Nelle looked frantically behind her, tripping over the bottom step to the front door of the house she had been sent to. The sound of padding feet echoed in the darkness of the street, lights flickering out as the Thing approached. A snarl reached her ears as she hammered on the door, drowning the sound out with her cries, “Please, please let me in, please, it’s after me, please!”
The door opened and she fell into a pair of arms, who pulled her quickly inside and closed the door.
Released, she fell to the floor, curling into a ball as the stranger checked through the side windows.
Only when the stranger knelt by her, placing a reassuring hand on her brow, did she stop whimpering long enough to hear what they said.
“It’s OK, it’s OK. It’s gone, the lights are back, you’re safe. Come on, let’s get you somewhere more comfortable. I’ll make some hot chocolate, and you can tell me what’s going on.”
“Y-you’ll never believe me,” Nelle sobbed, allowing herself to be led to a sofa ad bundled into a soft blanket. Looking up at the stranger for the first time, she saw a sad and knowing smile on a light brown face, dark eyes reflecting the light from a soft lamp, a dressing gown tied hastily around her waist.
“I think you’ll be surprised what I believe these days,” she said softly, padding to the kitchen in pair of bunny slippers, “I’m Tamara Egerton, but call me Egs, everyone does.”
Nelle nodded silently and watched as Egs prepared hot chocolate and brought it over, sitting across from her on an armchair.
“Okay, first up, can you tell me your name?”
“Nelle,” she said quietly. “I’m Nelle.”
“Alright Nelle, thank you. Now just take your time, tell me what brought you here, and how I can help.”
Nelle gazed into her hot chocolate, letting the steam warm her face. She closed her eyes, remembering the morning before, and took herself back there, starting to speak.
“I woke up yesterday morning, same as usual, time for lectures – I’m part-time at Uni. Got up, made coffee, toast. Looked at my phone and there was this new icon there, no name, just a symbol.
“Figured it was something new on android or whatever, some new Google thing, but it didn’t open. So I left it, went in to Uni, did some stuff at the library, saw some friends. There’s this guy in the group keeps flirting with me, doesn’t really like me telling him I’m not interested in anyone like that, so he gets bit pestery and I have to deal with him. So I asked if anyone else had this app thing, but nobody did, and I didn’t think much else about it between him and studying and the usual stuff. Today was the same, normal, Uni then work – I do delivery for the Asda in town – then home, food, some stuff for an essay, went to bed. Got woke up, I guess an hour ago now, phone went mental – buzzing, alarm, ringtones, music, all going off.
“Turns out it’s this app, really wants me to come to this address. I’ll show you the thing but it just popped up this notification, filled the whole screen, wouldn’t let me dismiss it or close it. Restarted the fucking thing and everything, still just got this message. Go to this address, go to this address, go to this address, all flashing in big letters. Tried to go back to sleep and it went mental again – said ‘Go now or else!’
“So I’m thinking it’s like a prank or something, some prick from Uni got hold of my phone or it got hacked or something and someone’s having me on, right? Before I get chance to try anything else to fix it, there’s this noise, like a snorting, breathing sound, from my wardrobe. Like there’s a monster in there, like I’m a scared kid having a bad dream, but I’m awake. I wasn’t gonna go open that, but I didn’t know what to do, then it started opening the door itself, and I saw eyes, two eyes, right at the top, like fucking tall, all yellow and shit, staring at me. Then this fucking hand, this hairy fucking hand, all claws and shit came out, and that was fucking enough.
“So I ran the fuck out, and I know this street so I run to here, and it followed me the whole way, I heard it, running and breathing and growling, right til you got me inside. And that’s it. I don’t know who you are, lady, or what that thing was, but I think…I think maybe…maybe it’s a thing I did to myself. Cos look, before I got here I looked at my phone one last time, and look…”
Nelle trailed off and showed her phone to Egs. In large, bright, flashing letters, a fullscreen notification read
YOU SUMMONED ME CHILD. RUN. RUN TO HER. YOUR DOOM IS CLOSE
Egs sat back and looked thoughtfully at Nelle, as they both sipped their drinks.
“So Nelle, you have no idea who I am, what I do?”
Nelle shook her head.
“Okay. Do you know what this…whatever it is means, about you summoning it?”
Nelle nodded, cringing down into herself, “Some people I know, a few weeks back, we were hanging out and we did this thing, this ritual. One of them’s studying occult rituals or some weird shit, and they had this book, and we did this thing. It was mean to be a laugh, I dunno, we were off our heads, but it worked. Like, this tear opened and this beast came out and we all ran and then Cal disappeared, he’s been reported missing and everything, then Ang was gone to but nobody cares but us cos she’s just a junkie as far as the cops are concerned, and then that other woman from the bar died and I think that was the guy with the book, Ed, cos it had protection stuff in it – I read some of it and it said it had to be carved on a person, but I don’t think it worked cos I’ve not seen him since either. I think it’s getting us one at a time and it’s me next. But I don’t know why it sent me here.” Nelle trailed off, energy failing her.
“I have an idea,” Egs said softly. “Let me tell you a little about myself. I’m a police detective, me and my partner are working on that case – the murder of the young lady from the bar. And it seems that when we were younger, our parents knew each other, and promised us to this thing. Why, we don’t know and whatever it is, isn’t telling us – but then the circle managed to banish the thing back before it could collect. And it seems you and your friends are the reason it could come back. Now, it doesn’t seem to be able to get to me and Danson easily, for some reason, and it may think that sending you here will open a door for it. We have an expert on this type of stuff helping us figure things out and I think it would benefit us all to get her and my partner here, if you’re willing. Perhaps we can get some way to understanding, and stopping, this.”
Nelle nodded, eyes lowered, “If I can’t take it back, I can help fix it.”
Egs nodded, “Exactly. You stay right here, hon, maybe lie down, get some rest. I’ll get on the phone.”
Egs left the room, closing the door to her bedroom quietly behind her as she dialled first Danson, who grumbled his way into wakefulness and promised to be there asap, and then Erin Yates, who was surprisingly chipper for being woken and assured Egs that she would be there immediately.
Egs went to the bathroom next, splashing water across her face and taking a number of measured breaths. This was a step closer to figuring out how to make this thing go away, so why did she feel even more trapped?
The bathroom light flickered and she looked at it suspiciously.
As it flickered again, a weight pressed into her chest and she gasped a breath, looking into the mirror.
A beast stood to one side of her, more shadow than solid. Tall, it was covered in coarse hair, yellow eyes staring as it’s fangs glimmered in the faint light from the streetlamp outside. A single, enormous, clawed fist, pressed against her chest, threatening to stop her heart even as it pounded in fear, as she gasped again for breath.
The bathroom door slammed open and Nelle was there, a hand on Egs shoulder, brandishing a kitchen knife, her expression almost as fierce as the beast. The reflection blinked once, snarled, and withdrew, fading as the bathroom light flickered back on.
Egs turned, sagged onto the toilet seat, and looked up at Nelle, “Thank you.”
Nelle nodded, the fierceness leaving her face, replaced again with fear as she sank to the floor next to Egs, knife still gripped tight in her hand.
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