He shook himself awake into the oppressive darkness. She remained undisturbed beside him, huddled under the comforter with the rounded curve of her back to him.

He sat up. Fuck, he said. Fuck.

He shook himself from terror to terror, rescued from the horror of what might be to the lugubrious world of what was. He shared none of it with her and endeavored to bear the shadows of his own creation himself. The sweat pressed into his eyes and he struggled from his mind. From the dream.

Awake but maybe someday living this dream:

It was the same cheery office, warm and comforting, but the bright lights threw off long reaching shadows. He saw the woman as she always was. Her features twisted into a pleasant affect with cavernous wrinkles scarring her face. The pupils in her eyes were swallowing up the color as her mouth moved. You have a good twenty to thirty years left to you, she said, you might as well make up your mind to make the most of it. She looked at him and he followed her gaze to himself cowering against the arm of the stained and ripped couch. Long arms wrapped around a ragged pillow. He watched him raise his head and saw no living face. Angry red tissue ridged and dipped over the contours of what used to be humanity. Gnarled scars covered where hazel-green eyes used to be. His mouth a lipless incision and a cloudy blue tube protruded from where his nose had been.

Awake to the reality of the nightmare.

He rose from the bed and made his way through the lightless hallways and rooms. The darkness crept after him, but he dared not turn on the lamps because he didn’t want to see the creature the shadows cloaked. The doors gave way soundlessly under his touch until he beheld the cabinet where the steel pieces were stored. Memory oiled muscles clicked and slid the parts together, fingers checking the mechanisms before finally sliding the cold metallic muzzle into his mouth and measuring the distance to the end.

Awake and trying to wake up.


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