Emma, Lance, and Riley stood around the desk, staring at a sheet of paper. A large symbol was drawn on it – a mass of thick, black, sharp tendrils forming a circular, labyrinthine knot. They couldn’t pull their eyes away from it. The knot led their minds into a deep, dark place. None of them knew how they knew or that the others came to the same realization. All they knew was that, whatever the symbol was, it was kin to the thing that stalked them.

A horrible, squishy thud snapped them out of their trance. It sounded like it came from the stairs at the far end of the hall. The three froze, eyes fixed on the room’s closed door, unable to breathe. A second thud. A third thud. It was coming.

An idea hit Riley. She grabbed the paper and one of the tacks that littered the desk. She rushed to the door and opened it.

“What are you doing?!” Emma screamed.

Riley tacked the paper onto the outside of the door and slammed it shut again. “Emma. The flashlight,” she said.

Lance locked the door and shoved a chair beneath the knob.

“What?” Emma asked. She already held the flashlight, but the beam was centered on the desk.

“Keep it on the door. We need to see.” Riley drew the knife tucked into her belt.

“But-but I…”

The thing galloped toward them. The floor shuttered with its weight.

Lance drew the pistol from his holster and aimed it at the door. “Emma, no matter what happens, keep this door lit. Understand?”

“Uh-huh,” she squeaked, moving the flashlight beam onto the door.

The thing slammed into the door, but the lock and chair held. Lance, Riley, and Emma could hear and smell its foul breath.

They didn’t move. The thing didn’t seem to move either. Its breathing slowed and calmed. Soon, the three couldn’t hear the thing over their hearts beating in their ears.

What felt like several minutes passed. A tiny metal object fell to the floor with a small tink. The paper floated underneath the door and into the room. It was completely blank. The thing slowly clombered away, back down the hall and down the stairs from where it came.

©2020 Joyce Lewis. All rights reserved.