Blythe knew she was dreaming. She was nowhere. There was infinite nothingness in all directions. The world was a blank page all about her, begging to be drawn upon. She treaded through the empty dreamscape for a lifetime, unable to tell where she was or where she had been.
Yet throughout this she remained just as young as she began. Neither her bright light nor her curiosity left her. She gained no wrinkles nor regrets. Time treated her well.
Eventually, in the far distance, she saw the start of Something come into existence. Naturally, this Something intrigued her after having been the only being in existence for so long. She ran towards It, excited to greet It into this otherwise empty world.
As things go in dreams, time warped, and, in less than a second, she stood not too far from it. Her lungs had been crushed half-way between nowhere and somewhere, leaving her to gape and gasp in the thin air. She felt a wall of nothing materialize behind her. She leaned back against the non-surface, grateful for the support.
She squinted to look at the Something she had seen earlier only to realize that it was two Somethings. One was an elderly man with black, fearful eyes. The other was Something beyond the average or expected. It was a towering skeletal creature with taut alabaster skin that clung to Its fleshless form like moss to a rock.
Blythe watched, mortified, as It ripped the man’s soul from his chest, threw the deceptively young body aside, and then devoured the decrepit soul, blood splattering in all directions. A droplet laded in the center of Blythe’s forehead. It seemed to burn its way through her skin and flesh before melting a hole through her skull.
Now, the nothingness, encased her entire body, muting the scream that clawed its way up her throat. A crawling sensation made its way inside the remnants of her brain. She could now hear the ragged breathing of the Something as It lifted Its head from Its prey’s throat. The Something tossed the empty shadow of a person aside.
Slowly, the parasitic creature twisted Its head around to stare deep into Blythe’s large blue eyes.
* * *
Blythe awoke with a start, shivering in the thick mid-summer air. She pressed her back against the wall as she searched her room, waiting for her nightmare to invade her reality. It felt as though an exterior force were squeezing her heart, flooding her veins with adrenaline-polluted blood.
She squinted at the too-bright digital clock in the too-dark room to find that she had hours until she would have to get ready for work. Closing her eyes, she deeply inhaled then exhaled the stale air. She carefully climbed out of the cold bed with a small yet unshakable fear that the Something would reach out from underneath the bed and drag her back down into Its domain.
Upon standing, nausea overwhelmed her. She darted out of the bedroom, through the living room, into the bathroom, barely reaching the crowded space in time to retch into the sink. After a series of failed attempts to lift her head, she managed to look up into the mirror.
But the Blythe in the mirror was… off. Her eyes were a foggy turquoise, sagging at the corners. Her complexion had gone from its normal porcelain-like appearance to that of murky dish water. She looked thinner than normal, sickly even. Her shadow loomed behind her unnaturally.
Blythe closed her eyes, forcing herself to think rationally. Clearly, her eyes were just playing tricks on her. It was really just that weird dream messing with her head. Nothing more, nothing less.
She went to the kitchen to make some tea to calm her nerves, refusing even a glance to her reflection. She added water to the teapot, which she’d left on the stove the previous morning. She set it to boil, then pulled down her favorite green mug down from the cabinet. With a quick trip to the pantry, she put a chamomile tea bag in the mug before setting it down on the counter.
Blythe stepped into the dining room, vowing to finish ten Calculus 1 problems before the screech of the teapot could interrupt her. Sitting down at the table with her books sprawled out in front of her, she quickly realized that she’d be lucky to complete two problems, much less ten. She couldn’t figure out what she was doing wrong. She had referenced her neat, detailed notes as well as the cryptic textbook, but couldn’t make any sense of the convoluted problems.
The teapot squealed from the other room. Frustrated, she glared down at her homework. She may as well have done nothing for all that she had accomplished. She abandoned the meaningless numbers, disappointed in her lack of productivity.
