There had been no dreams. I must have slept a million years, and yet I hadn't dreamed a single instant.
My bones ached and my mind was confused. Where was I? What was I doing here? Followed by the more horrifying realization that I didn't even know my own name.
Instinct was driving me. My mind fumbled around in confusion, but my hands seemed to know what they were doing as they ripped the IVs out of my skin and pulled the mask off my face. I blinked my eyes dimly, the light was weak around me, or maybe my eyes had been made half-blind by all the time I had been asleep.
Air whooshed out as I grabbed the handle and forced the lid off my coffin-the stasis tube that I had been locked into. I stumbled out, my legs as ungainly as a newborn foal.
"What... what's happening?" My voice was strange and unfamiliar in my own ears. Lights blinked spasmodically in the dingy hallway and as I peered around I saw that there were other stasis tubes mounted to the walls next to mine.
Some were still occupied, the people within resting peacefully, not-dreaming just the way I had been so recently. But others...
Fear jolted through me as I realized that something was very wrong. There were old muddy stains on the ground everywhere, and some of the tubes hung limp and broken, their occupants long gone.
I winced as my bare foot stepped on something sharp on the floor. I glanced down to see that a metal sliver had lanced into the side of my heel. I bent down to pull it out, then heard a thundering, rushing sound that seemed to come from everywhere all at once. The cold metal floor trembled beneath me and I experienced a tightening in my belly as my nerves jangled with dread.
I looked up to see blobs of phosphorescent blue rushing down the hallway toward me. I blinked dimly, trying to bring things into focus, then I couldn't help my gasp of fear.
They had bulbous heads covered in tight white skin, their bodies decorated with ritualistic scars. Noseless and horrifying, they were creatures directly out of my half-remembered nightmares. Their mouths held teeth that had been filed into sharpened points and they released loud gibbering screeches and low, nearly subsonic growls that sent chills down my spine.
I stumbled backward, scrambling to get away, but they were ruthlessly fast. I was still sleep-hazed and confused, and they were already on me. Every nightmare given flesh, Mommy had told me that there were no monsters, but here they were...
As the snarling mouths and ripping fingers closed around me, I squeezed my eyes tight shut so I didn't have to see what was going to happen next. All I could wish was that I wouldn't have to feel what was about to happen either.
"Oh God, oh God, oh God!" Someone was screaming over the pain and it took me a second to realize that it was me.
I felt the blade enter my stomach, my guts spilling out as I screamed until one of the monsters grabbed my throat so tight that I felt the delicate bones crack and break and I couldn't make any more sound. But God, I could still feel and that was the worst thing ever.
A sharpened finger ripped through my closed eyelid and I felt my eyeball burst. My bones cracked and bent. Blood was leaking everywhere. All of my nerves were screaming as fingers tore into me and knives slashed and tore my naked skin.
It might only have been minutes since I'd awoken in my stasis tube, but it felt like an eternity. First confusion, then fear, now pain as I was ripped apart and killed.
The last thing I saw, in the darkness of my mind, was a flash of bright memory.
A little boy with dark hair and caramel colored skin smiling at me and holding out a badly painted ceramic plate. He looked so proud of himself. "I made this for you. I love you!"
I grasped that memory tight around me, trying to overwhelm the pain, to drown out the snarls and growls and screams around me, but it was too hard. All I could hope was that my son wasn't here with me, that he had been left behind safe wherever we had come from, that he wasn't going to awaken to the nightmare that I had.
And the worst thing, worse than even dying like this, was the thought that I didn't even know my own son's name. All I had was his face in my head, smiling like an angel.
Then I didn't even have that anymore.