Hashiki opened her eyes. She seemed to have plunged up into consciousness as if to a surface, which she then broke through, searching the darkness. At first, the obscurity was implacable. She might be anywhere: all that was sure was her own self, lying on her back, her pungent smell, and her warmth. Hashiki bent her knees, placing her feet flat on the sheets in the cocoon of her plush blanket. But as she gazed into the darkness, conversant patterns began to loom through it: the pale outline of a window, printed by the street lamp against the curtains; the horizontals on the opposite wall, which were the shelves for her shoes and handbags. Beside the window, she could make out the rectangular vanity; the dim reflection from the mirror revealed the small book, bound in full purple calf, that lay half hidden in a nest of fine silk scarves on the dressing table. Hashiki could identify every product and item on the vanity top by heart, though she couldn’t see them in the dark. It was this awareness that gave her a slight relief, knowing she was no longer in the company of the terrifying creatures from her dreams. She was now in the comfort of her own room.

Her sisters were in bed and asleep, too. The basement flat was small enough that, if they were awake, she would have heard the television or the stereo, or her younger sister practicing the latest Afrobeats. Hashiki struggled to sit up out of the tightly wound nest of sheets and blankets. She was asthmatic and feared not being able to catch her breath because the air was a little stifled. Suddenly, a strong wind whipped the curtain open, and the cold night air struck her shoulders. It was eccentric to stare into the room with wide-open eyes and feel the darkness conceding only the smallest bit, as if it were pressing back against Hashiki’s efforts to penetrate it. Someone had been at her bedside; she was positive while she was asleep. She wasn’t sure of it at first, but the terror the person had left behind didn’t wane with the confusion of waking. She remembered being a bit conscious in her sleep and in her dream. She had a horrendous dream; it was so plausible that it was intensely present as soon as she remembered it.

She was being chased in a thick forest by a seven-headed village masquerade. She ran into a house for safety, but the seven-headed monster didn’t stop chasing. She ran into a different room, only to be confronted by a dead aunt, who had turned into another dreadful monster with multiple eyes. There was nowhere to run or hide. The multiple-eyed monster grabbed her by the wrist and was waiting to hand her over to the incoming masquerade. Hashki was freaking out in fear. The closer the masquerade got, Hashiki’s body would surge with an eerie tingling sensation, and she would wiggle or get some sort of resistance to the tingling. Hashiki’s body was struggling to get up and shout for help, but to no avail. There seemed to be some kind of principality standing by her bedside and holding her back, preventing her from leaving the horrors that plagued her sleep. When she tried to move her arms or legs, they were stiff as a board. Whenever she tried to open her eyes, her eyelids would snap shut. After a few minutes of struggle and torment, Hashiki woke up disoriented from the vivid nightmare, unsure of where she was or what was real.

Bump! Bump! Scratch!

Hashiki was distressed and shaking; the vivid nightmare had left her with an overwhelming sense of dread and an urgent need to escape the darkness that had enveloped her in her sleep. She got out from under the covers. She stared around her room, searching the darkness for the thing that was making those creepy sounds.

“Not another horror,” she smacked herself to full consciousness.

The wardrope door moved as something knocked on it from the inside.

“Who’s there?” Hashiki asked in a trembling voice.

The wardrobe began to open slowly. Hashiki hopped out of bed and ran to the wardrobe door. She banged it shut with her palms. She grabbed her vanity chair and propped it against the door handle. Then she ran out of her room and into the opposite room. Her sisters’ door was wide open, and Hashiki jumped onto Hamisi and Hanuni’s beds.

“Hashiki?” Hamisi asked in a groggy voice. “What are you doing in here?”

Hashiki tugged on her older sister’s arm. “There’s something in my wardrobe!”

“You probably had a bad dream. Go back to bed.”

Hashiki yanked the blankets off the bed. “It wasn’t a dream. I was awake, and the wardrobe door started opening by itself.”

“Be gentle; you mustn’t wake up Hanuni. Look over Hanuni to be sure she is still asleep.” Hamisi threw the blanket over their sleeping sister and sighed.

“Fine. You are not a kid anymore. You’re a grown-ass lady; you shouldn’t be scared of the dark.

