There is a little gray child sitting on the edge of my bed. She’s tiny. Unfinished. No hair. Wearing a dress that appears to be made of rotting paper watermarked with barely legible symbols. My throat constricts.
“We’re not finished,” the gray child moans dolefully.
“I need a break,” I whisper, my throat tight as scar tissue to keep the screams inside.
“In delay there lies no plenty.” Her voice is hollow, lugubrious.
“Profligate!” she screams. Springing from the bed, she darts toward me, graspingly. I turn to run, but she manages to wrap her skeletal arms around my leg. Reacting without thought, I kick savagely to dislodge her. She is so light she sails through the hallway like a crumpled paper marionette.
When she hits the wall she explodes with a sound like shattering dreams. The fragments quickly coalesce into a swarm of black flies. They rise up like smoke and swirl toward me. I slam the bedroom door and lock it.
The move is purely reflexive. This is not a horror I can escape. We have a pact, the gray fledgling and I. And, as I discovered long ago, locked doors offer no real protection against a deadline demon neglected.