's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Tales from the Old Country: Fever Dream

Submitted by Keetah Spacecat

Being sick in the country is scary.

Not only do you have an illness to worry about, but there is also no help to be had outside my small community. Hospitals and actual doctors were about an hour and a half away, not enough time at all to go and get help should it be needed. The only swift way to get to the hospital was by helicopter, and even then, it may be too late. You had no choice but to bite the bullet and bear through whatever you had. Either you dealt with it, or you put up with the long journey to civilization.

Up until I was an adult, I never received a flu vaccine.  Of course I got my measles and pox and the regular cocktail of vaccines young ones get. But a flu vaccine was seen as an extra expense. My mother dying of cancer destroyed the household finances, and flu shots were something that took a back burner to food and clothing. There was no way our small poor family could afford such a luxury, even if it was sorely needed.  

Because of that, every single year, I got terribly sick. Later as an adult, I found out it contributed to my brain damage, but that was years down the line. It was quite odd, lying in my bed, freezing and hot at the same time. I could almost feel my brain boiling at 105 °F temperatures and things began to melt and swirl around me.

It was a terrible experience. I had no choice but to experience them every year in the dead of winter. Getting sick in winter means no chance at all to reach a hospital. We were snowed in through the valley. Nobody out, or in.

It was one winter when I was about 14 or so. I must have picked up some germs from school before everyone settled down for the long cold. I felt terrible. I couldn't keep down food, and at one point, even water. My temperature shot up to 106 °F, but all my father could do was soak me in cold baths and give me ice packs.

I must have become quite delirious. Not only did I have a high fever, but I was also dehydrated as well. No doubt, my body was consuming itself, and I was aware of it all. It was strange, there was a buzzing numbness that spread around. My tongue swelled and I swore I could taste shapes in my mouth, rolling them around and around between my teeth. I bit down on the shapes and tasted blood.

It was during a brief respite when I saw it.

I laid in bed, looking at the ceiling. I could not read nor stand listening to the radio, so I was quite bored. I could at least take the time to examine all the cracks and subtle paint variations in the ceiling. I blinked and then I felt my bed dip, as if someone sat upon it.

I looked, and was very surprised to see my mother. She looked healthy, way before the cancer stole away her life. She wore a pretty blue dress and looked at me with kind eyes. For a moment, I wondered if I was small again, when my mother would be there to nurse me through the worst of sickness. Was I experiencing the future in the past? Or was the future, my past? I tried to say something, but I could not. I was paralyzed from the neck down, and try as I might, I couldn't move. My mother looked at me, and smiled.

She opened her mouth to talk to me, but all that tumbled out was broken words and static that didn't make a lick of sense. The words rolled and tumbled in the air, and I could SEE them, breaking out like spider webs to cling to the ceiling and walls. They were black, and it hurt to look at them for too long. At some point I began to cry, I didn't want my mother to speak again, even though I missed her so much.

I cried out, and the words stopped, crashing into each other with a shatter. They fell like broken glass all around me, sharp and harsh. My mother just sat and smiled through the noise. It was then I knew, that it was not my mother.

It radiated cold and dread, while my mother was warm and joyful. Her eyes behind her glasses was dark, and shiny. The more I looked at her, the more her features warped and twisted, like a glitching computer. Her image became fuzzy the more I focused, until I could not bear to look directly at her any longer.

I laid there, unable to move and unable to defend myself.  The creature must have know that the jig was up, and now I awaited what was in store for me. I tried to cry out, but my father didn't come to help me. The hallway and windows were black, like I was cut off from the world completely. It seemed like sound was trapped in here with us, and nothing could escape this little bubble of static and black.

She reached out her hand towards me, fingers tipped with sharp painted fingernails. She reached on and on until she grabbed me by the upper arm, and squeezed. I could feel those nail dig into my skin, and all I could do was croak out a wheeze here and there. I was powerless to fight at the not-mother squeezed harder. I could smell blood through the smell of sickness as the not-mother leaned down, close enough to whisper in my ear.

[ we all rot ], the creature whispered.

[ some just rot sooner than others ]

It smiled at me before my vision spotted with black and began to fade. My ears rung louder and louder until with a POP, i could no longer hear. Or see. Or feel. It was like I fell down into a numb blackness with no stimulation. I screamed but there was no where for the sound to go.

Then, I was awake again, in bed. My father was there, looking a little more than worried. Seemed it must have been quite bad for my father to sit by me like that. But, he wasn't looking at me, he was looking at my arm.

Where there were five neat nail marks.