Sweet Dreams

by: M.J. Orz

It started when my wife forgot my birthday. Normally people wouldn’t find it to be at all suspicious, but my wife was the type who never forgets a thing. She writes everything down, even the things that she knows she would never forget – it was just a habit that she had that kept her on track. So when she completely forgot my birthday, I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow to it.

Alice and I have lived together in the same house for about two years now. We were married only a few months before we bought the house and thought it was just perfect so, even though it was slightly out of our price range, we decided to make it work and buy the house before someone else did. We did our research on it and made sure there was nothing crazy going in the house – no murders or anything, as silly as that sounds. It’s not so silly anymore as I write this.

Anyway, the house was perfect, with a nice backyard that led into a gorgeous green forest. Neither of us could wait until it snowed because we thought that it would look like something out of a Robert Frost poem when it did. And when the snow eventually came down, it was just like we imagined. Perfect.

Now, with an older house, like ours, comes some issues. Nothing that I couldn’t ever handle, but lots of little creaks and noises, a loose floorboard here and there or a leaking pipe, so I was regularly keeping up with my housework when I wasn’t in the office. We were lucky enough that I had landed a great job out of college and after being there for a few years, I was making enough money that Alice could stay at home. She kept the house wonderfully clean, did all of our shopping, and became quite the housewife. I liked the way things were going these last two years, and I don’t think I could have asked for anything more.

It was only a few weeks ago that I started to think that something was wrong. Like I said, I began to wonder when I woke up, on my birthday, and noticed Alice was already awake. I went downstairs, expecting a hug and kiss, which I did receive, but no “Happy birthday” or anything special for breakfast. I didn’t bring it up, thinking ‘Maybe she has something planned for later’. But later came and went, and there was nothing. I went to work, came home, and everything was just like any other day. I even double checked the calendar to make sure I wasn’t losing it. It was definitely my birthday.

I never brought it up to her because I didn’t want her to feel bad. I figured she would realize it eventually. But she didn’t.

I started noticing a few little things that were “off” about her. It wasn’t just her memory either. It was a break in her patterns. Silly things like the time which she woke up in the morning. I was always up first, but now she has been waking up at ridiculous hours of the morning – like,  four AM – which is just not her character. I used to have to fight her to get up. Her appetite changed. She was now eating more and even taking food from the table and I’m guessing she was eating during the evening or something. There was never any leftovers in the fridge the next morning. And then there was the sex. I don’t want to write out details about it, but it was insane. Nightly.

My first thought was that she was pregnant. It would explain quite a lot. I tried to pay attention for any more signs and even brought it up kind of casually. She laughed it off and told me that she knew she was certainly not. She asked me why and I played it off the best I could to make it seem like sheer curiosity and nothing more. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on with her.

And then the storm came through and our basement flooded. I very rarely go down into the basement unless I absolutely need to. It’s not creepy or anything – I just have no reason to be down there. There isn’t much in the giant concrete space but out furnace, and now a whole lot of water. Alice didn’t seem to like that I was spending the day down there, pumping out the water. It was the strangest thing. I smiled at her and told her that I would be done with it soon and not to worry. She would go back upstairs and I could hear her foot tapping on the floor, waiting for me to go join her.

I was sucking the water up with the vacuum, pushing the nozzle around the floor, watching the puddles go into the hose when I realized the water was streaming into the base from one of the areas where the wall meets the floor. I stood there with the vacuum pump on, in awe at how much water was coming through. I made my way over to the wall and let the head of the nozzle bump it.

It was hollow. I turned the vacuum off for  a second and could still hear Alice tapping her foot upstairs. I turned the vacuum back on, full blast so it was nice and loud, then reached my fingers under the crack where the water was coming in. To my surprise, the wall was a fake and had many loose bricks that had appeared, to my quick glances, to be attached to the wall. I moved these bricks and found a tunnel. Turning off the vacuum again, I listened for the tapping upstairs. When I heard it, I turned the vacuum back on, and crawled into the damp tunnel.

It seemed to lead on for only about twenty or thirty feet in the darkness until my head bumped into something solid. I reached into my pocket and grabbed my phone, using the light to illuminate the path and see what I had hit my head on. It felt like metal, but I wasn’t completely sure. I am still shocked that I didn’t pass out when I saw what lay ahead of me.

My head had bumped into a grate – more so like a cage rather than just a grate. And inside the cage, in a small dirt and concrete cell, sat a woman. Alice. She had some food scraps laying around her, from meals that had been served the nights before. Her clothes were tattered and the floor around her stunk of feces. She was in a daze, maybe drugged, but she didn’t even seem phased by the fact that I was there. She just stared at me with no expression. I threw up.

