Warning: Story contains a brief scene of sexual violence and may not be suitable for all readers.
Coincidences often occur in everyday life, but when they are particularly disturbing, the hold it has on our minds can remain for a long time after. I did not know I was sleeping. Many times in dreams, I am aware of my unconscious state, even in the most realistic of scenarios. But last night, as I lay in bed living in my head, the events that occurred were so tangible, there was no way I could discern them from reality. Given the subject matter I am about to impart, I can only say how relieved I am that it indeed was a dream. However, the small, seemingly insignificant happenstance that followed, causes me to question the tenuous distinction between dreams and reality.
The world was a constant flickering of images, flashing from one location to the next, and back again. Faces, some familiar, some not, passed in front of my eyes. Some spoke to me of things I no longer remember. Others merely gobbled up space on the canvas of my world. I felt alone, self-conscious, inadequate, and lost. I couldn’t catch up to the events that sped in front of me, and I couldn’t make sense of the voices and the objects they embodied.
Then I was on a roadside, on the dirt, on my hands and knees, as if some airship had dropped me, with no frame of reference. The air was a rusty brown, and it made everything hazy and muddled. I was wearing a simple frock with a small floral pattern, like the women of Depression-Era West Virginia. My arms were naked and dirty, my feet were bare, and my long, stringy hair clung to my neck and face.
A small ditch ran alongside the road, and beyond were miles of trees. I will not say it was a forest because a forest is green and lush and beautiful. No, this was an endless wasteland of brown, moldy, rotting trees. They stood helter-skelter, crooked and wrong. The ragged landscape oozed with some stench I could not identify. It was not the smell of rotting wood or fetid water. The scent was metallic and…alive.
I became aware of something moving to my left. I felt the heat of its body, and it made noises like a wild animal devouring its prey. I slowly turned my head and raised my eyes to see what thing could be so near.
A large corpus of flesh, naked and dirty, hunched over a carcass. The massive expanse of its back was bisected by its spine, and its skin and muscles slid back and forth over the bony column. The beast grunted and sniffled, sometimes giggling like a maniacal schoolgirl over its bounty. He took no notice of my presence.
Bile rose in my throat, but fear of discovery forced it back down. I sat frozen, afraid to try and run. I knew I would be the next carcass if I made the wrong move. Yet my eyes were riveted to the creature in front of me despite my disgust.
The beast sat up and turned its face toward me, its jowls dripping with saliva and strings of flesh. A smile formed on his lips and his eyes showed recognition. To my horror, I realized the beast knew me, and even worse, I knew him, although I didn’t know how.
I sensed he was a male even before he showed me. In his satiated state of glee, he rolled over onto his side and spread his buttocks wide to display his damp, crimson loins. He kicked his feet like a baby and giggled. I could not look away. My head would not turn.
He sat erect and began barking orders at me. Although I could not distinguish the actual words, I knew I was supposed to help him with the slaughter. He motioned further up the road to another male who was slimmer than the beast beside me but just as bloody and dirty. He hunched over a carcass of his own, which I now recognized as one of a herd of monstrously-sized wild boars.
My beast motioned for me to come closer. I shook my head and backed away. He grabbed my ankle and yanked me to his side. He glared at me in warning, and I lost all hope for escape.
With his other hand, he reached into the neck of the dead boar he had devoured and tore the artery open. An endless stream of blood gushed and spewed all over the two of us. The beast took fistfuls of the steaming red liquid and spread it over my face, down my neck, and over my breasts. He licked the blood from my body and smeared his face into my navel.
Confused and disgusted, the bile returned to my throat. I turned my head to vomit, but to my horror, sudden and shameful arousal overpowered my senses. The hot, smooth blood soaked into my skin, electrifying and somehow soothing me.
Then, without warning, the beast was heavy and lustful on top of me, slipping and sticking, rubbing and tugging. In a moment of distraction, his grip on me loosened, and I tumbled away.
I came to my senses just then, no longer hypnotized by whatever power the beast or blood had held over me. I remembered how badly I wanted to get away. I began to scream and scramble on my hands and knees in the dirt road.
I wasn’t fast enough. The beast grabbed the back of my dress and flipped me onto my back. He forced my thighs apart and entered me. I screamed and begged him to stop.
He did not stop. His greedy face hovered over mine, saliva dangling inches from my cheek. Every thrust shot daggers of pain deep within my body. The violation continued for what felt like forever until I became numb.
And then it no longer mattered. Nothing mattered. I turned my head to the side, closed my eyes, and accepted my fate.
* * *
I awoke with an excruciatingly full bladder and stumbled to the bathroom to relieve myself. I contemplated whether to immediately write down the disturbing events in my dream journal. I decided that writing on an empty stomach was fool’s work and went downstairs. I ate my breakfast, drank my coffee, and read the newspaper, the dream haunting my mind all the while.
As was my usual routine, I started doing the crossword puzzle during my second cup of coffee. The first clue read: Fat and grunting, seven letters. Another clue: Sty denizen, five letters. Yet another: Arkansas team, nine letters.
I started to feel uneasy. Images from the nightmare flashed in staccato bursts behind my eyes. My coffee tasted metallic. It wasn’t until I had completed most of the puzzle clues that I realized the theme.
Every answer was related to pigs.
The beast appeared outside my window.
I dropped the pen, stood up, and backed away from the table. The walls of the kitchen began to rot away, and the air turned putrid and heavy as the beast peered at me, dripping with blood and saliva. As I turned toward the staircase to escape the oncoming doom, the hallucination vanished. The beast was gone. It took a moment for me to regain a sense of reality as I looked around the now-normal kitchen.
I let out a nervous laugh. My imagination had gotten the better of me once again. I took in a deep breath and shook it off, deciding to go about my day as usual and feeling quite silly.
That night, as I lowered my head down onto the pillow and closed my eyes, the nightmare and crossword puzzle theme connection had faded to the back of my mind. I chalked it up to coincidence and quickly fell asleep. . .
* * *
The world was a constant flickering of images. I was on a roadside, on the dirt, on my hands and knees and I became aware of something moving to my left. My beast motioned for me to come closer.