Misha sat on the couch of the apartment she shared with her roommate, Alexa. It was after midnight and she knew she had to get up for work the next day. She just wanted to finish the movie. She knew it was a bad idea, starting a movie so late. Much worse was the fact that she chose a horror flick. Now she would lie in bed, searching the darkness for bogeymen.
She had the lights low, hoping not to disturb her roommate, who had maturely gone to bed hours earlier. Her dog, Brenna, was beside her on the couch. Not a lot of reassurance since the dog’s snores were almost louder than the movie.
She was leaning forward on the couch, bracing for the moment the psychopath would jump out at his incredibly stupid victim. She would likely either be hiding in a closet, running upstairs away from any form of escape or walking through the woods alone…at night.
Brenna lifted her head and Misha heard a low soft growl escape from her mouth, which startled Misha. “Brenna, you scared me! What is wrong with you?” The canine flattened her ears and pushed her mouth into a snarl. This terrified Misha. Brenna was the sweetest dog she knew, despite her size.
What happened next froze Misha to her spot on the sofa. She heard a slow shuffle, like something was coming down the hallway. The only thing on that side of the apartment was the two bedrooms and half bath. Brenna got off the couch slowly and backed up until she had squeezed herself between the sofa and the recliner next to it.
Someone, or something, was coming down the hallway. She could hear that dragging noise again, slow and uneven. Shufffffle, silence, shufffffle, silence. She was gripped in fear and could not force herself to turn her head to face what was causing the sinister sound.
Instead, Misha kept her head positioned forward as if she was looking at the tv. She couldn’t avoid it though. The noise, though still rhythmic, was getting closer, louder. Now she could see blurred colors out of the corner of her eyes, yellow and green. The colors of my college, she thought. Strange, what thoughts come to you when you think you are touching the spindly fingers of death.
As frightening as that sound was, what Misha heard next was so much worse. Silence. The thing, or person, had stopped moving. Misha could feel it looking at her, had seen it from the corner of her eye turn and face her direction. Misha’s heart was pounding fast. Her breath coming in short, hard bursts, getting harder, no, impossible, to control. She was shaking and could feel the low rumble of Brenna’s growl.
Misha wanted to stand up, to at least give herself a fighting chance against whatever foe was waiting for her. She wanted to scream, to alert Alexa and maybe even break this fear that was forcing Brenna to be immobile. She could do neither. It took all the courage she possessed to turn her head to the right to see what she believed would be the last sight would ever have.
Nothing, no invader, vampire, or demon could have taken her more off guard. She was looking straight into the glassy eyes of Alexa. Alexa was wearing a tee shirt and sweats in her school colors. Misha and Alexa had met at the University of South Florida, where both were Communication majors.
Misha was too surprised to scream. The look in Alexa’s eyes only increased her terror. She looked possessed. Was she sleepwalking? Could she even see Misha? A cold, strange feeling passed over Misha as Alexa, eyes open but unseeing, turned without saying a word, and crept back down the hallway. She was dragging her right foot, for what reason Misha did not know. Alexa had no injury or pain in her leg when she had gone to bed hours earlier.
She heard Alexa drag her foot in that uneven gait all the way back to her bedroom. It wasn’t until the door clicked shut that Misha released a breath. It was then that Brenna’s spell was broken. She came out from her safe place and jumped up on the couch. No traces of fear remained on the dog’s face. She lapped Misha on the cheek and settled back down on the couch.
She was just sleepwalking. That’s all it was. I got upset for nothing. Misha’s thoughts, explanations really, were coming fast now, swirling through her head. I overreacted because of the movie and Brenna picked up on my fear.
One thing Misha couldn’t explain was the smell of burnt toast that she noticed as soon as she heard her roommate come down the hall. She got up and walked the few steps into the kitchen. The toaster was empty. Unplugged even.
Misha sat on the couch with the television muted for almost an hour. She had to admit that she was afraid of her roommate, afraid to go past Alexa’s bedroom to get into her own. She finally went to bed. She had Brenna by her side on the bed and her door locked.
