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I woke in a panic, sitting there keyed up straining to hear what may have been the cause for my interrupted slumber. The sun was already down and everything felt hollow. The living room, the still night through the windows, the dull throb of existence in my bones; it all felt off as if it had all been reset, recast, repopulated. 

There was no time to think about it, I got ready for work. Shocking and pleasant as it was, the shower’s hot water did little to pull me out of the funk I was in. Part of the problem came from the noise of the water, beating my ears, the raining rhythm drowning out the outside world but also inviting one’s imagination. The vacuum, the phone, idle conversation, I heard it all while I washed, parting the shower curtain every so often to make sure it was all just in my head, that no one was sneaking in. 

Laura still wasn’t home by the time I was ready to go, a problem given the shared car. Sitting back on the couch, I waited.  

Where the hell is she, I remember thinking, as my eyelids fluttered and my head bobbed forward. 

I was worried about being late and getting more shit shoveled my way from Mark, the shift manager. 

RING! 

“Fuck!” I jumped. The ringer barked out, piercing the nighttime quiet of an empty house. 

RING! 

Even louder the second time. I searched for my phone before it could cry out again, tossing pillows and turning out my pockets.  

RING! 

It was on the table, a black slab of potential and distraction, I swatted at it before it could cry out again. 

“Hello?” 

Black.  

Ink.  

Oil.  

Cold stinking death wrapped in tar. Everything around me oozed and sloshed, melted and sank dragging me with it. My screams drowned by the raining materials and by my actual drowning. It was a hurricane wrought of havoc and molasses. I reached out for any handhold I could manage, everything I touched slid out from my grasp and I sunk deeper into the tar pit. As the tide rose I took one last labored breath before it fully consumed me.  

Darkness. 

The nightmare spat me off the couch and on to my living room floor, covered in sweat and panting. 

“Are you alright?” Laura asked, poking her head out from the kitchen, keys dangling in her grasp.  

I looked up, searching for a reasonable response but, it was sitting there. Coiled in waiting. She had turned off the lights when she got home, some effort to save energy or some other bullshit. Either way, she had let it in, door open, invitation sent. 

Shaking with my mouth agape, she continued, “What is it?”, even turning her gaze in its direction. 

“No!” 

“Jesus! What the hell, Henry?” 

“Just don’t.” 

It slunk deeper into the shaded corner, even growling, parking itself partially behind the TV stand. 

“Henry! Henry, you’re scaring me.” 

The beast moved, stretching out behind our dusty flat-screen, its inky black body gliding effortlessly.  

My bare feet pounded down the stoop, the car keys biting into my palm, Laura yelling out after me with the beast coiling behind her.  

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