SHH! DON'T TURN AROUND! YOU'RE ALMOST THERE!

The thought of climbing the narrow staircase alone sent shivers down Lilia’s spine. What was waiting for her up there? She froze, unable to move forward.
     “Lilia! What did I say? Go to bed!” Maria had little time for such things as remembering what it was like to be a frightened seven-year-old girl.
     Startled, Lilia ran up the stairs as fast as she could, afraid to look back. She feared not only evil spirits floating out of the darkness, up the steps, and snatching her ankles, but also her mother’s wrath. Catching her breath on the landing, Lilia braced herself for the long walk down the dimly lit hallway. Despite the chill in the air, her clothes were soaked with sweat. Lips drawn tight and limbs trembling, hardly daring to breathe, Lilia crept one inch, then another, down the corridor.
     A mere sliver of light from the clouded full moon trickled through the window and cast an ominous blue-white glow on the paint-chipped walls. The shadows lengthened and crept up to the ceiling, where they hovered like huge spiders. Her hands grew clammy as they clung to the wall, feeling her way to the bedroom. Lilia kept her focus on the door while battling the voices in her head. Is there something behind me? Shh! Don’t turn around! You’re almost there!
     The worn shrieking floorboards were drowned by the thundering of Lilia’s beating heart—her pulse skipped with every step. As she turned the knob and pushed open the door, the squeaky hinges whined, sending Lilia into yet another flurry of panic. She leaped to safety. Lilia pulled her feet up quickly away from the monsters that were surely hiding under her bed. She hauled the sheets up to her neck and listened, willing the sounds to fade and die.
     A sudden wind rattled the shutters as a mist of light filtered through the wooden slats and slithered across the room. Lilia watched as the door creaked slowly, and the lock abruptly clicked back into place. Imagining a hulking body standing in the open armoire and witches circling above her head, Lilia buried herself under her woolen blanket. She squeezed her eyes shut, crossed her fingers, and recited the Holy Trinity over and over until she fell into a fitful sleep.

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