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Those who follow me know I’m pretty familiar with rejection by this point. I’ve been putting my stories out there and getting all sorts of great letters from editors about my writing, but none of them have been acceptance letters.

Until yesterday. I spotted the email in my inbox and could see that the first few words included the word, “Sorry” and I almost didn’t even open it. I’m glad I did, because it wasn’t a rejection at all! They’d held onto my story for an extra month because they liked it so much and wanted it for another topic they had coming up. And you can bet this rejection-laden writer did some serious happy dancing yesterday!

I’ve also had some really kind encouragement from others, especially in the Google Plus writing community, that has lifted my spirits the last few days. The writing is really hard some days, especially when trying new things. It’s  nice to know others out there going through the same things.

Without further ado, here’s today’s story, for Nightmare Fuel on Google Plus.

Marissa leaned against the doorway with a soft smile on her face. Four-year old Sylvia was finally asleep, her arms and legs sprawled across the Hello Kitty sheets, her dark eyelashes brushing across her pudgy cheeks. It was Marissa’s favorite sight of the day, when her daughter transformed from wild terror to peaceful angel. Even Judas the cat looked content, tightly curled at one end of the bed.

“Sweet dreams,” Marissa whispered. She pulled the door closed, then leaned against it and closed her eyes. Marissa didn’t consider herself a religious person by any means, but she spoke her request to the darkness just as she had every night for months.

“Please let her sleep,” Marissa said. “Please.”

Marissa had taken Sylvia to every doctor her insurance could afford, and then some. Night terrors, the doctors called it. They told Marissa to make sure Sylvia was eating properly and to limit time watching TV. Even the sleep clinic told her that it was a passing phase that would resolve on its own. Marissa wasn’t so sure. The episodes had been happening several times a week for months now. She just wanted her daughter to be able to sleep in peace again. Children shouldn’t have such terrible nightmares, she thought.

Marissa trudged down the hall to her bedroom, nearly tripping over a box on her way in. For a moment she thought about unpacking, but there were too many boxes, still in piles all over the half-empty house. Marissa had no energy to go down that road tonight. Maybe if Sylvia slept tonight, she could try tomorrow. She tumbled into her bed and was instantly asleep.

It wasn’t Sylvia’s screaming that woke her. She could tell because she was still in bed. When Sylvia screamed, her mother instinct would kick in and she’d be halfway out the door before she actually opened her eyes. Marissa sat and listened. What had woken her?

She heard it again, a high-pitched wail like a baby crying. Marissa felt a tingle run up her back. Then there was a sharp spitting sound, followed by a low growl. It was Judas the cat. Somehow, the realization didn’t make Marissa feel any better.

She stepped out of her bed and toward the door just as Sylvia woke. Sylvia’s screams blended with Judas’s yowls, making an otherworldly sound. Marissa felt a prickling all over her body where her hairs stood on end, and as she ran towards Sylvia’s room she was hyper aware of everything around her. The red light of the digital clock shown like blood as it flashed out the time. Marissa thought she smelled fresh dirt and cinnamon along with something like boiled eggs.

Marissa threw open Sylvia’s door. A black figure dashed out the room with a yowl. Judas. Inside, Sylvia sat as she did with every night terror, with her blankets tucked under her chin and her eyes squeezed shut. On other nights, Marissa had gone to Sylvia and shushed her until she stopped crying. She always thought it was just nightmares afflicting her daughter. Tonight she stood in the doorway and searched the room. She saw nothing but a few shadows.

“What is it, Sylvia?” she asked.
“It’s him, Mommy.”
“Where is he? I can’t see him.”
“He said to tell you he can see you,” Sylvia said, her eyes still tightly shut.

Marissa’s scalp tingled. She walked into the room, her eyes running over every nook and cranny.
“Can you see him, Sylvia?”

Sylvia squinted into the darkness, toward the closet, then quickly shut her eyes again. She nodded. Marissa glared toward the closet, trying to get a look at the intruder, but she saw nothing but shadows.

“He’s laughing, Mommy,” Sylvia said. “Make him stop.”
“Get out,” Marissa said. “This is our house.”

A ghastly face appeared suddenly before Marissa, a skull with empty eye sockets. A broken jaw hung loose from one side of its yawning mouth. Marissa screamed as the figure floated closer to her, its cloak floating in tatters around it as though it walked in water. She took a step back. A box on the floor caught her foot and she tumbled backward.

The face hovered over her and she heard a scratchy whisper.

“It’s my house,” the thing said, then disappeared.

Marissa got on her feet and rushed to Sylvia. The two of them cried together for several long minutes before Marissa rose and carried Sylvia out of the cursed room.

They slept in the car that night, and moved out of the house the next day. Sylvia’s night terrors never returned.

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