It’s a gray day. The wind blows and rain falls outside, but I’m tucked safely in a classroom. It’s a long, powerfully boring day of training at work. Safety, hazardous materials, standard procedures… You name it. If it puts you to sleep, we’re brushing up on it. I’ve worked here for four months, and I’m already relearning what I just learned on my date of hire? It’s more than boring, but I guess it says a lot for the company I work for.
There are quite a few of my coworkers trying to stay awake with me today, but there are a few new hires here too. I’m focused on my notebook, jotting down “When driving forklift, look for pedestrians before reversing,” when I hear the door click shut. I don’t even look up to see who’s walked in. Instead, I glance over my notes and give myself an eye roll. ‘Did you really need to write that one down?’ I think to myself. I suppress a snicker; I’m taking notes to keep myself awake. ‘I crack myself up.’
“Taylor?” questions a familiar voice. I look up to see an old coworker.
“Caylie!” I smile, surprised to see her, and open my arms for a hug. I haven’t seen her in months. We weren’t close, but it’s always nice to see a familiar face in a fairly unfamiliar place.
She bends at the waste to hug me and moves her head so that her mouth is right over my ear. I feel her breaths, one by one. They’re longer than normal, and this hug has lasted much longer than normal. I’m suddenly completely aware of everyone else in the room when I feel her teeth close around my right ear. No one says a word, but I’m stuck thinking ‘How weird is this and why is nobody saying anything?!’ She doesn’t move a single muscle; neither do I. Neither does anyone else. I can’t hear a sound as my echoing heartbeat drowns out all possibility of other noises impacting this terrifyingly weird moment.
It’s been quite a few minutes.
Hours? Has it been days?
I can still feel the puncture of her teeth around the cartilage of my ear when she lets go of the hug. I feel her presence to my right as she moves around the table. I shift my eyes as far left as I can, trying to see the rest of the room through my peripheral vision.
I rotate my eyes so far it starts to hurt, but I see no one. I’m alone.
Ear locked in clenched teeth, eyes straining so hard to see…
I’m giving myself a headache.
Oh my holy G-
What’s happening to me?
She’s behind me now. I feel soft fingertips on my left cheek. I’m facing forward in the training classroom, perfect posture, eyes ahead. I see only a computer monitor and her reflection in the screen. She’s perched behind me, barely even touching me, but I feel everything from her fingerprints on my face to the bite on my ear. Everything in between those two points is static. My vision gets foggy. She pushes her hand harder against my face, but the pain in my ear starts to diminish.
I feel the pressure in my head. It’s starts in my nose; it begins like a sinus infection, but it transforms into thick walls closing in on my skull. Spreading now from the middle of my face outward, I see and don’t see my vision go black. I feel it in my eye sockets and then at my temples. It keeps moving. I feel it in the front of my skull, my jaw, my teeth. In every hair follicle, I feel it. I know I’m trying to squint, but I’m going numb.
The pressure builds. I don’t understand, but I’ve lost all capacity to try now. Thinking would require fighting this monster force that’s got my skull, my brain, my soul.
I don’t understand.
I don’t understand.
This has got to be over soon because my brain is going to erupt DEAR GOD I don’t understand I just-
“Taylor? Are you awake?” Brian says from across the bed. I open my eyes.