Insomnia: Not every love story has a happy ending ● Horror/Dark PNR ● 550 words ● 2 minute read

Grisly and morbid—that’s how this dream ends.

It begins with him, lurking behind me in the shadow of night. So close, the warmth of his breath tickles my neck, setting an army of butterflies loose in my stomach. He turns me around, then tucks a lock of hair behind my ear. My head tilts up eagerly, shamelessly expectant, but his golden glow is too bright even for me.

We sit at the river’s edge, watching the ink-black night spill out around us. My head rests on his shoulder, his hand grazes mine. Our touch charges the air with a desire so intense, it’s nearly a tangible thing. I’m sure I can see it if I try, longing and lust tangled together, floating on the air like hundreds of fireflies ablaze in the dark.

Then I look down. I always look down, even though I know what’s coming. And it’s always a shock when I see his blinding shimmer is gone, his hand mottled and pale against the smooth brown of my own. The severed hand of a corpse, cradled limply in my lap.

Murderous rage chokes the air then, polluting each breath I take. It burrows inside, compelling me to feel for the rest of the boy’s mutilated remains. I find another hand, his hand, now green with decay. An arm. A foot, its flesh peeling back with a sickening rip. Almost all of him is here, my anguish displayed in a gory collection of parts. And a new feeling twists beneath the black rage: victory.

I stand in triumph, only to slip down the muddy bank and land in the water with a splash. My legs tangle in the soggy weeds that grow in the muck, and I stumble again. Something else is coiled beneath the surface, pushing against me. I move to disentangle myself, to grab at the thing below, panic and dread burning my chest. When I tug, the thing comes up in my hands, heavy and wet and coated with weeds. Or rather, with hair.

The thing is a head. His head, sliced clean at the neck.

His face is serene, like he’s only asleep and will wake any second despite the decay. Proving me right, his dark lashes flutter. The eyelids fly open, revealing eyes shining so bright, it’s as if they’re lit from within by miniature suns.

His perfectly formed lips part as he—it—says my name, spilling out maggots and worms and other slithering things. I drop the head with a start, but it floats back to the surface. Still visible, despite the murky water. Luminous eyes still open. Lips still moving, insistent upon its message.

“You’ve forgotten. It’s time now to remember who you are—wake up!”

And so I wake up, sweaty and shaking and gasping for breath.

Ever since my birthday three months ago, I wake up like this at least once a week. Not any more knowledgeable as to who the boy is, or what the dream means, or who I’m supposed to remember I am beyond the me I am everyday.

Not hating this dream any less.

If you’ve ever heard the William Faulkner quote “In writing, you must kill your darlings,“ that’s what this is – a darling I sacrificed on the altar of story improvement. So I decided to share it here!