“No, I don’t want breakfast!” I shriek.
I have sat bolt upright on a mattress. The bedsheets are puddled around my waist. I’m panting, my heart is racing in my throat. It feels like the bed is rocking back and forth like a ship at sea. Although sweat is dripping down my face and naked torso, a frigid lurch runs through me and I almost vomit.
An insidious force is slithering inside me while my head buzzes with thoughts like flies trapped inside a jam jar. My mind is a pile of detritus rusting in a fetid puddle of gunk. A single tear is trailing down my cheek, and I wipe it away with the pad of my thumb. Once again I wish I would become a catatonic mute lost in my pitch-black depths.
To my left, a weight depresses the mattress, then a warm arm drapes around my tits.
“You’ll be all right now,” Jacqueline whispers. “Lie down, baby girl.”
Her soft voice soothes my frail bones and tattered mind. I slump backwards until my head sinks into the pillow.
Jacqueline cuddles up against me, squeezing her breasts against my naked chest and wrapping her long legs around mine. Her hair is tickling my neck, and her lips are playing over the skin of my jaw as she breathes warm air into my ear. The heat that radiates through her smooth, silk-blend robe makes my despair dissipate like a noxious stench. Second by second, a quiet descends upon me like in the wake of an orgasm.
A blinding white light pierces the dark behind my eyelids in a jolt of anxiety. What the hell am I worried about now? Ah, we have to go to work in the morning. When I reach to the nightstand for my phone, Jacqueline’s half-lidded gaze meets mine in the mirrored wardrobe. In the pale moonlight that streams through the balcony door, Jacqueline’s skin is glowing with a silvery luster, and her cobalt-blue eyes are shining like gemstones. She embodies the serenity of the ocean on a clear day.
I hold my phone up and check the time while the device glows bright.
“A quarter past four,” I say in dismay.
Jacqueline sighs and tenses her thighs around mine.
“Three hours more and we’ll be forced to leave our bed.”
I place the phone on the nightstand, then I stare up at the shadowed space between two hemispherical lamps on the ceiling. Jacqueline runs her fingertips over my right cheek as she nuzzles up against the crook of my neck. My nipples tingle, the hairs of my nape stand on end.
“That previous shout of yours must have woken up the neighbors,” she says casually.
I guess she wants me to open up about my nightmare. I should apologize for having disturbed her sleep, but I have spent my whole life apologizing for my shortcomings.
“These nightmares…” I start in a weary voice. “I feel like I’m becoming increasingly attuned to stuff… to which I shouldn’t be privy.”
“Such as? What terrible vision has tortured my baby this time?”
My face involuntarily contorts into a grimace as I attempt to repress a shiver of disgust.
“That filthy, maggot-infested scumbag,” I spit out.
“I suspect that for you those words could describe many people, including yourself. Are you referring to the bunnyman?”
My tongue feels like a slab of leather as I swallow the word that conjures up his horrifying visage in my mind’s eye.
“That monster… was robbing a bank, but he slipped on some leaves and fell down, cracking his head open, spilling his blood on the carpet. In the middle of the crimson pool was an envelope, and when I opened it I found that it contained a letter addressed to me. The bunnyman wanted me to know that he’d be keeping me company until the end of time. He also invited me to a rabbit ranch that he owns.”
My voice sounded raw and raspy. Jacqueline’s left arm tightens around my ribs.
“And I guess that at some point someone offered you breakfast. He did a number on you, that well-endowed devil.”
I take a deep breath, then I rub my eyelids. I’m a baby lying helpless in an oversized crib surrounded by monsters. They have smudges of grease on their faces, they’re wearing rags that hang off them like flappy skin, their bellies are bulging with foul produce. They keep snorting lines of white powder off rusty spoons. Soon their bloated fingers will dig into me like grubs into a rotten corpse.
“When I was five,” I whisper in a fragile voice, “I woke up in the middle of the night from a nightmare, my first one ever. Some soft, fleshy thing was coiled around my ankle. I jumped from the bed and ran to my parents’ room, because they were supposed to protect me from bad dreams, but when I opened the door I realized that the fleshy thing coiled around my ankle was my father’s balls. He was sleeping on his back, and they were hanging out of his boxers as he snored like a donkey.”
Jacqueline gasps, then her left arm cradles my head and pulls me in for a kiss on my forehead.
“Oh no, you are getting like that again. Shush, doll. Just fill your mind with sunny things.”
My eyes are wet with unshed tears. My voice chokes.
“This world is a cold lake whose edges are shrouded in mist. The decapitated heads of everyone I’ve ever met bob on the water, and in the ripples they cause I glimpse my own reflection. I wonder if after death we are dumped into a desert of shiny black obsidian, a labyrinth made out of the most bitter thoughts.”
Jacqueline presses a kiss against my lips, which shuts me up.
