She was awakened by a sound.

“Mom?” she groaned, “is it time already?”

But it wasn't her mother. The noise was more like the chattering of teeth. And footsteps, slow and steady. She opened her eyes: she was sitting on a toilet, in a stall with the door closed. A dull pain screamed in her head. She couldn't feel her leg, and when she looked down, she saw it had turned a dark purplish color, smeared with dried blood.

The footsteps got closer. The chattering had turned into creaking.

It was when she saw the pair of multicolored striped sneakers appear under the door that she finally remembered where she was.

The shoes stopped right in front of her stall.

Her teeth started chattering too, but with fear.

The door slowly creaked open.

Thomas, towering over her, now had a burned and decomposing face. His teeth were so filed down they almost disappeared under his blackened gums.

“I should have left this damn city when I had the chance,” she said in resignation.

“Yes,” he said. “But you didn't.”

“Go to hell,” she spat.

He smiled.

“It's the end of the hunt, it seems. Your friend is gone. But whatever he does, he can't stop what's going to happen tonight...”

He raised his gun at her.

“No,” she replied, “he said he would come bac...”

The scream of the gun drowned out her voice, and her head was swept against the wall. Tiles flew everywhere, and the noise echoed for a few seconds after he released the trigger, dying slowly and giving way to silence.

The cartridges continued to roll on the floor and the smoke from the barrel rose to the ceiling as the bloodstain spread under the other stalls. Then, the monster put the gun in the mouth of his host and fired. The top of her head shot forward and crashed against the wall. The rest of the body collapsed on the floor like a bag of cement, the lower jaw still attached to the rest of the body, the tongue aflame. Then, silence returned, and this time, it lasted.


Raphaël was driving thirty kilometers an hour above the speed limit, tears of rage in his eyes. He wasn't heading towards Jordane, but in the opposite direction: home.

He had called her, asked her to wait for him to come and get her and leave this hell. She had replied that it was their responsibility to prove that something was happening in this town. That innocents had died, and that others would too if they didn't put an end to it all. Raphaël knew all too well that there had been victims; but it wasn't up to them to handle it. They had argued, and the last sentence she said before hanging up had stung him:

“If you still want to run away, that's your problem. I don't need you, so you can go back.”

And that's what he did: a U-turn in the middle of the road, and he went back the other way. Who did she think she was, damn it? He was disoriented and furious. Him? Run away? It was rather she who wasn't living in the real world. What was she going to do when she met something like he had seen? Wouldn't she run away then?

He tried to calm down. Already, the light was becoming rarer and the night was beginning to fall. A parasitic thought latched onto his mind: he thought of his ex. He didn't know why, but at a moment like this, he thought of her. How it had ended between them. It wasn't his fault, he had been accepted for a new job on the other side of the region, a great position, but she hadn't wanted to follow him. Well, why was he surprised? She was a dentist, and she had her own practice. With a whole clientele. She wasn't going to drop everything like that. And in fact, he hadn't been sought out for this position. He had applied. Why? Why had he applied for this offer knowing that it would end his relationship?

He didn't know.

He didn't even know why he was thinking about all this.

He saw on his right the direction sign indicating the next exit for Duli, three hundred meters away. He resisted the urge to swerve and rip the sign off; but he was distracted enough to see the woman standing in the middle of the road at the last moment. When he saw her, it was too late: he could only watch in horror, his mouth mimicking a scream, the girl staring at him. She had a bloody leg, a tourniquet on her thigh. She looked sad, or rather disappointed. Disappointed that he had abandoned her, that he had left without her, to leave her to her fate.

He braked and turned the wheel: but he realized, too late again, that she was no longer there. That she might not have been there to begin with. The car's tires screamed, and the vehicle slid sideways. He overcompensated, and he went off the road: the left side tore the guardrail, and he crashed against a tree, activating the airbags, and sending him into the limbo of unconsciousness.

Interlude: There's Someone in the House

“Mommy, there's a monster in my room.”

Kya was lost in a deep sleep, immersed in a strange dream where she was once again a cashier on weekday evenings during her studies. She was scanning items in an endless stream on a conveyor belt. The monotonous beep sounded as she scanned each barcode.



She thought she heard something, a distant voice, but she was so focused on her task: every time she looked to her right, the belt was crammed with items, almost spilling over the sides.


No matter how fast she worked, she couldn't keep up.

“Mommy, there's a monster in my room.”

That voice again, intruding on her, while she had so much to do. If she stopped for even a second, the flood of items would overwhelm her and she'd hear a cacophony of shrill sounds as the barcodes piled up at the scanner.


But she recognized that voice. She didn't know why, but it was important.

“Mommy, wake up.”


“Honey,” she murmured in her sleep. “Go back to bed.”

Her dream was losing its grip, she felt herself starting to wake, but she wasn't fully conscious yet.

“Mommy, did you hear what I said?”


She needed to fall back asleep, to finish her shift, to scan all the items.

“Mommy, I said there's a monster in my room, do you hear?”

