That sound coming from the wall is unmistakable. Ellie can’t suppress a shiver, her mind racing ahead of itself. Breathe, she thinks. In 4, hold 4, out 4. It’s just a stupid beetle. I’m not about to die. But her heart was already racing before the sound started. Neither the wall at her back nor the blankets wrapped around her huddled body had been sufficient to quell the rising panic. And now, as if it weren’t bad enough, as if she weren’t already painfully aware of her own fragile mortality, the Deathwatch beetle call adds its voice to the anxious choir in her head.
Ellie wants to get out of bed and turn on the floor lamp over by the window. Her bedside lamp casts too many shadows that shift and slide at the corners of her vision. But her back would be unprotected on that long journey. Her hands shake as she picks her phone up from the bedside table. It seems somehow sinister- she can’t bring herself to put it next to her ear. It would probably bite. She knows she’s supposed to get in touch with someone but she’s just too scared.
There are no monsters here. It’s just a bug. I’m not going to die. I’m not! A vague shape moves outside her window. Just a tree. It has to be just a tree. Her heart is pounding now. A floorboard creeks. Something moves at the corner of her vision, behind the bedside table. Breathe, breathe, breathe, she tells herself. I’m feeling anxious but I’m not really in any danger. I’m a grownup and I’m safe right now. The closet door creaks open. Ellie’s heart pounds so hard she can feel it in her toes.
It sounds closer now, in the wall still but just behind her. And then, tap-tap-tap-tap, the call is answered, but on the window. And again, tap-tap-tap-tap from the open closet door, and again from the bed, tap-tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap-tap from every side as the window slides open and the shifting shadows sidle close and the blanket slides off to the floor.