She’s running. She’s screaming unintelligible cries for help, out of shock, in fear. She’s wearing a nightgown of baby blue, barefoot, running in the middle of a street I recognize. I know that house with the brown trim. I know that tree that hangs across the road, dipping into the street, barely leaving enough room for a car to drive underneath. This is the neighborhood I grew up in, this is the street of my childhood home…
and she is me.
She can’t be me, I’m the one chasing her. She looks like me, but she can’t be me. She simply can’t.
It’s daytime, but a dark day in Tornado Alley, with low clouds and no sunlight. The air smells moist and hot, ready to boil. I can smell her sweat, this girl who looks like me. I don’t know why, but I must catch her. I must hurt her. I must devour her and inhale everything that she is. She infuriates me and the urge to destroy her burns my skin… is this skin? I look down at myself as I’m unable to recognize familiar movements or sensations. I have no body, no arms or legs, no hands or feet. I look more like a blob than anything else, a tumor, with something resembling skin reflecting the sky, the street, the trees we pass and her gaping mouth when she looks back to see me still right behind her.
We’re passing people, neighbors she knows. She calls out to them by name, asks them for help, for shelter. She tells them she’s in danger, and she is. They ignore her and go about their business; mowing the lawn, watering the flowers, playing with their kids or throwing toys for their dogs. This clearly confuses her as she picks up speed, finally hopping over a curb and into a yard she knows well.
Suddenly, she is me. I’m running. Something is chasing me.
I jump up, careful to miss the curb. My bare feet are aching, I can feel moisture on them but I can’t tell if it’s sweat or blood. I don’t have time to look, I can’t risk tripping and falling. I look back to see it still chasing me, relentless, breathless… it probably doesn’t even breathe. It just slides along, slithers, making that disgusting squish – squish sound that makes my stomach turn. I feel nauseous. I’m exhausted and hurting all over, but I dare not stop. I just need to make it into a house. My neighbor Jeremy’s house is right there, so I pick up speed. The grass is soft and dewy, it’s a brief break from the pain. I make it to the door but I hear it close behind, squish – squish – growl – gurgle. I’m still screaming, hoping someone will hear. Why can’t anyone hear me? Why won’t they help me? I struggle to open the door, everything is so hard, my fingers won’t cooperate and I feel myself losing hope. Spoke too soon. The door flies open and I scurry in, shutting and locking it behind me. I’m okay. I’m safe, it didn’t make it inside.
I’m standing in the entryway of Jeremy’s house, grateful to be inside, grateful to be out of its reach. I can hear it growling just outside the door, I can see it when I peak through the peephole. What does it want from me? Why me? Why didn’t it just go for the others outside? How did I even get into the street? I feel a sharp pain in my head. I reach up to touch my forehead, reflex, and feel something warm and sticky… my head is bleeding. I look through the peephole again to make sure it’s still out there, I’m still safe… I am. I take a deep breath and turn around, ready to find a first aid kit and hopefully find that someone is home. I take two steps and BOOM! I hit something and fall back. What the hell was that?! I look up, see nothing. I stand back up to try again. I hit it again, thankfully not as hard this time. Something is blocking me, I can’t see it, but I can’t get past it. I hear some chatter coming from the hallway and I see Jeremy’s dog walk into the living room, followed by his sister Stephanie. She looks right at me – no, through me. I sigh, “Stephanie, please help me! I don’t know what’s going on, something is chasing me, I hurt my head somehow, something is blocking my way in, I – I’m so confused… please…” She doesn’t look up, she doesn’t even flinch. “Not you too, please… STEPHANIE!!!” I’m screaming, banging on that invisible barrier. I imagine I look like a mime in a box. No, I’m not stopping. She has to hear me, she has to help me. I continue banging, slamming my hands and arms against the “wall”, kicking and screaming. I’m squealing, my voice is going, my throat is sore, my hands and feet are sore and red, my feet are bleeding and my head is throbbing. I can’t give up, I won’t. Suddenly there’s a new sound behind me, new today anyway, different but familiar. I turn around just in time to see the deadbolt moving, beginning to turn, to unlock. I grab it but can’t move it, I’m trying to force it… no luck! It keeps turning to unlock! Run, RUN!
The door flies open and I’m gone. Somehow, I’m out and past that thing, that blob. Somehow I slipped past it, I don’t know how, it happened in a flash, a blink. What just happened? No time to think, I’m running again, hearing it behind me. How long will this last? How long can I keep running? Ahh – MY HOUSE! MY HOUSE!
A flash and I’m chasing the girl who looks like me again. She’s bleeding, she’s crying and screaming. I’m hungrier than ever, desperate to swallow her, absorb her, ravage her and feast. She doesn’t deserve to live. She doesn’t deserve that air she’s breathing, the fear she’s experiencing, the pain pulsating through her body. I need her. She runs into a house I know. My house. I know this house. I grew up in this house. She makes it through the front door but doesn’t have time to shut or lock it. I slide in behind her with ease, knowing I have her, she’s mine. She’s cornered.
I can smell her, smell her direction, sense where she is. She thought she’d be safe in her bedroom. She was wrong. I glide down the hallway and shove her bedroom door aside. She’s on her bed, tired, crying, she knows. She’s given up. I’ve won. I finally get to devour her. The chase is over. I dive onto the bed, slam into her with vigor. We melt into each other. I see nothing. I see only blackness. I feel only blackness. There is nothing. I feel nothing. I am nothing. We are no more.