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It's night, so of course it's dark out, and all the other occupants of my house are asleep, as they all have to be to work or school earlier than I do. I'm the only person still awake. The house is silent except for the sleepy noises of my family. I've decided that I should probably be getting ready for bed too, and head to the bathroom to brush my teeth. My bathroom layout is such that when you are standing at the sink, which has a large mirror above it like most do, there is a medium-sized window behind you slightly to your left. There's nothing particularly ominous about this window, except for the fact that it has no curtains. We've never gotten around to putting any up, since we have no neighbors on that side of the house. If you look out the window, all you see is a deep black nothing, since the bathroom light is on and it's a relatively starless night. I live in the woods, so there are no lights from other houses to break up the solidness of the dark. Most people wouldn't be frightened by a window, and usually I can count myself amongst them...that is until, while in the middle of brushing my teeth, I think to myself, "You know, there could be a someone...or something...looking through that window and you wouldn't know until you turned around and then BAM! There it is."

And that is the beginning of my quick spiral into terror.

At the moment I think that random, insignificant thought, my heart starts to pound and my skin starts to engage in a slow crawl. Of course the logical part of my brain is trying to soothe the panicky portion: "No, there can't be anything there because, due to the way our house is built, there's a seven foot drop outside the window" but then a truly sadistic and sinister part of my brain speaks up, "How would you know unless you turn around...but be careful because...what if you're wrong?!"

Before I can slip into completely into a state of terror, the logical brain calmly decides that we're just going to finish brushing our teeth while decidedly not looking at the mirror, go to bed, and feel silly about this in the morning. It almost works. But the second I flick the switch to turn off the light, that awful voice says, "That's a nice plan but...you've turned off bathroom light...what if there is something behind you in the deep dark...reaching out of the shadows to grab you while your back is turned? You wouldn't see it coming until it's got its hands on you..."

And the terror is back.

Once again my heart starts pounding and the logical brain puts up a fight, arguing that we just saw there was nothing in the small bathroom besides us, but now that the safe glow of the bathroom light is gone...well, it's harder to believe that grounded, sensible voice.

Now comes the mad (to my fear-addled mind at least) dash to my bedroom. My room is literally only steps away and I think that if I can just get into bed, everything will be fine, even in the dark. But the distance seems like it has tripled with the absence of the soothing light from the bathroom. Internally flinching away from the imagined beings hiding in the shadows that line my path, just waiting to swipe out and latch on to me, I scramble to shut the bathroom door. Hopefully, that will deter whatever could be lurking behind me, while I fumble to open my bedroom door. Unfortunately, I share a room with my sister, so I can't turn on the light, which means I'm forced to get into bed in almost pitch black darkness. While it's true at this point that I'm fairly freaked out, it's not until I'm standing right next to my bed that that evil voice starts up again, reminding me that there's another window right behind me...standing like an open invitation for various sinister and otherworldly peeping toms that inhabit the world outside my bedroom.

The hairs on my neck start to stand up and I swear that I can feel someone, something watching me; it's like a physical caress that starts at the top of my head and slowly travels down to the base of my spine, finally settling as a tight knot of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.

I struggle to get the coiled mess of comforters and blankets separated so I can bury myself in the imagined safety of my bed, the whole time picturing the sinister something that's stalking me from the inky shadows behind me, reaching out its hands to grab my shoulders. By now that nasty little voice in my head has described what could happen in such viciously intricate detail, it's almost like I can literally feel it.

Finally I've sorted out my blankets and can jump into bed. Wrapped up tightly in my multiple comforters and quilts. I tuck my feet securely away, out of the range of any boogeymen that might be lying in wait under my bed, and lie with my back facing the wall that's snug to the one side of my bed. It's now that I notice how my heart is beating like a rabbit that's managed to evade the hunting dogs and how short and shallow my breathing is. I realize that, once again, I've managed to terrify myself with just a single thought, one that jump-started the horror-filled runaway train that is my imagination after dark.

"We're such a pathetic, easily frightened idiot," the logical portion of my brain pipes says to the still slightly shaken part of my mind, "We go through this almost every night and every time nothing happens." So I let my body slip out of fight or flight mode, let the blanket's tight grip relax into a comfortably loose cocoon and let my mind start to drift into the fuzzy edges of sleep, my brain still laughing about how we get worked up about nothing. My over-active imagination allowing me to slip off to sleep now that I've reasserted that I am safe and I can relax.

It's when I'm on that very edge, ready to tumble off the cliff of consciousness that I notice...

There's hot, wet breath on the back of my neck....

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