There it was again. It was a scratching noise that was coming from the ceiling of my room, although there didn’t seem to be a ceiling but more of an empty space that reached up for many feet before ending in what looked like the underside of a metal barn roof. I stood up and looked around at the book shelves that lined my bedroom walls and the clothes and photos that were among my belongings. Everything looked right but something felt wrong.
“Dayne? Wake up.” I said to the sleeping form on the other side of the bed I had just woken in. “Dayne? Something weird is going on…”
I was interrupted by the noise, this time, coming from the window directly beside me. I looked out and saw a figure moving away from the window; a figure that was much too tall and far too thin to be real. I ran to the kitchen to follow its progression but by the time i had peeled the blinds back enough to peel through it was gone. Completely gone. But then, the noise came again, this time from inside the fridge.
“This isn’t right.” I told myself, my mind reeling with inconsistencies I couldn’t quite place.
I opened the fridge quickly and suddenly, hoping to gain an edge through the element of surprise but it was me who ended up screaming, arms pinwheeling as I tripped over my own feet while trying to propel myself backwards and away. The light was blinding but the danger was absolutely clear. I was going to die.
I ran to the door and threw it open, trying to launch myself out onto the front porch but something invisible blocked my way. It felt like jello, clear, wobbly and dense, but it burned like acid on my skin. I stepped back, surprised, and completely forgetting about the immenent danger coming from my refrigerator, I was consumed by a claustrophobic fear of not being able to leave.
“Dayne!” I yelled. “Something really messed up is going on!” But there was no reply.
I reached out past the threshold of the door again and felt my pointed finger sink into the jelly-like air and watched as my skin began to bubble and peel back from the bone. There was pain but I was too consumed by fascination to stop. I stuck my face out through the door, my hands braced on the door frame to provide force, and the acid-air began to dissolve the skin there too. I pulled back and tried to lick my lips but found them gone. I ran back to the bedroom to try to wake Dayne again, but the bed was empty when I got there.
“This isn’t right this isn’t right this isn’t right” I chanted in my head and then looked down to see that my skin was still bubbling and burning, now all the way down my body to my belly.
I knew I was going to die and was suddenly so sad that they were going to find me that way, in such a state. I felt my heart slow.
Something touched my leg and I woke. Opened my eyes and looked around, fully awake immediately and my hands flew to my face. I felt skin there and knew it had just been a dream. I looked beside me and Dayne was not there, which wasn’t immediately concerning because he often does not sleep with me. I stretched, stood and went to the bathroom to pee. Something felt odd again but nightmares often leave residual feelings floating through me, particularly in the first moments upon waking, so I didn’t pay the creeping feeling much mind.
“Morning Daisy.” I smiled down at my little cat who was meowing at me like she does every morning in greeting.
I sat on the floor and rubbed her little belly as she rolled around adorably, purring and mashing her head against my palm. I yawned and told her I loved her and was half way back to my feet when I was struck frozen by a familiar noise.
“Oh my god not again” I said to no one, my stomach sinking at the thought.
I stood and spun in a circle, looking for the danger. I wasn’t awake. I must not be awake. I moved to the front door and threw it open, warily testing the air this time before I was scalded by invisible acid. My toe, offered gingerly across the threshold was not injured. My foot followed unscathed and I breathed a sigh of relief and stepped through the door.
“Hey someone just drove off in your car.” Dayne called across the property from the garage.
“What? Who?” I asked.
“Don’t know.” Was his answer. “He left that little mini with the top down though. Keys are inside.” He turned back to what he was doing.
I went to the little car parked cockeyed in the spot my car usually sits. The keys were inside, as Dayne had said, so I jumped in and started it and drove off, following the fresh tire tracks left by my car driven off moments before. The tracks lead me to a quiet rural road and seemed to head off into a field of overripe crops. I followed in the mini, finding the little car difficult to handle on the slick mud of the field. Soon though, I saw my car up ahead being driven by that strange figure, although it seemed impossible that he even fit into the drivers seat. I swerved and slipped and slopped the little mini through the field, racing to catch up to my car but the faster I went the more the tall, overgrown crops seemed to get inside the open top of the mini and they began slapping against my skin. The leaves and stalks were razor sharp so each slap quickly turned to slashes and cuts on my face, arms and chest. Blood began to drip down my face and get into my eyes and i began to lose control of the car.
“It’s too late for you, girlie.” A disjointed voice with a strange accent whispered directly into my ear, making me panic and leap out of the moving mini.
