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once a nightmare

A story written by Carlisle Sargent.

 

ONCE A NIGHtMARE

Yesterday night,

I caught the pads of my fingers on a million slicing edges before I knew it was my skin. I woke up cold. Sweating. Behind my knees, inside my elbows, in the crease of my eyelids, I heard, I swear, I heard the nervous breath of a monster. Some great and terrible thing, unholy, unbroken, waiting for his chance to grab hold of my body left peeling. Trashy white betraying skin, ragged broken bumpy skin, lying dirty boring skin. Dramatic skin. I molded into a clay pot, like the ones I used to set carefully into heated kilns to bake away the mistakes and the brushstrokes and I froze. Not a monster, but something else. An ache, so heavy it had its own shadow. It sat, this weight, it sat next to me and touched my hair and put its finger into my chest and dug out gold with a dull nail. It locked the last lock, shut the only book, and let all the dust sneeze sporadic. It turned off the light. My light, the one she promised never to let go out. 

My body spun itself into a right angle, an unnatural degree, and it began to condense. But the cracks across my skin, they widened like ocean gaps. The grip on my wrists loosened into prayers, and the apology braids of my tumbling hair became finally, frighteningly still. The door that I opened and the room that I stepped inside were both bare, painted white, wooden and inviting. My incapable feet slid slowly across creaking planks and dead bugs and dead pain, towards the center. There it stood, there he was: sullen and aggregate. Terrible too, in his own way. I prayed for a kick in the teeth. For damp clothes and a slow crawl through a fast forest. No. I got a nightmare and I got an echoing hallway and I finally got up. He, the being, the weight, was only a cloud of my breath, a trick to tangle my copper wire mind. When the door closed, my eyes did too.

And my two hands, wrecked from holding onto the fight, tightened back around the fucking fight.