Blythe eagerly welcomed her familiar tea-time routine. She poured the heated water into her mug and examined its contents. Through the light steam, she saw her reflection. The Blythe in her mug looked even farther from her accepted reality than the Blythe in the mirror. Distinct wrinkles had formed on her forehead, around her mouth, and at the edges of her eyes which had taken on a shade similar to that of dying grass. Her lips were pressed into a hard line, and her eyes were narrowed in a similarly jaded manner.
This time, rather than look away, she stared into her reflection until tendrils of the tea bag’s contents slithered through the water, fogging her reflection beyond recognition. Just as Blythe began to look away from the enigmatic drink, a shadow flashed over the still surface.
She spun around, termites scrambling through her large intestines as she scanned the room for the enormous, ravenous creature, waiting to devour her that… wasn’t there. She couldn’t help but sigh at her own stupidity.
Blythe threw the soaked tea bag away, then finished preparing the tea. Gingerly, she lifted the mug to her mouth, and took the first sip. The sour taste of lemons polluted her tongue. She spat the revolting poison out into the kitchen sink. Gravity snatched the green mug from Blythe’s hand and smashed it on the cold tile floor.
She stumbled through the ceramic shards as she tried to get something to wash the repulsing taste out of her mouth. A sharp yelp of pain escaped her as the splinters embedded themselves in her feet. The threat of tears put a strangle-hold on her throat, but she swallowed the sensation, and examined the no doubt deep slashes in her feet.
But when she looked, she found no evidence that she had been injured. She widened her perspective to see that her mug wasn’t broken at all. She stood shakily, and realized that it was precariously perched upon the edge of the counter, filled nearly to the brim with chamomile tea.
She dumped the beverage out, then threw away her favorite mug and all of her tea bags.
Blythe slipped out of the kitchen and went to her room in search of something to get her mind off of the peculiarity of her morning. She surveyed her room from the doorway. Everything was neat and tidy and perfectly in place, exactly the way a home should be.
Well, nearly everything was in place. There was one book that must’ve been knocked off the shelf. Its cover claimed that it was “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath. Though Blythe had no memory of ever having gotten the book, she felt certain that reading a bit would refresh her memory. So, she opened the book to a page nearing the end. She mostly scanned, but one phrase caught her eye.
She read it to herself in a murmuring voice, “To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.”
A shadow hovered over the page as she read it. Her hands trembled as she closed the book. The Something’s breath echoed through her fear-stricken mind.
“Come to me,” It commanded.
Obediently, Blythe turned to face the terrifying creature, but, once again, there was no sign of Its presence. An involuntary shiver snaked its way up her spine.
The strange events of that morning had gone beyond what anyone should be so foolish as to ignore, but Blythe felt that, certainly, there wasn’t anything real coming for her. Clearly, it was just a result of her skittish mind. What other logical explanation was there?
Blythe decided that, really, it was too early in the morning to do much of anything. With fried nerves, she trailed off into the living room, and sat down on the couch. She turned on Netflix, and put on some mind-sucking show to distract her. Carefully, she tucked her small, shaking frame underneath the thin throw.
Though it hadn’t been her intention, she soon found herself fading back into her dreamscape. She closed her fluttering eyes for the last time before opening them to the barren world. The only tangible thing in the extending emptiness, beyond herself, was an enormous, elegant mirror. Terror pricked at her mind as a wall of nothingness came to press her closer and closer to the reflective surface until she was forced to stare into the mirror.
She was baffled by what she saw. It was Blythe, exactly as she had been before all this nightmare nonsense: young, beautiful, and full of life. Unconsciously, Blythe lifted her hand to caress the mirror’s surface.
Her hand, however, caught her attention before her fingertips could graze the mirror’s surface. The skin was colorless, translucent, revealing the dull blue veins that littered her wrist. The phenomenon had devoured her body, leaving her with a mere shell of her former glory.
The mirror vanished, leaving the Something in its place. Blythe helplessly stared into the creature’s reflective eyes, and watched as her own eyes faded from a muddy brown to an animalistic black.
The Something’s deep, rumbly voice shattered her thoughts, “It is time.”