Kya woke up abruptly: her daughter was standing beside her bed. She recognized her silhouette in the darkness of the room. Her door was ajar, but the house was still dark, all lights off. She started to come to: it was a silly dream, something about a supermarket, but the details were already slipping away, leaking out of her head like a sieve. Without thinking, she put her hand on her daughter's forehead: no fever. Then, she checked her daughter's undergarments: no, she hadn't wet the bed. She felt somewhat relieved, no emergency room visit or bedsheet changing tonight.

“What's wrong, little one?”

“There's a monster in my closet,” she repeated.

Kya sighed: this was the third time she had pulled this stunt. It had started one or two weeks earlier. It was normal for a child her age to imagine things, but Kya thought she was done getting up at night to tend to her. At seven, she hoped she could finally sleep through the nights. The previous two times, she had gotten up, gone to her room, and had to search it thoroughly before her daughter could fall back asleep.

“Monsters don't exist,” she said, turning over in her duvet. “Go back to bed.”

“But mommy...” she protested.

“No buts, Clara, go back to bed, that's final. There's nothing in your room, I promise you.”

Then she tried to fall back asleep. She clung to her dream, it seemed like she was a student in it, to maybe return to it more quickly. But she felt Clara's presence behind her. She heard her breathing, saw that she was stunned and didn't dare to protest any more. But she also didn't dare to go back to her room either.

“Fine,” Kya said with a hint of anger in her voice. “I'll check, but this is the last time.”


“If we take a look and there's nothing, you'll never bother me with these stories again, got it?”


She sighed and turned on her bedside lamp. She turned to her daughter, and her heart tightened: she really looked scared. She clung to her pajamas as if holding back from going to the bathroom.

“Do you need to pee, honey?”

She shook her head in response. She seemed scared, and Kya wondered if she should consider taking her to a psychologist. Maybe she was having night terrors, and it would be good to address the problem before it became ingrained.

She got up, and Clara reached out her arms to be picked up. Kya obliged, and left the room carrying her daughter, her hands firmly around her neck, her face buried in her shoulder. She turned on the hallway light and headed towards the house's hall: Clara's room was right in front, its door open, and her nightlight casting a reddish glow that dimly lit the room. She was about to enter, but something caught her attention: to her right, at the end of the hallway, was the kitchen. And in the kitchen, the pantry door was slightly open, she could even see it in the dark. The nearly invisible white door was surrounded by a stark black halo, a sign that she had left it ajar. Was that possible? Normally, she kept it closed. Or was it Clara? But why? She hesitated to go close it, but she was too tired to make the detour. She wanted to quickly check Clara's room, then go back to bed before her alarm went off at six-thirty.

She turned to her left, towards the front door: the alarm light was blinking green, a sign that no one had broken in. She felt reassured: since her divorce, she had been alone in this big house - or with Clara every other week, who wasn't exactly a bodyguard, even if she knew how to be clingy - and she didn't feel entirely safe. She had found a company that installed alarm systems, and it was the owner himself who had come to do the work. A certain Richard, very charming. Since then, she had been able to sleep soundly again.

She entered the room and set Clara down on the floor.

“Alright,” she said, “we're going to look, and we're going to find nothing. You are safe in your room. There are no monsters, nothing at all.”

“But...” she began.

“No buts! Maybe if your room was tidier, you wouldn't see shapes everywhere!”

Clara looked down, and Kya started her search, eager to get back to bed. She began with the basics: she knelt down and peered under the bed.

“Nothing here,” she said.

She got up, wincing as her knees cracked, and headed towards the teepee. It was a tipi with a white cloth featuring typical - and probably caricatured - Native American patterns. She parted the curtain, but found only a pile of stuffed animals. She noticed that some had missed her laundry rounds for a while, and mentally noted to take care of them the next day.

“Nothing here either.”

She crossed the room to the last place a “monster” could be: the wardrobe. It was wide open, and one of her jackets had fallen to the floor.

“Mommy!” panicked Clara as Kya was about to enter.

She had picked up one of her stuffed animals and was sucking her thumb, strangling it in her arm.


“The monster was in there...”

Her gaze returned to the wardrobe: there was nothing here, except a jacket that Clara had knocked down. She bent over to pick it up, and hung it back on its hanger. Once inside the wardrobe, she looked around: of course, there was nothing.

“And there you have it,” she said, emerging from the closet, “no monster. Nowhere.”

“But mommy, it was right there,” she complained. “It was watching me sleep!”

“That's enough!” she began to get angry. “You're too old to believe in such things! It's just your imagination!”

She closed the wardrobe door a bit louder than intended, and Clara jumped.

“Go to bed now! I don't want to hear another word.”

Her daughter complied silently. She burrowed under her comforter, her stuffed animal still clutched tightly.

“Goodnight,” Kya said, a bit too sternly.

“Goodnight,” Clara replied almost inaudibly, looking at the wall.

Kya stood motionless for a moment, then left the room, closing the door behind her. She took a deep breath, then returned to her own bed. Despite herself, she cast a fleeting glance towards the pantry: the door was still ajar. But she continued on, turning off the hallway light behind her, then went back to bed. She glanced at her clock radio: it was 2:30 in the morning. Just four more hours of sleep before another day...

