Dolly wanted to be soothed by the fact that after she’d texted Will, she got a reply less than five minutes later. He was home now and assured her that his spider was fine. She wanted to pretend that this was enough to make her feel better but the whole day had been so awkward that it was hard to shake it off. She would have assumed that this would play on her and usually this meant that she was going to be up all night. While this would make work a living hell to be at the next day, it also meant that there was a good chance that she could get some scripting started for the next episode. She already knew what the next movie was going to be but she probably wouldn’t have time to watch it until Friday night. She knew that it wasn’t worth it to push her luck too far but it probably wouldn’t hurt if she just started with some initial banter scripting. She knew what the movie was supposed to be about so that would lend itself to the introduction and she could refine it after when she’d actually seen the film. This made it all the more disappointing that she found herself too soon running out of energy after she’d made dinner. She reassured herself that it was only because she was eating so late and she would feel better once she’d gotten a chance to settle in. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case and she found that by ten thirty, she was getting too tired to look at the screen to edit anything. If editing was out of the question then writing was a complete no. By quarter to eleven, she was forced to admit defeat and start getting prepared for work in the morning instead.
All the while, Trioxin was at her side or getting in her way. He demanded to get up on her lap and only left to eat. She was a little bit concerned that he didn’t even finish his food until she was cooking in the kitchen. He gobbled it up while she was there but if she went to sit in the living room or by the computer, he would follow her and insisted on sitting either on her or near her chair. Curiously, when she crawled into bed at ten to midnight, he wandered off outside of her room the second she turned off the light.
Dolly didn’t even have time to get concerned about his behavior before she drifted off to sleep. She was out so fast that she felt like she’d entered the dream immediately upon closing her eyes. The strange part was that this didn’t feel like a dream but she knew for certain that it was from the way that her apartment was both too dark to see anything and she had blue floor tiles where her hardwood floor should be. She also knew that she was dreaming because she was sitting in a chair and within a few seconds, she was able to stand and walk to the door. She didn’t know if she should keep her hands pressed against it to keep it closed but she knew for certain that someone was on the other side of it. She was deeply uncomfortable with the way that the tiles were so cold and the feeling tingled through her legs in a way that it shouldn’t. She wasn’t used to this and she was getting creeped out now.
“Sorry,” a familiar voice said behind her in the deeper shadows. “I don’t know what your house looks like and I don’t have much time.”
“Will?” Dolly said, relieved for a second. Her relief faded when she saw that he was still in the body paint but she could see the costume was not fake. His face was obscured but she could tell from the outline in the dim light that he had mouth parts like a spider. They folded back as he grimaced. “What’s happening, Will?”
“There’s someone on the other side of the door,” Will said, not moving. “It wants inside very badly but you can’t let it in. I would have stopped it if I knew it was there but they’re so good at hiding. It’s going to try to trick you. If it does, there’s still time to get rid of it but if you can, don’t let it get in.”
“What’s going on, Will? Why is it so dark?”
“They need it to be dark like this,” he said, his voice getting swampy. “They make everything darker. You’ll see soon. Don’t let it in.”
“What is it? Tell me who is behind the door?”
“You can’t know, Dolly! That’s what it wants. That’s all it wants and once it finds a way in, it will try to take over. Don’t let it in.”
“I don’t understand you, Will,” Dolly said, getting more frantic. The blue tiles were now covered in water and it was rising. She started to shiver and looked to the door behind her.
“Don’t!” Will called. “It’s just a trick. It’s trying to get in. Look around you! Everything is too dark. That’s how you know it’s there. Look for how dark the shadows are and you’ll know. Don’t get fooled by it, Dolly! Don’t let it in!”
Before she could move, Dolly felt a sharp pain in her shoulder and immediately recognized the tiny claws of Trioxin digging into her skin. She groaned as she rolled on her back and was surprised to see that it was still too dark to be morning. She braced herself to grumble at her cat for waking her when she noticed that his ears were folded back and his fur was standing up. More awake now, and creeped out from the dream that she’d just woken up from, Dolly cautiously looked over to the shadowy doorway. With nothing visible there, she carefully moved to a sitting position and turned on her lamp. Trioxin seemed to settle and crawled into her lap but his tail still lashed back and forth in agitation. A minute or so passed and Dolly began to feel a bit stupid for being nervous still. She sighed and ran her hands over Trioxin’s fur to settle him down but he was still wound up. As Dolly considered trying to settle back in, she gasped as her cell phone rang on the bed table next to her. She rolled her eyes at herself and checked the phone. She laughed internally as she saw Will’s number.
“You know, people usually only call at this hour if someone’s dead,” Dolly sighed upon answering.
“I figured it was safe to call,” Will replied. “You’re a night owl and you’re usually up anyway.”
“I was asleep until about ten seconds ago when Oxy decided to scare the shit out of me. What was so pressing that you needed to call me in the middle of the night?”
“I’ve been thinking of something I think we can use on the show and I have a list of things I wanted to email you about it,” Will said, sounding like he was distracted. He also sounded like he had something in his mouth.
“You needed to call me at three in the morning to make sure I knew about a list you wanted to email me? Seriously, Will, I do have to work tomorrow.”
“I wanted to explain first,” he insisted. “Some of the items sound weird but I really want to go over them when you see them in person on Saturday. And unfortunately some of them I’ll need you to get. Before you bring it up, I’m more than happy to wire you the money for them. I don’t think I’ve included anything too weird and you shouldn’t have a problem finding any of the ones I need.”
“Again, how is this so pressing that you needed to call me now? This couldn’t have waited for the morning?”
