It was all a dream.
Wait… what was?
The sweat on the sheets is cold and my heart is beating at twice its usual rate, but for the life of me I can’t remember the nightmare. (That is sweat on the sheets, isn’t it? They’re wet through. I check my crotch and it appears that I haven’t pissed myself, but from my extreme agitation it seems that’s more down to chance than anything else.)
I swing my legs off my side of the bed and breathe deeply, burying my head in my hands and feeling the warm reassurance of the bedroom carpet under my naked toes. This is all right. This is stuff I recognise. Not like that – whatever that was. I pull my dressing gown on and amble over to the en-suite bathroom – the tiled inner sanctum that protects me from the rest of the house.
At the doorway, I look back at the bed and study the contours of the sheets and duvet. There’s something amiss that I can’t quite place, but whether that’s by presence or absence I’m not sure. Either way, nature calls and will not be denied, so I enter the bathroom and close the door behind me, glad to have a barrier between myself and the bedroom.
I manage to complete my ablutions with the bare minimum of eye contact between me and my reflection. I use the toilet toilet, wash, shave and dress without the aid of a mirror. The hint of a memory, dancing just outside my consciousness, makes it impossible for me to look myself in the eye. This probably leads to a somewhat strange appearance, but I don’t care – I just don’t want to see myself.
Away from the rooms of bath and bed I had hoped to feel better, but the morning ritual of toast and coffee does nothing to assuage the gnawing feeling that my stomach is trying to eat itself. Leaving the toast uneaten and the cup half empty, I go to the front room to say my goodbyes and it’s then that I remember.
The blood. Oh god, the blood.
Everywhere. On every surface. The walls, the ceilings, their faces. Their little faces.
I close my eyes and pray it was all a dream.
It was all a dream.