SHARED NIGHTMARES Sneak Peek: “Incubation” by D.J. Butler


cover - ebook 2Will I be able to fall asleep now? What will I dream?

I look like hell.

That’s me in the mirror over the pink chest of drawers with seafoam green accents, face pale but eyes dark, sweater filthy and torn.

It’s Joan’s sweater. It’s tight on me.

My hands shake as I pick up the doll. Audrey’s doll. I’ve just dressed it in its fanciest clothes, a red dress with sequins. I don’t know what the doll needs sequins for, the damn thing is supposed to be a child, not some club-hopping tramp with her flat plastic cleavage all—

I’m sorry.

I hold the doll gently, cradle it. Shuffle into the hall and then the kitchen. The trailer is a double-wide, but that still means the kitchen is three steps away from Audrey’s room. Double-wide just means there’s room for Joan to have an office. And a place to.

To.

You don’t know seafoam green from lime, you a-hole. Joan taught you that. You worthless sack.

I hear a choking sound, like someone’s trying not to cry.

Joan will forgive me.

“I forgive you,” I say. It comes out wrong. There’s too much echo.

In the kitchen I stop for the bottle of Jack. I see my hand holding it, all the dirt under the fingernails. Even with the shovel, you get dirty when you dig a hole. When you.

I see his boots are still sitting inside the door. I thought I had gotten rid of them with. Had gotten rid of them.

So tired. So tired I’m getting stupid.

That’s good. I need to sleep, so I can ask forgiveness. I’ve been trying, but I wasn’t tired enough before. I’m pretty tired now.

The double-wide’s floor creaks. Usually that’s the sound of footsteps, and I jerk my head up. “Joan?”

Silence. “I’m sorry.” But it’s not enough.

I stumble out the back door. He’s lying there, still, the bastard, I don’t care. I can deal with him later. The moonlight is cold on my skin. It’s a trick of the mind, maybe, I’m tired, but the light flickers. Can the moon do that? I don’t think there are clouds, but I’m afraid if I try to look up I’ll fall over.

I’m tired. Good.

I almost trip over the shovel, and its blade cuts into my foot. I’m too tired to curse, but it means I’ve arrived.

There’s a patch of earth on the left, and shoved into it side-first is Joan’s laptop. She’s written papers on that computer, and novels and poems, so I guess it must have some of her soul in it. Also, she wrote e-mails to him.

“Bitch!” I spit.

The moonlight gets colder. I drop Audrey’s doll.

“Sorry.”

What’s the doll’s name? Melanie, maybe? Margaret? Madeleine? I try to bend at the knees to pick the doll up, and instead I fall forward and crash to the dirt. It’s cold, and moist. I don’t remember it raining, since. I scrabble around to get back onto all fours, and some parts of the earth sink deeper than others. Because under some parts of the earth. Under some…

 ………………..

Read the rest of this story and eleven more nightmare-inspired tales in Shared Nightmares, coming soon! 

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