Beth balled a fist, trying to will the blood back into her fingertips. The polished double wood doors made echoed through the great room with no chatter or extra acoustics to halt it. Beth closed her eyes and made the first hesitant steps. It wasn’t so bad. It was a fright drafty and the power wouldn’t be on for another hour according to the technicians that came around, but it wasn’t so bad. She pulled out a clear glass from the kitchen cabinets and filled the filtered tap water, chugging it down surprisingly quickly. She filled the glass again for the road and made her way to an over-sized chair near the fireplace.

At the corner of her eye, she saw movement on the walls but disregarded the flecks of shadow play, attributing it to the flames. Beth sat back on an embroidered pillow and sipped her water, enjoying the semi shadow puppet show on the wallpapered wall. But sitting back offered her another angle of the shapes, one that she hadn’t noticed before. There was one shadow that wasn’t moving. She figured it was one of the logs, but it wasn’t lined up correctly. In fact, it was too far off to belong to anything in the fireplace. Beth glanced around the room but there wasn’t anything to be silhouetted.

She set down her glass and made shaky steps around the couch, being so bold as to stand directly in front of the shadow. The figure was slightly taller than her. She stepped back to see if her shadow would cast in front of it, but her own silhouette instead fell near the door. She reached out again with an unsteady, twitching hand, for the black torso. With each inch closer, she shook more and her breath quivered. She brought her hand back quickly, stumbling away, narrowly preventing herself from falling over the back of the couch onto the floor. The spot was warm. Beth knew from experience how cold the walls could get in this kind of weather.

Beth stared at the dark hazy space on the wall, wondering if she should even test her luck to rummage for a flashlight in the kitchen drawers. Would it even still be there when she got back? Perhaps she was having a grand hallucination that would dissipate when she returned. Perhaps she turns her back to find that it has been a decoy to something worse. Whatever it was, she would find out soon. Beth took a deep breath and backed into the kitchen, keeping the wall in her sights for as long as possible.

Beth returned to the edge of the living room and pushed the plastic switch of the flashlight on. The light sputtered but died out. She hit the sides; more flickers. The wall creaked and at that moment, the shadow stepped down from the wall molding onto the parquet flooring. Beth hit the light harder, slammed it against her palm and the flashlight beamed. As she had guessed, there was nothing in front of her. She waved the light around at all the dark corners but found nothing. No shadow figure stuck to the wall nor walking towards her. Beth scoffed and chuckled, touching her forehead. Her heart raced from the false start she had but she breathed out in an attempt to calm herself.

She took a step back, shifting her weight on her back leg and tensed up. The big house was drafty from time to time but she had gotten used to the momentary licks of icy wind. Why she only felt the cold on her face and front side instead of her back, she had no time to consider. The warmth on her back grew hotter but left no feelings of comfort, only raising the hairs at the nape of her neck.

Her cries echoed through the room but halted like a stolen breath.


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