6 comments

Horror

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

She was falling in her dream, tumbling down and down and down. It was like weightlessness, and it went on and on. The ground, hard and implacable, was in the distance somewhere. She would hit it, she knew, but for now, she just kept falling, falling, falling.

Irma woke up with a start, jolting upright in bed. It was pitch black–blacker than pitch, blacker than the devil. 

Where’s the nightlight? she thought, a flush of irritation creeping up her chest. Harry’s forgotten again, that’s what he’s gone and done.

Irma felt for the edge of the bed, shifting her not inconsiderable weight as she prepared to stand up. A pain shot from her hip up her back and she groaned. I tell him time and time again, but he still can’t bother to remember my nightlight, even though he knows how much I need it. If I fall one of these nights and break a leg, he wouldn’t give a flyin’ fig.

As her toes skimmed the floor, Irma pushed off the bed, the springs of the mattress groaning in protest, but she wasn’t bothered whether it woke up Harry. Serves him right, she thought. That good-for-nothin’ never does nothin’ for me, so why should I care if I wake him up now?

Irma stood, then lumbered in the direction of the adjoining bathroom, her hands grasping and groping to find her way. Her light would have been plainly visible if Harry had done what he was supposed to and turned it on before he got in bed, she grizzled to herself.

Crunch!! Her shin met the corner of her grandmother’s oak hope chest, and the pain was immense, shouting up her shin and setting the flame in her hip on fire again.

Shit, damn, fuck!” she yelled.

“Irma–that you, woman?” Harry mumbled from the bed.

“Of course, it’s me, you nincompoop…who else would it be this time of night?” Irma barked. “You went and forgot my light again, didn’t you? You can’t get nothin’ right!”

“Ahh…” Harry started to reply, but Irma cut him off.

“Just shut up! I don’t wanna hear nothin’ you have to say–you just want me to fall and hurt myself, you inconsiderate bastard!” Irma was irate, and her head pounded. She ignored Harry as he rolled over, mumbling something she couldn’t understand. I just need to make it to the bathroom and turn on the light, she reasoned. By the time I get back to bed, the pain will be gone, and I can get some sleep.

After a few more moments of complete darkness, Irma lurched into the bathroom, staggered to the toilet, and almost collapsed onto the porcelain. As she did her business, she reached down where she knew her nightlight would be and flipped the switch that turned it on. A soft glow illuminated her flaccid, white legs, and she looked away. When she finished, she pulled up her drawers and stood, her hands braced to either side, the effort making her breathe a little heavier. 

The light was on…she was safe, she thought. Taking a deep breath, she started on her way. 

***

She was falling in her dream, tumbling down and down and down. It was like weightlessness, but now with an edge of terror. The ground, hard and implacable, was rising up to meet her, and she put her arms out to shield her face…

Irma woke up, sweat pouring off her brow and seeping out of the creases of her neck. She opened her eyes, expecting the soft illumination of her nightlight, but again, saw nothing but black.

Momentarily stunned by the dream–and by the darkness–she lay still. Then her senses came back to her. Damn that man to hell! she swore to herself. He must have gone in there and turned it off just to spite me. What a good-for-nothin’ SOB! I have a mind to… but her mind stopped short. He’s not worth the effort, she finished grimly.

Instead, she fumbled for the edge of the bed again, then sat up too quickly. A pain stabbed from her spine into her neck and she almost fell back onto the bed. What the–?

Finally, catching her breath, she managed to stand-up, creep over to the bathroom again, and flip the switch to her nightlight. 

God blast that man! she thought as she got back into bed. He really is worthless. 

But Harry slept on, oblivious to her anger, oblivious to her pain, oblivious to everything.

***

She was falling in her dream, tumbling down and down and down. The terror was bigger now, grabbing her throat and squeezing. Her arms cartwheeled around her and the ground loomed up at her. In three seconds she would hit, smashing into pulp…two seconds…one… 

Irma woke. The pain in her neck was unbearable, a dagger driven into the base of her skull and down her spine. She was soaked in sweat, a sour smell–the stench of fear–spilling out of her pores. And what was more, her throat was dry, bone dry, like the desert, but drier.

