The voice was like a breath of air upon the wind. But it didn't stop her from hearing it. It was the most gentle of caresses on her skin. It was inside her, a part of her, but also something entirely on its own.
She already knew not to listen to it, even as it called her name again.
"Vanessa," it whispered through the autumn storm's wild gale. "Vanessa, come to me."
Something told her she wouldn't be able to resist it's call, not this time. Absently, she touched the silver crucifix around her neck, praying feverishly for the strength to fight this evil cloaked in a voice like sin and in the shadows of the unseen. With each passing night, she had felt its hold on her grow stronger. She had somehow known that the night when it would take over her--mind and body and soul--would come.
Vanessa had just never thought that it would come so quickly.
Had it really only been a month? It seemed so much shorter than that, but also so much longer. Why couldn't this nightmare just end?
"Vanessa," the voice called again, cutting through storm and stone just to reach her ears. The urge to wander the night was stronger now. Her delicate hands tightened around the only symbol of redemption she knew.
"You will not escape." Those words were like a punch in the gut to her. Vanessa collapsed on the cellar floor, crying softly as tremors of fear raked through her body.
"Come to me."
"I won't," she whimpered softly, not entirely sure if it was meant to reassure herself, or convince the demon in the woods. She could not bow to his will. To do so would not only mean death, but peril to her soul.
"Vanessa." The velvet voice had suddenly become a his of irritation. The power pulling at her intensified. The fragile remains of her will were replaced by that of the predator that pursued her so. Her hands curled into fists so that her nails were biting into the soft flesh of her palms. The pain would only last a moment, but it was enough to draw her back into herself.
And suddenly, she was slowly climbing up the stairs.
No! she tried to scream. But her mouth was held shut by another will. Each step was a struggle as Vanessa fought madly against the alien force that controlled her like the puppet she had become.
The strong wind tossed her damp hair from her sweaty, tear-streaked face as she opened the front door of the small cottage that was her home. She stood in nothing but a thin white night shift, and felt incredibly exposed for it. Her eyes flew wildly around the town square while praying to see a face pressed against a window, despite how unlikely it would be. At dusk, every window was drawn shut or boarded up, every door locked tight as each house's inhabitants slept safely, or pretended to be.
There was no one who could help her.
Vanessa took an involuntary step towards the woods just beyond her father's property. Hidden in the shadows just inside that tree line, she thought she could see many long, snakelike arms reaching out for her eagerly...
Her heart hammered wildly in her chest as her lungs constricted in fear. There was no escape for her now. The moment she went inside those trees, she would cease to exist. Even at her young age, she knew that.
Dry leaves crackled under her bare feet and littered the ground around her. They had all fallen weeks ago, leaving bare the twisted, skeletal trees. She was brought to a clearing, where the fog was thick and seemed to swallow her from the knees down. It was there that her eyes found him, standing next to an ancient oak where she and her big sister used to play.
He was tall, so tall that at first glance he looked like a smaller tree, and very thin, like he was going to snap in half at the next gust of wind. Bursting from behind his shoulders--which possessed two normal arms--were eight long, handless arms, writhing like snakes in the air, poised snatch her at a moment's notice. He wore a black suit that seemed to be made out of shadows.
The tall man looked down at her--at least, that was what she thought he did. There was no face at all, only a pale gleaming smoothness where eyes should have been. That face did not, in any way, resemble one belonging to a human. It was like he was wearing a mask to cover up what he really was, and that was its only purpose.
Suddenly, the tall man smiled, and with a normal arm he extended a pale, spider-like hand out to her. That smile was perhaps the most terrifying thing Vanessa had ever seen. His face seemed to split in half to reveal a lipless mouth full of sharp, dagger-like teeth, gleaming in the gloom.
"Vanessa," he whispered. His mouth didn't move, yet she could still hear his voice inside her head. "Come here, little one."
"Please," she begged with trembling lips as tears slid down her face. "I want to go home."
"There is no escape," the tall man said, taking a step towards her. Her feet seemed to be rooted to the ground, and she was unable to move as his arms--all ten of them--embraced her. And suddenly, she felt a sense of darkness take over her mind.
Twelve-year-old Lars woke up from a nightmare with a terrified start.
"Lars," a voice whispered in his head. "Lars, come to me."
He felt a terrible pull on his body, an urge to go outside. Moonlight seeped through the cracks of his shuttered windows. He stood up and peered through a crack in the wood, and saw a pale, empty face on the other side. Suddenly, his heart was filled with dread.