's 2014 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Sorbus

I finally saw the thing that's been licking my face at night.

You see, for the past several months, my dreams have been getting more and more disturbingly sexual. It started out in a pleasant way, like making out with some hot twink in uniform, but more and more frequently it's just gotten off-putting and messed up. Like, when I was napping on the bus yesterday, I dreamed that a skeletal old lady with mushrooms for eyes had forced me to be a sex slave, in a harem largely composed of bipedal snails wearing the skin of a dead deer. You know, really weird shit that would be a nightmare even without the sexual stuff. When it started, I would occasionally wake up with saliva - or at least something the same color and consistency of saliva - on my cheek. I thought it was Barry's dog, but he moved out about a week after it started, and the saliva kept occurring. Besides, Sadie was always incredibly loud, even for a Lhasa, and she's never been able to creep into my room without me noticing. There was never any drool on my pillow either, and I don't know about you, but I've never known a dog that was that precise in slobbering all over someone's face.

Someone or something sneaking into my room and drooling on my cheek was a weird enough idea, but I still hadn't entirely ruled out the idea that it was my own saliva, or that my remaining roommates were playing a weird prank on me. But when I was in bed with my eyes closed, not yet entirely asleep, I felt the licking, and could even hear something lapping at my face. Every time I opened my eyes, I could see nothing but inky blackness. This is when I tried sleeping with a small lamp on. The licking stopped for a couple nights, and I rejoiced. Then on the fourth night, it came back stronger than ever. I tried to open my eyes to see whatever it was: some kind of animal perched on my face? a poltergeist or bogeyman? a bizarre sexual predator with an extremely weird modus operandi? But my eyes remained closed against my will. I tried to get up, or even to yell for help, but I was rooted to the bed, pushed down by an apparent invisible force. A few minutes later, after the licking had stopped, my eyes opened almost involuntarily and I heard my vocal cords groan slowly, as if my muscles had responded to my earlier commands only after substantial delay.

I finally saw my doctor the following day, telling her about the strange phenomenon I had experienced the previous night, but leaving out any mention of the licking phantom. Sleep paralysis, she said, a common problem, likely to occur only once or twice in most people's lifetimes. She suggested typical sleep hygiene tips to prevent it from happening again: don't eat greasy foods or drink caffeine before bedtime, sleep with the light off, refrain from using your bed for anything other than sleeping or sex. Other than the bit about the light, that didn't represent a major change from the habits I already had. But even when I turned off the light, the sleep paralysis kept happening. Every night when I noticed the licking, as if on cue, I would find myself unable to so much as open my eyes or lift a finger.

Eventually I stopped sleeping in my own apartment, finding bits of rest on the train to work, on a park bench, or at a friend's house. I had tried sleeping in one of my roommates' beds one day when they were both out, but sleep paralysis greeted me like an old nemesis. My dreams had become far more disturbing, regardless of where I slept. Human eyes exploded into chittering insect mouthparts, buildings would fold into themselves in distorted parodies of geometry, or my dream self would begin to improbably dissolve into rust. All of this, of course, would be embedded in bizarre sexual situations, from BDSM dungeons filled with rotting meat to picking up guys with jellyfish for heads at a bar that only served buckets of wasp eggs. I was barely getting any rest, and felt like I was losing my mind.

I decided I'd had enough, and was going to lay in my bed but forgo sleeping for a night, just to see what happens. Whatever or whoever it was that was getting into my room would not be able to get away with it any longer. I propped up several pillows behind my back, chugged several bottles of Mountain Dew, and resolved neither to fall asleep nor to leave my bed until sunrise. I kept a small nightlight on, hoping that would give me enough light to see whatever it was, and I had a small pocketknife as well to defend myself in case he, she, it, whatever, tried to pull anything.

I don't know what I expected, but I certainly wasn't ready for what I saw last night. The walls and floor on a corner of my room bubbled and roiled as something began to emerge. The shape of a regular tetrahedron, each edge about a foot long, the thing regarded me with one green catlike eye, placed centrally on one of its sides. It skittered across the floor on tiny spider-like legs, hefting itself onto my bed using a set of octopus tentacles anchored to another side, slick with something like saliva. Within the tentacles was an octopus beak, which opened and closed erratically. It turned, and on the one side that I had not seen so far, I perceived a thin blue membrane covering a beating human heart.

I raised my knife to defend myself, but was paralyzed mid-motion. The thing swept my knife out of my hand, and scurried up to my face to delicately, lovingly caress my face with its tentacles. Its eye closed almost completely and its heart rate slowed, as if in contentment, and it began to let out a soft purr.