by Kris Green
Photogram by Claire Micallef
I woke up screaming. Incoherent, inconsolable. Something hit me in the stomach, hard, and I bit my tongue. The bedside lamp came on.
My wife, half sitting, scooted up next to me on her pile of pillows. It had been her elbow that knocked the breath out of me.
I nodded, still too winded to talk, blinking in the harsh light.
“What was it this time?” she sounded resigned. I don’t blame her.
“Uh thunk I bit muh hung,” I said. I had. I got up and switched on the bathroom light and spat red into the sink.
“Sorry,” she said, and slid back under the covers.
I rinsed my mouth out until my spit turned pink and the sharp pain in my mouth became a dull throb. I didn’t think I would sleep again that night, but you never know. It would have been a blessing if I hadn’t.
“Take some painkillers,” she called from the bedroom.
That sounded like good sense, so I did and got back into bed beside her.
She turned over and slid a leg over me.
“Sorry,” she repeated.
“Don’t be,” I said. “It was a stupid dream. They were talking to me again.”
“Yeah.” It was an old dream, and filled me with terror for reasons I couldn’t quantify. They weren’t particularly terrifying, these ten or so (sometimes more, sometimes fewer) faces, not attached to any bodies, just floating in darkness. Their skin was grey, or white. Sometimes one of them was African, at other times Chinese, or maybe Japanese, I guess, but their colouring was always the same; the faded grey of old meat. Their skin sagged too, not wrinkled, sagged. Like it was stitched together from old cuts of leather, over stretched and loose, but you could not see the seams.
“What did they want this time?”
“They said they wanted to see what I could see. They said they were sending an emissary, someone who could help them to see as I did.”
“Why did you scream this time?” She said.
“I felt-” I paused.
“What is it?”
“I felt as if I was being eaten.”
“Yeah. Like teeth were digging into me, big incisors slicing sideways against one another. The top set was dug into my chest, and I could feel the bottom set catch on the back of my hips. I couldn’t breathe, and then they began slicing through my skin.”
“How horrible,” she squeezed me with her arms, but stopped when she felt me shudder. “Sorry,” she said.
“It’s okay.” It was hard to get the words out, I had begun to shake.
“Can I switch the lights out?”
“Can we leave them on? Just for a bit,” I said.
She was asleep in seconds, and began to snore softly a few moments later. I lay back and tried not to think about the dream. They were always more than dreams to me, I can’t explain it. I had tried in the past to talk about it with my wife, but I knew the topic worried her, carrying as it did the stain of mental illness. The more emphatic I tried to be, the more disturbed I appeared, so more often than not I kept things to myself. That was until I’d begun waking in the night, screaming.
Every time it happened, and it had happened a few times now, I woke breathless, with the memory of physical pain clear in my mind. Once, I had run to the bathroom to vomit and found bruises on my leg where the thing in my dream had gripped me. I hadn’t told her that.
Slowly, I don’t know how long it took, but sleep began to steal over me. It sank into my limbs, weighed me down and threatened to bear me away.
Then I heard it.
A chittering noise. A sense that there was something in the room with us. I tried to turn my head, to make a noise, but I couldn’t. There was a weight on my feet, then on my chest. Then a delicate whisker brushing tickled my chin.
It was something like a cockroach, but with a segmented back, like a pill bug. It was about three inches across, the colour of shit, and an oily sheen licked its shell.
I practically shook with the inability to move or make a sound. I tried to open my mouth, I was willing it to fall into my mouth so I could crush it in my teeth. Anything but what I was afraid it would do.
It marched across my face, unimpeded, and sank its mandibles into my right eye.
The pain was intense. I felt every sensation of tugging and tearing. Wetness ran down my cheek. The thing bore down into my skull, its body cold and hard, displacing the jelly in my eye as it pulled out gobbets of it to devour with a smacking, clicking noise.
When I felt my socket must be vacant, the thing dragged its body into the gap, rolling itself up as it went. A white hot pain shot through my head and I woke again, screaming.
“Twice in one night?”
I ran to the bathroom and washed my face and stared at myself in the mirror.
One eye green, one eye dull and brown. The brown eye stared back at me, cold and hard in my head.
“What was it this time?” she called sleepily from the bed.
“Nothing,” I said. “Nothing.”
Kris Green was born, got a bit older and continued living. He hasn’t died yet. Sometimes he writes stories. He has written three novels you will never read. One day he hopes to get a bit older, and then die.