Not wanting to flee to her room like a cowardly custard, Gretchen turns her head in search of conflict. The kitchen, as always, is right where it should be. The fridge and washing machine, barely visible in the midnight dark, silently await their next interaction the same as they do every other night. The ghostly shapes of the table and chairs where she eats her breakfast every morning—they too are there—shimmering like fantastic mirages despite their mundane purpose. There’s no lurking monster eagerly awaiting to munch on her bones, and yet she’s certain she feels the eyes of some dreadful creature moving all over her little limbs. Like the girl in The Exorcist—of which she’s secretly seen several times—she twists her head as if it were not connected to her body and scans the hallway. The door to her room calls out to her, begging for her to return while she still has the chance. She knows her bed is just as she left it, all soft and warm and ready to embrace her as if she never left. Gretchen being Gretchen, though, ignores its call even though to return would take her out of harm’s way. The door to her parent’s room, and that of the bathroom, are both closed. Nothing appears to be out of place in the slightest. The smell, however, is so intense she feels it tickling the back of her throat, like a sack of rotten vegetables or the stink of sweaty armpits. Wincing as it worms its way into her belly, she shifts uncomfortably and pulls her nightie down from above her knees. As she does so, she thinks she hears something. Not a voice, but the sound of something shuffling in the shadows. It could just be her imagination, yet she knows such wishful thinking will get her nowhere.