I had forgotten how absorbing a book can be, and it was in the wee hours of the morning when there came a knocking at my door. Startled, I got up to answer; nobody would normally be knocking at that hour, and it had to be important, a stranded motorist perhaps, or a friend in some kind of trouble.
I opened the front door to find nobody there. I looked up and down the sidewalk to see if there was someone who had perhaps moved on to the next house, but there was nobody, not even any cars on the street, which was odd. It was completely quiet.
As I turned to go back inside, I chanced to look down and spotted a small wooden box on the steps, so I picked it up and brought it back inside.
It was a plain wooden box about the size of a jewelry box or a cigar humidor. There were no distinguishing marks, and other than having the musty smell of having been in someone's basement for a few generations, there was no clue as to where it had come from.
The box had a hinged lid, so I opened it. Inside there was another box, this one some unidentifiable black material, with a small latch. I opened the smaller box, and inside was a crystal, dark as the night.
Several of my friends know that I collect curios, things old and strange, and I suspected that one of them had seen fit to leave this trinket for me on the front steps and had to depart rather suddenly, though I couldn't figure out why they hadn't waited until a more civilzed hour.
I examined the crystal. It was beautiful-- it looked like it was possibly quartz, but I had never seen a quartz crystal this big or this dark, and it felt warm to the touch, like it was reflecting the heat back into my body, or perhaps giving off some heat of its own.
Then there was a shock. I couldn't tell whether the crystal had zapped me with electricity or had burned me with some sort of chemical reaction, but I decided to put the damned thing back on the box and leave it for the cold light of day when I could see it better, and maybe take it somewhere for a more detailed examination. As I headed off to prepare for bed, I looked at my hands, and despite a slight reddening, they seemed to be fine.
That night, I dreamed of her.
At first, I couldn't see her, but I knew she was there, a presence more felt than seen. Then there was a light, floating above the floor, watching. I couldn't move, it was like I was paralyzed, as she floated over to me, a woman in a long flowing white dress, wearing something like a bridal veil. She was beautiful, pale skin and deep dark eyes. I could feel her sit on the edge of the bed, and as she looked into my eyes she began to talk. Her words were like whispers, indistinct and just beyond the edge of my understanding.
I wanted to tell her that I couldn't understand, that I couldn't comprehend what she was saying, but I couldn't move or speak, and finally, as if with great sadness, she disappeared, fading into the glowing light.
I woke up drenched with sweat, filled with fear. I couldn't explain why, but the rememberance of the dream was filled with dread that I hadn't felt while I was in the dream itself, a dread that gripped me like a great cold hand. The fear of a nightmare that evaporated into the cold light of day as usual.
By the time I had finished with my morning ritual, I had forgotten about the strange package and the dark crystal that had been left on my doorstep. There was still an echo of the dread that shadowed me through the day, but I tended to ignore it as the day's business wore on. The box was still there on the coffee table where I had left it, but I did not dare open the box again for an extreme discomfort came over me as I gazed upon it.
That night I dreamed of her once again. She appeared in the same way: first the glowing light, then forming into the aetherial mistress that I remembered from the previous night. Again she sat on the edge of the bed and spoke to me words which I could not comprehend, and though I again could not move, I was filled with a warmth and comfort that was beyond any I had ever experienced. It was akin to love, and she looked into my eyes and placed her hand on my chest, spoke words which I almost understood, as if my comprehension was becoming clearer, and as she bent closer to me, again the great sadness came over her visage and she dissolved into a thousand points of light once again.
The morning brought with it again the nameless dread and terror with waking. It lingered into the day, dissipating slowly as I carried on through the day's business, the shadow of darkness still lingered, listless. I felt tired and disorganized all day.
That evening, I confronted the box again, ovecoming the discomfort so I could again peer into the crystal to see if I could discern its secrets. I opened the boxes and held the crystal, which unlike last time seemed to be merely a cold lump of dark glass with no life of its own.
I carried it with me to bed, feeling that somehow this dark crystal and the woman of my dreams were somehow connected, that perhaps it would help me understand the words that she spoke, that it would at last let me comprehend her meaning.
She came again as before, the shimmering light, the aetherial appearance, the sitting on the edge of the bed, and leaning over to touch me, to caress my face, and this time I heard her words:
"Come to me my love. I have been waiting."
And she leaned forward with joy in her face as she understood my comprehension, and I felt the desire burning through my body as she leaned in to kiss me.
And as her lips met mine, her visage transformed, turning into that of a decayed corpse, who sat up screaming, fire burning in her eyes, and I felt what I could only describe as my soul being ripped from my body and into her open mouth as if she were feeding on me.
And then there was just darkness.