Amanda fears she is losing her mind when she becomes haunted by dark visions and stalked by clinging shadows. She hopes research into these strange happenings will calm her nerves and offer her explanation, but she only digs deeper into the true horror which has chosen her as its next victim.
Her eyes browsed over the dozens of pages looking for keywords she had written down on the notepad. Missing. Shadows. Noises. The floor. All those were in her focus, and she was not disappointed in her search. The articles were full of such goings-on, much more than the old gentleman at the gas station had intimated. She shuddered at the lurid descriptions of vanished hikers and sightings of dark shadows. One visiting explorer had even been found naked and disoriented several miles away from the cabin. He raved for several days about the creature beneath the earth and other such terrifying warnings. In between his fits of madness were brief periods of lucidity, and it was at these times where the story was pieces together.
By the man’s own account, he had sought shelter from the night in the hunting cabin. Alone and with only a flashlight to give him comfort, he had bedded down for some rest on the floor.
After an unknown time, the man had been awakened by a strange, unfamiliar noise. He recalled sitting up and listening while a soft noise of shifting dirt grew louder and louder. The man had taken up the flashlight for protection, but nothing prepared him for the sight he beheld. It was that of a long, dark snake which slithered forth from the boards surrounding him.
Unhinged by his fear and instincts to flee, the lone hiker admitted he had no recollections after that. The next he’d known was his feet swiftly taking him from that cabin. In the interval his clothes had been torn and he held his now-broken flashlight. Though he was without memories, there remained with him an an overpowering sense of dread. Then, according to the newspaper article, the stranger had fallen back into his madness.
Amanda paused in her reading, and ran a hand through her thick hair. She could very well relate to such dangers, and wondered about contacting the gentleman. The article itself was twenty years old, so that would be possible to meet and ask him a few questions. Unfortunately, as she continued on to the end of the article there proved to be one very important fact she had not yet learned. The man had been consumed by his insanity, and he committed suicide several days after being found.
The young woman leaned back in her chair, stunned at the surprise finish to such a strange and frightening tale. The description and attack of the monster mirrored her own experiences, and she wondered, not without foundation, if such an end awaited her. A cold chill went up her spine as she was reminded of the creature’s appearances to her. The first had been as terrifying as the man had related, but the one from last night had been quite different. The creature had seduced her in a much less forward manner, and she had fallen to its advances with greater speed. She couldn’t help but ponder if the next encounter would follow with her breakdown, and she would end up the same as the hiker.
“Come on, old girl, get yourself together,” she tried to rally her spirits. She had to take courage in the fact that she still had her mental faculties intact, and the monster had shown no signs of causing her any physical harm beyond some sore muscles. “Just gotta focus on this stuff and then maybe it’ll go away.”
Amanda resumed her research and tried to keep herself from becoming disheartened by the accounts. She was so distracted by her perusing that she didn’t notice the hours march passed her. The world moved on while she sat there searching through the online articles. After a particularly long newspaper clipping about a pair of missing hikers, she absently she checked the time on the computer.
Much was Amanda’s surprise when she found the time to be eleven. There was only an hour before Tony returned for lunch, and she had nothing to present to him for a meal. She cleaned up the browsing history, thankful she, too, could hide her tracks from his less computer-savvy eye, and then dashed out of the room. She did a quick browse of the cupboards and confirmed what Tony had earlier told her. There was hardly enough food to feed one person, much less two. That certainly explained why he’d offered takeout as a meal option.
There was nothing she could do with the few boxes of cereal and hard bread, so Amanda opted for a store run. She had her purse with her and plenty of money to buy anything she wanted. However, she first needed something convenient to carry back the groceries, and she found her bag would be the perfect container. There was just the small problem of cleaning out the contents, which was easily done by dumping the whole lot of it onto her bed. Amanda was about to toss the bag over her back and be off when her eyes caught sight of something unusual laying on the sheets. She stooped down and grabbed the strange item, then held it up to her face.
It was a small rock, completely black with jagged edges all around its rectangular shape. By appearances the stone should have weighed at least a few pounds, but she found she could easily balance it atop the ends of three fingers. There was nothing particularly strange about the rock but for the unexplainable way it had wormed its way into her bag. She also couldn’t recall seeing such rock anywhere along the trail.
