It was the shuffling of their robes that woke him.

Whatever the intruders were, they weren’t quiet.

Connor’s eyes shot open and he pushed himself into the headboard.

There were three figures looming at the end of his bed. They wore red robes, with shadows instead of faces. The middle one held a birthday cake. Several lit candles dripped wax onto the icing.

Connor smashed his eyes shut. “It’s just a dream, it’s just a dream, it’s just a dream,” he whispered.

“It’s not,” the three figures said in one wheezing voice.

He eased open his eyes.

“This is to commemorate your birthday,” the three figures said, pushing the cake toward him.

Connor pulled his comforter up to his nose.

“There will be quite the surprise when all the candles are blown out. Do you want to know what will happen?” the figures asked with a smile.

He couldn’t see their smiles, but he felt them, icy and slimy. He did not want to know what happened when the candles went out.

“It’s not my birthday,” Connor whispered. “Not for another week.” It was all he could think to say.

The three figures conferred, then stared at him in a smothering silence.

“Well then,” they whispered. “We will have to wait.”

The three lowered themselves to the floor. They sat there, three shadows draped in red, watching and waiting. Together, they let out a long, creaking sigh. It was enough to extinguish one of the candles.

“Oops,” they smiled.