Flash fiction by Gillian Church
Several times a week, she was chased through an endless maze of hallways by a man at least eight feet tall. As he ran, he flicked his tongue out at her, but it wasn’t really a tongue. It was at least as long as the man was tall, black and covered with sharp horns.
Annie closed her eyes and wished upon the shooting star: I wish the man of my dreams would come and sweep me off my feet.
She closed the curtains, swallowed an Ambien, and climbed into bed. She couldn’t handle another night of bad sleep.
Something downstairs thumped, like a heavy book falling onto the hard floor. She shot upright, her bedtime languor extinguished instantly. Another thump.
Her parents had warned her about living alone. Both worked in emergency services and had traumatized her with tales of the worst case scenarios. She refused to let their paranoia stop her from living her life, but she suspected that they were a strong influence in the violent nightmares that ravaged her consciousness each night.
Now, their stories filled her head. …He cut her lips off and ran them down the garbage disposal… The thudding continued, and seemed to be getting closer. …Once a man came in having had his eyes cut out of his head… Then there were footsteps, climbing the stairs. …We couldn’t tell which nun was which at first, their faces had been so badly mutilated…
The last step before the hallway squeaked. He was almost there, and Annie wondered what horrific torture he had in store for her.
Her subconscious mind exaggerated her parents’ stories when she slept and turned the human attackers of their war stories into literal monsters. Several times a week, she was chased through an endless maze of hallways by a man at least eight feet tall. As he ran, he flicked his tongue out at her, but it wasn’t really a tongue. It was at least as long as the man was tall, black and covered with sharp horns. As it whipped towards her, she could smell his putrid breath and hear his heavy, wet breathing. Glances back revealed everything about him to be inhuman except for his eyes, which fixated on her with an evil that didn’t exist outside the very worst that humanity had to offer. The most ferocious beast on earth wouldn’t show such sadistic delight at its prey’s terror.
Whoever was in Annie’s house stood outside of her bedroom now. She could see the shadow of two feet from under the door. Something scraped slowly against the door—his nails? His claws? Over her pounding heart, she could hear his ragged, wet breath.
It’s him. Annie realized what she had done. Her wish. The man of my dreams.
She sobbed, too frozen and too horrified to do anything but pull the covers up to her nose. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the door as the knob turned. The man-monster stuck his head in first, those cruel eyes sparkling as he grinned. From behind his jagged, yellowed teeth, his long black tongue flicked out.
There were no endless hallways for her to run through. She was trapped. His foul breath, an unholy combination of rotten meat and vomit, enveloped her as the tongue wrapped around her throat. The hundreds of horns on the repulsive appendage dug into her neck, piercing the skin and tendons and blood vessels.
She was barely conscious when he strode to her bedside and lifted her up, ready to sweep her away to a place where her nightmare would never end.