Bad Dreams

    The smell burned her nostrils, fetid fumes aiming directly at her as she ran through the grass. Her feet were wet as they pounded through the dew drenched lawn, her lungs burned from exhaustion, yet she continued to run. She didn’t want to look backwards to see how far she’d gotten away, but she could hear the screeching and squawking behind her, and she knew her progress was poor.

    Behind her, three oddly shaped birds flapped their wings, every flap releasing toxic fumes, their claws glinting in the sporadic moonlight. Sharp, razor sharp, they were their best weapon. Her shirt, thrown at them in a momentary panic had slowed them down, but not for long, as they had ripped it to shreds and now gained momentum. And so they flew onwards, propelled by a desperate need to claw, rip, and kill.

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    For her, it seemed that the yard was endless, the house dark and mysterious, yet calling her name, begging her to get it, get in, GET IN!! She propelled herself harder, and the door soon loomed in front of her. The door was miraculously open, and as she went through she felt a claw raze across her back. Her shocked scream seemed to agitate the birds more, but she slammed the door behind her, only after could she collapse in pain and exhaustion.

    She lay curled up, shirtless, barefoot, shivering as blood seeped from her wound. The sound she made was a cross between a whimper and a sob, the pain getting the better of her, sapping her strength. In the home she was safe, but she felt the need to get up and keep running. Something else was coming, and she knew she could stop it. What it was, she didn’t know.

    She picked up herself, wincing as the slash across her back burned and resisted. She saw the blood that pooled where she’d lain, and she knew she had to get help. She blinked to adjust her eyesight, and the darkness disturbed her. There had been no beacon of light beckoning her closer, she had simply known to step into the house. Now she wondered why, as a mist started swirling around her legs, wrapping quickly, seeping through her dew soaked pants and chilling her to the bone. The fiery pain in her back cooled down, but she felt weakened.

    She stepped away from where she had lain, and even though the mist seemed to envelop her, it parted and moved with her. She drew closer to the end of the hallway where she’d collapsed, and felt she had to keep walking a straight line. The wall ahead of her was an obstacle, but she kept walking. Outside, the screeching of the birds grew louder as she neared the wall, and their wings beat at the door, their claws scratching in a desperate attempt to break through.

    Her legs kept moving, and as though pulled by some invisible force, she kept walking. The wall was no more, and each step brought her to sunshine, and the outside. A beautiful garden, perfumed with roses and delicious gardenia. She saw three birds sitting on a fence, and her hackles rose, but instead of a squawk, they tweeted in unison, singing sweetly. She kept walking, avoiding the roses’ thorns, following a winding path through strange plants, under trees heavy with fruit. The air was almost cloying, sweetness abounded, and she grew drowsy. Her steps slowed down, and something screamed in her mind to keep going.

    Somehow she did, and when she came to a clearing, she saw him. A boy of no more than six stood in a patch of sunlight, his hair a haloed fringe around his sad little face. She felt his sorrow, felt the need to hold him and make him happy. She was in a place that should echo with the laughter of children. As she drew near him, the space of sunlight narrowed to them. She looked around, and all the roses, plants, fruit, even the birds, were gone. Dead and dry, with an air of decay, the garden existed only where the little boy existed. He walked towards the house she’d left behind, beckoning for her to follow, and fearing the evil birds, she followed.

    They went inside, and the light followed. The mist had dissipated, and her back was back on fire. She gasped with the pain, and he turned. His eyes were more sorrowful than before, but still, he kept on, and she felt the need to speed up. He went up a flight of stairs, and she climbed, wondering what she was doing, but refusing to go out to the decay and death outside. Above, she could hear cawing, and a sorrowful keening, and her first instinct was to turn and leave. The little boy held out his hand, and she was warmed enough that she felt better, and could climb the last two stairs with him. She was standing in a dusty room, that smelled closed up and unused. The keening came from the far right corner, and when she looked closer, she saw the three birds, their metallic claws glinting in the light the little boy radiated. They bristled, and one came flying out at her, and while she cowered, it slashed at her face, grazing her face. She screamed, and woke up…

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