The monster was near.
Robert Watson awoke with a start, uncertain if he were dead or alive, uncertain if it were real or a nightmare.
The room was pitch-black, yet he could still hear. He strained his ears and fought to parse the stillness. If it were possible, he would have muted the beat of his heart and the pulse of blood through his veins to better hear his surroundings. Gradually he gathered in the minute, ambient details of the room.
High and to the left there was the slow tap of condensation dripping from an overhead water pipe. To the right, somewhere at floor level, the impossibly faint staccato footsteps of a mouse could be heard as it moved along the wall in search of food. Farther away, the slow tick of a gas furnace as it cooled between heat cycles.
Beyond this was silence.
Perhaps it was only his imagination. He was about to dismiss his fears and return to sleep when another sound came softly; a gentle sliver of a noise, the whisper of a velvet tongue as it slid across perfect, red lips.
Robert raised his head and tasted the air frantically. In one breath he perceived a delicate hint of perfume mixed with the clean, familiar scent of baby powder.
The monster waited in the darkness. She had returned.
Then, there was light.
It was only a dim 60-watt bulb, yet after untold hours in shadow, it seemed as bright as the sun. Instinctively, Robert tried to raise his hands and cover his eyes, but something prevented movement. He looked up and saw that his wrists were handcuffed to the headboard of an old metal bed. His feet were similarly lashed to the foot of the frame with nylon rope.
The monster revealed herself.
Meredith stood, beautiful, with her dainty, polished fingernails still poised on the chain of a light which dangled from the ceiling. She flashed an elegant smile, as Robert supposed all monsters must do when they approach their prey.
He recalled the first time he had seen that smile. It was at a bar in the city—-an executive lounge with oak tables and potted ferns. Robert’s law firm had just won a pricey malpractice case that afternoon and had gathered after work to celebrate with drinks. By eight o’clock, he was on his third highball and things were beginning to blur.
He was visiting with his co-workers when he saw her. Robert sensed a movement from the corner of his eye. He turned and noticed the monster there, seated alone, as she nursed a vodka martini at the far end of the bar. She was staring at him. In the smoky half-light of tabletop candle lamps, he watched the edges of her mouth curve subtly upward as her gaze remained locked with his own.
He started toward her and navigated a drunken path through the crowd, while in his mind, he paged desperately through his weak repertoire of corny pick-up lines. It had been a long time since he tried to entice a stranger of the opposite sex. Truth be told, past attempts had never worked. The outcome of this effort would certainly prove tragic.
“Excuse me, I couldn’t help but notice you were sitting by yourself,” he said.
“Yes, would you care to join me?”
“My name’s Robert.”
To say the monster was lovely would have been an understatement. She was stunning. Blonde hair hung past her shoulders in a silken cascade. In her green eyes was a look of girlish innocence that he knew could turn to passion at a moment’s notice. Her lips were painted a most captivating hue of dark red that, for Robert, seemed to be the only color that mattered in the universe at that moment.
She was mesmerizing.
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