I made my way out of the tunnel as fast as I could and covered the entrance back up quickly. I could hear my “wife” or whoever…or whatever coming down the stairs. She asked me how things were going and I said everything was fine. She told me that she was going to go to bed and wanted me to do the same. I told her that I was almost finished but I would be up soon.

I’m writing this now as she sleeps. I know she will be up early again, probably to feed Alice in the tunnel. I want to call the Police, but I don’t think I can. Tonight, as “she” laid down to sleep, she turned to me and said:

“I love you very much. But you could be next. Sweet dreams.” She kissed me goodnight and went to sleep.

I woke up and everything was…normal. It’s almost as if nothing happened. I knew that everything I had known up to this point was a lie and I knew that, somehow, the woman downstairs was not my wife. I went into the kitchen and was greeted by a kiss and some breakfast. I shook as I ate. I didn’t know what to say or what to do – so I just ate in silence and watched this…this impostor walk around the kitchen in my wife’s clothes, grinning and even dancing a little to try to make me laugh. In my wife’s body. Or something like that. Honestly, I don’t know what’s real anymore. All I could think about was my wife, sitting in the tunnel, staring into nothingness.

I called out sick from work today so I could try to sort out everything in my brain. Alice – or whatever she is – just went about her daily routine as normal. That is the most torturing thing about all of this. She just didn’t even acknowledge that anything had happened. She knew I knew, but didn’t even care. She just carried on.

It’s about three-thirty pm as I write this. I am only writing this to try to keep everyone up to speed with how things are playing out. “Alice” went to the store for about forty-five minutes earlier today. I went downstairs and looked into the tunnel again. My wife is still there. I tried talking to her, but she said nothing back. She just stared at me and drooled. The creepiest thing was that she smiled. It wasn’t her normal smile either. It was a big, toothy smile – showing all of her gums, almost to the point where it looked like it would hurt to exert that much strain on your face. I could see her tongue moving in her mouth. Her eyes seemed glazed over. It wasn’t like any sort of drug I had ever seen. This isn’t something natural or even normal. She just cranked her head from side to side and looked directly at me…smiling. I put my hand on the grate to see if maybe she would touch it, but she didn’t.

I hate that I had to leave her there again.

I got back up into the house and covered the tunnel, listening to the car pull into the driveway. My heart started to race and I ran upstairs, lying back down on the bed to try to calm myself. Alice came up into bedroom and laid down next to me, grinning. She made a pouting face and ran her finger in circles on my chest.

“I told you not to go down there again” she said, making puppy eyes at me. I have never been more afraid in my life. I tried to play dumb, but she wasn’t having it. She stayed calm and tried to be cute, even though I was visibly sweating. She gave me a kiss on the cheek as I asked her:

“What’s going on?”

She grabbed my face and kissed me hard – I never shut my eyes and stared at her, horrified. When she pulled away, my stomach began to turn. She had a huge smile on her face, but every tooth in her mouth was black, green and rotting. I could see the disgusting pus coming from her gums and I could see all the cracks in her lips.

“What’s wrong, baby?” she asked, cackling. “Don’t you want to kiss your beautiful wife?”

I jumped from the bed and ran down the stairs, listening to her laugh as I bolted, tripping over my own feet. I looked up to see if she was following me and what I saw wasn’t the image of my wife anymore. I mean, it was, but it wasn’t. Her skin was raw and split. Her head sat flat on her shoulders as if her neck had been snapped. Her fingernails were yellow and dangling from her hands. I could hear her gurgling as she breathed.

I made my way to the basement and dug out the tunnel. I don’t know why I chose to do that, but it was the only thing that made sense, for some reason. I crawled up to the grated cage, this creature behind me. I felt its hands grip my ankle, just as I looked into my real wife’s eyes and began to cry. The real Alice still just smiled.

Then it all went black.

I woke up in my bed, Alice shaking me, begging me to wake up. I moved away from her as quickly as I could. I ran down to the basement, and looked for the tunnel, but nothing was there. Just the wall. A solid, concrete wall.

I walked up to the kitchen, greeted by Alice who looked incredibly confused. I asked her about the tunnel and the impostor and everything else in between and she smiled and shook her head at me.

“It was a nightmare, honey. Come on – I’ll fix you some breakfast.”

From there, my day has been pretty normal. Well, except for one thing.

You see, today is my birthday.

And I think Alice forgot.