The In Between

Audrey knew it was fucked up to be both scared of and intrigued by the demon. It slipped out of the shadows of her bedroom like ink spilling onto the page, the darkness following as It crept closer towards her. It, too, seemed intrigued by her, though she wasn’t sure why. Perhaps It had had enough of non-believers, of sitting and waiting to be heard—acknowledged. Recoiled from.

The corner, the night, the endless waiting—it could be suffocating for a demon, too. Boring, even.

As It inched closer to her bed, Audrey counted the glinting teeth exposed by a conniving smile. Its tongue slipped over each sharp point like It was counting along with her. It placed a sinewy finger by Audrey’s feet and dragged it along the edge of her bed, a sharp nail leaving a hairline tear in the fitted sheet like a River Styx being carved alongside the length of her body until a tributary of torn fabric ended at the round of her shoulder.

Audrey flinched, or at least she tried to. She tried to flex her fingers, but they remained planted on the bed. She wanted to open her mouth, to ask the demon how It found her. Or better yet why. But her tongue lay limp and heavy, and she noticed for the first time just how much it filled her mouth. She felt herself gag at the weight of it.

“Auuuuuudreyyy,” It taunted her, Its face inches away, Its teeth nipping at the thin air between them, the elongated syllables of her name like the whistling air seeping out of a balloon—piercing and slow.

Audrey’s heart rate should’ve indicated fear. Instead, she felt herself grow intoxicatedly excited. This couldn’t be real, she thought to herself, so what’s the harm? Her eyes, the only thing she could control, trailed the demon’s fluid movements. It stretched across her belly and straddled her, Its knees planted firmly on either side of the mattress, caging her like a bridge over water.

She had read about night terrors. She knew of the hag that sat hunched in corners before settling on the chest like an oversized paper weight. But this demon? Tall with broad yet stooped shoulders and pointed ears? With eyes that glowed like marbles catching the streetlight outside; pupils two pinpricks of blackened sky? It wasn’t handsome, but it wasn’t menacing either. Not entirely, anyway. Audrey always had a thing for sturdy silhouettes. She thought that on a different spatial plane, It could’ve been an Olympic swimmer.

Its groin ground into her and Audrey felt herself melt into the wrinkled sheets, a pool of warmth churning inside her belly, spreading down to her legs. The medieval church would have had thoughts about this, would have enacted rituals. She would’ve been tied to a stake or thrown into a lake with a rock shackled around her ankles.

The demon flicked Its tongue towards her nose like a serpent sniffing the air and laughed. Audrey smelled sour milk.

It held one pointed nail against her throat, a tickle of a threat that It could end her. It wanted Audrey to be scared. She knew this slow burn of an approach all too well. She thought of her husband before he left her. Same stooped shoulders; same stale breath after beers with the boys, his body’s weight the same as the demon’s.

Her eyes flicked from one side of the room to the other, arms pinned to her sides, her thoughts running rogue. Much like in the waking world, she conflated hurt for passion—manipulation for cleverness. She wanted so much to move any part of her body, to show agency in the matter. She wanted so much to be disgusted by this late-night violation.

She willed the demon to make her bleed, to cut her open like It was already positioned to do. The fact that It held all the power to snuff her out but hadn’t yet intrigued Audrey all the more. She reminded herself that this management of power wasn’t admirable. The demon smiled at her, licked Its paper-thin lips as if It read her mind. It pressed Its nail deeper against her quickened pulse, testing her limits, urging her to scream. They could’ve been standing in this face-off for either minutes or the entirety of the night. Audrey wasn’t sure.

She mustered a lopsided smile and waited for the demon to prove Itself real; waited for herself to wake up, for the REM cycle to kick in, for the hallucination to fade. She focused on her toes and imagined wriggling them, put all her effort into each digit, her smile never wavering, her very real body countering the demon’s—a coagulation of her projected fears and shameful turn-ons. Daylight Audrey knew this approach to survival intimately, and she had to be in there somewhere, her consciousness buried deep inside Midnight Audrey.

When the demon squeezed at her throat, Its nails cut into the soft curves of her neck, and all she could do was take it, knowing the sky would soon lighten. But the fear of suffocation slowly dragged Audrey from the depths of the encounter. She thought of her husband pawing at her throughout so many nights, her attempts to rebuke him useless. Her eyes traced the intimidating outline of the demon and thought she saw her husband’s cowlick stand up on one side. Audrey closed her eyes and focused on the smallest parts of her body, remembering what movement felt like.

She broke a hand free from paralysis just as the demon was about to crawl inside her mouth and fill her with the oil thick darkness of stinging memories long forgotten, the stale milk smell now rancid. Audrey placed her own perfectly manicured fingers against the demon’s throat and squeezed back.

Nikoletta Gjoni

Nikoletta Gjoni is a writer living outside of Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared in the 2023 Rising Stars London Independent Story Prize anthology and has been previously nominated for the PEN/Robert J. Dau prize, Best of the Net, and Best Microfiction. She is currently at work on her first novel. View Gjoni's publications at or follow her on Twitter @NikiGjoni.


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