“What’s this?” Bree asked, plucking a delicate, beaded web from the wall.
“It’s my dreamcatcher.” Anna said. “It catches bad dreams and lets the good ones through. Then the bad dreams get burned up by the sun.”
Bree puckered her lips, wrinkled her eyebrows and squinched her nose as if she’d smelled something rotten. “That’s stupid. Do you sleep with a night-light, too?”
Anna’s face burned. She kept thinking she’d get used to Bree’s abuse, but every classroom gibe and playground slander was a fresh paper cut on her heart. “Not anymore.”
“Whatever. Mom promised me a new video game if I agreed to spend the night with you. The sooner we sleep, the sooner I can go home and play with my real friends.” Bree turned off the light.
Laying in the dark, Anna clutched the dreamcatcher. It was heavy, pregnant with a fortnight of horrors. She stroked its fragile strings, their familiar magic unknotting serpents of anxiety that writhed in her gut. One by one, Anna snapped the threads she’d so carefully protected from daylight’s embrace these long past weeks, and a thick, luminescent fog mushroomed from the dreamcatcher, filling the room. Anna dropped the ruined talisman and slipped into the closet; she watched through a slit as a host of liberated abominations—great, eyeless creatures with razored tentacles and bottomless gaping throats—descended upon Bree. Her screams fractured the night.
Anna stayed in the closet until the first golden rays of morning filtered through her bedroom window. Monstrosities’ mouths yawned wide, silently wailing as they evaporated into obsidian mist. She crept from her refuge, stepped over Bree’s tattered remains and lifted a tangle of beaded string from the bloody floor. Anna dropped it into the trash; she wouldn’t need it anymore.
Her nightmare was over.