Julia couldn’t fall asleep, not again. She took a glug from her cup, drops of black coffee splashing down her chin and onto her already stained top. She’d been awake for almost 36 hours now and every moment was a battle to stay awake. She took another swig of coffee, then stretched. The kitchen chairs weren’t exactly comfortable, but she had gotten them cheap and they matched with everything. She’d been sitting in the kitchen for the last three hours, the couch in the sitting room was just too warm and soft and Julia had felt herself drifting. If she slept again she’d have the nightmares, she didn’t want the nightmares. The feeling of slimy, thin tentacles writhing across her skin, the awful, scratchy dryness of the impossibly thin hands that stroked over her arms. She shuddered and took another drink. She’d stay awake forever if she had to.
An hour later Julia stepped out of the cold shower, she was shivering lightly, she wrapped herself in a towel and went into the bedroom. She sat on the bed, a part of her longing for its comforting warmth. She lay back, only for a moment though, just to take the weight off her weary muscles. Julia didn’t notice the shift as she fell asleep, on moment she was awake, the next she was standing in a dream. She towelled herself off and grabbed underwear from her drawer, after putting them on she went to the wardrobe and pulled it open. Two long, thin grey tentacles shot out and grabbed her wrists, a third flung out and wrapped itself around her throat. Julia screamed and struggled as more and more of the tendrils emerged, each one trying to grip her flesh, to hold her still.
She sensed him first. The cold hole in the room that signified his presence. Then she felt his dry rough hand rub along her arm, his abnormally long fingers lingering just an instant too long. Julia couldn’t struggle, couldn’t move, she was bound too tightly. The man stepped into view, he looked completely normal, like any man she’d pass on the street. He gently caressed her cheeks, she could see his normal fingers but she could feel the real ones, the ones hidden beneath the facade. She felt a sharp pain as his fingernails dug into her temple. She screamed as he drove his fingers past her skin, the pain wiped away all other feeling. He twirled his hands around lazily, slowly searching for his prize. Finally he grinned, a wild, feral grin, and he plucked something free. It was a small ball, about the size of a marble, it was a solid red, he carefully pocketed it, then he turned and walked away.
Julia’s body lay in front of her wardrobe, she wouldn’t be found for another three days, a source of much discussion at her funeral, though everyone agreed it was one of the better ways to go, brain aneurysm, quick, painless, and she wouldn’t have even known what was happening.