In my square backyard a steel playground was being occupied by an over-grown, over-aged me. I was playing on the playground as I was then, 5’11 and 17 years old. In complete solitude and happiness, I played until the pieces started disappearing from the backyard into thin air. One by one each steel rod turned into dust ascending into the sky becoming invisible, leaving me confused, disappointed and bored. I went into my house and started looking for the pieces, hoping they would turn up somewhere inside. I, with my mother and little sister, assembled a search party to find the pieces of the playground. We looked everywhere for the pieces, everywhere except the attic, which is not accessible by stairs but a square hole in the ceiling. We only go in the attic to store our belongings.
When we lifted the small square covering the attic I found our belongings destroyed by what appeared to be bite marks on them.
Worried for our safety and tired of searching, I advised that we take weapons to our bedside and decided to call it a night.
The next morning, I woke up to have a cigarette in the backyard, which is particularly strange because at this point in my actual life I’ve never even tried or had a desire to try a cigarette. In any case, I went, in the dream, to smoke a cigarette on the stairs in my backyard. Not noticing at first, the playground was back to its original spot, as if it never disappeared the night before. Happily acknowledging the return of my playground I took a drag of the cigarette and saw the playground start to move.
The steel rods went in so many different directions. I took a puff in, A few rods go straight. I exhale; the rods form a lowercase “t”. Another puff, more rods take form of an upside down “v” connecting to the bottom of the lowercase “t”. I exhale; the rods form a circle connecting to the top of the lowercase “t”. I take one last puff watching the steel rods morph into flesh and bones. I ash the cigarette, exhaling, watching the faces of the people who have just morphed from steel rods grow vicious and angry. They move toward me, fast as ever. I run into the house just in time, slamming the sliding door of the backyard. They bang against the door trying violently to get into the house
“MOMMY!” I scream, keeping my back to the door, clutching the handle just in case they broke in. She pokes her head out of the kitchen where she was washing dishes, giving me a confused look.
“They’re chasing me!” I scream, frantically. She looks at me, saying nothing, not returning to the running sink.
The people from the backyard go abruptly quiet. The house goes silent. The water from the kitchen sink stops running without my mother turning it off. My sister, who was sitting on the couch directly in front of me, gives me a hard glare.
Silence fills the now cloudy house. Without any words we exchange looks telling one another it’s safe. I breathe a sigh of relief when I check the backyard and there’s no one there. I step away from the door, thinking it’s all over.
Water running from the shower upstairs broke the silence. With only us three, on the first floor we knew there was an intruder in the house. I lead my sister and mother up the stairs. I skip the bathroom door which is directly to the right of the stairs, and went into my room. I retrieve my wooden bat that I left beside my bed from the night before. The shower is still running, I miraculously acquire a trait I don’t normally have: bravery. I look at my mom and sister as I hold on to the doorknob, they stare at me on the steps, two looks I couldn’t translate even having known them most of my life.
I barge into the bathroom, pulling the shower door open finding nothing. I poke my head into the shower and there it is, a black figure the shape of a human being nearly twice my size in height and much smaller than me in width. I launch my bat right into, what I believe is it’s face. I don’t get the bat back, it’s being dragged into the black figure, as if it’s being eaten. With two arms that grow to any length, the black figure grabs me and tosses me around the bathroom a few times before I pass out.
I wake up, in the dream, to a white hospital room. I feel almost older and healed, like the torture I endured happened years ago. A nurse walks past me, without looking at me she knows I’m awake and informs me that I’ll be spending some time in their psychiatric ward.
No arguing. No hesitation. No choice. No power to speak. I am transported to the psych ward; in there I feel comfortable, as if I’ve been there before. Sitting in the center of the white bright room, the red demons start appearing. One by one they appear, enclosing me in a square, watching me for what seemed like an eternity.
In reality, as I open my eyes from the nightmare I feel a gust of wind, as if something was breathing on me.
Shaquille Smith is a writer from New York. His work often embraces things like sexuality, race, and gender. He’s heavily influenced by indie rock bands and pop songs. With his writing, he hopes to inspire millions and motivate others, as writing has done for him. You can find more of his work on his website here.
Illustration by Francine.