“I love you,” Laurie said into the phone.
“I love you too, babe,” Sam said. “I’ll see you when you wake up, okay? Joseph’s being a jackass about the no cell phone policy, so I won’t be able to text you.”
“I’ll be asleep. I’ll talk to you later…”
Laurie set her phone down beside her new pearl bracelet on the nightstand. It was a fresh gift from her boyfriend Sam, and it was a big deal for her since neither of them could afford things like this. She was genuinely surprised, and she found joy in the way the pearls gleamed under the moonlight while she yawned.
She leaned back and allowed her bed to envelope her as she looked up at the ceiling. Money was always an issue for them, even with his overnight shifts, so she was a little worried that they were wasting too much money. But Sam insisted, and as she drifted off to sleep, the last thing she remembered was his excited grin.
But the sound of a distant laugh made Laurie jerk. She sat up, only to find herself engulfed by water. She held her breath and looked around – she didn’t know which way was up or down. She chose a direction and tried to swim, but it felt like invisible shackles were pulling her down.
A black shadow emerged from somewhere in the water, and when it approached, she felt a burning sensation along her jaw and forehead. She let out a horrified scream and watched the bubbles floating in every direction. Before she could pull away, she felt the shadow cover her head.
Her eyes abruptly opened to the sight of sunlight streaming through the nearby window. Laurie's skin was coated in sweat, and an eerie sensation hung in the air. Frowning, she reached up to her cheek to scratch a throbbing itch. A strange, dry texture on her cheeks caught her attention. It felt like a hard, gritty patch of dry skin, creating a tingling sense of curiosity and concern. She got up from the bed and saw that the rest of her body seemed fine. She felt a little filthy from all the sweating, so she made her way out into the hallway to wash her face.
She stepped into the bathroom and turned on the lights with a yawn. What she saw in the mirror made her scream. Her face, reflected back, was that of an old man, while her body remained untouched. She blinked after she finally stopped screaming, but when her face remained unchanged, Laurie let out another scream.
She hurried back to her bedroom with her heart racing. She looked around with confusion. She couldn’t believe what had happened. With trembling hands, she began to search for her phone when she noticed that her pearl bracelet was gone.
“What’s going on?” Laurie whispered. And when she heard her voice, she let out another scream. The more she used her throat to scream or talk, the deeper her voice became. And when Sam opened the front door to their apartment and entered her bedroom, he let out a scream too.