The lunatic in my head keeps telling me to scream as it laughs an insane and hysterical banshee chatter that makes teeth itch and causes eyes to bleed. The maniacal giggle says, “Play,” before punching me in the face. Then again, the rippling, “Play,” before drawing back into the smoke and mirrors and bringing forth a hatchet already stained with some thick red and drippy, running like warm cherry pudding that I know he tastes when I’m not looking. “Play,” he says still again as the hatchet swings down between my eyes.

My eyes open suddenly to the ceiling and look around a room. My head swivels panicked. The room is already unfamiliar with echoing voices in the walls giggling and wailing. Eyes from every-nowhere penetrate through the layers of heroes and ghosts laced into my cage.

The mist rises again. “What now?” the imp standing on my shoulder says as he dips his face to lick at my bleeding head wound.

“I don’t know,” I say, wondering to myself why I feel no pain.

“The brain has no pain receptors,” he says reaching inside the broken bloody hole. The imp pulls out a small piece of gray that doesn’t matter and sucks it down. I hear him swallow right past my ear. “It’s like noodles.” he says. He returns to the dark bloody orifice, “Is there anybody in there?” his holler echoes in my head.

The response that returns from the hole in my head sounds like a third grade classroom of children chewing on glass. “There’s nobody in here except us.”

The imp considers. “Well that’s a relief,” he says turning to look around at me again. “So what now?”

“I’m dreaming,” I say with a drunken lisp and reach up for the imp. I coil my finger ready to flick him away. The imp dodges quickly and gives my finger a good bite. A spurt of blood covers his face.

“Ouch!” I’m not dreaming.

The imp reaches into the wound again, scoops out another bit of gray that doesn’t matter. This one, a great almost two handed serving that wiggles like gelatin as he sits down on my shoulder. He gets comfortable and starts to eat the wet grey popcorn ball that drips a little red, but mostly clear thick liquid, down his wrist and chin.

“You got your redwings,” I say through a drunken hazy giggle.

He wipes his chin with the back of his arm smearing it across his face and looks at his hands. “Well you can only get it by eating out,” and we both laugh at that one. “What now?” he says after a moment, smacking his lips and licking my mind from his fingertips with loud wet sucking smacks.

“Why must there be a now?” I ask.

He stops licking his wrist and ponders for a moment. Then he shrugs. “I figured you’d want there to be a now that’s all.”

“Why?”

“That’s for you to decide. I can eat you all day, but eventually I’ll have to crawl inside and I don’t think you want me inside your head.” He points a thumb over his shoulder, “Not with all of them anyway.”

A giggle from the third grade class whispers from the wound like fingernails on a chalkboard.

“What would you do?” I ask.

“I’d play,” he says.

Then all of a sudden I’m back and it’s ‘bonk’ on the head again as the lunatic takes a swing at me with his fist.

I should do something, I think to myself as another punch snaps my head back.

“I don’t like violence,” I say this almost to myself, imagining what I could do to the lunatic as he brings the hatchet up again and draws it back.

“Then scream,” the imp says as the lunatic prepares to swing again.

“Hello?” I hear a voice from the outside that is the first to really penetrate the dream.

The hatchet swings at my face and doesn’t quite connect as the voice repeats.

“Hello?”

I am shaken awake by a hand that exists only in the darkness.

“Yes?” I say groggily.

“Today is the day,” the voice says and dissipates.

I sit bolt upright in the bed and look around the somewhat familiar room. The ceiling, the dresser, the clothes strewn everywhere, the blood on the walls, which suddenly occurs to me was not part of the original decor.

I think I am still dreaming.

I close my eyes, reach out and touch the wall nearest me to vanish the last vestiges of sleep to waken myself. I feel the sold drywall with texture and paint, but this only after passing through the sticky, viscous fluid that doesn’t run so much as it sits and slowly coagulates on the walls in my room’s reality.

I’m not dreaming.

I pull my hand away, slowly releasing three of my four fingers with a sticky popping sound. My thumb joins with the index to test the consistency, that sends messages to the brain of feels like, rolls like and finally, without any real explanation except that my eyes were shut, curiosity took over and it seemed to be the thing to do… Tastes like blood.

I open my eyes to my fingers pulling them apart testing the stickiness.

I’m not dreaming.

I can hear a personality in the back of my brain screaming at me, “WHAT THE FUCK! OH MY GOD! HOLY SHIT! WHAT’S HAPPENING! NOT AGAIN! WE’VE GOT TO GET THIS OFF AND GET OUT OF HERE!!!” but I remain calm, absorbing and observing the situation.

Who shook me awake?

I look around the room which, hours before had very, very white walls that are now stained with a map of dark crimson splatters.

The smell of the room is a thick metallic sulfur. I roll to the side and see it, lying motionless in the corner. A silent, inanimate nightmare, put away like a child’s plaything, abandoned with disinterest after the parts have been broken and strewn haphazardly. My thoughts and emotions do not betray anything.  I lay back to catch my breath and blink the last bit of sleep from my eyes.

I begin to remove the comforter, the blanket and then the shredded sheets that almost come apart in my hands.

Now I’m shocked, and I throw everything off to reveal the pile of rags, which used to be my bed. I can hear the imp giggling in my head as it keeps saying “play” and the last images of sleep fade.

I look around the room at the walls and again at the mass of lifeless beast tissue in the corner.

Not again, I think.

Slowly I remove myself from the shredded mattress. The rips and tears are worse down near the foot of the bed with deep gashes going through the mattress to loose fluff and stuffing.

I check the floor before stepping out so as not to slip my toe in anything undesirably slimy and then move quickly to get dressed. The stench of death is overpowering, but has no effect on me. I got used to it after the first few times.

Slipping into a dirty pair of jeans and a T-shirt I must first deal with the task of cleaning up before they awaken. Carefully I make my way to the once living heap in the corner and inside my head the imp speaks again from the dark place that lies beyond sleep. “Wow!”

“What?”

“You really showed them,” he says, audibly shocked.

“I told them I did not want a pet. This isn’t my fault.”

“Foster parents always know the best first impression to make.”

I ignore him as he begins to laugh hysterically, joined by the third grade class of the long since dead. The entire song screeches in my ears.

“Did you play?” he says in a tone that I’m sure is connected to a sneering smile.

“I don’t remember.”

“Don’t remember, as if it could have been something else that did this.”

“I just have to get it cleaned up before they awaken.”

The half-eaten heap was once Roger, that’s what they said his name was. “…and he’s very playful,” the lady said with as much charm as she could muster, but Roger did not play with me. Roger could not play with me.

“They must have slipped him into the room after I went to sleep.”

I notice the bright sunlight peeking through the edge of the thick curtains and realize, I am usually explaining this by now while preparing to be shipped back to the orphanage.

Well, trash bags are the first thing. I navigate the obstacle course of my floor, now strewn with a décor of road kill and open the door to the hallway only to discover it is layered top to bottom with what looks like a strange sort of nouveau-deco-impressionism. Jackson Pollack comes to mind, but I paint in reds.

Red and brown streaks splatter a dark trail in the carpet to the closed master bedroom door then out to the kitchen.

“Holy shit!” the voice inside my head speaks from my own mouth before I can stop it.

My lunatic begins laughing and joins in with the long dead third grade children’s choir.

I step slowly down the hallway with portions of the carpet squishing underfoot.

From behind the closed door I hear the voice in my head speaking with the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard. It comes from a mouth that once sat chewing on glass and it giggles along with me.

“So, what now?” I hear myself say as I open the door, “What now?”

 

END.

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