Don’t Be Afraid by Aramis Zepeda

***

Don’t be afraid.

***

Across the emptiness, standing in the darkness, he saw it. The evil imminent throughout the dream was almost there, and it was only a few strides from being directly face to face to him. He knew there was no more running and no more struggling against its arrival at the very moment the rest of the dream dissipated and was replaced by her. She twitched, somehow both violently and calmly, as she deliberately appeared closer and closer to him, a thick patterned cloth like spider web draped over her face, a Victorian-era dress of red and black covering the rest of her skeletal figure. There was no more running from her arrival, because she had already arrived.

***

Nathan struggled to a waking state. The image of the woman troubled him for a few moments, but soon after, he forgot about her evil, and closed his eyes, letting the darkness consume him into a state of sleep.

***

During the daytime, one could go about performing their everyday duties without the risk of putting themselves in danger. Recently a serial stabber had become well-known in the area. The Irvings, Nathan’s family, were staying overnight at a century old castle which was apparently divided in property amongst a company offering private rooms to travelers and history enthusiasts, as well as a humanitarian organization which allowed anyone who fit to sleep within the walls of the castle or in the surrounding area. When the Irvings arrived, the private rooms were all taken, and they did not wish to sleep with the homeless in the other, crowded half of the castle or its courtyard. They couldn’t even if they wanted to, as this area was also full to the brim. Consequently, they decided to rent one of several large tents available in the outskirts of the castle’s property. “This is where you’ll be sleeping,” explained Nathan’s mother as she and Nathan walked into a tent. The tent was as large as the average American master bedroom with a single bed in the middle, and nothing else. The floor itself was asphalt- street floor. The tent was propped up on a piece of road, and government officials had long given up on trying to regulate anything this close to the castle. There were six slits alongside the tent in order to allow one to come in and out, but there appeared to be no way to close the slits. Out one side of the tent you could see countless vagrants inhabiting the castle’s courtyard, either in sleeping bags, piles of newspaper, or asking for money or food. Out the other side there were various stands selling animal skins and jarred liquids of unknown origins. A motorcycle suddenly passed right next to the tent and the tent’s cloth flitted slightly as it did. Despite how crowded the area around the tent was, no person disturbed Nathan and his mother as they looked inside.

“This is insane. How are we supposed to sleep here, in the middle of the street like this- you can’t even close the doors, anybody can just walk right in while we’re sleeping,” said Nathan in disbelief. The sun was beginning to set, and shadows and red light began to stream in through the slits of the tent.

“Well, you’ll be sleeping alone here, me and your dad have our own tent- and don’t worry. I asked one the locals nearby and he said he strongly recommends the tents. Says they’re the safest places to sleep here.”

Nathan looked at his mother in disbelief as she said good night and left his tent.

***

Nathan began to make his bed. He was in his room in his family’s home in Florida, and his cousin was visiting so they had rearranged the room in order to fit another bed in the room. His cousin had already made his bed and gone downstairs, so Nathan moved his various pillows onto his cousin’s bed as he made his own. Once he was done making his bed, he turned around in order to take his pillows and set them back on his own bed. As he took hold of the first pillow, a long-legged spider, about the size of Nathan’s palm ran from under that pillow to the next pillow, moving underneath it. Nathan let out a yell in momentary shock, and quickly threw the pillow back onto the bed and stepped back. His skin suddenly felt slightly colder. After a moment, he took an empty glass of water from beside his bed and carefully moved back toward his cousin’s bed. He nervously let out a breath of air, and very slowly he peeled away the first pillow, and once he was certain the spider wasn’t attached to it, he set it aside on his own bed. Then he moved on to peel away the second pillow, only to find the spider wasn’t there either. He moved onto the last pillow, and found the spider was crushed below it. Unconvinced, Nathan set the glass around the arachnid, at which creature began to move its legs violently. It was suddenly alive again, and it began to crawl around the edge of the glass looking for a way out, occasionally trying to crawl up the glass unsuccessfully. Gathering courage, Nathan waited a couple of seconds before deciding to take a closer look at the yellowish spider through the glass. It stopped moving around, and stared back at Nathan, and began to repeatedly move one of its front legs toward its mouth. The hair on Nathan’s arms stood on end, and he began to move a thin booklet under the glass.

***

At 9 o’clock PM, Nathan and his friend had decided to walk across the street and visit the plaza. As they walked on the sidewalk, which was directly next to the street, dozens of cars rushed past them and the air was heavy with the smell of car exhaust. His friend noted that if they were just a few feet to their right, they’d be dead. They continued to walk until they reached the crosswalk, and pushed the button to allow them to cross the street. As they waited for the crossing signal to appear, Nathan looked up at the night sky, and noticed he couldn’t find the moon. A minute passed and their crossing signal turned on, so they crossed the street.

***

Nathan awoke. He stared upward into the darkness, and after a moment his eyes became accustomed to it. Over him was the hunched shape of a bearded man, breathing heavily. Nathan tensed upon seeing the figure, and remained frozen for a few seconds, before turning slowly to face away from the figure, and covering his head with his sheets. After a few more seconds, Nathan felt two hands place themselves on his back. They remained there for a minute, before pulling away again. Then Nathan felt someone climbing into his bed behind him.

***

Don’t be afraid.

***

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