Volume 2 Number 3
Asher slept restlessly in the leather chair in the hearth room of The Haunt. The pipe in his hand had gone out.
He was being devoured, as though from the inside. He could not see the force that sucked his life away, but he could feel his breath grow shallow, feel the cold seep into his hands and feet. He tried to get up, but he couldn’t move his limbs. He tried to call for help, but he could make no sound. His body had abandoned his will, and his mind could not command their union. As his vision drained away at the corners, like a shutter closing over a lens, he was aware of dying. Aware of such a thing as death, of falling to oblivion in pieces, and, in that instant, aware of sleeping.
Asher seized consciousness, forcing himself awake. It was like clawing for a handhold while throwing off a great weight. Eyes open, he was staring at the hearth. Mind and body hadn’t yet synchronized, so sleep nearly took him again. He could feel the familiar theme, even before the plot and the actors arrived: trying to flee, but moving only in slow motion, fighting but hitting no harder than an intention. He struggled out of the chair, almost slipping to the floor, and found that the pipe stem had broken in his fist.
"Shit!" He put the pieces on the mantle, at the base of a stand holding some two dozen briars, several calabashes, and a humidor at each end. No reason to dwell on something that can't be mended.
Asher wiped his forehead, poured and drained a small glass of merlot, and opened a window to let in the night air. "My dreams have been annoying, of late," he said to the room. While there was no obvious sense in talking to himself, Asher relied on the sound of his own voice to place things back on a rational footing. Likewise, he chose to concentrate on something seemingly mundane: "Does this call for black Cavendish or an English blend?" Asher found the cool air encouraging as it sank in over the sill. Asher moved the chair closer to it, and settled down to breathe deeply before deciding on a tobacco for the moment.
The mistake was in closing his eyes. The slight breeze licked frostily at his face, and Asher inhaled it with open mouth. This time he did not dream. He felt no terror, and sensed no paralyzing force from within. If he had been awake, he might have noticed the tiny eight-legged creature that now crawled across the ceiling, slid down a strand of silk, and leapt into his open mouth.