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I was suspended in darkness beyond what could be defined simply as the absence of light.  The ink black of this abyss possessed a presence and with every breath I felt like I was taking it in and weighing down my lungs. I could faintly hear sharp utterances and one of these voices seemed to become more frenzied as I listened. Its recitation was of something still too faint to understand, yet coming ever closer. Suddenly, there was complete silence with the exception of my racing heartbeat which caused my pulse to crash in waves against my eardrums. Like prey standing in the forest as the insects and birds fall silent, I sensed a predator had caught my scent.  My eyes strained to discern some unique aspect of the darkness, a warning flutter of movement or a telltale shadow cast against the landscape. There were no shadows however, and in this complete and total absence of light I felt, rather than saw the being which had come to me in this place. The hair on the back of my neck rose in response to a sensual breath which glazed my skin there with an unshakeable chill. This coolness wasn’t definable by the heat it lacked, but by what it took with it as it travelled over my skin. It felt like the energy was being removed from my body gently with this soft ghostly caress. The voiding chill slithered over me like hands in the darkness, and while something instinctual in me recoiled, the unseen fingers were not uncomfortable, but in a way alluring. I felt my knees buckle underneath me but I did not fall. Instead I felt now suspended in the darkness and enveloped in the embrace of the velvet blackness.

A voice came to me then, not as soundwaves vibrating on my eardrums, but as a cerebral assault channeled directly into my brain, becoming more inhuman as it spoke “The suffering of your spirit will purchase freedom for the one who comes, and your agony will be tasted as a fine wine by devils beyond counting, your body will be twisted and broken you will live within it. Let your name be unwritten and let the lamb look away from your hideousness,” A wave of terrible pain washed over my body and everywhere the numbness had been an unbearable fiery pain took its place. Even though I could not see what was happening, it felt as though I was being burned alive.

I screamed internally with such passion that when I sat up in my bed it carried into the material world and frightened my girlfriend Eva who responded with a slap to the face adding insult to injury.

“I’m so sorry! Reflex!” she insisted, kissing my forehead and pulling me over closer to her.  “The nightmare again? Is it the same one?”

I nodded and lay there panting in my sweat saturated t-shirt, willing my heart to slow down and let me think.

“You need to see someone I think, don’t you? I mean, it used to be just every once in a while but now you’re having nightmares almost every day. A psychiatrist can help you relieve some of the anxiety or whatever it is psychologically driving you to have these terrible dreams,” Eva encouraged me gently. She was a psychology major herself, and ascribed to the dogma of psychology whole heartedly in a way that was almost religious. For Eva, all manner of difficulties were solvable problems of the mind.

What I hadn’t told Eva yet was that I had seen many psychologists throughout my life and they had usually either sent me home with a script in my hand or any number of interesting albeit useless theories to explain away the visits I made to this place every night.  She was right in the respect that something had to change. I wasn’t sleeping anymore, at least not significantly and my eyes were draped with dark circles. My lack of sleep was starting to make me sluggish and I felt like a weight was tied around my feet all day.

I also hadn’t told her the extent of the nightmares, and what I often did in that other place. Sometimes I would go there and sit at the head of a banquet table seated with terrified strangers who looked at me with a fear which I ashamedly relished in. Their hands were bound behind their backs with flesh hooks binding them like bobby pins connecting two folds of fabric against one another, and they were forced to sit at the table and watch me with mouthless faces as I ate meat I couldn’t identify. Other nightmares involved worse horrors, often inflicted by myself upon strangers.  I often probed my emotions about these dreams where I was the nightmare, thinking I would be disturbed by my actions in this place, but I found no such feelings. More often than not the only thing I felt was uncomfortable that I wasn’t ashamed and very aware of how that would look to other people so I kept most of these nightmares to myself. That being said, I wasn’t eager to open up that can of worms with a psychologist and a notepad.

“It will be okay,” I assured her, “I will try and take some of that Tylenol PM tomorrow night and see if that works,” She seemed unconvinced, but accepted the answer and rolled back over into a restful, undisturbed sleep.

I tried to stay awake in class the next day, but I kept drifting off in the lecture and waking up as gravity pulled my head forward just as I nodded off to sleep. It felt like all I wanted to do lately was sleep, and even when I was awake I didn’t feel 100% in the moment.

