The Scream

by Russ

I wrenched myself from the paralysis of sleep with such force the scream stayed trapped inside. I could feel it jammed in my lungs as though it were too big to pass through my throat. It was as I sat, rigid and howling mutely into the dark, that I noticed how wet everything was. I couldn’t tell if it was sweat or piss but there was enough of it to leave me splashing around like a plumber who’d passed out on the job; maybe it was both. The condensation on the window shook; I didn’t know if I was trembling, or the world was.

Christ, it was hot.

The time before sleep sliced through my brain in flashes. Muscles and wine; oysters and tequila; blue cheese and tequila; tequila and tequila. My stomach lurched and its contents nudged against my scream forcing a little of it out as a groan, or a gasp; some wretched compound.

The thing that was trembling, it was definitely me.

I knew any moment I’d need to move and I’d need to move fast but the idea of shifting from this position, even by a foot, seemed insanity. I tried to focus on something to anchor me but every part of the room was moving; juddering and sliding in impossible directions; mechanical madness. I felt something leak from somewhere; what and where was anybody’s guess.

I pulled the duvet tight around my shoulders to ward off the chill and tried to breathe.

That’s when the face appeared, inches from my eyes. Every cell in my body tensed in defence and I could feel my mind searching for an escape. I don’t think it cared if I went with it.

Synapses crackled and spat trying to bring memories into focus like a water-damaged TV; I was sure I could smell smoke. The remainder of my scream exploded into ten thousand shards and, finally, I felt my lungs deflate, though I wished they hadn’t. They refilled with pure pain and the whirl of an old black and white projector signalled the start of a horror show.

The face was further away now, on the other side of a table, a debris of shot glasses and seafood vessels between us, and I was speaking. I was speaking and I was feeling and I was speaking about what I was feeling and I reached my hands in front of my mouth trying to catch the words and push them back in. I wanted to displace the pain and the scream with the words that never should have been let out and reglue my shattered insides… somehow.

A light pulsed at my side, it registered in my temples first. I recognised the illuminated name, blurred and shaking as it was. The name went with the face. The name went with the face that heard the words. The name went with the face I could never see again.

The moment to move arrived, and I moved like lightning.