is dreaming. The dream is vivid and at the same time it is grey like the endless sea which
As it usually happens, while dreaming, she does not feel the need to
understand what is going on. There is just Here and Now - all other constants have been
finds herself in an old boat. Once painted sky-blue, but now blotchy-grey, it is creaking
like old bones. There are a short paddle and a wineglass on a wooden stem. This wineglass
evokes a feeling of aversion, even disgust with a bit of terror. She does not understand
her feelings, but she is trying to keep her distance.
Wherever she looks, she is seeing a shoreless
green sea in grey hues. Here and there, the crests of waves are curling up with dirty-yellow
foam. Looking into the water for a long time makes nausea creep up her throat, because
it seems like the boat is moving, dragged by the waves, and at the same time standing still,
rocking on the dunes of the watery desert. When she squints, she understands, that the
sea is liquid.....what else could it, surely, be? Butwhen she unfocuses her eyes, the picture changes—now it seems she is stuck
in a wide openness of slow-cooking tar-thick lard.
Once she dreamed, she saw a sea-gull. She would take interest, if
it was real. The sea-gulls nest on land, don't they? But it was a dream, just a dream.
She followedthe flight of the fat awkward
bird indifferently. Who cares about sea-gulls, besides, this one was obviously ill. It
was flying erratically, now gliding over blubbery waves, now almost touching them with
absurdly short wings. Once the bird cried out and its cry was also ill, miserable. Then
everything got hidden by thick swabs of a humid fog, and for a while Alice was floating
alone in yellowing darkness. There was an acidic, chemical smell which was rising off the
water. She kept looking over to the other side of the boat. There, semi-visible in the
deep fog, was a rolling wineglass on a wooden stem. It was wetly tapping the rotten wood.
the fog dispersed.
There is almost no wind now. Heavy clouds, painted gray, hang low over
the weakly rising boundless sea, so low, that if she lifts up her hand she will touch its
muculent pregnant belly.
Her dream is becoming more realistic. Now Alice is feeling a persistent
itch in the palm of her left hand. Without looking, she opens up her palm and reaches it
with the fingers of her right hand. Her nails barely feel any resistance of something soft
like long-decayed suet and then they slip into a cold, gooey hole.
any interest, Alice is looking at her hand and for a moment she is sure that her palm has
bitten off her fingers. She even wiggles her fingers to convince herself otherwise and
with slipping curiosity and with just the same slipping revulsion she understands, that
her fingers are in place. They have stuck up to the middle phalanges in the huge, bloodless
wound in the center of her palm.
Alice pulls her fingers out and stares at them, looking them over
carefully, studying... They are covered in pus-yellow slime, which smells of the same
strong chemical odour. Not giving it another thought, she lifts her fingers up to her mouth
and licks off a wad of springy substance.
is the wound again. She sees it framed with petals of purple, swollen flesh, it looks like
a crater of a dormant volcano. Inside the hole, the meat has almost lost its colour. The skin edge of the wound is
speckled with light-blue shades of dead water lilies.
is distracted for a moment, she is shivering - her skin is crawling over with goose bumps
and for the first time in her dreams she is feeling the cold, chilling to the bone and
at the same time stifling, suffocating coldness. She hugs herself, but rememberingher wound, she lets her left hand drop down to
her knees. This movement was enough to nudge the boat and that damn wineglass on a wooden
stem begins to knock about again. Tap, tip-tap. Splash. Wet, viscous sound.
wineglass should go overboard. She is glancing at the water by the boat and is seeing some
marine inhabitants through a translucent, rainbow film. Not large - no more than half a
meter in size, they look like thick, slick torpedoes - can't make out heads or tails. They
are swimming quickly, not like snakes, but more like pieces of plastic, gently touching
the boat from time to time, squishing as they do so. Alice is watching their weird, clumsy
dance. Now, one of the creatures stops and its fat body is shaking with a spasm. It is
starting to inflate - now Alice can see a twisted network of purple capillaries in
unexpectedly delicate skin.It is continuing
to balloon... and now there is a sphere in front of her, inside of which, she swears, are
tiny fish scurrying around, looking almost like goldfish, except instead of tails they
groans and forces herself to close her eyes, hard. Now she is seeing darkness, speckled
by twinkling stars.
Same old irritating itch in her hand.
is looking down at her palm carefully, scrupulously and she realizes with fading disgust,
that the wound is harbouring inside a translucent writhing worm. Without any hesitation,
she grabs it and pulls. The worm does not give, it stretches and eventually slips out.
a newfound fury, Alice lifts her hand up to her mouth and sinks her teeth into the slippery
flesh of the worm. Rips it out and... leaves the writhing half in her mouth. She spits
it out automatically. Puts her fingers in the wound again, but the worm is too short now
and she can't grasp it. Alice is just observing, stupefied, as it voraciously gnaws the
colorless meat at the depth of the wound. She does not feel any pain, only an insatiable
itch. With difficulty, she does not allow herself to sink her nails into rotten raw flesh
and scratch, scratch, scratch...
The worm is almost out of sight. If it doesn't stop, it will chew
through the hand and fall out onto the bottom of the boat and crawl to the wineglass with
the wooden stem and then.... No, no, it mustn't happen!
Alice is not afraid, but much to her surprise, she discovers that she is surprised.
Strange, paralyzing stupor is receding, much like a local anesthetic and with each passing
second Alice is feeling more and more persistent involvement of the surrounding reality.
Cold air is covering her naked body with wet flakes. Occasional waves are crashing on the
sideboard and are splashing her with droplets, which stick to her skin like an instant
glue. Fat, plastic creatures under the water are showing much more interest in her—they
are hitting the boat on all sides, making the wineglass roll from one side to another,
from board to board.
Alice is looking to her damaged hand leveling it at her eyes. Now,
in the center of an endless fatty disturbed vale, there appears a stinging hole. Seems
like the worm is almost finished and, in a moment, she will see right through her palm.
Why is she still unafraid? Surely, it can get scary in a dream,
can't it? There could be nightmares, stifling like a pillow over face. There could be visions
so horrible, that even memory of them could torment the dreamer, making the heart beat
could even happen to die in your sleep for no reason.
She puts down her hand and stares into the unending, unstable expanse.
There, beyond horizon, the sky taps the sea, forming a single black and broken line.
Maybe, she is being carried onto far and unknown rocks?
Something is touching her leg softly, passively. Alice looks down
and barely stops from screaming.
There is the wineglass on the wooden stem at her feet. Its tapping
is soft, but demanding.
Without thinking, as it often happens in dreams, Alice reaches out
and grabs the wineglass hard. She leans down and scoops up some gelatinous water - eyeless
creatures are staring back from below.
...She is sipping it. The liquid is spreading over her mouth cavity
like petroleum and is leaving a coating on mucous membrane.
is taking another sip.
She is looking at the ever-distant broken line,
a scar which is holding together the sky and the sea.
is drinking the rigid flesh of the ocean and is awaiting.
Awaiting for the dream to be over.
Denis Bushlatov is a Ukrainian
horror writer. At the moment, he has published two short story selections: Devolution and The
Gift, which are sold worldwide in more or less every bookstore featuring Russian literature.
He has recently published his first novel: The Keeper of Void and rumors say that
the second one is on the way.
Unfortunately, up till now
few of his works has been translated into English.
currently lives in Odessa, Ukraine with his wife, his 12-year old son and
full-of-nuisance cat, Richard.