He walks slowly across the floor to where she is sleeping. A pale sliver of moonlight gleams through a gap in the curtains to form a silver pool on the bedroom carpet. Beneath the surface a loose timber lies in wait, ready to creak out a warning for a misplaced footfall, but he is on familiar ground and steps around the wooden sentinel with barely a pause.
She does not wake at his approach but she is no longer fully bound by sleep. She tosses her head from side to side as if trying to shake a bad dream loose before dropping back in to an uneasy slumber. His pace quickens. His footfalls keep their silence.
He is almost upon her when her eyelids flutter and open. She raises her head enough to allow her skittering eyes to meet his. She fills her lungs with air and the promise of a scream. He reaches for her and the shriek dies before it can take flight. His right hand covers her mouth while his left rests firmly on her spine.
She writhes against his touch but he has her pinned and she cannot get free. She pants and grunts mutedly into his hand for several minutes but it is too quiet to raise the alarm. Her torso thrashes against his grip, but she is so, so tired and he is so very strong. She heaves her body upward in a final, desperate attempt to be free but to no avail, and with a single shuddering sigh she flops down like a broken rag doll.
Sensing his triumph he leans in closer and whispers in her ear compelling her to surrender the last of her energy, to give in to the darkness. Her body goes limp under his hands. Her eyes close. It is done.
After a time he lifts his hands from her prone form. Straightening to his full height he considers her for a moment in the half-light, turns and walks away in silence.
The ritual is over, but it has not ended. It will never end. The need will come unbidden and without warning but he will be ready. He is always ready.
All it takes is for the dummy to fall out of her mouth once again.
Header image: “Creepy kid with a piano – sepia” by Paterm – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Creepy_kid_with_a_piano_-_sepia.jpg#/media/File:Creepy_kid_with_a_piano_-_sepia.jpg