A:N: This chapter is dedicated to my grandmother, who recently passed away because of the Coronavirus.
A scream tore the morning air.
Lynn, who was in the process of tying her shoelaces, snapped her head towards the ceiling. But no sound echoed from the upper floor — it was quiet again. A door swung open in the distance, and she met Mark's wide eyes as he came rushing into the stretching corridor.
He panted. "Was that...?"
Another scream shook the walls.
Jumping to her feet, Lynn breathed out, "Dana."
Running up the stairs she had been sitting on, a wave of panic sent her heart racing as she rushed down the length of yet another corridor. She shouted her friend's name, but no answer came. A mumbled curse fell from her lips as her eyes searched her surroundings, before she found a source of artificial light.
Her stomach twisted as the monsters living in her mind laughed in her ears, but she pushed through dread and led the way to the bathroom.
"Dana, are you—"
The words died in her throat as her eyes found her friend's shaking form hiding behind the shower curtain. Her damp head was in sight while she used the thin fabric to cover her naked body, but her eyes were locked on something sitting before the bathtub.
"Who let the damn cat in?!" Dana bellowed, not taking her dark gaze away from the black animal.
Biting her lower lip, Lynn shut the door behind her and ignored Mark's startled yelp before crouching next to the cat. Its yellow eyes blinked at her in almost-mock innocence, and she shook her head.
"You really love sneaking up on people, don't you?" She looked up at Dana, who was giving her a reproachful stare. "It's not the first time we cross paths. Do you think it got in when we arrived?"
The cat tilted its head and meowed, causing Dana to purse her lips. "I honestly don't care. But since you're acquainted with each other, do you mind kicking it out? Let's just hope Mrs. Houston doesn't notice the scratch in the mirror."
Upon hearing that, Lynn craned her neck to glance at the glass. And then, she frowned. "What scratch?"
The mirror was intact, only touched by raining tears a cloud of steam had formed upon its surface.
"Must have imagined it," Dana murmured, but her face was pale and her eyes wild.
A hiss from the cat erased her worried expression, and she gave Lynn a pointed look. The latter shook her head, but she straightened and turned towards the door. As soon as it was open, the cat was quick to slide past her and out of sight.
"You should try facing your fears, Dana," commented Lynn with a crooked smile, not looking at her friend but focused on the narrow corridor.
"Isn't that why dear Caleb died?" a grating voice replied behind her.
A shiver crawled up her spine, paralyzing her for a fleeting moment as a breathless "What?" fell from her lips.
She turned around, only to face a confused-looking Dana. "I asked if you're going to the petrol station now."
Gulping, Lynn let her eyes wander around the bathroom before taking a deep breath. "Yeah, we're running short on coffee." You're okay; there's nothing here. You imagined it.
Dana hummed. "Can you check if they have shampoo? That cat made me pour it all down the drain."
Her lips twitched.
YOU ARE READING
*ONC 2020 SHORT LIST* Something evil dwells in the black lake by the misty woods, something that will claim the souls of those who dare to dive into its realm. Lynn Morris is ready to enjoy some well-deserved holidays in the company of her closest...