Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite
Flash Fiction by Danielle Talbot
Photo from Pexels
Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite
In the small, dark room, there are no windows. There are no doors. My clothes, damp with sweat, cling to me like a second layer of skin. I can barely see my own hand, even an inch from my face. A low growl reverberates all around me. I lean into the wall—warm and slippery—and reach for a light switch, but there is none. When I move, the growling intensifies into a piercing bark. I stumble back. . I can’t see! My hand meets something cold, something that wasn’t there before. A lighter? I flick the cap open and out bursts a little flame. The orange light glows through my thumbnail.
The ground is pink, textured with rough bumps. My stomach flips. Not a room. I lift the light to the ceiling, illuminating rows of sharp, bleached teeth, some as big as my head. I am inside of a beast. I see a large pink uvula swaying above me, dripping with saliva. It’s just close enough to touch. I reach with the lighter, but the ground shifts, pushing me back, and I’m falling down the throat, falling into darkness.
I wake up in my bed, my skin covered with goosebumps and sweat. My breaths come heavy. I gather the fuzzy green blankets around myself. I stand and fumble for the light, and this time my fingers find the switch. Yellow light bathes the room, liberating me from darkness. Everything is just as I left it.
I let out a low sigh, relieved. I peek through the blinds to see the pale midnight moon hovering in the sky. I move to the bathroom. When I look at my reflection, the person staring back moves with me, smiles when I smile. It is me. I am awake. Everything is fine. I turn on the faucet and run cold water over my fingers, splashing some onto my face and neck.
When I glance up at my reflection, she is smiling. I am not. I back up against the wall. She presses a finger to the glass. Spider web cracks spread from her touch. I feel a coarseness in my throat, but I don’t hear the scream that follows. A wide grin splits her shadowy face. My face. Something black oozes between dagger-like teeth, spilling down her lips. I watch as the figure seeps through the mirror and materializes. I reach for the doorknob and twist, but the metal sifts through my fingers, like grains of sand. There is no way out.
Come on, wake up, wake up! I slap my face and pinch my skin, but it’s no use. Above me, one of the lightbulbs explodes, glass shattering one after the other until I am in complete darkness again.
And then there is light.
“Are you okay?” Mom says, shaking me. “I heard you screaming. What’s wrong?” I stare at her, my body shivering under the covers.
“This isn’t real.”
“Of course it is,” she assures me. “Trust me, you’re okay now.” I nod. I reach out and hug her tight. She squeezes back. “Do you want to talk about it?” she asks. I shake my head. “I’m sure it’s just stress. Are you hungry? I made breakfast.”
“You never make breakfast,” I say, suspicious.
“Hey, if you don’t want any, then more for me,” she says, shrugging.
I follow her down the stairs to the dining room. The table is all set, the glassware perfectly symmetrical. Our plates are right across from each other, both stacked with chocolate chip pancakes covered in warm syrup, whipped cream, and strawberries—a vibrant red, their pores filled with hundreds of seeds, an unnatural neon yellow.
Mom sits down and begins eating—no, devouring her meal. Then she does something that startles me: she throws the fork aside and digs in with her hands, tearing pieces off and shoving them in her mouth. She seems to grow before my eyes with each bite. Her skin stretches, fingers extending into long, bony claws. Soot-colored fur bursts through her skin.
“Are you eating that?” she growls, pushing aside her empty plate. I shake my head, and she snatches the plate from my hands, devouring the food in one swallow. She licks the plate, revealing rows of sharp white teeth. A chill spreads down my back. She throws the plate against the wall. The glass shatters on impact, but the pieces don’t fall to the floor. They drift lazily midair, frozen in time.
“Mom?” I shriek, pushing myself out of my seat. A large beast glares up at me. Mom’s eyes, once a pale jade green, have turned bright yellow, the pupils slitted like a serpent. The beast’s mouth waters. I back up against the wall. The pictures on the walls morph, stretching wider and higher. The walls pulsate, rippling in waves of purple and neon green. The last thing I see are those sharp, white teeth.