By Bob Bickford
Champagne Books: https://goo.gl/koc1sh
As I watched them, the rods began to rattle on the beams. The sound was tiny, and had a cadence, a pattern my sleep-soaked mind couldn’t decipher. There was no visible movement, but I heard talking and singing underneath the clicking noises.
I tried to check the white dog on the daybed across from me, and realized with alarm that I couldn’t move. My head, neck, torso, and legs wouldn’t take directions. When I tried to tense my muscles the order went no further than my mind. I lay in a sort of languid paralysis. Casting my eyes over, I could see her white form curled up across the room in the very edge of my vision. I was certain she had died, left while I had breathed the night away. I had slept for a century, and the world outside the cabin had moved on without me. I had been left behind, and I cursed my own ignorance in sleeping through all of it. I didn’t belong here anymore. The room around me played in dreary black and white.
The gloom wavered and I wasn’t alone. I could smell perfume, with a slight odor of perspiration underneath it. It was not a scent I recognized. Although unmistakably female, it did not carry the recollection of any woman I had ever known. At first it was pleasant, but then it grew larger, pressing itself on my face. The smell of sweat under feminine fragrance was the musk of old fear, not a memory of sex. I was mounted, and smothered by a heat that changed itself rapidly into a terrible freezing cold.
Underneath the age and the dust, emptiness and colorless loss filled the room, and an overwhelming rage formed itself. It was anger so huge it had forgotten its cause; whatever sin had birthed it was nearly obscured. The decayed love that now fed it and drove it was unrecognizable next to what it once had been. It was a mother’s terror for her child, a woman’s fury. It consumed the oxygen in the room like a fire.
A light sheet covered me to the chest. It began to slide downward, slowly and implacably tugged from beneath my arms and towards my waist, inch by inch. The fishing gear above me jittered faster, and the noise increased, chattering madly. It was a chant about grief and violence. It repeated itself again and again, and I had the sense it was being sung by a child. I felt crushed, smothered by dread. The sheet continued to slide down my body towards the foot of the bed. I did not want to be exposed before this thing. I wanted to scream, and couldn’t breathe.
All at once the grip on me was released, and I thrashed upwards as my muscles again obeyed me. My captors swirled upward to the roof and I sensed the two of them above, hovering over me. I rolled off the bed, and tried to shout. I had no voice.
“Oh, my God,” I croaked. “Get out!”
They were already gone, and within the murkiness of the night, normal color had returned to the room. I stood up, and tried to collect myself. The white boxer snored undisturbed on the daybed. I sat back down and looked across at her as my breathing slowed.
“Why do you go batshit at the slightest things and ignore others?” I asked. “You can hear a squirrel on the other side of the island, but you slept through that?”
She opened one eye. I gathered my sheet and crossed the room to lie down with her. She stirred, reluctantly moved over, and after a long time we both went back to sleep.