Ritter watched Chloe entering the library. She was a sweet thing; a blooming, innocent seventeen. Just what he liked.
She was a regular at the library, of course. That was why he had chosen it. A comfortable, safe place where her guard would be down.
Chloe walked up a long row of shelves, as though searching for something in particular. Ritter followed her, smiling slightly to himself as everything fell into place.
The girl stopped and so did Ritter. She set her backpack on the ground and knelt beside a lower shelf, selected a book, and let it fall open on her lap.
The instant she did, the lights of the library flashed out. Chloe yelped in surprise, looking about her. She now sat in a small pool of silvery moonlight spilling in from a high window.
The girl closed the book and got gingerly to her feet, looking about her.
“Hello?” she called.
Silence greeted her. There had been plenty of people in the library when she’d entered, but they seemed to have all disappeared.
Then she saw Ritter; a tall, angular figure in a long poncho, little more than a weirdly shaped shadow standing in the moonlight at the end of the row. She gasped and stepped hastily back.
“Who…who are you?” she asked. “What’s going on?”
She still dared to hope that he was someone who might help her.
But no one could help her now.
With a slow, even step, Ritter began to move toward her. Chloe panicked the moment she saw him coming and turned to run, but her feet became entangled in the straps of her bag and she fell with a scream. Frantically, she tried to work herself free….
And that is when she saw the axe.
Ritter held it up lightly as he walked, turning so that the moonlight caught the gleaming blade. Chloe’s eyes widened with terror, and she fought to free herself, but seemed to only grow more entangled.
“Help!” she screamed. “Someone help me!”
Ritter stood over her now. She looked up, shaking her head in numb disbelief as he raised the axe.
The axe descended. She screamed and raised her hand in a futile effort to shield herself….
And just like that, the library and everything in it, including Ritter’s own form, suddenly seemed to fall away, and the girl vanished, leaving nothing but a blazing residue of fear trailing out after Ritter as he was ejected.
Below him, Chloe’s mind swiftly receded, still pulsating with lingering terror as she returned to consciousness. Ritter hurriedly gathered up the precious emotional energy before it dissipated and made himself scarce. It wouldn’t do to get caught around here.
Most people in the mental world hated folk like him. Even other Dreams looked down on Nightmares. But after all, Ritter always said, an Idea’s gotta eat.