Cold Meat

Holly bolted upright in her bed. She wiped her brow, alarmed at the sweat there, and took a deep breath in an attempt to regulate her heartbeat.

"It was just a dream. It was just a dream," she said under her breath in harsh, pained whispers. "It wasn't real."

But a small part of her reasoned otherwise.

Dreams are based in reality. Every dream, or nightmare, taps into the dreamer's subconscious to get its fuel.

Holly took another deep breath and slid out of bed. She was warm, and not having access to a fan or AC, wished she had a fan or AC. On the nightstand a solitary clock displayed 3:19 a.m. in red block numbers. A half moon was suspended in the black sheet of night outside her window, illuminating certain parts of the room but not others. Shadows were created where dark met light.

Pushing her feet into her slippers, Holly reveled in the comfort and reassurance they offered. She moved gingerly through the darkness, relying more on her memory of her bedroom than the moonlight. Something deep down inside her warned her about watching where she stepped. Danger sometimes lurked in odd, unsuspecting places.

Like in a bedroom?

"Holly, you big dummy, now you're just being paranoid."

And then her foot slipped.

Quickly regaining her balance, Holly immediately scanned the floor of her room. She saw nothing unusual: a few articles of clothing; a small notebook; a dulled pencil. All common items that one would readily find on a young girl's bedroom floor.

The pencil! That's what I slipped on. It had to be.

Realizing that she needed to reach the light switch, Holly kicked aside the pencil and stepped toward the door. It seemed a million miles away, but she could see a faint line of light at its bottom, obviously from the bathroom nightlight. Using the light is a guide, she made her way to the door.

I should get a lamp for my nightstand. Then I wouldn't have to get out of bed to... The thought froze in her head when her foot slid forward. The fact that she knew there wasn't anything on the floor ahead of her only added to her fears. And this time it didn't feel like she stepped on a pencil. This time it felt like ice.

Feeling the need to shed some light on the situation, Holly lurched forward. However, she couldn't help letting some urgency creep into her movements, which caused her to lose her balance more than onceā€¦on something slippery on the floor.

And with one final surge, she flipped the light switch on.

Disbelief stained Holly's face, freely mingling with the fear and confusion already there. She stared at the hardwood flooring, which when she had gone to bed was a beautiful shade of maple. But now it was a virtual ice rink. Dozens of icy splotches dotted the surface of the floor, each and every one a mirror into an impossible reality.

Holly stumbled back into the wall. Her mind reeled with many explanations, but none stuck. She wasn't cold, in fact, she felt warm. It was summertime outside, and this was not lost on her.

"I don't understand," she mumbled under her breath while staring at the numerous ice patches. "This can't be."

As Holly stood there, her hand still resting on the light switch as if it somehow offered a reason to what she was seeing, she noticed a glint of movement in the corner of her eye.

And it came from one of the ice patches.

Run away! Get out of the house! Call the police!

Her mind raced with options, but to her horror, she found that she couldn't move. Glancing down, she saw that her feet were planted squarely in a large ice patch. A thin sheet of powdery frost coated them up to the ankles, securely anchoring her in place.

And then she noticed another movement off to her left, near her dresser. And then another to her right. And then one right in front of her. They were indistinct, like smoke drifting by a mirror, but there nonetheless.

Scream. I'll scream until my parents hear me and come running.

But when she tried to open her mouth, she discovered that her lips were stuck together. Like her feet, a thin paste of frost glued them shut. She couldn't utter a sound.

Holly stood there, in her own bedroom, completely helpless and scared to death. Patches of ice littered the floor, and within each patch movement occurred. And she knew it would only be a matter of time before whatever inhabited those patches made its way to the surface.

Suddenly, all Holly wanted to do was shut the light back off. Ignorance is bliss, especially in a life-and-death situation. But even that small comfort was denied her, because her arms were frozen to her sides and her eyes crusted open by the impossible frost.

A single, razor-sharp talon tapped on the ice from below. Once, twice, three times proved to be the charm as the two-inch long curved nail eventually sliced through the icy barrier.

Holly stared in horror at the grotesque spectacle before her. Her eyes ached with dryness, but she was helpless. She watched, as first one scaled hand emerged from an icy patch in front of her, and then another to her left. Soon, her bedroom was writhing with life as dozens of the terrible appendages flailed around like blind snakes.

Inevitably, hideous faces followed the hands. Each bore a brazen expression far worse than any nightmare ever conjured up by man, and moved with a sickly, fluid motion.

And then all simultaneously locked their eyes on Holly. They sized her up, relishing the fear of their pending meal, and already busy dredging up quick and efficient ways to divide her up evenly.

One of the creatures shot out of its icy burrow, scuttled up to Holly, and poked her leg with its greasy snout. Satisfied that she was sufficiently chilled, it slithered back into its hole, thus signaling its brethren that it was time to feed, for the monsters preferred their meat cold.