She thought she was too agitated to fall asleep, but she immediately plunged into the arms of Morpheus. She sank into a deep, dark, dreamless sleep. Just unconsciousness. It seemed like all the lights had gone out in her brain, as she floated in nonexistence. It felt like an eternity, as if she was dead, waiting to be reborn. No thoughts, no sensations, just emptiness. She would wake up the next day, to the sound of the alarm.

Then, something.

A sensation crept over her. It was the only thing she could perceive. An unpleasant feeling. She wanted to keep sleeping, but the sensation became more and more insistent. Something uncomfortable. A danger. A presence. Yes, that was it: she felt like she was being watched.

She opened her eyes wide, waking up instantly. The clock radio, in front of her face, read 3:15. A shiver ran through her: she indeed felt a presence in the room. It was still dark around her, but she slowly turned her head: a man stood at the foot of her bed. Just a silhouette in the dim light, motionless, but he was there.

Her lungs inhaled deeply, ready to scream, to wake the dead; but before she could open her mouth, the shadow moved its hand and an object streaked through the darkness with a silver reflection. She froze.

“If you scream, I'll slit your daughter's throat from ear to ear,” the man simply said.

Kya exhaled involuntarily, without a sound. Her body paralyzed.

“Where are your car keys?” he continued calmly.

Kya didn't know what to say. She had heard him perfectly, but she simply couldn't understand what he meant, even by putting the words together.

“Your car,” he repeated. “Give me the keys, and I'll leave without hurting anyone. Do you understand?”

“A burglar,” she managed to formulate in her head. She knew, from her job, that the best thing to do was to comply. She would give him her car, and he would leave. And then, she would call the police. She didn't think for a moment about the alarm, the “monster” her daughter had seen, nor that the voice seemed almost familiar. For now, she only thought about the little white and pink ceramic pot that Clara had made her in kindergarten, for Mother's Day.

“The white pot in the kitchen,” she finally said.

“Good,” he replied.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out something she couldn't make out. Then he approached, circling the bed adeptly in the dark. Kya wanted to scream, but she restrained herself. She nearly sat up and crawled to the back of her bed to try to get away. He came to her bedside and threw the object in front of her.

“Tie your hands behind your back,” he ordered, “wait until I'm gone, count to a hundred, and only then call the police.”

Her eyes fell on the object in question: it was a piece of rope. Two loops were already prepared, she just had to slip them on and tighten. From there, she noticed that the weapon she had taken for a butcher's knife, with its silver reflection, was actually a large screwdriver. She looked up: the man was wearing a black hood. She could only see his blue eyes, a calm and cold gaze, that was driving her completely insane. Why was he so calm? He wore a nondescript sweater, and equally nondescript work pants, except that they had a lot of pockets.

He pointed his weapon at her, seeming to lose patience.

Without time to think, she complied. She took the rope, passed her hands behind her back, and slipped her hands into the loops. Her assailant was so calm, so fluid, that she felt like she was going through a formality. That if she did everything he said, everything would be fine.

He lunged at her, and she nearly screamed, but he simply moved behind her to tighten the knot. The string cut into her hands, lacerating her flesh. She grimaced in pain, but said nothing: “God please let Clara sleep, please let her wake up tomorrow and not be involved in all this, God I beg you...”

To her surprise, he flipped her onto her stomach with a firm motion. Her head crashed into the pillow. He grabbed her legs, and a few seconds later, she felt another string compress her ankles.

“Hey!” she protested.

“Shut up,” he simply replied.

He tightened the knots to the maximum, leaving her bound on her bed, and then simply left the room.

“He's going to take the car,” she thought. “He's going to steal my car, and he'll leave. I'll never see him again. I'll call the police, and tomorrow I'll take a taxi to work. I'll take Clara to school by taxi, she'll like that. And then I'll go to work, as if nothing happened.”

She imagined hearing his footsteps heading towards the kitchen, she perfectly imagined the shrill sound of the keys clashing as he reached into the pot to search. She even imagined the sound of the pot breaking on the floor; but all she heard was the front door of the house opening and closing. Puzzled, she listened, her cheek against the cushion, her ankles and wrists on fire: nothing more.

She wondered if she should get up. If she should call for help. But what if it was a trap? And if he was still hiding in the house, ready to pounce on her if she left the room, or if she screamed? Should she count to a hundred, maybe? Maybe it was over, after all, maybe he had left?

But she didn't have time to start counting, when she heard the door open again. Footsteps moved somewhere in the house. Heavy, determined steps. She heard a muffled sob:

“Clara?!” she screamed despite herself. “Clara!!”

Then the man reappeared in her room with a bang: in one hand, he carried what seemed to be a toolbox. In the other, he carried Clara. She was bound, just like her, and had a gag in her mouth. The man put the toolbox on the floor and threw the little girl into a corner. She crashed to the floor with a muffled cry, and Kya screamed even louder. The man jumped on the lawyer and stuffed a gag in her mouth to silence her. He had removed his hood, and his face was inches from hers. He had crazy eyes, a predator's look. And she finally recognized him. She wanted to scream, but it was too late.

“We're going to have some fun,” the man said, “and your daughter is going to watch everything.”

And the night finally began.