The Hollow Gods
When Miya returned from the dream, her eyes were already open, but she was unable to move—paralyzed even though she was wide awake. Her heart crashed against her ribs, and her breath caught in her throat, every tendon and muscle taut with desperation. She couldn’t open her mouth, scream, or even gasp for air. All she could do was look right in front of her.
The phantom woman from the dream hovered directly above her, her face inches away as she mirrored Miya’s prostrate form. Miya could see the mask clearly now—a hard, bone shell, shaped like a raven’s beak. It extended down her face in a sharp V, past her lips and over the edge of her chin. The mask was decorated with gleaming black and purple that swirled together like oil and water, slick against the smooth, flawless ivory. Her lips—quirked at the edges—descended towards Miya’s.
Miya squeezed her eyes shut, trying to kick and thrash—whatever she could do to get away. Her skin crawled with spiders, invisible parasites burrowing their way inside her until she was unable to fight the fear any longer. Miya implored the spectre, bargaining with the only thing she felt the woman might want.
I’ll go back to the dream, Miya told her. I’ll follow you—wherever you want. I swear. Please, just let me go.
Air rushed down Miya’s throat with such force that her lungs burned when she finally managed to gasp. Her eyes shot open, beads of sweat trickling down her face as she tore over every inch of her room. The apparition was no longer there.
Miya’s hand twitched as she flexed her fingers, testing her ability to move. She breathed in again, this time slower, willing herself to stop shaking but with little success. She’s no longer here, Miya repeated. Her mind was racing, her senses screaming, but she had, somehow, regained control.
Miya sat up, remembering what it was like to be inside her own body. She had the distinct sense of having gone somewhere she shouldn’t have—somewhere she risked never coming back from. A bizarre thought to have about a nightmare, but Miya knew in her bones that this was more than a dream. She’d looked into Medusa’s eyes and barely evaded turning to stone.
For a brief moment, the fog lifted, and she remembered the events of her first dream—the one that came before last night’s. Not only that, her knowledge of the fable had returned. In a frantic tumble, Miya threw herself at the bedside table and reached for her journal. She couldn’t afford to forget again; she had to write it down. She needed to know what came next. But the second the tip of her pen connected with the paper, Miya had no idea what to write. She stared down at the lines, her mind as blank as the page in front of her.
The dreams and the fable were gone.