“I didn’t want to forget.”
“Really? Are you sure that you’re not just calling in the middle of the night for another reason? Tell the truth, Will.”
There was a pause over the line and she heard him sigh. She wanted to be annoyed with him because he should have known better. Still, Dolly knew Will at least enough to know that he worried about things and when he did, he acted weirder than normal. He must have been pretty worried because he didn’t usually call for no reason. He cleared his throat but he still sounded like he had something in his mouth.
“Maybe is this about your pet spider?” she asked.
“Maybe he was acting weirder than he was before and it spooked me,” Will admitted, his voice going low. He cleared his throat again, sounding like he was trying to talk but deciding not to in the end. “I want to think this is all nothing, you know? Like if I just let this run its course, everything will be fine. But the things I’m seeing, I get nervous about. I don’t know how to handle them and I’m not sure what the best thing to do is. I feel like I’ve already made too many mistakes and I’m just a little worried.”
“That’s totally understandable, Will. I get that,” Dolly sighed. She frowned, realizing again that she didn’t know how to comfort someone over a spider. “And the vet didn’t have anything to say or any advice at all for this? Do they know what’s going on?”
“The vet?” Will sighed. He cleared his throat. “Right. Well, they took a look at him but there’s only so much they can tell me. Some of it is easier to fix than other parts but it’s all just waiting to see. I just want to know that everything is okay but I can’t really get that kind of reassurance now, you know?”
“That I do,” she frowned, her hand smoothing over Trioxin’s fur as he purred.
“How is Oxy, by the way?” Will said, sounding more like himself. “You said that he scared you into waking up. What happened?”
“Nothing apparently,” she replied, looking around the room again. “I think I was having a bad dream or something. I can’t remember it at all but I know that Oxy clawed me in my sleep. I think he was just getting excited over a bug or something because he was all freaked out when I woke up. He’s fine now, though.”
“What’s he doing now?”
“Purring and taking up space on my lap,” Dolly replied, rolling her eyes. “I think my fierce defender of the night was just bored and decided to wake me up to get some attention. Serves me right for going to bed early.”
“You went to bed early?” Will interrupted. “And you were worried about me?”
“I think I was just wiped out from working today and then doing the show after,” she sighed. “I was really tired and I think I just let a little anxiety get to me.”
“Well, technically, I guess you,” she admitted, sheepishly. “I was a bit worried about you walking home.”
“I was fine, Dolly. I always walk home.”
“I know but I worried about you going home in the suit, is all,” she said, a bit more defensively than she meant to. “With the paint and everything, I worried that you might be a target for thieves. I wish you would let Stuart drive you home sometimes.”
“That’s sweet and all but you shouldn’t let it get you that worked up that you get that tired,” Will said. “Are you sure that’s all it is? Do you feel kinda sick or anything else? Have you had any headaches?”
“Nothing much that I can recall.”
“That’s good then,” he sighed. “If you do start to get any headaches, let me know. I have something that I can do that will help.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she said. She was starting to feel a bit sleepy now just talking about it. “Look, I should go. I do still have work in the morning and I’m going to be pretty tired now regardless. Are you still needing to send me a list of things?”
“I will,” he replied. “Promise me that if you have another nightmare, though, you’ll call? I kinda want company right now and I’ll be up so if you are too, make sure even just to text me, okay?”
“Deal,” Dolly said, trying not to sound like she was crashing.
Dolly was barely off the phone for a minute before she was collapsing back on the pillows. She registered that Trioxin was sleeping soundly next to her and that was odd but she couldn’t focus enough to worry about it. The cat was happy and she was suddenly beyond exhausted. She laid on her pillow and for a few seconds, she thought for certain that she could hear something out of place. Like a low humming noise but it was soft and difficult to pin point. She was too tired to pay it any mind and she didn’t have it in her to stay awake a second longer. Her eyes closed before she could turn off the light and both she and the cat were lost in slumber. After a few seconds, the humming that she heard became more distinctive and closer. Dolly was so lost in sleep that there was no hope of waking now but Trioxin began to twitch. His tail began to wave languidly back and forth and his ears perked at the sudden entrance of something beyond his sleeping form. The humming became softer again and the cat’s lithe body relaxed back to normal. The light silently clicked off by itself.
“Such a bothersome beast you are,” the soft voice sang gently to the two sleeping figures on the bed. “You make everything so much more difficult.”
The lanky figure entered the room easily, still very quietly humming. Its shadow slithered over the two in the bed but paused as it looked at the phone lying on the bed table. Its curious eyes flashed silver in the dark and with a wave of its gloved hand, the phone lit up and revealed the notification for Will’s number and name. The shadowed figure cocked its head to the side and delicately tapped on the name where a point of light appeared there. It flashed a smile in the dark as it watched the small point of light grow just enough that it could see something. Just enough to catch a glimpse. The figure caught the slightest flicker of Trioxin’s tail before it waved a hand over the phone and the light was gone. Humming again, it wandered over to the sleeping cat and very lightly placed a gloved hand under its chin.
“Now isn’t this a pleasant surprise?” the figure sang very gently. “Whatever shall I do with the lot of you?”
Effortlessly, the figure removed one of its gloves and bit its finger. A bead of dark blood welled up on the small wound. It smeared a small amount on Trioxin’s mouth, the cat twitched slightly but relaxed as the figure continued to hum while stroking his fur. With the cat now lost in a daze, the figure hovered over Dolly, its bloody finger already gathering another small bead of blood.
“Just a taste. Just enough for now.”