“You were talking in your sleep again last night,” Melanie says. I’m still out of it, thick white comforter practically shoved into my drooling mouth.
“What did I say?”
“You said, ‘Where’s Megan?’ Really loud. Woke me up.”
“That’s weird,” I murmur. I know where Megan is. She’s in her crib in the nursery I just recently finished painting.
“I thought so, too,” Melanie says, mouth full of frothing toothpaste.
“Since when do I talk in my sleep?”
Melanie spits. “Since always. For the three years we’ve been together, at least.”
“No shit,” I say. This is news to me. “Next you’ll be telling me I snore.”
“Like a walrus,” Melanie says, laughing. I throw a white-shammed pillow at her, which bounces off the bathroom door jamb.
“What else do I say?” I ask.
Mel shrugs. “Stuff. Most of the time I can’t make it out. Just mumbles.”
“You’re not helping your case, Melanie,” I say.
She is putting on her bra, a lacy white affair I fear we paid far too much for. Melanie is only a B cup. It can’t take that much fabric to rein those puppies in.
“Sometimes, it sounds like you’re saying the word, ‘cobbler.’”
I sit up and swing my feet out of bed, burying my toes in the warm white shag carpet. The winter sun oozes in through the slats of the mini-blinds like marshmallow cream. “Like the dessert? I never eat that.”
“You do in your dreams,” Melanie chuckles, as she gingerly clasps a pearl necklace behind her neck.
I gently move past Melanie, who is already dressed, into the bathroom. I have to piss like a horse.
“Now, you’ll be okay until my mother gets here, right?” Melanie asks. “She should be rolling in around noon.”
“We’ve been doing this since Megan was born, Mel,” I say. “I think I know the drill.”
Melanie kisses the back of my neck. “You’re a good daddy, Dan.”
“I can change a diaper and warm up a bottle,” I say. “That’s pretty much the whole job right now.”
“Back around suppertime,” Melanie says, and she marches prettily out of the bedroom, in her white dress, off to work. I hear the front door open. I hear the deadbolt click.
I brush my teeth quickly, wrap my bathrobe around myself and go into the hallway. The nursery door is cracked slightly, and I peek in. The baby is sleeping. I do not usually wake her up before I have had coffee, but news of my sleep-talk has me edgy.
Megan snores slightly. Tiny sighs. Angel breaths. I normally have to hold my own breath before I can hear hers. I inhale and hitch up, letting the air fill my lungs. Nothing. I can’t hear anything.
I open the door to the nursery and approach Megan’s crib. “Come on, Meggie,” I say. “Time to get up.”
Megan is not in her crib. I stand up straight and scan the entire room. Nothing. She is nowhere. I cannot see or hear her. My little girl is gone.
How the hell did this happen? She can’t climb out herself. She can’t even walk yet, for God’s sake. Where the…
…behind me, the closet door squeaks. I’ve been meaning to fix it. I’ve been meaning to do a lot of things. I stride across the nursery, realizing that it is impossible for Megan to be in the closet. Not without help.
I breathe deeply and yank the closet door open.
The creature holding Megan has talons. Megan’s eyes are wide with fear and confusion as the thing caresses her throat with grotesquely long fingers, covered with brown scabs. It grins at me from the shadows, half-hidden among the neatly folded pajamas and tiny white frilly dresses. Drool falls from one corner of its jagged mouth.
I don’t know what it is. I don’t care. I just want my daughter back.
“Let go,” I demand. “Give her to me right now.”
The thing in the closet shakes it head, gibbers and moans. It glares at me, and slowly runs its finger from Megan’s navel to her throat. Megan begins to cry. She stretches her arms towards me. I walk further into the closet.
“Give her to me,” I yell. The monster shakes its head and clutches Megan tighter. It traces his finger across my baby’s throat. Its claw tugs her soft skin, pricking it. A small bead of blood forms under her chin.
I am fury. I am rage. I kick the horrible thing in the forehead, pinning it to the wall. It screams with rage and momentarily loosens its grip on Megan. I hop forward with my other foot and reach down. I snatch my baby from its weird claws, let the brute loose and stumble away.
It follows me quickly, like a feral animal. I barely have Megan in my hands, like a slippery football. The creature leaps in front of me, smacking the crib to the other side of the room. It jumps for Megan, swatting and smacking at her like a basketball. Megan screams, high-pitched, terrified. The monster drops and charges, ramming its head against my chest. I flail back violently, against the window. It’s not my fault. I raise my hands and fall backwards, shattering the glass and losing my grip on Megan, sweet shrieking Megan, who falls and falls and falls.
Melanie sighs. “Wake up, honey. You’re doing it again. Oh, and you weren’t saying, ‘cobbler.’ You said, ‘goblin.’”
“Megan’s okay?” I am sweating.
“Relax,” Melanie says. “I’ll get her.”
There are red smears on my side of the bed, stark against the white comforter. My feet are raw. I can feel the sandy grit of grinding glass in my toes. Am I awake now? Am I still dreaming?
Melanie is screaming now. She wants to know where Megan is. I pull the comforter over my head and try to go back to sleep.