by Jess R., 13
She woke up, unaware she had slept at all, to the crackling-leaf-rustle of her paper window shades, moving forward in the dark breeze and falling back to the glass, crinkling and crunching ever-so-slightly, stepping on eggshells around an unknown danger that lurked just beyond the yellowed panes.
A tunnel of cool air walked through the open windows and reached her body, drifting over the sheets that were tangled around her legs, whispering through her hair a warning, unspoken yet heard, heard yet unheeded.
She stood up.
A dog barked.
It was that strange part of evening that wasn’t quite night and wasn’t quite day, but rather a five-minute curse of quiet that squeezed itself into time, moments before the sun set and night fell heavy on every town. An intermission in the tragedy of day-to-day life.
Pulling herself out of bed, she peeked her head out of the window like a child peeking around the corner of their hallway at night to get a glass of water, the setting familiar but the sound, the tone of the moment, not. Instead, an uneasy wind stirred up dead leaves that scraped themselves across the black cement of the road, clinging to every rock in a vain attempt to stay put.
But it was foolish to fight with the wind.
Another dog barked, its voice deeper than the one before it.
Something about her neighborhood, seen through the lens of grogginess, was off. Disturbed, unsettled, not right. The last half of light rays that hadn’t been killed by darkness yet did not have the soft, golden glow that they would on a summer night. Instead, they tinged the street a grimy yellow, the sky turning sickly green in the filter. Her hair felt dirty where the wind touched it, contaminating her locks with the electricity that pulsed through the air. She could sense the intangible feel of rain, a long way away, but moving quickly and silently like the beast that it was.
It took a moment too long for her to push herself away from the window, to take her elbows off the sill, to fall back into the comfortable plush of her mattress. The pull to watch the first droplets of rain fall from the sky was like a magnet, like an external force, screaming at her to go see but whispering to be cautious simultaneously.
Sleep won the imaginary battle and dragged her back into its clutches.
Somewhere, far off in the waking world, a dog barked, and then there was silence.
Freehold, New Jersey