Night Terror

He woke with a sudden terror gripping his heart, a cold clutch of claws that stifled its rhythm and froze his blood with sharp crystalline pain. He struggled for breath and gripped the sheets into bunches as tight and as white as his knuckles. Cold sweat wicked from his hair and ran over his face and down his back in dripping rivulets.

The woman beside him slept on in sweet oblivion. He couldn’t move his neck, it had locked into a rigid paralysis, so he rolled his eyes to stare sidelong at her form. Shrouded in both soft sheets and softer moonlight, her steady breath shifted her shoulders and confirmed her life. He felt the terror subside enough for him to relax his grip on the bed and he inhaled, deep and ragged. What had triggered the attack? he wondered. If it had been a dream, any memory of it had fled with the wakening.

He could move again, and he scrubbed his palms over his face. The dark room began to feel calmer, safer, yet beneath it he sensed something grim. An awareness of her loneliness. He was not her partner, not yet, and for a moment he knew how the room was when he wasn’t there. Not empty, of course, he didn’t rate his own company that highly, but certainly solitary. To him it was a crushing emptiness, a yearning for companionship, an all-too-human longing for someone to share the life with.

Then it was gone, and he was once more just a recently terrified man in the bed of a stranger, in the middle of a long night.

2014.10.10 – 2023.06.02

Next: Tiding Over (153)
Previous: The One Who Knocks (151)