42 - The Beast

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The room was dark when Nat awoke, and she blinked against the shadows, disoriented and with the sensation of missed time. She felt like she had been drugged, the heavy-lidded sleep that comes when you've cried yourself to exhaustion and then cried more, emptying yourself, purging your sadness until all that's left is a leaden misery. 

She felt the sensation of something else in the room with her, that feeling of presence that accompanies a living body when it occupies space. In the darkness, she could see nothing, but she thought she could hear something beneath her own breathing, the ragged thump of her pulse in her ears.

"Fluff?" 

He liked to hide under the bed. He liked to crawl out and climb up to snuggle with her when she was asleep and the house was quiet. Maybe she had been dreaming. Maybe the grisly sight in the sitting room was just an awful nightmare. Maybe he was fine. 

A sound like movement. Like warm breaths exhaled from a long canine snout.

A low growl filled the room.

Her heart leapt into her throat, threatening to block off her oxygen. She felt her pulse pounding against her jaw, the skin seeming to twitch with the intensity of it.

From the foot of the bed, a dark shape appeared, blacker against the blackness of the room. A shadow within a shadow, except for two glowing eyes: Red burning embers. The eyes fixed upon her from between her feet, and she felt a scream catch in her throat.

She could not move.

The hound jumped onto the bed, and she felt its weight shift and settle. The bed springs creaked with its presence. The dog climbed up, standing over her now. A paw pressed into her belly, suffocating with its weight. Another planted itself on her clavicle. A stabbing pain coursed through her chest, like a knife sliding between her ribs.

The hound lowered its face to hers. It was inches away now, so close that she could smell its acrid breath, a blast of hot air against her skin. It smelled of brimstone and rotten flesh.

The growl rumbled the beast's whole body, trembling down through its paws and rattling against her bones.

Crimson eyes locked, unblinking, upon hers. The dog's lips curled back, revealing white teeth; drool clung to them, a froth of foam stirred by its panting. A drop of drool hit her cheek, just below her eye, and slid like a tear down toward the pillow.

The beast's jaws opened wide, and lunged for her face. 

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