After a head injury, Jess begins to see things she can’t explain. She starts to wonder if she’s hallucinating, losing her mind completely...or if something far worse might be happening.
A scream erupted from her throat, dragging her forcefully from the nightmare that held her captive. Heart pounding, chest heaving, she rolled over and reached to pull the pillow over her head. The lingering fear from the nightmare morphed into sheer terror when she realized she was no longer lying in her warm, cozy bed, but on a cold, hard surface. She froze, too afraid to move, and opened her eyes just enough to study her surroundings.
“What the..?” Although she laid in total darkness, Jess knew exactly where she was. The bumps and crevices of the rough terra cotta tile, combined with the lingering scent of potpourri, were unmistakable. How had she gotten here? Why were there no lights? Pain slammed through her head when she tried to sit up. Nausea threatened to overwhelm her, and she forced the bile back down. She lowered herself to the floor, gently resting her cheek against the cool tile. Maybe she could just lay here for the rest of the night.
Reality intruded, and she knew she had to stand. She moved slowly, pulling her knees to her chest and resting her forehead against them. Taking slow breaths and tentatively rubbing at the tender spot on her temple, she was surprised when her hand came away sticky. “Ugh…what’s on my hand?”
She struggled to her feet and slapped her hands against the wall to stop the room from spinning. Once the world came into focus, she padded to the kitchen, hoping to rid herself of the coppery taste that was threatening to choke her.
Pain exploded behind her eyes and took her breath away when she turned on the light. She grabbed a clean towel from the drawer, filled it with ice, and pressed it against her throbbing head. Elbows on the kitchen counter, she leaned into the cold of her impromptu ice pack. Numbness prickled her skin.
How had she ended up on the floor? How long had she lain there? Had she fallen? Passed out? The throbbing pain made thinking difficult. Aspirin. Aspirin would help. She reached for the bottle in the cabinet and then filled a glass with cool water. When she raised her head to drink, she caught sight of her reflection in the window above the sink.
With darkness pressing heavily against the glass, she was able to see herself quite clearly. The disheveled woman who met her gaze startled her. Her short, dark hair stuck out in all directions but, when she tried to run her fingers through the rat’s nest in an effort to tame it, she met resistance. The sticky mess had already started to dry, leaving her hair full of knots. She’d bled worse than she’d thought. The pink t-shirt she’d worn to bed was also blood splattered.
“What happened to me? Was I sleepwalking?” She sipped her water, but dumped the remainder down the sink when her stomach rebelled. Her heart pounded in her chest, keeping time with the throbbing in her temples. There has to be a logical explanation for this. Did I get up to go to the bathroom and trip? That didn’t make sense, even to her own confused mind. When her gaze returned to the window, she couldn’t fight the fear that clutched at her throat.
“Oh, my…” she told the woman who stared back from the window, but left the sentence unfinished when she caught movement from behind her in the reflection. Instinctively ducking to the side, Jess turned to find the room empty. Her heart thundered in her already constricted chest, her breath coming in short, shallow gasps. Tremors shook her body as she struggled desperately to fight off the impending panic attack. The hammering of her heart made it hard for her to hear anything else, but she strained her ears to listen.
The kitchen doorway led to the small living room directly across from the window. Had someone been moving through the room? Was that how she’d ended up crumpled on the floor at the bottom of the stairs? Had she been pushed?
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Dani-Lyn is a native New Yorker. She was born in Rome, New York, then moved to Rosedale, and finally to Long Island. She still lives on eastern Long Island with her husband and three children, ages twenty two, fifteen and three.
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