(Note: This is a series of short stories I’m uploading onto my site. You can find the other short stories on this page.)
Some nights I dream of shampoo still left in my hair, clogging up my pores with its slick, viscous goop.
I dream of sitting up in a tangle of blankets and touching my pillow. My fingers come back glistening with the silver of moonlight, and then my eyes sting, because I’ve rubbed them without thinking, only feeling.
The lights come on then, and footsteps sound down my hallway. When I open my bedroom door, there is no one, only the rhythmic sound of worried pacing, wearing the carpet by the stairs thin.
I dream of changing my pillowcase, swapping one out for another in an identical shade: the grey of pencil lead. I wad up the dirtied fabric for the laundry basket that sits in the bathroom. It waits to be fed. There are consequences when I do not feed it.
It is 3AM. I carry on in the space between dreaming and leaving, in this alternate world where I cannot read the label on my clothing and another mouth sprouts in the space between my neck and my shoulder. It is the hour of the wild howls screaming from the woodlands behind my house. It is a single hoot of the bird watching me from the tree branch.
It is when I am not real.
The pillow case goes into the basket and I go into the sink. I lean into the cool press of the reflected glass, and when I pull my sallow eyes wide, another does the same.
The girl in the mirror is a phantom and I hate her.
I dream of picking up a hairbrush and ramming the hard end into glass. I dream of it shattering—so easily, too easily, and then there are a thousand little jagged pieces of me hugging the porcelain floor tiles.
They reflect the moon. They reflect razor blades for limbs, sharp at every edge, because I digest fury, not cake.
I tumble from the sink and return to my bed. Incessant pacing persists down the hallway. Whispers drag themselves in from the crack beneath my door.
When I lie down again, I dream of dreaming.
I float underneath the covers, weightless, trying to leave like all my scattered papers and books do: taking flight from my open window, pages flapping with the cool breeze.
But I am pinned—kept down with dark ropes that begin from my skull and wind around my throat: a necklace if I sleep, a noose if I move.
Some mornings I wake in a dreadful fright, grasping onto my bedside table in a panic. The sun rises over the faraway mountains, streaming through my window when the bird songs begin. All the wraiths that were gathered around my bed, whispering about their broken hearts, are chased away. My hallway is silent.
I touch my hair and shampoo is clogged deep in my roots.
© Chloe Gong