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from They Call Me Nothing by Jenny Young

Copyright © 2018–2021 Jenny Young

Chapter 4

I dream about Peter again. I feel his warmth in my arms. He looks so tiny. I smell his sweet milky breath and the baby shampoo on his face. He makes gurgling sleepy sounds. It almost sounds like he’s purring.
A big black octopus oozes through the door. He’s so big that his whole body and tentacles can’t fit through the door at once. He seems to be made of slime. I want to run away, to take Peter away from him but my arms and legs won’t move. I hear his schlurpy movement. He’s getting closer. I try to call for help but my voice freezes. I smell his putrid decaying breath. I hold Peter closer to me. His heart races – or is it mine?
As fast as a chameleon’s tongue a black tentacle snakes out like a whip and Peter is gone. The blue blanket that swaddled him collapses empty against my breast. Keith comes in with a sword and cuts of one of the black tentacles. Immediately two more grow. They shoot out in unison, one on each side of Keith’s neck then join in a noose, yanking Keith into the black glutinous mass that is the monster’s body.
I scream. The effort wakes me. I lie trembling in my bed. My pulse races. An adrenalin rush helps me get out of bed and stumble in the dark to the toilet. I feel my face is wet from sweat or tears. I wash it with a warm facecloth. My heart rate slowly returns to normal.
I am too afraid to go back to sleep again so I make myself some hot chocolate and sit on the couch sipping it. I switch on the TV to try to distract my mind from its dream loop. It seems to work and once my hot chocolate is finished I put my head on the arm rest and before long I am asleep.
I wake again shivering with cold. The birds are chattering their predawn ritual. It must be close to 5am. I return to bed and the warmth of my duvet to catch another hour or two of sleep.
It seems only moments later that Jasper is licking my face. My big golden retriever sleeps in the kitchen in an oversized dog basket. Dora, my housekeeper, must be here already. She must have let him out. I look at the time. 8.30. My mind is still fogged with sleep and my head is throbbing.
“Go away, Jasper,” I say, pulling my head under the duvet to avoid his sloppy tongue. It doesn’t stop me hearing his whining though. “I had a bad night, OK? I don’t have to get up yet.”
As if he understands, Jasper lies down on the mat next to my bed. My two Persian cants, Marshmallow and Fudge, who have been sleeping at the foot of my bed on a special fluffy blanket, now realise that I am stirring. Marshmallow edges closer to my face and tries to nuzzle under the duvet.
It’s no use. I’m not going to be able to go back to sleep now. I prop myself up on my pillow. Is that tea I smell?
Sure enough, there is a cup of steaming rooibos tea on my bedside table. Bless Dora. She understands. I find some Disprin in my bedside drawer and take two with my tea.
Jasper puts his head on the bed and th...

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