His eyes snapped open.
Nearby, lying on the floor, his dog snored and twitched his hind leg. That was a familiar sound, a comforting noise in the dark. Something else had woken him.
Many heartbeats passed before he slowly exhaled. He had been dreaming, imagining things again. Just as his doctor said. Just as his stepmother told him.
Bobby turned his head and looked at the clock on his nightstand. He struggled for a moment to see what the digital clock read, his vision still slightly blurry. It was just after midnight, he realized. That couldn’t be right. He pulled the thick blanket tighter beneath his chin and leaned over the edge of his bed. Chester, the world’s greatest dog, lay sleeping, dreaming whatever golden retrievers dreamed when not driving his stepmother crazy. Chasing rabbits, or maybe his stepmother? Bobby could only hope his dog had better dreams than he had.
Bobby had snuck the dog into his room for the night, his fears finally getting the better of him. His parents would be mad in the morning if – no, when – they discovered what he had done.
Let them be mad, he thought as he rolled onto his back. Let them ground me. They can ground me for forever, as long as The Cold doesn’t come back.
He didn’t know what else to call it. He’d never seen it. He had heard it and felt it, though. He had heard every single footstep it made as it slowly climbed the stairs night after night. He had felt the overpowering sense of evil which emanated from The Cold as it walked through the house. He could remember each footstep vividly, The Cold growing braver and more daring as it ventured further into the house on each ensuing night.
It had taken a week for it to climb the stairs, slowing working its way up to the top. Each night it had grown bolder. Each night Bobby’s courage failed him and he would bury himself under his blanket until The Cold disappeared.
It had been another three nights before it had finally made it to the threshold of his door. Last night it had actually entered Bobby’s room. The Cold had stopped at the foot of his bed and waited for him to open his eyes, to acknowledge its presence. Bobby had refused. The Cold, after what had seemed like an eternity, eventually left, leaving Bobby alone in his room as the morning sunlight began to peek through the window. He had not cried out in fear, though he had very much wanted to.
He had been too afraid to cry.