It followed Lucy her entire life, scratching in her walls and sliding under her bed. A phantom with a warm touch and inviting voice that spoke of adventures. Nalu.
A/N: I’ve had this three-shot sitting on my desktop for quite sometime. So here is a story I’ve been hoarding.
The scratching was all Lucy ever heard. A soft dragging near her head, late at night. Almost as if it were in the walls itself. She didn’t know what it was. Why it came at the same time every night was a mystery. But it disrupted her sleep with its quiet tapping.
Scritch, Scritch, Scritch went the rhythm. She didn’t know where it came from or why. Only that for as long as Lucy could remember, that scraping noise within her walls was all she could ever hear.
From a young age, it became her lullaby. Even on the nights it messed with her sleeping, the frantic, hurried scratches would come to lull her back to bed.
And for a while, Lucy ignored it.
She told her dad about the scratches when she was little, believing them to be rodents or even bats in the walls. They called animal control to investigate, but much to Lucy’s surprise, there never was a single one found.
Her room was clear and empty.
But at night, when she was alone, the tapping returned.
Scritch. Scritch. Scritch.
So she ignored it, believing it to be nothing more than her imagination as she got older.
But yet the child in her, the one with the vivid imagination and the steady supply of wild theories, could not help but wonder what lived in her walls.
Or what lived under her bed.
How many times as a child had she dragged her weary father into her room to force him onto his knees? All for the sole purpose of checking under her frilled bedskirts for any wild monsters that might have made a nest there. The closet would receive the same treatment, as well as the walls.
Each time, her father would give her an irritated look for disrupting his sleep before stomping off to return to his warm bed. He worked long and hard hours after his wife’s death and no longer had the time to entertain his daughter’s foolish thoughts. Leaving Lucy in the dark, the noises would return the moment he shut the door behind him.
When she moved out, she thought perhaps the noises would stop. After all, she would be out of the room she spent as a child. Perhaps she would be leaving behind whatever strange entity haunted her room as well.
The clicking continued into her new home.
…Lucy felt relief.
The sensation of being watched never went away whenever she went to her room at night. Eyes followed her from the depths of her closet door when it was cracked open, or peeked from under the fluffy bedskirts. Sometimes Lucy even thought she saw those eyes, a striking shade of green reflecting back at her. Focused, ever watchful…
The heat behind those imagined eyes was not the only source. Sometimes when she would move her hands through the folds of her closet, she thought she could feel a lingering heat. As if a hot body had been hiding among them seconds earlier but vanished without a trace.
Lucy thought she was haunted, but whatever ghost followed her didn’t seem malignant so she left them alone.
Whatever pursued her seemed male. Lucy knew, because aside from the quiet scratches she heard in the walls of her bedroom, she sometimes could hear him.
His voice was low and rough, but soothing in its familiarity.
Lucy would keep her eyes shut when she felt her mattress dip down near her feet, a heavy, solid weight joining her on the bed and shifting near her feet. She was afraid if she opened her eyes, this phantom would disappear like he always did when her eyes were open.
“I miss you, Lucy.”
His voice would rumble, just a whisper so she had to strain to catch his words. It sounded as if he was speaking through a bubble, a film covering between him and her. A ghosting touch would graze across her ankles, and even through bedsheets and blankets, she could feel the warmth of his hand.
“The others ask why I still visit you, but I just can’t let go.”
His grip would sometimes turn tight and shaky, but lacking the pressure to actually hurt her. In the back of her mind, she knew somehow he couldn’t really touch her. Whatever she felt from him was merely an illusion. A comforting one, eerie from the way his voice was so far away – but always close by. Filled with affection and longing.
A hesitant touch grazed her cheek.
That was new. Lucy’s heart jumped into her throat, and she fought not to stiffen under the curious exploration of his fingers. He seemed to memorize her face with his hands. The heat from his body warmed Lucy under her covers. An affectionate sweep against her forehead told Lucy he had pushed her hair from her face. The tips of fingers circled the curve of her ear to tuck away the errant strands.
She wondered what they felt like.
She wondered what he looked like.
Curiosity burned at her every night, but the new boldness with which he investigated made the desire to open her eyes and take a glimpse at this mysterious visitor. Lucy wanted to know what her imagination had conjured. Who was the man that spoke to her every night in growls and whispers. He told her of wild adventures to far off, imaginary lands. Stories of dragons and princesses, and the journeys they would travel on together. Friends. Companions.
The tales were all tinged with sadness.
Who was the man that scratched into the walls, longingly trying to get her attention. Was he a phantom or a hallucination? Or had Lucy gone crazy long ago?
“Every time I come to see you, it’s like visiting a grave,” His voice was thick. But he was close enough now Lucy didn’t have to strain to catch his rumbling words.
His touch drew away, and Lucy became frightened he was leaving. There was something so final in the heaviness of his voice, it made alarm shoot through every nerve in her body. So absorbed was she in her fears, she almost missed what he said next.
“Why did you forget me Lucy?”
How could she forget someone she didn’t know?
The mattress seemed to loosen, the weight from her nightly intruder lifting. He was withdrawing, a heavy sigh of regret puffing out against her face. The scent of ash reached her and she filled her lungs with it.
It was so familiar.
But he was leaving, and who knew when he would be back. Panic raced through Lucy at the thought of him leaving, possibly forever. No more scratches at her walls. No more stories to lull her to sleep at night. No more comforting squeezes to her ankles as a smokey voice spoke until dawn rolled through her curtains.
“Wait!” Lucy pleaded, snapping up, her eyes flashing open and her hand shooting out to grasp at empty air. Her hand found no purchase of course, grabbing at the darkness and chasing shadows. She sat upright, her mattress groaning from her shifting weight.
For just a second, she thought she had seen a man about her age. Just a glimpse of wild pink hair and startled, glowing green eyes before they popped out of existence.
Heart hammering in her chest, Lucy laid down into her pillows, disturbed. What had that been? A trick of the light – or something else? Unsettled by the new mystery before her, Lucy turned onto her side, her back to her closet.
The sensation of eyes did not return for the rest of the night.
Her walls remained silent.