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Midnight Theater

2

Echoes in the Dark

17

 

Ethan's mind whirled with dread and disbelief as he replayed the video on his laptop.

 

In the screen’s glow, his eyes were locked on the moment where everything had gone wrong.

 

There he was, his recorded self, sitting up from bed, moving with precision, and then a shadow—a hand, distinct and deliberate—reaching out to cut the recording.

 

His breath caught in his throat. He was not alone. Someone else had been in his apartment.

 

Ethan’s thoughts splintered into a thousand frantic directions. Who had been in his room? How had they gotten in? And more disturbingly, why hadn’t he noticed them before?

 

He grabbed a metal rod from the corner of his closet. He clutched it tightly. He moved through the apartment on edge. The living room, the kitchen, the bathroom—every corner was inspected with a paranoid thoroughness.

 

But there was no one.

 

No sign of an intruder.

 

The only evidence was the footage on his laptop and the sensation that something was irrevocably wrong.

 

Ethan returned to his room. He sat back down. The adrenaline began to wane. He replayed the video again and again. And then, on a whim, he decided to rewatch the video he had recorded during his afternoon nap.

 

At first, it seemed uneventful—just him, shifting occasionally in his sleep. But as he scrutinized the footage, a detail caught his eye.

 

In the dim corner of the frame, barely visible, was a foot. And above it, the hem of a trouser leg.

 

Ethan’s stomach twisted into knots.

 

He had missed it before, but now it was unmistakable. Someone had been standing by his bed.

 

The figure was almost entirely obscured by the shadows and the angle of the camera, but it was undeniably there. The presence he had felt was not a figment of his imagination; it was real and lurking just out of sight.

 

He sat in stunned silence.

 

There was a person in his home, someone who had evaded his notice and left no trace behind.

 

As the hours ticked by, he remained locked in his room, replaying the videos over and over, searching for answers in the shadows.

 

He didn’t sleep, couldn’t sleep, not with the chilling knowledge that his sanctuary had been violated.

 

By the time the world outside had fully woken, Ethan was a wreck. He knew he should go to the police, but the whole situation was just too absurd. What could they do against a ghost in the shadows? How could they help him when he could barely understand what was happening himself?

 

Instead, he called his office and mumbled through an excuse about feeling unwell. His voice was hoarse.

 

As the day wore on, Ethan's thoughts turned darker. He had to understand what was happening, to find the source of this intrusion into his life.

 

But first, he needed rest. Real, unbroken sleep.

 

Before he could decide on a plan, his phone buzzed, jolting him from his thoughts. He glanced at the screen, surprised to see a message from an unknown number.

 

Meet me at the old library tonight. I have answers.

 

Ethan stared at the message Who was this? How did they know about his situation? But more importantly, could he trust them?

 

The cryptic message on Ethan's phone lingered in his thoughts. The promise of answers at the old library tugged at his curiosity, but caution kept him rooted in his apartment. Could he really trust an unknown sender?

 

And what did they know about his nightmares and the intruder in his home?

 

As he grappled with these questions, his phone buzzed again, but this time with a more familiar name. It was his mother, calling from his hometown, miles away.

The timing was uncanny, almost too perfect.

 

“Mom?” Ethan answered.

 

“Ethan, are you okay? I’ve been trying to reach you since last night. Your phone was off, and we were worried sick!”

 

“Off? That’s impossible. My phone’s been on the whole time.”

 

“That’s what I thought. But we couldn’t get through. Your father and I were so worried, we didn’t sleep at all.”

 

His phone had been on all night—he was certain of it. Did something or someone cut him off from the outside world?

 

He tried to shake it off.

 

“I’m sorry, Mom. I must have been... distracted. I’ve just been under a lot of stress lately.”

 

“You need to take care of yourself, Ethan. Your father and I are worried. I called because of those nightmares you told me about. We’ve been praying for you.”

 

Ethan closed his eyes. He had mentioned his recurring nightmares in a moment of weakness. He hadn’t anticipated how deeply it would trouble his parents.

 

“Mom, it’s just stress. Work has been tough lately.”

 

“It’s more than that. Last night, after we couldn’t reach you, I went to see a friend who’s... knowledgeable about these things.”

 

Ethan’s pulse quickened. “What things?”

 

“She’s a seer, Ethan. She told me there’s a dark presence around you, something that entered from the southwest. She used an egg to sense it, and it stood upright on the mirror without shaking. It’s a sign of bad energy.”

 

Under normal circumstances, he would have dismissed his mother’s words as superstitious nonsense. But after the events of the past few days, he found himself clinging to any explanation, no matter how implausible.

 

“Ethan, she said you need to be careful. She didn’t know exactly what it is, but it’s not good. Your father and I are coming to see you. We’ve booked a train for today. We’ll be there this evening.”

 

“Mom, you don’t have to—” he began, but she cut him off.

 

“We’re coming, Ethan. We’re worried, and we want to be there for you. Just hold on until we arrive.”

 

“Okay. “I’ll see you tonight.”

 

After hanging up, Ethan sat in silence.

 

He decided to use the time before their arrival wisely. Ethan rose and began an inspection of his apartment. He searched every corner, every closet, looking for any sign of the intruder from the video. But there was nothing—no hidden entrances, no disturbed furniture, nothing out of place except his own overwhelming sense of dread.

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