This time, as her eyes came open, they barely registered the suffocating darkness. She almost didn’t care–the pain was that bad, the thirst was that intense. I need water! her mind roared.

Irma dragged her immense body out of the bed, this time turning left toward the bedroom door rather than right toward the bathroom. She could just make out Harry’s deep, even breaths, but she couldn’t see a thing in the darkness. The night enveloped her, surrounded her, embraced her. 

And she couldn’t feel anything but the pain in her neck, pounding up and down her spine, penetrating into her brain. All she could think of was getting to the kitchen for a cool glass of water to soothe her parched throat.

Bracing her hands on the door jamb, she shifted her left foot forward into the hallway, and then brought her right foot forward as well, feeling for the top of the staircase. Still holding onto the door frame, she reached out with her other hand for the top of the banister. 

As her fingers found purchase, she hoisted herself forward, feeling the yawning abyss of the staircase in front of her. Her fingers scrabbled up and down the wall to her right, searching frantically for the switch.

Light? Where’s the goddamn light?! she thought frantically. I need water! I need light–

Her fingers felt the edge of the switch plate, and she inched them toward the center, the switch almost within her grasp.

And that was when it happened….two hands in the center of her back, sinking into the soft flesh, then a massive, almighty shove.

For a millisecond, her fingers felt the switch, felt it flip, then felt nothing but air.

There was a flash of light on the landing which illuminated Harry’s grinning face, and then she was falling again, tumbling down and down and down. Her arms cartwheeled around her, frantically trying to slow her descent, but there was no chance. She felt her arm bend the wrong way, her elbow snapping, a sickening crunch–the pain bit into her, dwarfing all other pain.

The next casualty was her tibia. Her fat ankle wedged itself between the uprights of the railing, and as the full weight of her body carried her down the stairs, the bone gave way, puncturing the pale skin of her unshaven calf, the splintered shards glistening wetly with blood.

Irma tried to think but found she could not. The pain had swallowed her whole. Instead, words raced through her brain in a dizzying spiral: dream…light… neck… water… dream… light…neck…water…Harry…

She continued to fall. Her skull hit one stair, then cracked loudly on the next, her neck twisting tautly, the pain excruciating. A brief glimpse of the stone floor at the bottom of the stairs…it loomed up at her, and the terror was no longer a dream–it was real. She would hit in three seconds…two seconds…one…

And darkness descended on Irma for the final time.

July 08, 2023 17:25

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6 comments

Ellen Neuborne
21:05 Jul 15, 2023

Very powerful. The dream was telling Irma to put the pieces together -- Harry doesn't care about your safety. When someone shows you who they are, believe it.

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Belladona Vulpa
13:09 Aug 15, 2023

The story is well-written, draws you in and keeps your curiosity for the whole thing. I like the fragmented format, and the meaningful repetitions, it is more intriguing this way. You conveyed the various emotions, and the sense of fear successfully. Well done!

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Antonio Jimenez
06:25 Jul 23, 2023

Wow, what a dark (literally and figuratively) story. I loved how you interwove the dream with the story and your descriptions of her falling down the stairs was gruesome but well done. Great story! I just published a new story, I’d love it if you could check it out and maybe leave some feedback. Thanks!

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Parul Shah
19:56 Jul 21, 2023

WHOA. Really interesting structure and painfully deft descriptions. I love how it's a story told almost entirely through physical sensations and yet has a beginning, middle and end. So good!

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J. D. Lair
04:24 Jul 17, 2023

What a wild ride!

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Mike Rush
13:34 Jul 15, 2023

Christie, Can I still say Welcome to Reedsy! even though you have 2 submissions? Hope so. Wow, Christie, you've done it! I'm reeling. The interweaving of the dream and ultimate reality is excellent. We've seen this in our minds because you have described it so well in the dream sequences. And the descriptive writing of the fall is excruciatingly beautiful. I could hear the cracks and see the blood. What Henry does in the end is so well teased out. To that point, he's the henpecked man, harassed by an unhappy wife. He's the victim of he...

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