By Paige Taylor

I lie awake in my bed, staring at the glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling. My friends always say it’s childish, ridiculous to have stars on my ceiling when I’m 20 years old, but I don’t really listen. I like the way they glow there, and I like to imagine a starry night sky above my head. 

     I’m not sure why I’m awake, until I remember. The alarm had blared through the early morning silence, until I slammed my fist down on “OFF”. But the strange thing was, I don’t remember turning my alarm on for 7:06 in the morning. I had just gotten home a few hours ago from a long shift, and I hadn’t expected to wake up until at least a couple hours later. 

     I try to go back to sleep, rolling over and immersing myself in sheets. It doesn’t work. I groan staring at the stars. Maybe if I try counting them, like little children do as they count sheep. I sigh. One, two, three…..Huh. That’s strange. When I stuck the stars up there when I first moved here, the box had said twenty. Now, there’s only thirteen. “Oh, a scary number!” My friend Lucy would joke. I roll my eyes. She was so ridiculous sometimes. 

     I count them again. One, two, three…Wait, what? I only count twelve this time. I must be really tired. Wait, a minute. I stare at the ceiling in shock. One by one, the little glow-in-the-dark stars go out, their bright flames being extinguished. I stare at the last one, a faint glow, until it goes out. I’m left in total darkness. 

     “This is a strange nightmare,” I say aloud, hoping that it would come true. But it doesn’t. I shuffle over towards the light switch, not sure if I want to see what happens next. The light turns on effortlessly, though, and I sigh in relief. Maybe those stars were past their due date. I shrug and go back to my bed. Halfway, though, I stop. I stare into my mirror. I’m my usual self; groggy, rings around my eyes from sleepless nights and long shifts. But something’s…different. My usual blue eyes look…purple. Something catches my eye behind me. I stare into the mirror and my mouth drops open. 

     “Hi, there!” She giggles. Her blood red cape matches the red in her eyes. I have no idea how she got here. She seemed to just… materialize. “Sorry your stars went out. I hope you don’t go out too.” She starts dancing around me in circles. I spin around, but I’m all alone. I turn back to the mirror, confused. I gasp. She’s holding a knife. “Ring around the Rosie……” She still circles me. I turn around again, and she’s nowhere to be seen. I turn back to the mirror, and scream. The knife is in my chest. 

I understand now why my alarm went off. The time wasn’t 7:06. It was 6:66.