She wakes in the night to find people standing around her bed. Men, women, and children. Sometimes they wear uniforms, sometimes everyday clothes, once they were all draped in shrouds. They are always in black and white.
They’re only dreams. That’s what everyone tells her.
And to be fair, they’re classic night terror stuff. In the first dreams the people keep their distance, observing her like a scientific experiment. It is only in later dreams, after they have watched her for some time, that one of them reaches out a hand. She sees it coming towards her, feels the firm pressure on her neck, remembers struggling to breathe as everything goes dark. The next day her throat is sore.
She only sees them when she wakes up; only screams when she realises her eyes are open and the visions are still there.
Sometimes they come alone. There is the young boy, a frequent visitor, who looks like he has just stepped out of a Victorian workhouse. The boy never comes near the bed, never touches, just crouches by the bookcase with a malicious glint in his eye. Her scalp always itches until the apparition fades.
One night a man comes into her room and climbs onto the bed. She feels the mattress sag beneath his weight, then a sharp pain. Even after she has blinked several times, he is still there. Breathing. In the morning, the sheets smell of unfamiliar sweat, and there is blood. Her period must have come early.
After it happened a few times, she turned to the internet and discovered they were called hypnagogic hallucinations. Apparently, they occur in the transitional state between sleeping and waking. You may think you’re awake, but actually you’re still dreaming.
She is awake now; her eyes open wide. She can see something, creeping outside the window, the outline of a dark head silhouetted by the street lights. She sits up in bed, blinks, sees a face peering in at her, closing in, blinks again, feels the dread of familiarity as it raises its hand and something heavy, metallic, makes contact with the window pane. She screams.
As the glass shatters around her, she tries to remember it isn’t real.