I come at night, when they do not expect to be disturbed. No-one ever does expect such an interruption past midnight, when the clock pretends it’s creeping towards a new day, but the world just drops deeper into darkness. I do not knock on doors or hand over a calling card. I slip through windows, chimneys, cracks in rooftops – their carpentry may be perfection, they may have solid mortar, sturdy walls – but no-one keeps me out. There is no charm or charlatan to shield from me, no substance which can harm me. I am not a thing, not a person. I exist only in your imagination; something far more powerful than most believe.
They remember me afterwards, see me in the day. I stand among the shadows, watching. Their sanity drops slowly away, shed like snakeskin. It tastes sweet.
Sometimes they run, but I never lose my prey. How can I, when I live within them? When I come from their dreams and fears, tangled together – when I inhabit all that they are and have ever wanted to be, how could they escape? It just isn’t possible.
The children can be welcoming. They spot me when they wake and wave, perhaps smile. They do not recognise me yet, are not old enough to know the dangers. Adults are different; they only know of me from stories, but it is enough for them to be scared. Lost sanity may be sweet, but fear – that has a taste of its own, and even when I let them run a little way before I follow, it drips behind and leaves a trail. It makes the moment of their end that little better. An appetiser.
You’re probably scared. They always are. Tonight, you will dream of me. You may not know it, you may not see me – but I will be there, watching, and you will feel it. Deep down. The prey always knows when its time grows short.
This is the problem; you are so easily led, so quickly taken. All I have to do is plant the idea – a whisper, a shadow, a story. Once they think they will be my next victim, I am summoned. And then I come, from inside their minds. From inside yours now, too.
Are you scared yet? You should be.
The skeleton key, that’s me. Unlocking your darkest thoughts and deepest horrors – nightmares are never quite so fun when I’m not there, but when I am… well. You’ll have to see, won’t you? Blow out your candle, tuck yourself into bed. I’ll see you when you sleep.