Anna placed the photograph of her parents next to the empty vase on the mantelpiece. She smiled, tucking a loose strand of pale blonde hair behind her ear. They would be proud of her.
“Anna Richards. Homeowner!” She giggled, carrying the last of the packing boxes outside to the garden and flattened it ready for recycling.
Turning back towards the house, she froze, her breath catching in her throat. An old woman, standing motionless, peered at Anna through the garden gate. Her dark eyes stared straight at Anna through her long, wispy, grey hair as the light breeze gently fanned it across her lined and withered face.
“Uhh…hello?” Anna gasped, holding her hand to her chest. “Can I help you?”
“Guard!” The old woman hissed, “Protect!” She spat as she lowered her face and shuffled away out of sight.
For several seconds, Anna stood watching in the direction the old woman had gone, then hurried into her kitchen, hastily locking the door behind her.
“Well, the locals seem nice,” she chuckled. “Wine. That’s what we need,” she said, pouring herself a large glass of red from a bottle on the kitchen counter. “And I need to stop talking to myself.” Shaking her head with a smirk, Anna took her glass into the living room and slumped down on her small, blue sofa. She took a long sip whilst thoughtfully spinning the silver, moon-shaped ring on her right hand. She rested her head back, closing her eyes. She soon felt herself beginning to fall asleep. It had been a long, tiring day of unpacking and the adrenaline rush from earlier had left her exhausted. Anna stood, draining the last of the wine from her glass,then trudged upstairs for a much-needed early night. Flopping onto her bed, she reached over and turned off the lamp, pulling the blankets up beneath her chin. This room felt cold compared to the rest of her apartment. She’d check the window for drafts, but that would have to wait until morning. Anna quickly fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.
Anna awoke to the sound of whispering from within the bedroom. She raised her head from the pillow and peered through the darkness in the direction of the sound. Looking towards the end of her bed, she could just make out the dark, shadowy shape of a person. Her heart beat wildly in her chest as she frantically pushed herself backwards up her bed, yelping in pain and surprise as her head smacked hard upon the wall behind her. The dark figure leaned forward and a streak of moonlight shining through a small gap in the curtains illuminated the figure. The lined and withered face of the old woman stared straight at Anna. Muttering strange words, too fast for Anna to hear, the old woman reached forward and climbed slowly onto the bed. She crawled towards her, each movement jerking as though her bones were broken. Anna’s whole body shook and a scream stuck in her throat as the old woman loomed over her, her eyes never leaving Anna’s.
“Protect the portal. Guard the portal,” she hissed. “It is coming!”
Anna shrunk deeper into her bed as the woman repeated the words over and over.
“Protect and guard. It is coming!”
Leaning down, inches from Anna’s face, the old woman hissed her warning. The smell of death and decay washed over Anna as she tried to turn her face away.
“Your turn.” The woman whispered into her ear, and Anna gasped one last breath as the world faded from sight.
“That’s the last of the boxes, Mrs Paterson,” William said, slipping his arms around his new wife’s waist.
“Perfect, Mr Paterson,” she giggled, standing on tiptoe and kissing him firmly on the lips. “I can’t believe this is ours. Our first home.”
“Let’s leave the unpacking until the morning,” he whispered, gently kissing her ear. “I vote for an early night.” They hurried upstairs, crashing through the bedroom door and landing on the bed in a heap, laughing and out of breath. Their heads turned at once towards the sound of whispering. In the dimness of the room, the dark and shadowy figure of a woman could be seen climbing onto the bed, her pale blonde hair hanging string-like across her face. Her moon-shaped ring glinted in a shaft of moonlight.
“Protect the portal. Guard the portal. It is coming!” The woman hissed as she loomed over the couple. “Your turn!”