a dreadful awakening

A dreadful awakening – a short story inspired by Justine’s eclectic corner #5

Justine's photo prompt
Justine’s photo prompt

There was only darkness.

A kind of darkness he could not remember. No vague swirling lights, nothing, just black empty space.

No smells, no sounds, no sensations at all.

For now, there was no fear.

No memory, not even awareness, just a vague sense of being.

And always that black, empty, vaguely unsettling darkness.

And yet. He was aware, of something. It occurred to him that he used that word ‘he’ although he had no real feel for what the word meant. It was just there, hanging in the darkness.

For now, he had no questions. No words. His world was darkness, just “he” and a growing sense of being. And unease.

He felt the darkness shifting and swirling around him. Shapes formed from nothing, impossible to distinguish, but somehow there. On the very edge of his perception he could sense something, growing, emerging. It was not a good feeling.

Was this when he first began to be afraid?

Was that movement he felt?

His world, if his world it was, seemed to tilt. The darkness shifted again almost imperceptibly. The shapes in the black void, acquiring substance and definition.

He began to become conscious of the world around him, in ways that troubled him, although he was not sure why.

The darkness began to recede, so very slowly.

In his mind he sensed fragments of light, on the edge of his vision. Shapes, shifting and queasily pulsing.

He felt cold, and as sensations returned, so too did that awful sense of dread.

Something was wrong. Very wrong.

His mind raced, he was aware his breathing felt different, too fast. He began to remember fragments. Recalled the time he had been to the dentist, the gas, the pain, waking and, as he did, having no idea who or where he was. A sense of dislocation and bewilderment. And now that feeling was so much more visceral, animal.

His dread deepened, when he realised that this feeling was strange, wrong, yet he could not put his finger on why. His mind kept returning to that time at the dentist. That sense of impending terror continued to eat away at him deep down, building and suffocating in its intensity. And this was different, perhaps more terrible than any visit to the dentist had been, or ever would be.

He began to smell the world around him. It was cold. The ground beneath him was hard and gritty, close to him. Why did it trouble him so much that the ground felt too close?

As the darkness receded, the lights became more intense and disturbing. The light unsettled him.

That damp smell. What was that? So powerful, pungent, putrid? So many layers, too many. He remembered how he had felt after a cold, that feeling of being able to breathe again. This was different, deeper. Why did he feel it was too intense?

And his skin, it felt wrong. So very wrong. Thicker.

His breathing became more urgent. He felt his tongue in his mouth, unfamiliar and rough. And his teeth. Oh, his teeth, how could they feel that way?

His sense of dread intensified.

The lights swirling round him fragmented, his eyes hurt.

He lifted his head.

Through the swirling patterns of light he began to discern structure in the chaos.

What were those shapes he could see?

An image of steps floated into his mind, descending into that darkness.

His memory was fighting to return. And yet he was terrified, he did not want to remember.


Yes, he remembered falling, tumbling, terrible pain in his head.

A sharp crack and then, nothing.

And now.

He heard approaching sounds.

He lifted his head. Again he thought, why did the ground feel so close, so intimate?

Then, he saw.

Two huge feet in front of him on the steps.

Feet, encased in sneakers, he knew so well.

His dread was now overwhelming. Too much for him.

Sounds, smells, strange sensations were flooding his mind.

He realised he was panting, his hair stood on end, his coarse long tongue hanging out of his drooling mouth, licking his now sharpened incisors. He began to shake as a terrible realisation engulfed his mind.

He looked at the giant feet, the shoelaces.

The very blue shoelaces that, in a moment of pure terror, he remembered he had tied on his own sneakers only that morning.

This is my response to Justine’s eclectic corner #5 story prompt – fictional writing in which the challenge was to respond to a photograph provided by Justine with a piece of short fiction. Published with help from Mara Eastern.

Take a look at some of the other responses to this prompt by clicking on the image below.


29 thoughts on “a dreadful awakening

  1. Second read: My thought was he was already dead. That smell of the ground beneath him was, in fact, beneath him. He was only 6′ under–there was plenty under him. The end of the world–proverbial heaven or hell. Stairway up or face your demons and take the stairs down. I tried figuring the dog into it (or even the dog as the main character), but still came back to, not ‘a dreadful awakening’ but, instead, ‘a deadful awakening.’ ..slowly exhaling….Let me know how far off the mark I am. Thanks, Andy.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Lois, thank you so much for having another read, that really does mean a lot to me! Your ideas are intriguing and I am so happy (if that is the right word?) that my words got you thinking on those lines…

      So, the idea behind the story? A boy takes his dog for a walk. They walk down some steps. The boy falls, he bangs his head. And when he becomes conscious again, he realises that somehow his mind had changed places with his dog.

      Inspired by classic horror from Poe, modern horror from Stephen King and maybe some deeply buried fears of my own?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh! So good! Strangely, I was always afraid of dogs when I was little. Now–well, hello every dog in the world! Can I pet you and take you home with me? The dog at the bottom of the stairs was a bit menacing to me, so that kept me off kilter a bit. Please write more like this, Andy. I have always been a Poe fan (not King, though), so this was most intriguing. Really excellent.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wowee woooah that was out there Andy. My mind was whirling thinking “what the heck is going on” then it was “oh I got it” then “no I havnt” then “oh boy what is going on” lol! Second off that was very chilling and scary as beep beep! ( no swear words)

    I thought it was someone dead then I too couldn’t figure the dog part. Then I realised he was a dog, but then thought he had been abused or something and was dreading that being the case. Then I realised he had swapped bodies some kind of re-incarnation or swapped with his owner? Very out there indeed really got my mind wondering bravo!!!!

    Thank you for joining Eclectic Corner.

    So was he re-incarnated or some weird body swap?

    Ps your descriptions were fab and intense x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I loved your response! So we both were along the lines of already dead? what about the dog? I read your post on this. I am a sucker for a happy ending, so the dog live a long and happy life. I think…

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Boy sets off to all dog.

      Boy and dog walk down steps.

      Boy falls.

      When he wakes, his mind is inside the body of his dog.

      I have no idea what happens next.

      But, I may not sleep….

      And thank you Justine for your comments and for a great challenge! x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been sleeping with a candle burning throughout the entire night since I read your story. I fear I might stumble, bang my head and swap minds with my cat. I would have the best life ever. How scary.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: fit | Andy Townend

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