The next morning, Alexa had already left by the time Misha woke up. Misha had to work after class and would be home late. She would have to wait until late tonight to talk about the sleepwalking episode with Alexa. By the time Misha got home, Alexa was already in bed. This left Misha feeling uneasy, but the evening went by without incident.
In fact, the rest of the week was normal, no sinister shuffling coming down the hallway. Misha had spoken to Alexa about her sleepwalking episode. Alexa laughed it off. “Maybe I was just getting a glass of water and didn’t notice you on the couch.”
By the end of the week, Misha’s fear had finally dissipated. She had to agree with her roommate. She had overreacted. The following night, however, it happened again. Though Misha was more prepared, she could not prevent the feeling of dread she felt when she saw Alexa’s eyes. She had been wrong before. They weren’t glassy. They were clouded over, like a milky blue orb that looked nothing like Alexa’s eyes in the daylight.
And once again, Misha couldn’t explain the smell of burnt toast. Or the effect these episodes had on Brenna. Especially the fact that as soon as Alexa went back to bed, Brenna acted like she had forgotten the whole thing.
Several weeks passed with the same pattern. At least twice a week, Alexa would stagger down the hall, in a trance. Misha tried her best to get used to it but she had decided to tell Alexa to find a new apartment. The apartment was in Misha’s name and she still had eight months left on the lease.
They both had exams coming up and Misha decided she would wait to discuss it with Alexa.
Misha went to bed early one night and was startled awake to the sound of loud knocking. She went to the door to find a police officer standing there. “Ma’am, I’m officer Spencer. We are trying to identify a young woman who we think was killed by a hit and run driver earlier this evening. Do you live here alone?”
Muddled from being woken, she asked him to repeat himself.
“We found the body of a young female along the side of the road. Do you have a roommate, Miss? Is she here? Can you account for her whereabouts?” the officer asked.
“No, she’s not here,” Misha said.
“Do you have a picture of her so we can rule her out?”
Misha grabbed her cell phone from the pocket of her robe and brought up a picture of her and Alexa, from a football game they had attended last year. Had it been that long since they had done something together?
Not surprisingly, the officer looked alarmed, then somber. “Miss, I’m so sorry. I believe the victim is your roommate. I know this is a lot to ask, but would you be able to identify the body before the medical examiner takes her away?”
Misha looked up at him, unfazed. She did not respond. She knew she did not need to.
The officer’s radio went off and he excused himself and went outside to take the call. When he came back in a few moments later, he was ashen. “Miss, I’m terribly sorry. I…I don’t know how to tell you this, but the body went missing. I’m sure there’s an explanation. I’ll find out what happened and come back in the morning.” He fumbled for the door and made a hasty exit from the uncomfortable situation.
“I’m sure there is,” Misha mumbled, in a drug-induced haze. She sat down on the couch and pulled out the pill bottle from her other pocket. She placed another sleeping pill in her mouth and chewed it dry. It didn’t matter. She couldn’t taste anything after the pills she had taken earlier in the evening to help her sleep.
As she sat on the couch, as expected, she heard the drag of a limp foot coming down the hall. Shuffffle, silence, shuffffle, silence. And when she smelled the burnt toast, she didn’t bother to go to the kitchen to check. She had thrown the toaster out three weeks ago. Right after Alexa’s mother had called to tell her Alexa had been killed when she had tripped in front of the train tracks heading back into the city.
Alexa’s mother tearfully explained that Alexa had looked quite peaceful. The cause of death had been a brain bleed when her head hit the side of the tracks. The only thing that had been injured at all was her foot, which was badly mangled when she twisted it in the fall. Her right foot.
Misha recalled the sad conversation. “She was rushing because she was late. I should have made her sit down for a decent breakfast,” Alexa’s mother had said. “Alexa said she only had time for toast, but she burnt it. The last meal my daughter had in this world was burnt toast. If only I had made her sit down for a decent breakfast. I could have driven her back to school. She would still be here today.”