Pain. The dull throbbing interspersed with sharp stabs in my right shoulder. My arm was above my head, and I moaned as I brought it down slowly to my stomach.
Janet shifted behind me in the bed, “are you okay, Jim?”
My brain searched for the words for a second before it found them, “I’m fine, honey. It’s just my shoulder again. Go back to sleep.”
Her hand brushed my back as she mumbled something that sounded like ‘sorry’ and began snoring lightly again.
I rolled out of the bed slowly, pushing with my left arm as the pain spiked on the right side again. My mind wandered to the bottle of medication sitting above the sink downstairs. I couldn’t remember if I had taken any before bed, but I knew that it was the only thing that was going to help me get back to sleep.
I glanced over at the alarm clock and sighed when I saw the bright red numbers showing 3:45. I shook my head as I slid my feet into my slippers and stood unsteadily before walking out of the bedroom into the faint blue light of the hall nightlight that illuminated the top of the stairs.
The cat greeted me with her usual panicked cry for food first thing in the morning as I reached the bottom of the stairs. My shoulder had returned to the simple dull throb that reminded me everyday of the arthritis that was only going to get worse as I got older. In my half-awake state I reached for the pill bottle with my right arm and a small cry escaped my lips before I could rotate it high enough to grasp it.
Changing tactics, I reached with my left arm, tucking my right arm back against me as I gritted my teeth against the pain. I opened the bottle, dumped out two pills into my hand, and grabbed a glass of water before swallowing down the medicine.
I turned and sat at the kitchen table and waited for the pain to subside again. The cat jumped up on the table and rubbed her head against me, her quiet, near-constant cries for food breaking the otherwise perfect silence of the house.
The fog was gradually lifting from my mind and I decided to feed the cat despite knowing that Janet would have yelled at me for feeding her so early.
I grabbed a scoop of food and dumped it in her dish before I heard it. A light tap on the glass of the window nearest me. I looked up and felt my heart jump in my chest. Through the glass I could see the bright orange eyes and wicked smile of a creature made of nightmares.
“I found you, Jim. I think you should come outside,” it said as its eyes flashed above me, “we wouldn’t want Janet, Dylan, or little Michael to get involved, would we?”