I awoke sharply--I thought I’d heard a scream, something out of the ordinary--but a few minutes of concentration had revealed nothing beyond the harsh clamor of the sea and the weird, tinny screeching that rode above the insect sounds. Agitated by this abrupt interference to my sleep, I turned toward Teresa to see if she was resting better than last night. I was surprised to see she was sitting up in bed, sheets pushed away, her naked body covered in goose bumps, her nipples sharp, her eyes, sharper--her eyes were opened so wide I felt the orbs were attempting escape.
“I’ve been listening,” she said, her voice thick with phlegm. “I’ve heard things.”
“What things?” I queried, rising to sit next to her, pulling the blankets up; she pushed them away with her feet, deciding instead to hug herself, the comfort of her own flesh more appealing than the warmth of foreign sheets.
“There’s something…voices, not voices”—she shook her head, perplexed—“I don’t know. There’s something more in the sounds around us, in the ocean, in the wind, on the wind, all around us, like voices but not speaking…crying, screaming…but not screaming… We should leave.”
I understood her trepidation if not really hearing the voices or screams myself, despite having my sleep broken by what I'd interpreted as screams... Nonetheless, I felt it as well, the discomfort.
“Let’s leave in the morning—”
“No! We have to leave now!” she said, hugging herself tighter. “I want nothing to do with anything else here.” She did not move, though, did not do anything but hug herself.
“But it’s late”—or, to be more precise, espying the digital clock, it was quite early: 2:20 a.m. "Let’s get up in a few hours after a little more rest and get Tom and Kerri together and trip down the coast away from here, to someplace less…subtly intrusive.” In stating it as such, I knew I was hooked into Teresa’s sensations.
“We should leave now,” she said, scooting down to me, snuggling into me. “We should leave now.”
Knowing I was not going to leave now, she burrowed into me and fell asleep. I went to pull up the sheets but her body reflexively shoved them away. I decided the warmth of her naked flesh would have to be enough. I sank into the bed, adjusting myself to her awkward embrace. She held on tight. I knew the morning could not come soon enough.
Her blond hair, not even dry when we had gotten into bed, was brittle as straw as I nudged my nose into it, trying to smell her sweet, strawberry scented shampoo, or simply just her smells. I only sniffed something that reminded me of dampness, of mold. I pushed the pillow away, deeming it the culprit.
As I lay there, attempting but pitifully failing to slip into slumber, my ears perked up to the sounds, the many sounds, the cornucopia of sounds that seemed both distant and so very internal; I tried to hear the screams. But it was just the ocean, the wind, the sounds of insects, of nature breathing. I just couldn’t turn it all off and fell into uneasy rest after thirty minutes of effort. The audio deluge was like when a faucet drips or, more precisely, as if one had been left full on and pounding the porcelain. I remembered when I was a kid and being soothed by the rhythmic drones of the dishwasher as my parents always turned it on late at night, but the sounds here did not inspire a soothing experience. There was no comfort in their embrace.
And a slight bit later, more sounds.
A sound chipped at my tympanic membrane--fingernails across an endless blackboard, dissonant screeching bagpipes—only this sound was like the sound I heard at night, initially thought of as the mysterious tone that hovered above the insects, but I knew now I was wrong. This sound had a foundation I could make out, a quality I could distinguish from that of insect, fingernails or bagpipes.
The sound was vocal—as Teresa had suspected--a chorus of tormented voices, wailing: a chorus of dread so profound it ate hope as nourishment. These voices knew there was nothing left but to scream, an acknowledgement of their existence; escape, rescue or mercy was quite out of the question.
This one's called "Dandelions," thought of as complete, but in need of a hardcore edit as I can see here. Perhaps a run-through of revisions as I was changing things left, right and center with what's here. Oy! See, it was thought of as complete a few years back, tweaked a bit here and there, but now, as a better writer--I hope--I see so much that needs work. Yeah, heavy duty work ahead on this one, but the foundation is strong.
A writer's work is never done, eh?
But at least that's a taste...a wee bit to get under your skin.
What mysteries do dandelions reveal in the story? Well, you'll just have to wait for publication, probably in the next collection. More details when they are ironed out.