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