Inhuman

A brand new short story ~ by Meg Sorick

Her nose was broken this time. Amanda was sure of it. Usually she took precautions, but tonight she had fallen asleep in Brian’s arms. The nightmares he had been experiencing in their two years of marriage had been getting worse of late. The restlessness, the murmuring in his sleep had escalated to violent thrashing and shouting. It was a wonder the neighbors hadn’t called the police.

She pinched her nostrils to stop the bleeding and slipped out of bed. Amazingly, her cry of pain hadn’t woken Brian and he continued to wrestle with his imaginary demons. She winced in the glare of the bathroom light until her eyes adjusted. One look in the mirror told her it wasn’t going to be one of those things she could conceal even with liberal application of makeup. Why, oh why, had she not retreated to her own room when she felt her eyes getting heavy?

Brian would be devastated when he got a look at the damage. Maybe it would be enough to finally get him to seek help. He had resisted because he never remembered the dreams the next day. In fact, he probably wouldn’t have believed her if it wasn’t for the evidence left on her body, her face. She stuffed tissues in her nostrils and returned to the doorway of the bedroom.

As usual, after about ten minutes of frenetic struggle, Brian abruptly quieted, settling back into his pillows with a heavy sigh. His gentle snoring gave evidence that once again, he was oblivious to the nightmare state he’d been in moments ago. Strange… Amanda thought she heard a low hum, an extended tone lasting for a few seconds just before Brian’s thrashing abated. When she was sure he was settled down, she left for the room she had thought would be a guest room when she and Brain moved in together. Now it was her room. She crawled between the sheets and spent the rest of the night on her back to keep her bloodied nose from seeping.

In the morning, in addition to the swollen nose, both of Amanda’s eyes were black and blue. As expected, Brian didn’t remember any of it. As tears filled his eyes, he pulled her into his arms and promised that this time he would make an appointment with his doctor. Amanda hugged him back, relieved that maybe now he would get the help that he needed.

“Next week,” he reported when he hung up the phone. “It was the earliest appointment I could get.”

Amanda nodded. “Ok. I’ll just have to be more careful until then.” She sighed. “Meanwhile, I’m off to Urgent Care to see if they can do anything for this nose.”

“I’ll take you,” he said. “What are you going to say happened?”

“I’m going to tell them the truth.” She reached for his hand. “This is not your fault, Bri. I don’t blame you. And… you don’t need to miss work on my account. I’ll be fine driving myself.” The truth was, when things like this happened, she preferred to handle it alone. She didn’t like the nurses and doctors looking sideways at Brian, imagining him to be the abusive husband.

The doctor indeed was suspicious when she examined Amanda’s injuries. After asking all the required questions to determine if she was in an abusive relationship, the doctor reluctantly accepted that the story of the nightmare was the truth. With her mouth set in a grim line, she numbed the area, adjusted the position of the nose and set it with tape and a hard plastic splint. Amanda thanked her and left as quickly as possible.

That night, Amanda decided to forgo any kind of snuggling with her husband on the chance that her exhaustion would result in accidentally falling asleep like she had the night before. She kissed Brian and retreated to her own bed instead. But rather than falling into a deep and immediate sleep, she lay awake listening to the chaos Brian was experiencing in the room next door. Minutes felt like hours, hours felt like forever. And then… there it was again: that almost imperceptible tone or hum or whatever you would call it, and Brian went still. Was this something new or had she just never noticed it before? She would have to pay closer attention.

The next night was the same, and every night following: Brian would descend into his nightmare until that sound seemed to bring it to an end. It was without a doubt connected, but neither Amanda nor Brian could offer any explanation as to why.

“We’ll have to see what the doctor says,” Brian told her. “I can only think that somehow I’ve been making the noise. Where else would it be coming from?”

“But it doesn’t sound human. It sounds electronic,” she objected.

“You said it was really, really faint. It could just sound that way because you can’t hear it well,” he replied.

And so they waited, with Amanda becoming more anxious as the week passed.

The doctor seemed dismissive as he listened to Brian explain what was happening, even in the light of Amanda’s fading injuries. “You might consider counseling,” he said. “But we’ll rule out any medical reasons first.”

Nevertheless, the doctor’s nonchalance faded quickly as he began his examination. His brow furrowed as he tried to find Brian’s pulse, it deepened to a scowl when he put the stethoscope to Brian’s chest. He moved the instrument from place to place to place. “I can’t find either pulse or heartbeat. What I hear… well, there’s something. This is extraordinary….” He moved the stethoscope to Brian’s back and asked him to take a deep breath. And when Brian complied, the doctor jumped back, his eyes wide with shock. “No lung sounds either.” He tried taking his blood pressure. Nothing. Listened to his abdomen. Nothing. He shined light in his eyes. No pupil dilation. “I don’t understand,” he gasped. “It’s as though you’re not alive.”

To be continued…

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