Cybil opened another can of Monster Zero to fuel her third-day stretch of no sleep. The windows and curtains of Cybil’s studio apartment remained closed. Stale smoke swirled amongst the sour tang of energy drinks, mingling pungent in the air. She had rid her residence of anything possessing holes. Fresh sunflowers—in the trash. Her hairbrush, once she had cleaned it off her hair—had too many holes. The fridge once contained watermelon, strawberries, and swiss cheese—gone. The latte was once delivered from Starbucks. The foam. The holes! Now, energy drinks are delivered by Insta-cart—no straws, please.
It had started with those dreams. Three days ago. Of it, of him, of a dark land filled with crashing waves and no source of direct light. What light could be found in this land emanated from the waves, from the forms in the sea that crashed at her feet? Her feet dug into the sand as if that loose sand could anchor her. The holes pocketing the sand at first caused no alarm until a black, oiled substance began to bubble from their openings. Then it pooled, then it wrapped around her naked ankles. Then it gathered into a figure before her, slick and leather-like, wings outstretched. Curiosity overcame fear as she looked at its head, a head with no face. Black. Smooth. Leather. Ram-like horns stemmed from his head and curled into his forehead, creating two gaping holes, wounds from which a black substance flowed, its smell creating longing and repulsion. The creature grabbed her chin and forced his face upon hers. He had no mouth, yet she felt his tongue touch hers. She could hear his words as he spoke none. “Come back to our dreaming.”
She never wanted to dream again. Yet, every night she felt the pull in the pit of her stomach, the need, the desire to sleep. When she finally succumbed the gaunt was there waiting for her. At one point, he gave her his name. Tonight, she would say it. She felt him behind her as she had for the past few days. She could even hear his wings lightly folding and unfolding. Since her dream she’d stayed awake consuming the lore of these nightmare creatures, these gaunts—she knew now what she needed to do. Just speak his name. Just spill a bit of her blood. That should be the end of it all.
She went to the bathroom, her sanctuary. She opened her mouth to speak his name when she saw her face in the mirror. She saw her tongue—full of holes. Black ooze poured from boil-like sores on her tongue. Cybil grabbed her knife and cut off her tongue. She stared at the meat of her tongue in the sink. The holes grew larger as the black ooze flowed and collected. The gaunt of her nightmare formed. He pulled apart a shield from his leathery skin, and said, “Cousin, such a lovely sacrifice for our master, Nodens.”
Lisah Jayne Walden resides in upstate New York with her two children, four fur babies, and boyfriend. Previous works have been published in Lovecraftian Micro Fiction 2021 and 2022, Once Upon A Wicked Heart, Blood Sport, and From the Deep anthologies. Her collection Let Them In is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. When there is spare time, Walden enjoys cooking, watching horror movies, and reading.