It showed up the morning after a restless night. A little slice across the biggest toe, on both my child and me. I noticed mine when I took a shower, and I noticed his when I went to put on his socks before school.
It wasn’t red, though, as cuts usually are. And it wasn’t black and blue or tinged green or anything like that. It was the pale red of a slice that happened weeks ago and was now mostly healed. But I swear they hadn’t been there when we went to sleep.
The following night the dreams came.
Vivid. Intense. And personal, oh so personal. I didn’t want to write them down for fear they’d come true. Horrifying. Absolutely horrifying.
We both woke up that night sweating and crying out in what seemed like an on and off pattern. He was first, since he fell asleep first. Then I woke up screeching, which woke him up. We both cried for a while.
Then we fell asleep again, and forgot what the nightmares were about.
This went on for three nights, until at last people started to remark on how tired I looked. The bags were dark and heavy under my eyes, and I started to zone out during meetings.
Then we had one peaceful night of sleep: deep, dreamless, utterly restful and rejuvenating.
The next day, we both woke up happy. That is, until we saw the creatures wrapping our feet in a blueish purplish gauze like material. They were muttering, almost chanting between them. There were four working on me and two working on him.
When they realized we were awake, they screeched and jumped off the bed. My son made a movement to see where they went, but then he realized that the largest one was still there, screeching and waving his hands about frantically.
“Hush, now,” I told him, “stay still. I think they’re afraid.”
He nodded quickly, then leaned back against an extra pillowcase-less pillow and watched as the rest of the group peered back over the edge of the bed. We stayed very still and they went back to work again, though they eyed us wearily the whole time.
Then one happened to brush up against the bottom of my foot. I let out a giggle, I couldn’t help it, and I jiggled ever so slightly. They all glared at me, but I couldn’t help it. I let out more laughs.
Then next to me my son started cackling too. We looked at each other and grinned. The creatures at the end of the bed started clucking and clicking their tongues. They started talking in low tones.
But as we continued to laugh, their faces started to light up and they began to smile. Then chuckle. Then full out giggle. Then came the release of hearty belly laughter.
I imagine that day often. We left the purple and blue gauze on our toes until it fell off. Or melted, in my son’s case. Either way, after that our toes were fine. No scars, no cuts, nothing.
Our dreams became more vivid from that day forward, too. Except we never had nightmares anymore. It was as if whatever had been worrying us had evaporated.
I’m sure those creatures had something to do it, I swear.
But as of today, we have never seen them again. Though every once in a while, I feel the slightest brush on the bottom of my foot and I hear the faintest giggle while I hold in my laughter until I cannot any more.