My feet hit the ground and I tumbled. I felt the mud below me start to liquefy and even though my eyes were blinded by blood and dirt, I could see it start to swirl like water draining in a bathtub. I reacted; started to grab onto the plants around me, their razor leaves slicing my hands open as I did. The blood made me lose my grip and I struggled to hold on through the pain as the ground turned to quick sand and began to pull me in. I fought as hard as I could but soon my legs were pulled into the ground and paralyzed; useless. My torso followed and from there it was quick. The mud strangled my chest like a boa constrictor and each breath i exhaled became shallower as the mud sucked to my body tighter and tighter. Soon my hands and arms were gone and I could no longer wipe the mess from my eyes. Through a tiny crack in the red glaze I could see the figure standing over me then, arms crossed, a crooked smile on its non-face.
“Fuck you.” I spat as the mud came up and filled my nose and mouth.
I could no longer breathe and my life became a countdown in seconds before I was gone. A dizzy vertigo swallowed my thoughts as I spun away from that place.
And then I gasped and woke, sitting up straight in my bed, Dayne sleeping beside me. Something was different about the light this time though and I found myself less able to believe I was awake. The light was yellow and warm. I could hear Colts iPad playing from his room and birds singing in the morning light. I was really awake this time, in my actual room in my actual home.
“Don’t fall asleep. Sit up. Get up. Wake up!” I told myself as I began to drift again. I knew I was going before I had a chance to stop the descent.
And then I woke. The light was different. The bookshelves were back and the windows were in new places. I looked up and saw the gap again, the way up high metal roof and the noise again; that scratching sound that was now coming from under my bed. Dayne was nowhere to be found. I needed him to wake me.
“Please Dayne! I need you to wake me up!” I yelled as loud as I could.
I knew it was wrong this time. The light was wrong. Dayne had been right beside me. I needed to get back there before I died again. I called again and again until I was sure the words were making it all the way to the place where he was sleeping beside me.
I woke. I woke to the yellow light and the sound of the iPad and knew I was safe. I sat up, totally unwilling to go back there.
I blinked and opened my eyes again and, damn it! Bookshelves and windows and scratching noises from my closet; from the roof; from my bed; from the inside of my head.
I got up. I went to the door. I tested the invisible force for acid, nothing happened. I went outside to the parking area and my car was there, locked and silent. I went to the garage to find Dayne but he wasn’t there. There was no mini with its top down. I went back inside, opened the fridge and it was empty. I turned and ran the water in the sink, half expecting some horror movie bloodbath but the water ran clear.
“Where are you, you fucker?” I questioned the lack of danger.
I felt eyes on me and spun, ready to face what was coming. It was Dayne.
“What are you doing? It’s the middle of the night Grainne.”
It was not…I had just been outside in the full sun. I almost answered back but thought to check first. The window was covered so I reached out and pulled the curtain back. Another blind was under the first so I pulled that one back too and found a third. Blind after curtain after blind I soon had a heavy handful of window coverings in my hand but had not yet seen outside.
“Did you put these here?” I asked Dayne.
There was no answer. I turned to look at him but he was gone and a dark burn mark was left on the floor where he had been standing. I got the cleaning solutions out from under the sink and knelt to scrub the stain when I caught a glimpse of something moving under the stove. A mouse, I reasoned as the gap was only an inch tall. I lay down on the floor and peered under the stove and was startled to see two ice blue eyes glaring back at me.
“What the hell?!” Was my reaction.
The blue eyes blink and filled with tears.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you” I offered, feeling guilty. “How did you get under there?”
The eyes blinked and looked to the left. Mine followed and I was startled by a figure looming over me. The figure knelt beside my body and lowered its head to mine. A long, green tongue snaked from its mouth and it locked my face, leaving a slimy, rancid trail behind. I screamed.
Woke. Yellow light, white light, bookshelves, odd patterns in the walls. Where are the windows? I looked, stood, pulled back single blinds and saw the sun.
I knew it was wrong. I knew it was going to happen again. I sat on the floor just in front of the bed, crossed my leg and cried. I called out for Dayne, screamed his name and begged him to come pull me out of that place. Over and over I yelled and screamed and cried so hard I couldn’t breathe until a final wave of vertigo washed over me and opened my eyes to the right room. This time I got up and went to the bathroom to splash cold water on my face. Standing at the sink, trembling and nauseous I picked up a pair of scissors that I had used to cut my hair recently.
‘If you cut your fingers off you will know for sure which side you’re on.’ I heard myself say.
Colt came stumbling into the bathroom then, bleary eyed and half awake.
I put the scissors down but I’m still not entirely sure I’m awake.