And Other Stories


Getting up and about was not helping the headache. It was too early, not even nine, but Rachel knew laying back down would just make it worse when she woke back up. After brushing her teeth, she grabbed some headache medicine and went to get water to take it with. Raven was also up, sitting at the kitchen table. She looked like she was having a rougher morning.

"Morning, Raven. I thought I was up early." Rachel smiled, although her heart wasn't in it. She felt uneasy. Maybe it was just the nightmare lingering.

Raven looked at her, and she looked like a ghost of her usual self. Rachel nervously smiled wider, and then went to get herself water already. Once she had her back turned, Raven spoke up. "Yeah. Hi. Sorry Rachel, I'm just..."

"Still dead tired?"

"Yeah. Not just that, but... Eh."

Rachel downed the pills with half her glass of water, and then took a seat at the table. "Guessing you don't want to talk about it."

"No, it's fine. Just..." Raven frowned. "You woke me up in the middle of the night. It kinda freaked me out."

"Shit, sorry. But—" Rachel felt suddenly nervous. "I wasn't sleepwalking, was I?"

"Huh? No, nothing that crazy." Raven smiled a little, and then it soured again. "You screamed, that's all. Had everybody up to see what was wrong, but you were out like a light, still in bed."

"Oh." Rachel shifted in her seat. "I hadn't realized I had screamed in real life. I just... I had a bad nightmare. I thought I just woke up from it, but I guess that was earlier?"

"Yeah. I've been up for at least an hour. I couldn't fall asleep again. It, uh..." Raven sighed. "I'll be honest, Rachel, it was bloodcurdling. It freaked me the fuck out, and I was panicking that you had... gotten hurt. Big relief, but I couldn't settle back down after that."

Rachel winced. "I'm really sorry."

"Don't be! It's not like you did it on purpose. Or like you could do anything about it." She shrugged.

"I guess... I don't know." Rachel took a deep breath, and then sighed. Better open up about it before she chickened out and decided it was fine again. "Maybe there is something I could do about it."


"I could go see a therapist. Or a psychiatrist maybe? I don't know which. But I don't think suddenly having awful nightmares every night is a good thing. And if it's starting to disrupt you and mom and dad now too..." She sighed. It wasn't just that.

"Oh. That's... Yeah, that's maybe a good idea." Raven smiled, but Rachel could tell it was forced. "I'd say it couldn't hurt, but. Probably an okay reason to go somewhere. If you think you need help."

"Yeah. It's..." She shied her eyes away. "Can I say something heavy?"

Raven was silent for a couple seconds. Rachel didn't want to look at her expression, before she answered. "Okay, I'm braced. Hit me."

Her stomach curdled. It was a stupid thing to say. It was overdramatic. But she needed to say it, not just let it fester in her mind. "Honestly, I think I might be going insane."

"You too?"

"What?" Rachel snapped her gaze back to her sister, who was weakly smiling. "No, Raven, please. Don't joke, I'm being serious. It's not just the nightmares. Or maybe it is, but... It's been happening while I'm awake, too. Hallucinating stuff, feeling like I'm being watched. And I can't even tell I'm dreaming in the nightmares. It's been happening for the last several days, and it's been getting worse. I'm seeing monsters, in my room at night, in reflections... I'm worried this might really be something bad, and here I've just been trying to ignore it."

Raven didn't say anything. She looked away, and Rachel felt her chest get tight. It made her feel awful. She was angry at Raven, but she knew that wasn't fair. What the hell had she expected?

"Sorry. That was a lot to put on you all of a sudden. I should have..." She sighed. "I don't know. I'm scared."

The room was silent for another thirty seconds. It hurt, and all the anger had turned to stinging guilt. "Raven..."

"I was being serious too." Her sister spoke up in a small voice.

"Huh?" Rachel looked up, and Raven's eyes were staring straight into hers. She looked deathly serious, and her expression was almost desperate.

"I think I'm going crazy too. I've been seeing things, they're... weird. I'm scared too."

"Oh. That's..." Rachel didn't know what to say. Her stomach sank, hearing that admission. Her own worries were bad enough, but Raven having the same... That was just awful. And weird. Maybe it was genetic, but then why didn't their parents have any issues?

"Yeah. Um..." Raven fidgeted, and then sighed. "Rachel. You said you're seeing monsters. Is it the same one every time?"

Rachel blinked. "Uh... Yeah. Well, I guess there were two, but one was just a silhouette. It's mostly..." Rachel didn't want to describe the thing.

"A lanky, stretched-out monster? Bends in the wrong places? Horrifically large mouth?"

Rachel couldn't help but shudder, and not just because of the mental image. "...Raven." Her sister recoiled, as if it had only just hit her the sick joke she had just somehow played. "How the hell do you know that?"

Raven was silent for a few moments, and then sighed. "Because I've been seeing it too. And what I'm really worried about is that we're not crazy. That our issues started at the same time and line up because this is real."

Rachel frowned. "I said not to joke." Rachel knew Raven was serious, but it was absurd. That didn't make sense. She balled her hands. "Come on, monsters don't exist. That's crazy."

"Yeah." Raven looked away. "So either the world is crazy, or we are. Not the most fun options. I know what I'm suggesting doesn't make sense, but... It's that..." She sighed and put her head in her hands. "Okay, Rachel. Can I be honest? Really, really honest?"

