I don’t sleep. It’s not that I can’t, it’s just that I won’t. And it’s because of her. The monster that lives in my dreams. The witch from the realm between life and death. At least that’s what she told me during our first time together.
A few weeks ago, I’d seen her twice and I was fine with not seeing her again. So, I’d stay up playing video games and watching YouTube videos when my parents thought I was asleep.
But pop and coffee can only take you so far. I’d doze at school. She’s never visited me there. But boy, did my teachers bitch and moan to Mom and Dad about my naps.
So, one day when I went to get coffee before preparing for school, Mom, surprisingly, was frying bacon and drinking orange juice.
She snatched the coffee pot before I could grasp the handle. “I’ll get that, honey. Have a seat.”
“Okay.” I sat at the kitchen table. I was dreary and my eyelids were heavy. But I pinched my thigh and shook the spell away.
Mom sat a glass of water in front of me.
“Vince, honey, me and Dad know you haven’t been sleeping. Why?”
I sipped my water. “I do sleep.”
“Okay,” she huffed. “Well, I don’t need you to be honest about it. I’m staying home with you today to make sure you get some sleep.
“Unofficial snow day?” I chuckled.
She smirked at me and then looked down at her imaginary watch. “Those pills should be settling in soon.”
I froze, “Huh?”
“Gotcha.” She smiled.
I scoffed. “Jesus, Mom.”
“Ow, shut up. Now, come on. Up to bed you go. I’ll let you try the natural way.”
I laughed and marched to my room. I planned to lock the door and play some games with my headphones on. No way she’d know I wasn’t sleeping.
I powered up the game console and flopped down on my bed. A green box flashed across the screen.
An update, great. Hmm. Better now than never, I guess.
I agreed to the terms and let the process begin. There was about half an hour left.
I lay back, gaping at the ceiling. I figured I’d rise from my fake nap around lunch. Then I’d go see if Dougie and Tony wanted to skip at the arcade.
I hopped up to my feet and darted to the door. I unlocked and twisted the knob. Peering down the stairs, I saw Mom backing up towards the bottom of the staircase and Dougie’s dad was aiming a twelve-gauge shotgun at her.
“Take it easy, Herman. I didn’t want it to end either, but he knew. I can’t let him take my son away.”
Herman peered up the staircase and right at me. I fumbled back into a spider-walk and climbed away from the door.
The thunderous clamor shook the house. My heart beat out my chest and my breath got heavy. I wanted to cry out for Mom, but I was stomped by the steps approaching my room.
A clasp to my shoulder blade made me glance over. Lesions from bony fingers bled onto my robe. The human-like nails were browned and decayed.
I peered up at the hand’s owner and shrilled. Its skin was stripped from its skull where a nose and lips used to be. There was nothing but oozy, pulsating muscle tissue. Its tongue dangled out from where a chin and jaw were once attached. Its five top teeth were rusted and jagged and its skin was painted in thick scarlet splotches. Its hairline receded past its ears and stringy white hair glowed in the morning sun.
It snatched me from the floor by my neck and hoisted me before it. Its menacing laugh made the walls tremble. Blood from its mouth spritzed my face. My legs kicked and my hands slid from its slimy arms while I tried to sever all contact. Grunting, I tried to find the words to scream but the distance between the monster and myself started to shorten.
My body jerked and my face drowned in tears as the thing laughed and choked up blood.
I never stayed around in the dream world to find out what would happen if I let one of her monsters eat me. And it didn’t seem like a good idea to find out then.
So I closed my eyes.
Wake up, Vince! Wake up, please!
My eyes jutted open. Then, I shut them. My limbs were numb and heavy. My breath went icy and the pit of my stomach trembled. The suffocating grip had moved from neck to my chest. My mind screamed and my eyelids begged to snap open.
But I didn’t want to look.
“Vince,” she hissed.
My lips quivered as the frost from her fishy breath attacked my nose, eyelids, and cheeks. I couldn’t quiver.
“Vinccccceeee, open your eyes,” her low groan dragged every word.
If I could speak, I probably wouldn’t say anything anyway. My heart pounding against my rib cage. My eyelids fluttered. I needed to move. I needed to get out of there. But my muscles laid dormant.
“Vince.” Her deep voice shook the hairs on my skin and the heat from her body intensified, singeing my flesh.
“Look at me, Vince.” I cringed as the smell of rotten flesh flood my senses.
Then something thick and wet pelted my cheek. It felt like an icy raindrop. I braced myself into the mattress the best I could in my mind. But I knew it wouldn’t do any good. My muscles were a pile of limp meat.
“Vince! Open your eyes or I’ll eat your soul,” she shrieked. A harmony of high pitch and bass voices rattled the room. Still, I could only tear up. I could only imagine rolling off the bed and sprinting for the door.
But I didn’t budge.
My eyes jutted open.
She hovered about a foot above me. She’d never been that close before. Her snout was that of a lizard, flat with far apart nostrils. Her eyes were dark and bulged from her oblong skull. Her skin was rusted and cracked, much like the bark of an oak tree. Her raven hair sprawled and floated outward. And, like the monster from my dream, lacerations and craters riddled the cracks in her face. Their fluids leaked onto my body. I tried to look away, but once she caught my gaze, she squeezed.
Her slit that stretched from cheek to cheek opened, showing her jagged, bloody mouth full of crooked, mangled bones.
She reached down and ran her icy, prickly hands down the side of my face. I shrunk and my belly fluttered. My mind sobbed. I just lay there, grimacing at her gentle touch. Staring into my eyes with those paralyzed orbs, she studied me.
Then, she sighed. Her breath smelled like the dead raccoon Dougie and I had found the other day.
“I’ll see you again,” her sick melody made my gut wrench.
She lifted her fingers and then, with one swipe, clawed my face.
I squealed as flesh tore from my jaw. My face stung in a jolt of crippling spasms. A burst of blood spewed across the wall and coated my eyes in crimson.
Screaming, I sat up, and she was gone.
Pawing at my face and gaping at the walls, I saw everything was normal. No blood, no stench, just normal.
“Sweetie!” Mom banged on the door until I let her in. She cradled me in her arms and I whimpered like a wuss.
Mom chalked it up to hyper imagination because of the video games, coffee and lack of sleep. But I knew that wasn’t true.
It was Her. The demon who haunts my dreams. The witch who lusts for my soul. She taunts me but she’s never touched me, let alone slap the paralysis out of me.
She was getting stronger.
I’d managed to dodge sleep behind Mom and Dad’s back for a few days. But I did fall asleep in class, and she was there, staring at me from Dougie’s seat. Sometimes, I’d see her in my daydreams, blending in with my classmates and teachers. Watching and waiting for me to fall…asleep.