I see my toes peeking over the edge of a perfect, circular hole in the ground. There’s nothing in the hole but pitch darkness in screeching contrast with the smooth beige of the ground I’m standing on. Everything is quiet. I am not here to fall in.
Faint scratching heightens in volume until the distorted light in this world illuminates a pulsating mass of beige flesh sliding up the smooth, vertical wall of the hole—sliding up closer and closer to my toes. I do not fear it.
An arm shoots forth from the throbbing, ever-shifting amalgamation of what appeared to be human appendages. It reaches for the edge of the hole. It wants to get out. The fingers scrabble pitifully for purchase, but the walls are smooth and uncompromising. In desperation, the hand digs its fingernails into the wall, losing them as the bulk of the creature’s mass begins to slide back into the darkness of the hole. With a shudder, the body of limbs lurches upward again, a new arm shooting out, still searching in vain for the edge of the hole. I watch coldly.
Five times it does this. Five times the hands leave a trail of blood on the wall as the body slides back down.
On the sixth try, I lean down and wrap my hands around the wrist of its latest arm, easily pulling the entire amorphous creature out of the hole and laying it down on the ground beside me. I didn’t help out of pity or kindness.
A massive slit appears on the thickest part of the creature’s body, the curvature of lips slowly forming around the slit. It seems to face me, and the mouth opens to reveal pointed, uniform teeth, lips curving in a way that indicated sounds would soon follow. Still, I do not fear it.
My mother abruptly wakes me up for school.
I haven’t seen that dream for 11 years. But I remember it every night.
Because I fear dying among strangers, I didn’t enroll in summer courses at my university. I’m home for the summer, as usual, resigned to the irrationality of knowing that creature will eventually come for me. A flicker of defiance is all that sustains me. In a strange twist of a counter curse, I avoid happiness, believing the sacrifice of that crucial emotion would stave off the inevitable. But I was wrong.
Lately, there have been missing person reports in the news. People just disappear without a trace, vanish without any identifiable motive. Four gone in just a week, all in my neighborhood. The police are neck-deep in a city-wide manhunt, warning residents of my neighborhood in particular to be extremely careful of any suspicious people. I remember the door-to-door visit coming as a surprise in the evening during family dinner and the silence afterwards while the TV blared in the background. No one was watching it.
No one knows about that dream but me. Without reason or evidence, I know it’s coming for me. Still, I do not fear it.
Five gone, one for each of its damaged hands. My turn’s next.
I don’t know the correct way to fear it. I’m a dead man walking, emotions in limbo. This has not changed in 11 years. The ticking of the wall clock has been impossibly loud for 11 years.
The night brings with it a primal fear. I don’t go out at night, ever. At most, I look at the darkened world outside through the false safety of a window. Tonight is a window night because sleeping is risky.
There is a tree in my house’s front yard that blossoms beautifully during the summer. Some small comfort for me to look at through the window. An arm slithers around the tree trunk. I freeze. Some primitive instinct tells me if I move now, I will die. The moonlight is distorted and even the air has stopped moving. There’s no light source in the sky and everything seems to reflect a silvery sheen of light. The shadows are pitch black. A frozen world of high contrast marred by the movement of that arm spiraling upward and around the tree trunk, twisting itself into a knot around one of the branches. I blink. I know that was a mistake.
All along the length of the arm, the flesh pulsates, rippling like liquid. Eyes, noses, mouths, and ears slowly form and solidify into faces. Different faces protrude from the arm to form whole heads attached by a spindly neck. Pairs of eyes search in different directions, mouths stretched tight in a hideous grin. One set of eyes lock on to mine. The mouth opens and the piercing shriek swivels the other heads around until all eyes are on me.
“No,” I whisper.
I hear faint scratching behind me getting louder. I feel hands on my head, my shoulders, my arms, more of them wrapping around me. The arm around the tree slowly uncoils itself and the last thing I see are the heads, eyes narrowed in glee, repeatedly mouthing a word I think might have been, “Free.”
Credit To – January