The numbers on the clock flipped over and four am glowed brightly into the bedroom. Casey stirred in the double bed, tangled in a dark dream where giant jigsaw pieces were chasing her. Lying on her back, she felt herself caught on the border between sleep and awake. Something touched her neck.
Casey woke, tossing her head as she tried to clear it from the dream. Reaching out for the lamp, she fumbled with it before pressing the switch. Pale yellow light startled her eyes and she shielded them with her hand. Pushing herself up, she blinked a few times, then dropped her hand and glanced around her bedroom. Everything looked normal.
Throwing back the duvet, she got up and walked to the bathroom. Her hand strayed to her neck and scratched at an itchy spot. Turning on the bathroom light, she did what she had to do and then stood before the mirror. There was a red line on the side of her throat.
Frowning, Casey pulled her top down and saw a number of dry bloody lines sweeping down her neck. Panicked, she let go of her top and turned her head to see the lines. The mirror hadn’t lied to her. She saw six lines with small breaks in-between each line and they just pieced her skin enough to make it bleed. She touched the scratches gently and wondered what had happened.
Her first thoughts were that a cat or some other animal had done this to her. But she didn’t own any and she was twelve floors up in her city apartment. I must have done this to myself, Casey thought. Puzzled, she turned from the mirror and switched the light out as she left. She got back into bed and lay against the pillows. She pressed her right hand over the scratches and tried to recall what she had been dreaming about.
When nothing came to mind, she curled up and listened to the noise drifting in from the half open window. Even at this ridiculous time in the morning people had places to be and things to do. Casey shut her eyes and let the city hush her back to sleep. As she started to doze, she turned off the lamp and allowed the dark to form around her once more.
Falling back into sleep, she dreamed the jigsaw pieces were coming for her again. She could see the first few clearly from across the field. They were made of wood, each depicted an image and somehow they all fitted together. They were the plot-holes of her life; who had her parents been? What had happened to her foster sister? Why had the puppy died? What had really happened on the beach that day? Why had her first ex-boyfriend left her?
Casey shuddered and turned her back on the jigsaw pieces. She started running across the field and towards the white fence she could see in the distance. Even without looking, she knew the pieces were following her. She could hear them thumping along the ground as they cartwheeled after her. She pushed on, knowing that if she reached the fence she would be safe. How do I know that? She thought.
Her feet stumbled, she felt herself falling, her arms windmilling through the air. She met the ground hard and wasn’t grateful for the long, hard grass scraping her skin. Catching her breath, she got up and looked behind her. The pieces were still coming and they seemed never ending. Casey screamed and woke up.
She scrambled around in the bed, trying to untangle herself and fight off the fading dream. She reached for the lamp, but her hand stopped. There was heavy breathing to her right, on the empty side of the double bed. Biting her lip, she slowly turned on the light and let her eyes flicker to the side. The duvet was moving, as if something was under there asleep next to her.
It’s all in your mind. It’s just a dream, it’s not real.
She turned slowly and reached out with a shaking hand. She felt the scratches on her neck burning, but she ignored them. Her hand reached for the duvet and she pulled it back in a single movement. A scream left her mouth before her eyes had time to tell her brain what she was seeing. Casey threw herself out of the bed and along the wall. Desperately, she dug her fingernails into the wallpaper and clung there.
The daemon started taking shape before her. He was bright red with white spikes all along his body. He had horns like a goat’s on his head and a face like a hog with the tusks to match. His massive black wings, unfolded and spanned the length of the room. He fixed blood red eyes on Casey and she felt the scratches burning more painfully. Thoughts and words tried to form in her shocked mind, but Casey felt frozen.
The bed give way under him, but the daemon stood his ground. The loud snapping and cracking vibrated through Casey as if breaking the ice around her. She dropped her arms from the wall and bolted into the bathroom. She locked the door behind her, got into the bathtub and curled up into a ball. She shut her eyes and told herself it was just a dream repeatedly. But outside, she could hear the daemon trashing her bedroom.
A fist slammed into the bathroom door and Casey screamed. She stuffed her hands into her mouth and tried to stay quiet. Though a part of her knew that was pointless. Shaking, she hugged herself and tried to will the nightmare to end. She heard the bathroom door give way and crash down. Pounding footsteps sounded the daemon’s approach and Casey felt clawed fingers touching her throat.