I wrote this story based on a prompt about an unexpected occurrence.
I need a nap. Immediately. This is an emergency. Have I ever been this tired in my entire life? My twin bed with its scratchy green quilt never looked so ideal. My body collapsed onto the mattress and bounced once dramatically as my arms worked the blankets around me, encasing me into a cocoon of comfort. I arranged my three pillows so that if I rolled in any direction, I would land on a soft, plush surface. As soon as I lay down, something felt different. Sleep overtook me immediately, which usually never happens. I’m more of a toss-and-turn for twenty minutes kind of girl.
I didn’t do much before getting home, but felt stressed all day. Finals week will do that to you, though. With five tests and four ten page minimum papers due in the next week, I should probably have started some research before this past Monday. Mental exhaustion has enveloped me, which I blamed for my effortless transition from awake to sleep.
BOOM. A loud noise woke me up suddenly, but my body was frozen from being pulled out of such a deep rest. I rubbed my eyes awake and swung my legs over the side of the bed to investigate. Or I should have. Those are the signals my brain was sending my body parts, yet I hadn’t moved.
I tried to lift my arms and legs again, but they refused to listen. I felt as if my body was made of metal and my mattress was a magnet. Another loud noise made me want to scream and run for help. My heart made up for what my body couldn’t do by leaping into my throat and beating with a fierceness that threatened to choke me. My eyes darted around freely, taking advantage of the only movement I still had.
What was happening in my house? Was anyone hurt? My parents were both at work still, but maybe a neighbor would swoop in to help if something dangerous was happening.
BOOM. This time it was accompanied by screams. They were shrill and sounded like they came from inside my eardrums. My body broke out in goose bumps and a cold sweat coated my skin as the screams died down. Another chorus of shrieking followed, but this time I noticed that it sounded like children. Kids? I was the youngest one in the house and I was 22. Who the hell was screaming?
This time it very obviously came from outside my door. Run, scream, do something! My mind urged, but my body remained stuck and my voice was trapped underneath the heart crammed in my throat. I struggled to keep my eyes open as they attempted to plunge me back into the blackness of sleep. The peaceful fluttering of my lids to the tune of faceless, screeching children drenched me in a new coat of sweat.
I noticed for the first time how dark my room appeared, especially since I went to bed at 3:00 in the afternoon when the sun was fully out. I knew I didn’t sleep for this many hours before the crashing noises began, but it seemed as dark as the middle of the night. My eyes roamed to their limits, taking in all my normal surroundings to stop them closing and inducing sleep. My body felt heavy and I was aware of every body part I couldn’t move.
The shadows dripped like oil down the walls, thick and threatening. They lengthened as the screams climaxed to their loudest pitches and shortened as they died down again. It was a cycle, as if the room breathed with these noises. As if the room was the one screaming in agony.
Suddenly my door was thrown open and my mom stood there. She looked completely unnerved by the sounds and appearance of my room. Her blonde hair was flawless and her grey button-down seemed like it wouldn’t wrinkle even if you crumpled it into a tiny ball. Her skin seemed to glow and reflect light back into the room. The screams ceased as she walked toward me and the shadows disappeared.
I wanted to call out, ask her for help, but the words stuck to my tongue as if I was chewing glue. My eyes stared with the desperation my voice wanted to express. They dramatically shot around my sockets to emphasize the situation, but she didn’t appear to notice.
“Allie,” she said. Her voice sounded light and carefree; it was the same voice I grew up with. The familiarity warmed me and restored some normality to my heart rate. “Allie, what do you want for dinner?”
What. The. Fuck. Mom. Dinner? How about the banging and screaming, or the fact that I’ll apparently never walk again?
“I made chicken parm, is that good? Allie, I’m making chicken parm.”
BOOM. She was gone. The dripping on the walls inched closer to my mattress and my heartbeat sped up at the thought of it reaching me, which seemed imminent.
BOOM. Followed by the loudest screams yet, and now, crying.
It was coming from my room. More precisely it was coming from next to me, which I couldn’t see because my damn head wouldn’t move. My eyes struggled at the furthest point of my peripherals and burned as they tried to go farther than their limits. I mentally flexed my muscles and tried to push them to move, flail, reach out, run.
“You’re going to die,” came a hissing voice in my ear. I watched the slimy shadows reach my covers and felt as if my life were about to end.
WAKE UP, ALLIE! My mind rang out above the screaming children, the crying, the booming as the walls dripped and I noticed they were actually a deep red color.
Wake up? My eyes shot up and my body convulsed, throwing all the covers to the floor. I sat up in my bed with my heart returned to its rightful place in my chest, but still moving at an unnaturally fast pace. Sunlight coated my bedroom with warmth and the house was silent, aside from my raspy gasping as I sucked down air. I breathed like I had been suffocated and finally set free again.
I heard keys tinkling in the kitchen and ran to my bedroom door. My mom stood in the kitchen, removing her winter coat to reveal a neat, grey button-down shirt.
“Hey, hon,” she said. Her voice was fatigued and she had bags under her eyes. “I just had such a long day, I’m exhausted.”
“Mom, did you just get home?”
She looked at me, lacking patience or sympathy for what I had just gone through. “Allie, yes. You watched me take my coat off.”
“Right. Mom,” I said. “What’s for dinner?”
My mom stared at me, annoyed. “Dinner? It’s 3:30 in the afternoon! I don’t know; let me look at what I have in the fridge. Are you all right?’
“I don’t know,” I responded, still somewhat unsure of how I felt. “Yeah, I am. I think I just had a really bad dream when I took a nap.” A chill swept down my spine as I remembered the experience.
I watched my mom unpack her purse and relief cleansed me again just as it had when she came into my room earlier. I found myself feeling less alone and more convinced that everything I experienced was in my head. It was all just a terrible nightmare.
She smiled at me and made her way over to the fridge to find something for dinner. I headed back to my room and the feeling that something still wasn’t right returned the farther I got from the kitchen.
“Allie, how’s chicken parm for dinner? Do you want chicken parm?”