The heat of the night crept across the walls of Alice’s bedroom and like large arms surrounding her grabbed onto her skin and drenched her sleeping body in salty droplets. Krrrr. Krrrr. Krrr. Krrr. The wood of her window frame whined as the wind passed through the city. It was a typical hot summer’s night. A storm was coming.
Alice lay exhausted by the toxicity of the workday she had had. Her brown locks cascaded around her in an ocean of comfort. Her tiny hand hung over the edge of her bed. Her swiftly moving eyelids, however, betrayed the otherwise serene facade of her bedroom. She had been having a recurring nightmare for the past four nights.
A woman was standing before her in the dream world. The woman was drenched in black fluid, her arms outstretched for Alice to come closer and embrace her. Alice was not afraid of the woman in the dream, despite her toothy devilish smile and wet pasty hair. The woman was skinny, her collarbones rosy red and protruding from her slender shoulders. I have something for you, the woman would say each night. Come here, come look at what I have to give you. I saved this just for you. Alice took a step forward. The ground beneath her was shaky and unstable. She looked down at her bare feet atop transparent mosaic tiles. Below the tiles was an infinite and inconceivable vastness. She and the woman were suspended in mid-air on this floating puzzle level. The colours of the dream’s backdrop were always psychedelic; it was as if they were inside a child’s kaleidoscope, each fragment of the air around them like a twisting tunnel of neon hues.
The woman opened her clenched right hand. A single coin stared back at Alice. It was the shiniest object she had ever beheld. She picked it up, feeling the unassuming heavy weight of the gold piece. Alice admired its beauty and the reflections of light bouncing off its delicate face. Suddenly, Alice’s hand began to disappear. First, her pinkie finger, then her ring finger… and then her middle finger. It was just her thumb and index finger remaining, still holding onto the coin. The woman continued smiling. The coin turned black and hot, burning her two remaining fingers until eventually, they, too, disintegrated. The woman was gone.
The coin hit the puzzle floor with a strong thud and as it did, the mosaics shattered beneath her.
Alice’s bedroom window swung open as an angry gush of the howling wind rushed in and immediately cooled the room. Alice awoke, knocking over the glass next to her bed. She had never seen, on any of the nights, how the dream ended, and whether she would fall into the vastness. Her heart was pounding so loud in her ears that she didn’t feel so alone in her empty room. What lingered, however, was the deep sense of dread of the unknown.
Hazel, she murmured into the room.