Unfortunately inspection was for another time, as she was on a tight schedule to get to the grocery store and back. Then there would be the actual making of the food and having it all ready for when Tony came for lunch. She set the rock down on her nightstand and hurried out the front door. All the way down the sidewalk, weaving in and out of people, Amanda sought to make a list of food she could make for her boyfriend. She didn’t notice she was talking aloud until she whispered out a wholly unrelated word in her reading of vegetables.
“Broccoli, spinach, rock-” Amanda stopped so abruptly that there was a small pileup behind her. She received her share of scowls from the people in the collision, but she didn’t heed any of their mutterings regarding her rudeness. Rather, her mind was very much stuck on why she had spoken of that rock. Amanda couldn’t understand what had made her thoughts conjure up the stone she had found. If she’d been listing off minerals instead of vegetables, she could have seen some connection, but not on her grocery list.
Amanda was jolted from her musings when someone brushed passed her. She realized she was standing there in the center of a busy sidewalk and earning a great amount of scrutiny. The young woman blushed under such stares, and dodged into the nearest alley. There was some relief in standing beneath the shade of two tall buildings and watching the swarm of humanity follow its path along the sidewalk.
This was the first time since the incident that she’d been out amongst so many people, and she found herself strangely ill-equipped to run with the crowd. The people passed by her in such a fluid movement of arms and legs that she was distinctly reminded of the fiend who stalked her nights. The mere thought of the creature excited her senses, and she found herself aglow with heat. The feel of those soft, strong arms wrapped around her writhing body. The motions as they pushed and pulled against one another, fighting for dominance in their passionate love-making.
Amanda pushed down those thoughts. They did her no good. She had to focus on finding some way of getting rid of the thing, not tempting herself with lustful needs toward it. She mingled back into the crowd and went on her way to the store. Her bag was filled with plenty of foodstuff for Tony to survive by himself for at least a week. For herself, she wondered if she didn’t need to go back to her apartment the coming night after dinner. She wouldn’t be able to stalk Tony’s progress with his research, but she’d written enough down on her notepad-
Amanda stopped dead in her tracks in the store parking lot. In her hurry to get to the grocery store, she’d forgotten to hide the notepad which had her own notes. She hurriedly checked her watch and found she had about fifteen minutes before Tony got back to his apartment for lunch. It took her ten minutes of walking to get to the store. The time was close, but not impossible. She needed to get back there and hide that pad before he found it and started asking her a lot of uncomfortable questions.
The young woman quickened her steps and sped through the crowds. Her thoughts were consumed by the worry that Tony would surprise her by arriving early, and her snooping would be found out. At one point she absently buzzed by the alley where before she had stopped, and she happened to glance at a nearby shop window.
Then she froze. Her heart stopped beating. Her eyes grew large and frightened.
In a brief glimpse, just a sliver of a moment, Amanda swore she’d seen the creature hanging onto her back, those horrible tendrils clinging to the top of her bag. As though she were a madwoman, she wildly turned her head left and right to glimpse any signs of the thing. The creature was not to be seen. She felt no weight except for that of her bag. Her head whipped back to the display window. Nothing but her backpack was behind her. Her heart settled, but not her mind. She would have promised upon the graves of her parents that the thing had been there, peeking out from around the bag’s straps.
Amanda stepped up to the glass and the noisy crowd around her disappeared into the background. There was only one focus, one thing that mattered. Slowly she reached up a hand and brushed her slender, quivering fingers against the cool window. There was nothing abnormal about the glass, but she feared something worse. She feared it was she who was now abnormal. That somehow, by the touch of that thing, there was something infinitely wrong with her. Perhaps the creature’s toxins were driving her slowly to madness, an insanity as deep as the hole beneath the lonely cabin.
Then Amanda was bumped by a passerby, and she was jolted from her singularly dark reflections and fears. She glanced behind her and realized she was receiving many more stares from the crowd than on her last pass by this shop. Far off she could even glimpse a police vehicle, and inside the officer watched her with a careful eye. Her face ablaze with a heavy blush of embarrassment, she hurried on her way back to Tony’s apartment.