Nightmare

Sam Perry

          The last rays of the sun illuminated each drop of water that fell from the leaky faucet before each fell into the full bowl below, displacing a proportional amount into the air to remind us of the perspective of fish. The house had known singing earlier in the evening, but now family and all were in bed, the woodstove smoke incensing the dreams of man and woman. The mountain air was heavy as eyelids.

          Walking on a pastel path where mountains sculpted like lazy sandcastles by the hand of some cruel God. Purple majesty in the hazy distance. No scent or taste. Sound was only from far away or within a tin box, except for a low moan from further down the path, not suffering but making itself aware. Particles pushed against another from wing of butterfly or fish fin or scream is the only mark we make. Pressure is the only reality in this or the other world.

          Now the purple sky grew darker. Rain fell around, but never on the subject. Drip of water in puddles demanding. One such puddle, appearing like tar took up the path. The moaning was within it. Contours of hands and faces pushed against the surface.

          Now a baby cried. The setting was a fountain. The baby reaching for a copper coin. Almost audible “NO”.

          Reaching in, not feeling the wet, grasping by whatever there was, a heave. A hand reached for the ankle and grabbed it. Infinite cackling faces of women and demons. Horse teeth and eyes of fire and without mercy. Falling backwards, down a well. Manhole cover. Spiders in the dark.

          He landed in the bed, sweating next to her. The faces and hands from the mud now pressing the walls and ceiling. The moan was outside and inside. A child with backwards feet walked too quickly around the room. It climbed on the bed. It sat on his chest. It had not face or eyes at all. For the next minute or hour it moved its face closer to his. When his eyes met its perfect darkness it stopped moving. He saw heads of animals, women screaming, his family slaughtered hundreds of ways. He saw his own death. All the darkness of the human race collected in his breast like a tumor and lysed into the vision of bleeding eyes and insects. The tar like puddle from the original dream was now his bed. The child was gone. He could move his head to look at his wife. She was sinking. She wasn’t screaming, comfortable with or without dreams. A silhouette with a cartoon smile had his hands on her chest and she was sinking in the mud. He tried to move his hand, but they were shackled. Children’s hands were holding his clothes and dragging him down too. He managed to reach out and touch her. At once, everything stopped. He sighed and held her hand tightly.

          She woke with a scream. The room was filled with mirrored spheres. In every one, reflected and reflected again mercilessly, infinitely, she saw her face in stages of decomposition until a skull occupied her own mind. The spheres started moving, flung by a thousand unseen hands. They flashed in and out of existence, covered and coveted by darkness at irregular intervals. They melted in midair and like magnetic quicksilver moved to her skin, covering it, reaching thoughtlessly for her core. The metal crept through every orifice. She couldn’t move but felt the weight within and without, pulling her down. Her eyes were covered too, and some light fiendishly illuminated the reflection of her soul, changing moment to moment but remaining in her mind, each horrible image. A fat girl reached for the sides of her head with arms too long, became smoke, pulled her body in every direction at once, scattered like stardust. She woke with a scream. Her husband was holding her hand, awake and likewise terrified. They said nothing, but held each other. They were terrified when seeing the dark room, faces and shadows of faces lurked in every corner, but when they closed their eyes, what was seen and unseen also became unbearable. All either could stand to see was the other.

          Slowly, both faces changed in perception. She watched his eyes sink in his head, becoming black beads beneath a forehead with too many creases, watched his nose turn upwards and grow into a pig’s snout, then turn inside out with his frown wider than a man’s and reveal the muscle and fat beneath his visage, covered in maggots, cankers and teeth.

          He watched her body become a mist, felt her hand dissipate from his until there was only the head, disfigured into a pile of laundry that mumbled backwards human speech. Then her body reappeared, a naked mass of rotting food, consumed by something that writhed in the darkness beneath. His hand was full of dirt and he felt some muscular invertebrate move within the substance. He closed his eyes.

          He was walking in the light of the moon. The path was a well worn ribbon of fertile soil through the uncut rustling grass. An oak tree was ahead, bare though the air held the breeze of a summer evening. Under the oak, he saw a pale woman with black hair. As he got closer, he saw she was wearing a sheer linen gown. He heard music and wind. A fiddle and a singing voice played something both major and minor, a waltz and poetic but indistinguishable lyrics. He reached the woman.

          “This was a hanging tree.”

          She said your name. “They tried to burn it down after. They couldn’t. It’s an evil place.”

          “I think it’s nice.”

          “Do you know this song?”

          “I’ve heard it.”

          “Do you sing?”

          “I carry a tune.”

          “A tune is heavy.”

          “I’m strong.”

          “Yes.” She walked toward him, grabbed his arm, leaned her whole body on to him. “Let’s walk.”

          “I don’t know the way.”

          “I do.”

          They walked into the tall grass.

          “You’re barefoot.”

          “So are you.”

          “Aren’t we vulnerable?”

          “Aren’t we always? The darkness. We need the hanging tree. Who should we hang?”

          “No one.”

          “Not even you?”

          “Why would you hang me?” The words echoed through the night.

          “Old time’s sake.” They reached a grave. It said his name. She unlaced her gown and started kissing him, passionately, hungrily, all the lust and power of a human soul turned to his satisfaction. He responded in kind, and as they grew closer they also descended into the grave and he felt his flesh rot and become soil, and her body become soil, and the call of a raven, and a root growing between their former flesh.

          Then he was laying in a grave, and the rectangle of light at the top grew larger until he was laying on the bed again, his wife beside him. Now it was light in the room and the myriad faces from the constant play of the other world had returned to their stage facing away from the human audience. He kissed his wife on the temple. The Light filled the room with the scent of cotton and flowers. Night would come again though, and there is no escape form the mind in darkness. Demons haunt the human soul.

Spring, 2019 Issue

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