Here they come, bellies full of fat, flesh, and bone. The big ones are slow, sluggish. Still hungry, they lomp through the dark, bodies warbling with each step. The lean ones’ eyes burn an oil-black fire.
We’re asleep and they slide under our doors like smoke. We don’t wake, don’t see or hear them rummage through our cabinets, pantries, and Frigidaires. Where there had been food there is now a slick film of bile-yellow spit. We do not hear them slip into our children’s rooms, put their lips to our children’s lips and steal a single gasp of their breath.
They come to our beds, crawl atop our sheets, our bodies. We feel their heat and we twitch. We think they are lovers. We submit. Their breath fills our rooms like a humidifier.
Their fingers glide across our foreheads and their nails make an incision. The skin slinks off like underwear. The skull lifts like a door coming ajar. They dip their fingers in and eat and the mush slides down their throats like oysters. We dream and do not notice.
All night, they straddle our chests and when they finish, they snap our skulls in place and slide the skin back over bone, as easy as putting on mittens.
In the morning, we struggle to rise from bed. We are tired, our bodies ravaged, our minds slow to think. Over coffee we say I couldn’t sleep. I had a dream…but then our voices trail off. We don’t mention our dreams of other lovers, of other lives. We do not mention how willing we were to submit. Instead, we clasp each other’s hands and we say I love you. It feels like we are reaching beyond ourselves, beyond each other, this touch a protection against our fears. We are quiet. We do not want to wake our children. Our brains feel scraped clean and we blame cheap wine.
A graduate from Colorado State University’s MFA program for fiction writing, Bruce Shields lives and writes along the Colorado Front Range and is a general enthusiast of the weird, absurd, and uncanny. Previous fiction has appeared in Kansas City Voices. He is currently hard at work on his first novel and collection of short stories.
You can find him on Twitter by the name @321ReadySetGo