She sat in bed as the thing clawed at her blankets and floor, wrenching itself free from underneath the bed. She didn’t hide or scream or hardly blink as it bubbled and rose to the height of her ceiling fan. It smelled like rotting oranges, like sour strawberries.The thing turned to her, towering, looming, its flesh rippling and shifting like the surface of the ocean. It had a few smoldering eyes deep in the wells that must’ve been its head, and the couple arms hanging from its sides were thick like trunks of trees. It had no legs, nor feet, she noticed, it was entirely flat, solid, like a wall.“Aren’t you afraid, my child?” it asked in a heavy, grating breathing, sounding from all sides of the room.She shook her head.“Is that so? How come?”She shrugged, her eyes locked with the creature’s. The thing stood silently for a few moments, then said, “Ah… You’ve seen worst, been treated worst… Is that so, my child? What’s a monster to those beyond that door, beyond that moonlit window?”For a moment a flash of recollection crossed her mind. She pulled down the collar of her nightgown and looked at the light red birthmark spilling down her collarbone, her shoulder, her upper back. The girl let the collar go as she looked back at the thing that matched its shape.“Yes, that’s the mark— my mark. Some are touched at birth, my child. You were touched, as you can tell, with your voice gone. It was a trade, if you will. I come to those only who need it, even if they’re uncertain they do.”She thought: What are you going to do?“Mistreat those who’ve mistreated you, is that not clear?” It neared and stretched over her, blocking out the moonlight coming in through the window. “Now, lay down, close your eyes and dream…” A faint fog drifted from its solid frame. It smelled like lilacs and daises. “Dream of places far, far away,” it continued, its husky voice becoming lighter, soothing, “places with endless emerald valleys and aqua skies and lush jungles brimming with small, queer animals.”Her eyes grew heavy as she inhaled the soft scents that tickled her nose and calmed her heart. She closed her eyes.“When you awake; all those beyond that door, beyond that window will be gone, carried to a place like your dream, but one not filled with whimsical wonderment, but with rust and ash, umber and smoke,” was what she heard before she fell into a slumber.If you like what you read, consider subscribing to my subreddit where you can read more of my work: /r/MicahCastle.