by Diego Green
Ever since the move, since the complete upheaval of her life, Valerie had encountered the same dream with increasing frequency. Always, in the dream, she would find herself lying face-up in bed, eyes wide-open staring at the black ceiling. It was then that the twinges of distinct and biting pain would begin. Sporadic at first, Valerie felt it start inside her skull, a jagged scraping against bone and brain, moving rapidly down her spine – a crawling sensation, the feeling of something navigating beneath her flesh with tiny piercing pincers.
As the sensation passed into her lower back, prodding into kidneys and intestines, Valerie realized that she was completely paralyzed, unable to scream or even move her eyes. Burning hot, the pain moved down into her left leg – more than pain, it was a feeling of a creature burrowing through her body, a thing clawing itself a passage out. It ended in a violent burst of agony, an eruption of warm blood from the sole of her left foot spraying onto sheets.
* * *
Valerie awakes into late afternoon, her brow and bedspread well-dampened by perspiration. After several minutes of listless haze, Val remembers the significance of the day and the time, sitting up and appreciating the silent house devoid of her working mother and father. She swears aloud as she focuses on the hands of the clock hanging at room’s end – it’s far later than the June sunlight makes it appear. Rushing, Val pulls on clothes from the littered bedroom floor. She is almost out the door when she notices the tiny trail of dark footprints – birdlike, maybe, three taloned toes – running across the hardwood floor, shining in the slanted sun, leading back to the bottom of her bed sheets stained deep orange in dried blood.