“I have no clue what you mean,” she coos, “but I’ll share something that I’ve daydreamed about recently: how about you and I go, soon enough, on a holiday to some Caribbean island? We would stay in a cute bungalow for a couple of weeks. Imagine yourself standing beside the ocean with your feet in the sand and your hair waving in the warm breeze. Think of the sunlight filtering through the palm fronds and casting golden ripples on the blue waters as they lap against the shore. The waves will wash away your despair with their frothy, salty foam. We’ll laze on a hammock while we watch the setting sun turn the horizon into a blazing spectacle. We’ll fuck as the night sky glitters with uncountable stars.”
A wave of relief is washing over me when Jacqueline gives my neck a lick with her hot tongue, and now a tingling sensation is building in my pelvis. I close my eyes and breathe in her heady scent. In the theater of my mind, the water of a tropical sea splashes our naked feet. We’re sitting in a cave hollowed out of the rock by the crashing waves. A pillar candle casts an eerie glow over the grotto that Jacqueline has transformed into a cozy bedroom, with pillows and soft sheets that the sea has delivered to us. The pounding of the surf deafens me in the tiny space, and my skin is feverish from the humid heat.
When I open my eyes, I remain caked in the stale sweat that the bunnyman induced.
“That sounds idyllic, although I’d have to shave my armpits first,” I say with a shy smile. “I’d also have to trim the green scum coating my soul. But no way such a positive development could happen to me. Our plane’s engines would malfunction and we would plummet to the ocean.”
“We wouldn’t travel in a plane, silly. I’ll book a private cabin on a luxury cruise ship.”
“When we get to the island, I’ll fall into an open manhole. If we arrive at the resort, I’ll get violently sick and vomit all over the bar area. The tropical sun will render me as black as charcoal. I’ll offend a massive German man, a giant who will shatter my collarbone with a single punch, then he’ll dump my remains onto a beach and spit on my corpse. While I’m lying in bed, I’ll wet the bed.”
Jacqueline’s tits tremble against mine as she giggles.
“Oh my sweet darling, you are a complete nincompoop sometimes. Such horror stories will do nothing to dampen my enthusiasm about that dream vacation. When we get to the island, I’ll make sure you drink lots of water so that you don’t get sunstroke. If you have to leave the shade for even a minute, you’ll be made to wear a hat so that you don’t burn your precious head. I promise you won’t experience any mishaps like that, none whatsoever. I’ll treat you as if you were made of porcelain.”
“I still believe in the ghoulish prophecies I’ve dreamed up for myself.”
Jacqueline caresses my face with both hands.
“A nap will dislodge you from your current state of mind.”
I envision a cruise ship exploding in a gigantic fireball.
“Yeah, I don’t know how I would tolerate eight hours of work with all this madness in my head.” I push myself up, and when Jacqueline rolls onto the mattress, I sit on the edge of the bed. “But first I have to wash the filth off my skin.”
Jacqueline stretches like a cat in the sun.
“I like that humid, musty smell, though,” she purrs.
“So do the sweat-eating bacteria.”
I yawn widely. When I slide out of bed and plant my soles on the lukewarm hardwood floor, I’m weighed down by exhaustion. I shamble towards the hallway as Jacqueline’s gaze warms up my naked ass.
“Please, don’t let any horses in the bathroom,” I say over my shoulder.
She chuckles at my request, which is further evidence that I’m not human.
“If you see any, yell and I’ll shoo them off with a broom.”
The moonlight shines through the acid-etched glass of the bathroom window, and its luminous image gets reflected in the door of the shower cabin. When I reach to switch on the light, a crackle of energy fills me. I’m engulfed in cold air as if I stepped into a walk-in refrigerator. As I blink away the whiteness that has blinded me, I feel that cool, muddy pebbles are pressing into the soles of my feet, and a couple of sharp edges are digging into my flesh. I hear a burbling brook and the twittering of birds. The air is crisp, and rich with the primeval smell of a forest.
I’m standing on the sedimentary rocks of a riverbed. To my right, the wavy surface of a brook is slate grey where it reflects the overcast sky, and otter brown where it reflects the other bank of the stream. At that woodland edge, the slender, swan-colored trunks of trees with orange-yellow canopies dominate, but above them protrude the brown, pointed tops of pines like lance tips. Beyond a forested hill I glimpse the ice-capped peaks of a mountain range.
About six meters to my left, leafy ferns sway gently in the breeze at the edge of a thicket three-stories tall, in which the trees blend into a patchwork of deep greens and onyx-black shadows. A bird flutters overhead as it wings out of the canopy and traces an arc across the grey riverbed, which is strewn with branches and leaves.
I’m frozen in place, and my eyes dart back and forth between the thicket and the rippling brook. My breaths are shallow. Goosebumps are forming along my back as the cold creeps up my spine and seeps into my toes and fingers.
I turn my head slowly to look over my shoulder. Twenty meters away, the grey riverbed gives way to knee-high grasses and thick bushes, and the brook bends between pines and threadbare canopies.
These last couple of days I’ve felt better. Maybe the black beast has gotten tired of my cowardice, and it has wandered off until the next time it deigns to visit me again.