The single word was enough to wake Amanda. She hadn’t been truly sleeping, only dozing, sitting upright in the formal, pink wingback next to her mother’s bed. Her blue eyes scanned the room, searching for anything amiss. But the word was the only thing that had changed in the last six hours.
Amanda stood up, stretching loose the cramped, aching muscles in her back. She took two short steps to the gigantic king sized mahogany bed to look at her sick mother lying in the middle, tiny in the sea of soft blankets.
There was no response to her softly questioning voice. She hadn’t really expected anything. Her mother hadn’t spoken in days. She had barely opened her eyes, either. Only once or twice a day for the past week. And then only for the fleetest of moments, with nothing of recognition in the green orbs.
Amanda began to think that the word she had heard was only a whisper from an unremembered dream she’d had during her fitful dozing. Until she heard it again.
This time, Amanda knew it wasn’t her mother. The voice was distinctly male, something she hadn’t noticed the first time. Frightened, the young woman looked around the room again, searching for the origin of the voice. But, still, nothing had changed.
Amanda felt her pockets, looking for her cellphone. Nothing. Then she remembered putting it on the charger on her mother’s dresser, across the room, before she’d settled into the uncomfortable wingback chair.
She patted her mother’s frail, blue-veined hand, and whispered, “Don’t worry, Mom, I’ll be right back. Just gotta grab my phone.”
The tall young woman stepped away from the bed and quickly crossed the room to her phone. The device was face down on the dark wood of the expensive piece of furniture. Amanda didn’t remember placing it so, but she mentally shrugged it off.
Her delicate fingers wrapped around the smooth silvery metal. She shuddered at the coldness of the thing. Her thumb clicked on the power button, but nothing happened. It was drained of power. Amanda checked the power cord to make certain it was properly inserted, on both ends. It was, but the phone still wasn’t charged up.
Then she heard it again, “No.”
She whirled toward the bed, from where the word came from. In the wan light of the streetlamp shining through the tall window beside the bed, there was a shadow over the bed. A shadow shaped like a man.
Amanda was frozen in terror. Her breath became ragged and hurried. She wanted to scream but couldn’t find the strength.
“You will not cheat me,” whispered words came from the shadow.
It bent low over her mother’s frail body, its mouth opening wide, wider than any human could manage.
Amanda’s knees trembled, her heart raced. She needed to help her mother, but horror and fear kept her frozen.
She watched the thing move lower, open its jaw wider, but then it stopped. The ebony shadow creature suddenly stiffened, then writhed madly, thrashing about on top of the old woman in the bed.
The young woman across the room collapsed on weakened knees. From her vantage on the floor, she barely noticed the pale, blue-veined hands grasping the beast’s head.
Amanda’s head swirled. She was going to faint. Her mother was dying and she couldn’t stop it.
When Amanda swam her way back to consciousness, her mother, vibrant and healthy, was standing over her, whispering a nonsensical chant.