"Uh. Yeah." Rachel tried to brace herself. If this was the especially serious thing, after floating the idea they were being haunted by some kind of monster, then what the hell could it be?

"You remember the first night you had this? Or at least, the first night you said you did. And I had a nightmare too?"

It took a second, but Rachel nodded. "With the fire?" The joke that the monster passing on her being extra crispy wasn't slipping out of her memory any time soon.

"Yeah." She sighed. "But it wasn't about a fire. It was a monster, about to eat you. I was just watching, and I didn't do anything. I... Well, it seemed a little too much to be honest about. No use freaking you out too, I thought. And also like if I didn't say it, it wouldn't freak me out as much. I know this still sounds like I'm just reading too much into this, but... Trust me."

"Of course I trust you, Raven. But..." She sighed. "I can't force myself to believe you. I know you're not lying, but I think this might just be paranoia. It's probably just a coincidence that we've had nightmares that line up. Uh... Has yours been every night?"

Raven shook her head. "That first time I mentioned, and then the last two nights."

"Oh." That threw Rachel for a second. That was missing one of the days she had a freaky thing in the middle of the night, but... The first monster hadn't shown up. That was a freaky coincidence. But, no, there was an easy explanation. "Shit, Raven. Why didn't you ask for your radio back if you've been having nightmares? I know you wanted to help me, but..."

"I didn't think it was a big deal. But yeah, that probably didn't help. Can I have it back?"

"Yeah. Please. I can go get it so we don't forget."

"Hold on." Raven spoke up before Rachel could stand. "One last thing, before we table this."

"Well, okay. I don't think dwelling on this kind of thing is a good idea, but then again, what do I know."

"Did you eat that beef?"

"Huh?" Rachel had no idea what that question was about. It was almost funny, the way she gravely asked something so inane.

"The beef. That one night when this all started. I was going to have some of it, and then thought better of it."

"Oh. No? I didn't touch it."

"I didn't make anything with it either. But you mentioned we needed more on that grocery list, and so I double checked, and it was gone."

"...So dad ate it." That was weird. But not as weird as their mom doing it, and those were the only options. Well, no. "Or maybe threw it out? For some reason? Come on."

"I already asked them, when I checked and it was gone. So somebody's lying, or... I know I sound like I'm grasping at straws. But that's material evidence. This is all lining up too well." Raven's eyes were open wide, and she stood.

Rachel drank the rest of her water, to buy herself some time. It was creepy to see Raven like that. Why had she entertained this so long? This wasn't right. "Okay, yes, it's weird. But we've barely discussed the nightmare monster, and that's the big thing. I bet if we write down descriptions, they'll be different. And maybe we're having, like, cabin fever or something. From the lockdown. I know it's been getting to me. Let's not go crazy right away, okay? But first, Raven, I think you should get some more sleep. I'll get your radio."

Rachel got up and went back to her room. She grabbed the little radio, and then took some time to breathe in her own bedroom. For a second she wondered if this was some new, surreal nightmare, but no. It was just real life being weird and uncomfortable. They were both overreacting. Neither of them were crazy, and certainly no monsters were real. Just a lack of sleep and the deprivation of everything making them worry too much. She felt stupid, but less disturbed.

When she got back, Raven had a piece of paper that she was writing something on. Rachel frowned. She didn't really want to do the description comparison, at least not right away. Maybe it was something else. "What are you up to?"

"Hold on." Raven kept writing for a minute or so, and then put her pencil down. Rachel handed over the radio, and Raven turned it on. She switched it back to her numbers and sighed in relief. Rachel really had no idea why she liked hearing some girl read out a bunch of meaningless numbers, but... Rachel seemed to notice and frowned. "Sorry. Do you mind?"

"No, please. If it's helping you calm down, I'm not going to begrudge it. Speaking of, uh, I don't really want to work myself up right now trying to describe my nightmare monster." Rachel laughed slightly.

Raven nodded. "No, that's okay. We don't need to do that anyways. But... Would it be too much trouble for you to read mine?"

Rachel hesitated for a few moments. And then she shrugged and sighed. "Okay, fine. Let's bury this early."

She took the piece of paper. It was scrawled on in a quick, scratchy hand, but not too hard to read. There was more than Rachel expected written down. 'Stretched out. Gaunt. Too many joints, all bend both ways. Really big hands, walks on fingertips. Flimsy legs. Top-heavy, always falling and catching itself. Almost flows around. A lot of black hair in front of its face. Changes. Stretches, contracts, twists. Tongue hangs out. Too many teeth. Pale skin.'

Rachel swallowed, and hoped her face wasn't betraying the knot forming in her stomach. It all brought the thought of that thing to mind, and all of it fit. Maybe not how she would have put it, and missing some things, but... She shook her head. "Yeah, no. A couple similarities, but not the exact same thing. I think we maybe have spent this morning being idiots together."

Raven laughed. "Okay, great. Sorry about all of that. I'm going to get some sleep now."

"Yeah. Good idea. Maybe I'll follow suit in a bit." Rachel smiled as Raven got up and went back to bed.

She really hoped her lie hadn't been as obvious as Raven's fake laugh, just then.

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