In the entire week you've been here, there has never been a silence quite like this. A hard, pricking quiet which seems to burst with each clench of your heart. The blood rushes to your head, feels as though it's anchoring to your skin, gathering there. This feeling has been with you all night. An unsurety. An alien emotion conjured when Angela pulled that damn board game from her large sack of house-warming gifts. "It's just for fun," she remarked. "No one ever takes this thing seriously."

Perhaps it had been true for the girls as they gathered around and placed their hands on the wooden pieces, laughing and sipping their thirty dollar bottles of wine without glasses. No one seemed to notice you slip away into the kitchen while they asked for signs of a presence within the house. They laughed when someone in their circle yelled 'boo', and laughed even harder when they claimed the piece moved on its own, but blamed Jessica.

Mom had always said nothing good came from that tool of devils.

You try to forget those words as you pull the sheets to your shoulders and turn toward the curtain covered window. There is no moon tonight, no glow or security to blanket the dark beating on your huddled form. You no longer feel secure without the safety of light, but there is no getting out of bed. A racing heart fastens you to the mattress, under those sheets.

A tap echoes through your bedroom, and you can almost feel it against your skin. Your heart pauses, skips and barely begins again. No one ever takes this thing seriously.

Another tap. Another.

Then another. With each noise, it barrels into your marrow and hollows your insides. Heat boils your tender skin, and butterflies wrack your stomach. You think of tearing yourself from that room and fleeing the house, but you're anchored.

A scratch against the floorboards stiffens your muscles and seizes your throat. You cannot scream.

A gurgle bubbles inside your mind, a clearing of a throat. Hoarse, raspy and inhuman. Hissing.

They woke me. Those festering nodules of life.

Another scratch. Clawing and dragging across the floor, under the bed.

I lay asleep under the floorboards. They moved my bones. Rattled my soul.

Weight tugged on the sheets and covers, pulling them toward the end of the bed. Your breath is barely a whisper, but fills your lungs completely. Inch by inch the covers slip from your form. Cold rushes against your skin. Fear. A racing pulse beats faster, and a six-fingered gray claw grasps the top of the bed, digging into the white sheet. The fabric rips underneath the sharp nails. Another slender claw grasps the sheets, closer

to you and red eyes appear over the edge. Peering, then full and unforgiving. A small pointed snout, then a wicked, razor-toothed smile as the creature slinks to the top. Clawing and ripping the sheets as it inches closer. The fur is in sharp points, like teeth along it's back. Jagged.



It hisses in your mind.

I am Master.

Nails puncture your flesh, drawing fire to the surface, and this time you find the voice that has been trapped inside your throat.