Darkness. That's all you see as your eyelids lift from a dead sleep. A warm air chokes you, still and with a faint smell. The smell is almost savory but just a bit off. It reminds you of your mother's chicken cacciatore, on Friday nights. Thinking of your mom's cooking sends a rumble through your gut.
Feeling around, you find the familiar shape of a mattress, so small that your feet hang over the edge. The linen sheet lining the mattress is starched stiff in some places, uncomfortable and scratchy, and set into strange folds. There is no pillow to be found.
Reaching over the side, you pull up some carpet, already matted and ragged. Still unable to see, you slide your legs over the side of the mattress and place your feet loosely on the floor. Dragging your head up off the firm bed, you prop your back up against the wall, the stone chilling your skin as they touch. Ever since your family moved to Moreno Valley, California, when you were fourteen, the summers had become too hot for sleeping with your clothes on.
With your arms stretching over your head, you stand, a soothing pain washing along your spine. As you yawn, you notice how quiet the room is. "I wonder where Mark is," you say to yourself. "He's usually up all night playing the radio in his room."
Moving your head around, you search for the familiar, bright red LED of your alarm clock, but only darkness greets you. Patter, patter, patter a few raindrops fall on the roof, leaving a hollow, metallic sound. You reach out your arms, feeling, pushing through the darkness.
Your hands reach a grainy, rough, wooden bump protruding from the wall. Then, there is the slightest gap, before another wooden bump. "Boards? There are boards on the window."
A dull think emanates from the boards as you knock on them. Above the second board there is a larger gap, just wide enough to jam your fingers through. As you tug at the boards, splinters pierce your skin, the small shards of wood wedging further and further inside you.
With a jerk and a cry, you force your fingers out of the gap. The tiny wooden nettles can still be felt, as if they were now a part of you. Stepping onto the low mattress, you pull yourself closer to the window and let your forehead thunk against the wooden boards.
"I'm blind, aren't I?" A few moments pass and you wonder about how blindness will affect your life. You'll never get to see the roses blooming in the spring as you walk into work. You won't be able to use a computer anymore so your job at the accounting firm will end. You'll never be able to see that movie you've been wanting to see. Maybe Rufus can be a seeing-eye dog.
A flash. The boards are just barely illuminated. The light causes your eyes to throb as you hear the distant rumbling of thunder. Rubbing your eyes with the back of your wrists, you turn around. You can see, the darkness is just so strong that you can't.
Stepping off the mattress, you reach your hands out, searching for anything. A second flash lights the room enough to see grey lumpy shapes on the floor. Stumbling over to the nearest one, you fall to your knees. Ignoring the pain, you run your hands along the shape.
The shape feels mostly like cloth, rough and textured. In some places, it is damp, as if from a leaky roof, and it varies from soft to hard as you prod it. It feels like a wet blanket covering some piece of furniture.
A large, heavy raindrop falls onto the back of your head. As the wetness mingles with your hair, you look up, only to be hit by another, heavy drop. The drop slides slowly down your forehead and along the left side of your nose. You stand, to move away, and feel a cold metallic string course about you.
A pull chain. Reaching along the chain, slippery and wet, you search above. Your left hand finds it first, a light bulb. Lightning flashes again, dimly illuminating the globular shape. You pull the greasy chain, feeling wooden slivers snap inside your palm, hoping that the light works.
A bright flash fills out the room. Your eyes, so unaccustomed, wrack with pain and blindness. You blink your eyes rapidly, and turn away. After rubbing your eyes with the back of your wrists, you open them just barely.
The room is blurry, the shapes too bright to see. Bowing your head and covering you eyes with your hands, you examine the damage to them, trying to find the splinters. Your hands are cracked with wood and bleeding, blood covering your palms.
You pull your hands away, the red blood shining in the light. The blood continues sporadically down your arms. You watch as a red droplet falls from your left elbow, down to your feet, landing on the crumpled blanket.
The blanket slowly changes as the blank spot in your vision diminishes. A blanket to a pile of trash to a footstool. Finally, the shape becomes clearer, the blurriness fading. A torso. A headless, armless torso.
For a moment, you stare at the fleshy lump, still oozing with its juices, blood bubbling from inexplicable wounds in its chest. The skin is flaky and ashen, disturbed where you poked and prodded it before.
You step backward and your leg crumples. The carpet is only barely cushioning. It is also stained red. The room is small. Blood stains are in curious streaks on the walls. You see a hand nearby, cut clean from the wrist. The bed has turned red, the sheets starched by long-dried blood. Even the ceiling has streaks of blood, some still dripping in a crimson rainfall.
Then, the smell hits you. That savory smell, like your mother's chicken cacciatore, assaults your nostrils. It smells sour. Dead.
You flop yourself over onto your hands and knees and open your mouth, choked by the gagging of your throat. Breathing is impossible. A long, sticky, yellow mucus falls out of your mouth, tasting like grass and earwax.
Your arms shake and give out. Your face falls into the sticky mucus. A cramping pain in your gut begs for food. A moment passes before you can force a breath into your lungs. Another string of bitter saliva fills your mouth. You spit it out, splattering it on your face and into the carpet.
To your left is a door, large and metal. No handle is on this side. Crawling, you drag yourself over to it, and beat a weak fist against the steel. A dull, lifeless thump is the only sound you can produce. The pain in your stomach redoubles, and you crumple into a ball, your bloody arms tearing wildly at your abdomen.
Your body shakes, wild and uncontrolled. A great chill falls over you. You claw your hair into stringy wisps. Digging your dirty, broken nails into the carpet, you inch closer and closer towards the bed.
In the center of the room, your strength fails as another wave of pain and unchecked quivering passes through you. For a few moments, you breathe, spit flying with every exhale. Your lazy eyes are fixed on the torso, sharing your space under the light bulb.
As one of your eyes twitches, the other grows wide. A new surge of strength grips you as you grope at the naked torso. Pieces of somewhat stale flesh are ripped off with your fingers, finding their way to your waiting mouth. As you swallow the tough, stringy meat a series of low thuds resounds from the metal door. Flinging yourself over the torso, you stare at the door, shoving bloody chunks into your mouth.
With a hiss of air, the door opens a crack, a wide ax blade poking through the narrow slit of light. A woman's voice, wispy, yet strong floats through the door. "Are you ready, my pet?"
You bite into the fleshy torso and never look back.