“I’m not scared of the dark; I heard something, and while I slept, someone literally tried to choke me. I could barely get out of the clutches of the late Aunt Chausiku; the one whom mom had said was a witch.”

Hamisi looked at her ridiculously, when we don’t find anything, you have to promise to leave me alone for the rest of the night. I have warned you about bingeing on horror drama series all the time.”

Hashiki nodded. Hamisi reached into her desk drawer and pulled out a flashlight. Then they headed to Hashiki’s room. Hashiki stopped in the doorway. She could hear something scratching her wardrobe door.

“I told you, Can you hear that?” Hashiki asked.

Hamisi nodded. She walked over to Hashiki’s bed and pulled the case off one of the pillows. She opened the pillowcase.

“You need to open the door gradually, and I’ll seize whatever it is.”

Hashiki slid the chair to the side and pulled the wardrobe door open with a crack. Something was hitting the door, trying to force it open. Hashiki took a deep breath and opened the door a few more inches. A small, furry creature ran right into the pillowcase.

“I got it!” Hamisi said, closing the pillowcase and holding it in the air.

“What is it?” Hashiki moved closer as Hamisi peeked inside.

Hamisi put the pillowcase on the bed and a pale-silver Mau cat climbed out.

Hashiki scooped the cat up. “Binti? It’s the neighbour’s cat!

“How did it get trapped in my wardrobe?”

Hamisi laughed. “The poor cat. If I was locked in your wardrobe with a pile like that,” she said pointing at my scattered clothes, “I’d be banging on the door to get out, too! You should clean out your wardrobe Hashiki.”

“Poor, Binti,” she walked off in a huff.

“Hamisi, wait!” Hashiki called. “You don’t quite get it, do you?”

“This cat is evil. It could be an alchemy of a soul of some sort. That cat could be anybody. I am sure it had something to do with what happened to me in my sleep.

“I am sure you don’t mean that?” Hamisi placed Binti on the window pane and it quickly jumped off onto the almond tree by Hashiki’s window and unto the ground. “Binta is just a curious feline wandering around which is completely normal for a cat her age. You should have shut your windows.”

"Oh, really, is it now my fault? I was the victim here. I was being chased by a hideous monster in my dreams. I ran for safety into a house in the woods, only to realized that the house was owned by the monster’s accomplice; our late Aunt Chausiku. She transformed into a fierce human-viper with multiple eyes. She clutched my hands, waiting to hand me over to my advancing oppressor. I tried to get out of her grips but my body was stiff. I couldn’t move or wake up. It seemed like I was suffocating; like someone was literally choking me. I laid there helpless,” Hashki recounted.

“I am so sorry you were having a bad dream. Bad dreams can be terrifying. — even though most of what happens in our dream are sometimes unrelated to our lives. You may have also experienced is a temporary loss of muscle control while you were trying to wake up. It could have been as a result of the trauma you were going through in your sleep. Nothing best explains it. You had an episode of sleep paralysis.”

“A what…? You mean for all that I went through, the explanation you can give to me is a medical condition. Not everything is science. Some things are spiritual. I am not crazy or sick. I don’t care what you say, there was an “evil” presence in my room that prevented me from waking up; an unseen night demon or a shadowy evil being. I bet if grandma were here she would agree with me,” she said feeling dissatisfied.

“Please Hashiki, I have an early consultation in the morning. Could I get you a class of water to help calm your body down?” Hamisi walked away into the kitchen.

Hashiki remembered she had some sage and frankincense sticks. Her Grandma told her it wadded off evil spirits and banished negative energies. She lit a few sticks and burnt them at the corners of her bedroom. When Hamisi returned, the air eddied with the swirl of incense.

“I see you found yourself a soothing remedy” Hamisi smiled. “It does remind me of Grandma. I can’t wait to be back home this summer.”

“Could you please stay with me awhile,” Hashiki asked her sister, pulling her into the bed. Hamisi watched as her sister’s eyes flickered. She rolled the covers over Hashiki.

With a stretch and a yawn Hamisi fell asleep snuggled right into Hashiki. She was always the big spoon, either of her sisters were usually the little spoon. Falling asleep in her big sister’s arms was Hashiki’s safe place, her haven.