Nathalie Burel awoke from a deep sleep that night as suddenly as if someone had dumped a bucket of cold water on her head. There was a monster out in the dark...and not the monsters she was used to.
The light of the alarm clock that her youngest granddaughter had bought her at the school Christmas store was bathing her bedroom in an eerie green glow. The numbers read 4:08. They were large enough that she could see them even without her glasses. Little Maria was thoughtful that way. Nathalie, whom everyone from the priest at her parish to the bag boy at the grocery called MawMaw Nat, had an exacting schedule that she had kept to for forty-five years. She awoke in the morning at 5:00, every morning, without the help of the gifted clock.
MawMaw Nat did her best to survey the room, wondering what was different. Wondering what had come in from the swamp. Her cat, a mean old white tomcat she’d named Haint, was sitting on the small window sill, staring out into the darkness. His tail was twitching.
Nat sat up, her old bones and muscles creaking. If the cat was absent from his spot at the foot of the bed, and she was awake, then she it meant that the demons were up to something. She would move her morning routine up by roughly an hour and prepare to deal with it. It was getting harder and harder in her old age to stay one step in front of the swamp haunts, but the stakes were too high for her to do any less.
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