Hello, everyone! While my first book finishes going through the publication process, I plan on sharing some of my short stories in between my usual rants. This is one called “Lost Time” that I wrote back in college for a creative writing class. As someone who usually writes silly dark fantasy stories, I decided to step out of my bubble for this assignment and write an intentionally monotonous, repetitive, sci-fi/suspense to try creating an unsettling, paranoid tone. Alien abduction stories have always fascinated me, and I’d love to possibly take a shot at writing another in the future! I hope you enjoy my first attempt at one!
The time my husband Charlie died from a heart attack. The time I awaken every Wednesday for the past three months since. The time my daughter Eva waddles into my bedroom, muttering about the same nightmare. I roll over on my side in my spacious bed, the blankets tugging at my torso. Sure enough, Eva’s looming over me, dragging her stuffed bunny along the wood floor.
“I had a bad dream,” she mumbles, squeezing the bunny’s hand.
“The one about the owl?” I ask. It’s always the one about the owl.
She nods, her messy blonde hair flopping about her tiny pale face.
I sigh as I crawl out of bed and steer her back to her own. I tuck her in for the second time that night, reassuring her for the second time this month that the owl is not real. I’m not sure if she believes me, but I know she will not awaken until breakfast time. She never awakens after 3:33AM on Wednesdays.
“It’s perfectly normal for a small child to suffer from nightmares,” her therapist would tell me every week. “Children have wild imaginations.” She has never seen an owl in real life, not outside of her picture books. Charlie’s death has affected her in a strange way.
Tired, I trudge back to my bedroom. I massage my aching shoulder as I sit on my bed. I must have pulled it in my sleep. I pull down my shirt and notice a purple bruise, perfectly circular, in the middle of my right shoulder blade. Last week it was my leg, my neck the week before. Neither me nor Eva have been able to sleep well on Wednesdays since Charlie’s death.
Eva sits at the breakfast next morning, munching on Cheerios and strawberries. I stand at the kitchen counter, packing her lunch for school. I can tell from her droopy eyes that she’s tired. We’re always tired on Thursday mornings now.
“Eva, honey,” I say, “remember what Dr. Richardson told you last week? He told you to stop waking me up when you have the owl dream. He told you it isn’t real, remember?”
“I thought you were awake,” Eva says through a mouthful of cereal.
“Sweetie, mommy goes to bed at eleven. You know that.”
“But the light was on in your room,” she says with conviction. “You were talking to someone.”
“No, honey, it wasn’t,” I assure her. “When you walked into my room, Mommy was sleeping and the lights were off. You must have still been dreaming.”
Our conversation ends there. I help her into the car and drive her to school. I stand outside the van and wave goodbye to her as she runs across the schoolyard with her best friend Jessie. Jessie’s mom Linda walks over to me from her car, wearing an awkward smile on her face wrinkled with sympathy. I’ve been getting that look too often since Charlie’s death.
“Karen?” she says, as if she is unsure it’s me. “How’ve you been?”
I shrug and force a smile on my face. “The same since Charlie died.”
“Did they ever find out what caused the heart attack?”
I shake my head. “He was perfectly healthy. It just happened, out of the blue.”
“Wow, I’m so sorry.” I wince from the pain as she squeezes my bruised shoulder. “Hey, I’m sorry if I upset you last week. I understand that this is a sensitive time for you.”
I raise my brow. “What do you mean?”
“I invited you to go out for lunch last Thursday. You never showed up.”
“Right.” I fail to remember making plans. I can’t even remember what I did last Thursday afternoon. I recall buying groceries at eleven and taking Eva to the therapist after school, but it’s as if time did not exist between the two events. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice two men in black suits watching me from across the schoolyard. I can’t see their eyes behind their sunglasses, but I know they are watching me. I hurry back in my car without saying goodbye to Linda. I don’t feel comfortable around those men. I have to get away from them.
But as I walk Eva into her therapist’s building later that afternoon, I swear I see those same two men watching me from a distance.
I read magazines as I wait for Eva’s appointment to finish. Fashion magazines of smiling women. No one smiles that big. No one covered in bruises with a dead husband and traumatized child. I set the magazines down when Dr. Richardson enters the lobby. Eva rushes to my side, but he beckons me to his office. Eva waits in one of the large brown chairs, dipping her fingers in the mini waterfall on the glass table beside her.
Dr. Richardson hands me a business card before I can even take a seat in his office. He stares at me through his round glasses with concerned eyes. “Call this man. He is a colleague of mine.”
I glance at the card. “Thanks, but I don’t need therapy. I can cope on my own.”
His eyes narrow. “With all due respect, I believe you are scaring your daughter. She tells me she hears you screaming every week, throwing things in your room–”
I laugh and shake my head. “Doctor, you’ve heard all about her crazy nightmares –”
But then he interrupts me. “She told me this week that they aren’t nightmares.”
I cock my head in disbelief. “We live in the city. How can she see an owl?”
“She says it’s not an owl.”
As I march out of his office, seize Eva’s tiny wrist, and drag her to the car, I see the men in black suits across the parking lot watching me. One is speaking on a two-way radio. I speed home, escaping Dr. Richardson’s office, but I still hear his words ringing in my ears.
Next Wednesday, I lie awake in bed at 2:00AM with the lights on. As tired as I am, I will not sleep. I must prove to Linda that I’m not some crazy, depressed widow, to Dr. Richardson that my daughter is having nightmares, that she will come in my room at 3:33AM. I watch the TV across my bed. A woman and a man are arguing on screen as they sit in a restaurant–
I don’t remember falling asleep, but I spring from my bed. My knee gives in and a fall to the wood floor. The lights are off, the room only lit by the blank blue screen of the TV. My left leg seers in agony as I reach for the lamp on my nightstand and turn it on. Nothing in my room has moved, but the picture frame on my nightstand has shattered, a crack between mine and Charlie’s faces. I scream when my eyes fall upon my leg, my voice already horse as if I had already been screaming. My skin has been completely ripped – no, scorched – from my leg, blood and puss dripping down my ankle. My arms are covered in bruises.
Eva is not in my room.
I brave the pain and crawl down the hall to her room. The hallway never felt so long, so exhausting. I see the light on in her room, but when I finally make it, she is not there. I scream her name, but no response. I drag myself to her open window and peer outside, hoping that, by some miracle, I will see her standing in the yard.
But all I see are the two men in black suits, watching me through their sunglasses.
Thank you for reading! 🙂 Stay tuned for more stories!