Open your eyes
She awakes coughing from the cold air that stings her lungs like she lost the habit of breathing. Windowless high stonewalls surround and she rubs her eyes hoping something familiar will reach them. Her limbs are heavy as if bound there. Candles cast a stifling stark glow lighting the room. Gargoyles leer and cackle like savage fiends from the corner posts of the bed. She struggles to free herself from the oppression of the room. Her mind races to find the past, but finds only a vacant hole. With every inhale, the air warms and strength returns and she pushes to a sitting position. Her mind drifts like snowflakes scattering in the wind, and her sight falters and slips out of focus.
I will take you
Consciousness disintegrates; her head collapses down to the pillow and she falls through the bed into a space between her body and the earth where the floor swirls and opens into a gaping mouth full of teeth like knives that she runs from searching for the sun but finds herself blinded in a vast grey void that shatters into a sky burning crimson and black which she rides beneath on the wings of a flightless bird that plunges her into the ground through layers of earth away from the chasmic mouths that circle her slowly and ceaselessly like prowling sharks until the earth beneath the bird’s beak gives way and they dive deep into water full of more predatorial jaws made to consume souls so she kicks from the back of the bird and swims sightless from that which she fears but the limitless jaws follow and swallow her into an immensity of space dimensionless and bottomless where light blinds her eyes into a state of sight that stings and shocks and burns her until screams splinter ribs and tear through vocal chords and echo in ears until she slips unconscious and awakes again sweating in the bed that imprisons her.
Come to me
Her eyes heavy, a dull glow creeps through her closed eyelids. The dream haunts her, and she knows not if she still has the ability to see. A smell—sour air and stale cathedral wax—smothers and drowns her. The sensation of being watched feathers behind her ear. Nails scratch against the confines of her mind, pulling her from the depths of enveloping dream jaws. She opens her eyes. A haze distorts the setting and she blinks until sight evens and focuses to the face of a gargoyle sneering down. Swallowing a scream, she wipes the sweat away, pulling the damp hair out of her face.
She sneezes away the smell of candles and decay, and sees a man at the foot of the bed. He is young and he stares at her with yawning ageless eyes. She shoots up and tries to scream, choking on the effort. Her mind slips again and fog blots her retinas.
‘Be careful.’ His voice reverberates in her skull, deep and delicate like the sound of organs caressing the moon. The scent of him—seawater and smoke—brushes over her. He puts one hand to her heart and another to her back, his eyes closed, inches from her.
Also by Edward J Rathke
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