It was the steady drip of cold fluid on her forehead that woke her. When she woke, it was slow, confusing. Distractedly, she reached for her forehead, trying to reconcile the sensation with her dream, her fingers prodded at the liquid, it was sticky.
Opening her eyes she looked at her fingers. They were covered in a thick tarry substance. Another drop fell from above. Looking up, she saw her entire ceiling was covered, long sticky strands dangled into the room while small mounds had formed where the liquid had fallen. They shimmered in the low light of the bedside lamp. She wiped her hand on the duvet, leaving long black marks on the already marred surface. Singular drops had spattered onto the white sheets, some had formed pools.
Once her hand was clean, she rubbed her eyes, just to be sure. She wondered if she was dreaming, then dismissed the idea. If she was, she wouldn’t question the liquid. Carefully, she slid her legs from beneath the covers and carefully stepped on the carpet, not wanting any of the liquid to touch her feet. Slowly, she wound around the maze the pooling liquid had created. Reaching the door, she turned the knob and stepped outside. Leaning against the door she felt the cool wood through her nightdress, she could hear the faint dripping noise still coming from her room. She didn’t know what to do. Who could she call for this sort of thing? She still didn’t know what it was, it wasn’t oil or water from the pipes. Opening the door once more, she glanced into the room. It was still there, no different. Still that same steady drip.
She moved from the door and went down the stairs, it was early, the sun hadn’t begun to rise yet. She wasn’t fully sure of the time so far, but, figured there must be an emergency repairman working somewhere. They might have a better idea of just what the hell was going on in her room.
As she walked, she turned on the lights, she didn’t want to be in darkness. Suddenly thirsty, she went to the fridge looking for a drink, normally water would be fine, but with that black stuff coming from the ceiling god only knew what could be wrong with the water pipes. Finding only orange juice, she decided it would do and drank it straight from the carton, greedily gulping as much as her mouth would contain, the carton emptied quickly without slaking her thirst. Sighing, she went to the cabinets. Surely there would be some bottle of soft drink in the cabinet.
Finding a flat, ¾ full bottle, she drank from it while going towards her laptop, she figured it would be faster finding someone that way, going to take another drink, she noticed the bottle was empty. She had drank it all in less than two minutes. The orange juice had been almost full when she started to drink, it was a two litre carton. She had drank almost four litres in less than five minutes. Realising how much liquid she consumed she felt sick, her hand absentmindedly going to her forehead and scratching the place where the drop had fallen.
Disregarding the massive consumption of drinks as a mere trick of the mind, she went back towards the computer, glancing in the mirror as she passed, she froze. There was a dark mark on her forehead, where the drop had fallen and from it were smaller, branching tentacles, curling and seeking new, fresh skin to infect, spreading from the original site.
Gently, she pressed at the dark patches, then, using her nail, she scraped at it. She could feel the pressure and a vague movement but that was all. Taking a sliver of flesh between her fingernails she squeezed. Nothing. No pain, no mark, nothing.
She took a deep breath, then another, trying to stave off nausea, she felt faint. First, she would need to get to a doctor, they could figure out what the hell was in her room, what the hell was on her face, she needed medical attention. Now.
Trying to stay calm she ran through what she would need, wallet, ID, money. She ran about the house in a frenzy, there was no time to change, besides, she didn’t want to expose herself to more of that weird black stuff. Reaching for the door she felt lightheaded and, still trying to grab the door handle, she fainted.
It was much brighter when she regained consciousness. It was past eleven, her first panicked thought was that she was late, then realising she was on the floor she remembered what had happened the night before.
Maybe it was all in her head after all. First, she would check in the mirror, then, if it was still there, then she would go straight to the doctors.
Staring at herself in the mirror she turned her head this way and that, trying to see if there was anything, anything at all on her face, but her skin was clear and fresh. Blemish free. Feeling slightly stupid, she returned to her room to find it equally clear. Shaking her head she wondered what had caused such a vivid dream. Sighing, she sat on the bed. At least it was a dream. She only had college later, she could miss it, take some time to relax. Obviously she was stressed out.
Though she had stared in the mirror for a good ten minutes and periodically checked throughout the day, she did not see the thin filaments of black that now spread throughout her eyes, subtly twisting and undulating.
Before she went to bed that night, she had, without realising it, drank almost twelve litres of water without going to the bathroom once. She felt good, better than she had in a while. For the past few weeks there had always been a vague tiredness behind everything she did, no matter how much or how little she slept it remained the same, there was no relief from it. She did not notice how much it affected her until she finally felt better. The day had passed uneventfully, though the boost she felt allowed her to finish off college assignments. Usually she averaged one a day or so, but today she managed to finish the last five essays she needed to have completed for the semester.
Settling into her bed, she reached for the book on her bedside locker. She had begun it the night before and had read the first few chapters. It was good and she doubted it had caused the nightmare. Giving a sigh of relaxation, she snuggled deeper into her pillow, wrapped the duvet tighter around herself and began to read.
When she finally put the book down, her eyes were gritty and sore. She should have stopped reading a half an hour ago but the book was good. Or she thought it must have been. She couldn’t really remember most of what she had read. She folded the corner of the page, not noticing that she had not read more than a page of the book in over two hours. Turning over, she closed her eyes and quickly fell into a thankfully dreamless sleep.
As she slept the thing which was now growing inside her remained active, spreading outwards, sending tentative tentacles out, searching for new areas to invade. Finally, finding her brain, it began to feed from her, using her energy to allow itself to grow faster. It had already used her ocular nerves to block the sight of itself from her. Though she couldn’t see it, the blackness that had started in the drop had spread across her forehead and cheek, enveloping almost all her face. As she slept, more of the black sludge began to drip from the ceiling. She slept through the drops falling on her and in the morning did not notice that new spots had appeared on her arm and stomach, spreading outwards.
Though she had prepared for college, she felt uneasy, she didn’t want to go in and though unusual, she followed the instinct, after all, she didn’t normally miss it and besides, she had all the work she needed to do done. Missing another class wouldn’t hurt. The day passed quickly, though she did not notice how quickly. She spent chunks of time just standing, staring at nothing, before snapping out of it and returning to whatever task she had been engaged in prior to the temporary fugue. The blackness inside her continued its unstoppable march forward as more and more of her mind fell under its control. Soon she would belong to it and nothing could be done.
When she woke the next morning, she was not herself. The woman who had inhabited the body was now gone, leaving behind a not so empty shell. The black marks on her skin had completely vanished, not a trick of the eyes this time. Her skin truly was clear. It hid itself deep inside her, now in complete control.
It showered and brushed her hair. It packed her books into her bag and, on the way out of her house on the way to her college, it stopped and looked at her in the mirror and smiled. Closing the door behind it, it entered the world.