I hadn’t bathed in a week either and I was starting to be offended by my own smell, so I knew it was getting bad. I just didn’t have the energy or the desire to do it, but this was getting raunchy. When I got home that night, I went into the bathroom with full intent to force myself to bathe. In the absence of showering, I had not seen myself naked for a while, and I had not noticed the horrendous rashes on my skin. The flaky red blisters almost looked like burns and I turned white remembering the nightmare and the flaming end it always came to.

What in the Hell? How did this happen? Okay, calm down. Breathe…that can’t be how you got these. What is this Nightmare on Elm Street?

As I laughed nervously at this last idea, I felt my stomach growl and realized I hadn’t eaten all day. I attempted to shower, but the water was painful on my blisters so I got out, promising to do a better job tomorrow and went to the kitchen to see what I could find. I opened the fridge and pulled out the leftovers from two nights prior which I had eaten very little of then.

I hadn’t seen Eva that morning when I left, but I knew her classes were later in the day than mine this semester so I didn’t think anything of it. Now though, the silence in the house punctuated her absence and I called out her name. Silence was the only response that I received and I decided to try and call her cell phone rather than worry about what could be nothing. I nibbled on the meat from the fridge as her phone rang, and rang, and rang, and…

I looked down at the food on the counter which I had pulled out and absent mindedly been eating and realized it was not leftovers, but raw meat. The packaging was white butcher paper with a white sticker dangling from the end labeled only with “Veal”. Bile rose in my throat and I ran to the sink gaging and spiting into the garbage disposal. There was no response from Eva’s cell phone, and on the counter I could hear her voicemail greeting which was suddenly very irritating to me.

How could she not come home? She KNOWS what kind of trouble I have been having lately and now she doesn’t even come home? I bet that slut is sleeping around. I know she’s been looking at other women, I know…

I stopped that train of thought, caught off guard by its aggressive direction and told myself I had better go to bed.

I woke up in the middle of the night still alone, but starving. Pleased with the absence of a nightmare, I rolled over to snuggle up to Eva but she was still not home. Rolling my eyes and huffing in annoyance, I decided I would attempt to eat something again now that the taste of raw lamb was fading a little from recent memory. I groggily walked to the kitchen and opened the fridge reaching for the mozzarella sticks Eva had left over from a lunch at Applebee’s with her friends and popped one into my mouth with bitter internal dialogue about how I was left alone at home. The mozzarella tasted extra soft to me however and I wondered if it had gone bad and I pulled another one out of the Styrofoam To-Go box to examine it, only to find raw veal, thinly cut lying in strips inside the container floating in a shallow pool of what appeared to be fresh, uncongealed blood.

“What the fuck?!” I cried dropping the container to the floor.

I walked to the bathroom in tears to brush my teeth and wash the blood out of my mouth. It smelled rotten in the hallway as I walked up to the bathroom and I made a mental note to call the landlord about the pipes backing up into the tub and toilet again. I was confused and anxious that in a freakish turn of events I had tried to eat bloody raw meat twice within 24 hours without 100% being aware of it. Maybe I needed to be committed somewhere, this was getting ridiculous and whether I wanted to admit it or not, there was something very wrong with me.  I flicked on the bathroom light and froze when I looked at the reflection of myself in the mirror. My reflection did not match my own, wearing a smile my own face did not reflect. I walked closer to the mirror and noticed my reflection was not breathing as I did, and its eyes were wide, frenzied and unblinking. My heart started racing and I watched as my reflection charged towards the mirror screeching and shattered it into a hundred pieces, causing me to faint and drop to the floor.

When I woke up I was hanging off of my body like the second head of a grotesque spiritual Siamese twin. Something else now had control over my body and I could do nothing but watch, invisible to all except the malicious spirit which controlled my body like a squatter inside a human shell. In my confusion I had not realized that while I was just waking up, my body had been awake before me, working on something with a cheerful hum on its lips.

Eva was lying bloody in the kitchen floor, small pieces of her were missing including pieces of her cheek, thighs, calves, and arms. She cried softly in fear as she came to, looking up at me with the same terror I had seen in my nightmares. My body knelt by her and stroked her uncut cheek softly before cutting a slice of it off and bringing it over to the kitchen counter.  I could see her tongue was removed, when she opened her mouth to scream, and I watched myself shush her gently as the freshly removed flesh was placed in a white piece of butcher paper marked “Veal”.