1 AM in the morning. Casper wakes up to find Cornelia; his wife is not asleep beside him. He hears faint unfamiliar voices downstairs. He gets up, walks down the stairway. His wife is in the kitchen arranging glasses on a tray. The scent of freshly brewed coffee permeates the air.
On seeing Casper, Cornelia promptly says, “I am glad you are awake. Come, dear, let me present you to my friends. They are so eager to meet you!” She leads him to the hall where her friends are seated on the sofa.
Casper is shocked to see them. His wife’s friends look rather odd, disturbing, dangerous even. With mangy moth-eaten hair and flesh that appears to ooze from their bones, he has never seen anybody so grotesque. They smile flashing scary rows of brilliant canine denticulation.
They do not say a word in greeting. Instead, they rise from their seats, drawing closer to him. Casper shudders to see them advance with their mouths half-open, a gel-like liquid dribbling from the corners. He turns to his wife, but she is not there. She is at the kitchen door holding the slaver with the hot java. Casper wants to run, hide, escape somewhere but he is paralyzed with terror.
The lights in the room quiver, the way Casper’s limbs are trembling. Cornelia’s friends are already so near he can smell the obscure unaccountable odor emanating from their bodies. He endures the ravenous touch of their frigid hands as they grope and paw his powerless palsied body. Then the lights go out. The night sweeps into the rooms again.
Next morning Cornelia wakes up alone in bed. A gentle rain falls from a gloomy sky, a dense fog drifts by the windows. Cornelia wonders where Casper is, she does not remember the events of the night.
In her diary on the desk is a perplexing entry. “They are here, my friends. They must be so starved, we will feast on him.” She neither understands nor recalls those lines she wrote last night. She saunters through the house looking for Casper but does not find him anywhere. She goes outside, sits on the porch, starts crying uncontrollably.
Two hours later, the police arrive. Their search does not reveal anything. Their investigation is not successful in finding Casper or the cause of his disappearance. They do not have reason to suspect Cornelia. Her history files do not contain anything except that she suffers from a rare form of parasomnia named somnambulism. They regard it as one of those unsolved mysteries and close the case.
A few days later Cornelia is found walking alone at midnight in the local cemetery. When the police accost her, she appears severely distraught. She does not know who or where she is. They try to escort her, but she resists. As she is taken away, she begins to weep and keeps saying, “My friends, my friends, I want to be with my friends.”
An occasional writer but a regular thinker, Beryl sometimes fiddles in speculative fiction. He sees both humour and tragedy in everyday events and is extremely concerned with the fate of other creatures trapped in the monstrous march of 21st-century human civilization.