Luke sprang up and switched on the ceiling light while crossing to his sister's room, not knowing what to expect. It had been a cry of pure terror he heard. He found her sitting with her legs drawn up, her forehead touching her knees, softly whimpering as she rocked back and forth. Apparently his parents had not heard the scream, which was good. Usually their efforts to help Jessie only aggravated the situation.
Luke approached his sister and touched her gently on the shoulder. Her body convulsed, as though jolted by a charge of electricity. He quickly withdrew his hand. "What's wrong, Jessie? What happened?" he asked anxiously. Jessica shuddered, her glazed eyes staring fixedly into space. She seemed to be oblivious of her brother's presence. Then she sighed deeply and turned towards Luke. Her look of recognition signaled the end of her trance.
"Oh Luke," she said softly, her voice trembling. "I guess I was having a nightmare. Only...it seemed so real." She began breathing deeply in a desperate effort to calm herself.
Luke sat down next to her and grasped her hand. She squeezed it tightly, as though this contact were her only lifeline to reality. "What kind of nightmare?" Luke asked kindly. "Unless you'd rather not talk about it right now."
Jessica shook her head. "No, no, that's all right. I've got to talk about it. It's like there's something filthy inside me and I've gotta spit it out or it'll make me sick." She paused, licking her lips. Beads of perspiration moistened her forehead. Luke waited patiently. It wouldn't do to push his sister when she was in such a nervous state. Finally, as though plunging into an icy pool, she continued.
"It was like waking up in the middle of the night, everything seemed so real I was sure I was awake, only I was in the basement of this house, it was dark and quiet but something horrible was waiting for me there, I wasn't alone. Then I heard a slithering sound and there were these shapes--I can't describe it, but it was awful--they were coming up from somewhere below. I was terrified and wanted to scream for help, but nothing came out, I couldn't move, and all the while the shapes got closer and closer, and I knew they would grab me and take me down...." Her rapid, hysterical monologue broke off. Squeezing her brother's hand till it hurt, she spoke urgently, "We've got to go there. We've got to. I'm scared out of my wits, but I won't rest till I've seen it."
"Seen what?" Luke demanded. "You're talking nonsense."
"The basement." Jessica breathed. "We've got to go down there, you and I together, tonight. You've got a flashlight, haven't you?"
"Yeah I've got one, but... Jessie, you can't be serious! It's past midnight. Besides, excuse my bluntness, but you're really a mess. You know what the doctor said about your nerves that time you..."
Jessica interrupted, fairly screaming, "I know it's late, I know I'm a mess, but I am serious. We've got to go. I don't really understand it, but there are forces at work here more powerful than we are, and I feel like somehow we've been chosen..."
"Now just hold on, Jessie," Luke said firmly.