by Kaol

Pam struggled fitfully, but the ropes holding her down allowed little movement and bit painfully into her skin. She could feel a slight vibration thrumming through the metal rail against which the back of her head rested, and she twisted her head to the side. In the distance she saw the dark form of a train moving swiftly in her direction.

With renewed vigor she jerked and tugged at the bonds, but was trussed quite firmly to the tracks. She felt the vibration more strongly through the rails now. Even through her hair the cool steel trembled against her skull. Desperately, she screamed for help, but her voice was overwhelmed by the simultaneous shriek of the train's whistle. Eyes wide, she once more swivelled her head in the direction of the oncoming train. It was barreling down at her, eating up the track like a hungry tiger. The pungent smell of hot steel and oil filled the air. Like a deer caught in a spotlight, Pam could only stare helplessly as the train bore down on her. In moments she knew it would be on her, its grooved metal wheels slicing into her and exploding her head like an overripe pumpkin. She opened her mouth for one last scream as the metal juggernaut filled her vision.

With a gasp, Pam jerked upright in bed, staring fearfully about her. Her breath came in quick gasps and her hand pressed against her racing heart. That had been quite a nightmare! It had seemed so damned real! She had felt the heat from the engine, had choked on its scent. Running a hand through her dark hair, she shook her head to clear it and kicked off the sheets tangled about her sweaty legs. Why would she dream something so horrible? she wondered. She really wasn't that prone to nightmares, or dreaming in general.

As she stood up, Pam felt somewhat lightheaded. Turning to the clock, she noted its red glowing face announced it to be 2:30 in the morning. She shook her head wearily and shuffled unsteadily towards the bathroom. A cool glass of water might take the fire out of her feverish imagination.

Yet as she stepped into the hallway, Pam stumbled and fell forward. Her knees burned as they slid on the worn carpet, and as she tried to put her hands forward to catch herself, she found her wrists inexplicably tied behind her back. A rough hand steadied her, and Pam turned her head, blinking in the suddenly bright light. She saw a hairy forearm attached to the hand gripping her shoulder, and beyond that a face covered with a tattered black hood. Two stern, grey eyes peered out from roughly cut slits.

Before she could speak one of the many questions whirling fitfully about her brain, the hooded man pushed Pam forward, so that her neck fit into a groove cut into the wood before her. A roar of excitement came from the crowd that filled the courtyard, and Pam struggled to make sense of the situation. What was going on here? Where was she? She glanced up as another notched piece of wood was slapped over her neck and locked into place. Her head craned around, and though it was hard to see from this angle, she could make out that locked in a frame almost twenty feet over her head was a wickedly slanted and shining blade. It didn't look at all friendly, and Pam tried to pull her head out from the stocks which held it. But like a child with her head caught between some fence railings, she was trapped.

Pam's heart thudded hollowly in her chest. She had seen enough movies to know what would happen next. The blade would drop and slice through her neck, and her body would collapse and twitch like a chicken after a visit to the butcher. Directly in front of her lay a stained wicker basket whose purpose was clearly to catch her head. At least it would be neater that way, she thought absently.

The hooded man moved to her left, and Pam watched in disbelief as he casually pulled a long, wooden lever. Instantly, Pam could hear the shoooosh of the blade cleaving its way through the air. Her mouth opened to scream.

And she opened her eyes to find herself with her cheek pressed against her hallway carpet. Gingerly, one hand fluttered to her throat. Yes, it still held her head firmly to her shoulders. Uncertainly, she sat up and stared about her. What had happened to her? Was she dreaming again? But it had seemed so real!

As her heartbeat returned to a more normal pace, she tried to figure out what had happened. The way she figured it, she had gotten up too fast, and had passed out on the way to the bathroom. Now that she thought about it, she had a hunch as to why she was having these nightmares as well. Yesterday at work, she and some of her friends had been discussing horrible ways to die, spurred on by a recent suicide attempt one of them had heard about. No doubt this gruesome topic had been on her mind and was coming out as she tried to sleep. It made some sense at least.

Pam stood up and decided a little fresh air might do her good. She could then put these foolish nightmares aside and get some sleep already. It would be a helluva long day otherwise.

The summer air was cool without being chill, and the pale sliver of a moon cast dim light on her backyard. She walked over to her children's sandbox, planning to sit on the edge. Yet as Pam's bare foot touched down on the sand, she was startled to feel it slide beneath the surface. She stumbled forward, trying to regain her balance, and her other foot slipped beneath the surface of the sand as well. Her arms swung in small circles as she tried to stay upright, and the cool, moist sand swiftly rose around her bare knees. Her mind balked at this latest turn of events. Their sandbox had turned into a quicksandbox! The quicksand was now an intimate band about her hips and was pulling her greedily down. Was she dreaming again? Pam felt she had to be, and yet as her hand came down on the surface of the sand, she could feel the slick grains of sand against her palm. It sure felt real.

The quicksand had circled her breasts snugly and moved in slow and lazy waves about her as she pushed at the surface, trying to halt her descent. But nothing she did seemed to slow her down, and the thick and gooey sand lapped at her uplifted chin. Pam tilted her head back and stared at the watchful moon overhead. This time it looked like she was not going to wake up in time; if this was even truly a dream. She opened her mouth to shout, and the quicksand flowed eagerly in, pouring thickly across her tongue, oozing greasily through her teeth.

Pam gagged as she fell away from the sandbox. She sat on the grass and noted instantly that her body was dry and clean. Another dream? She was finding it harder to tell dream from reality. What was going on? Dazedly, she stumbled into her kids' plastic wading pool and abruptly splashed into water now apparently bottomless. The water closed over her head, but the chill of it snapped her out of her stupor and she quickly splashed her way to the surface. A flailing hand caught the side of the pool, and Pam was about to begin the process of hauling herself out when a white hot flash of pain pierced her calf.

She let out an involuntary cry and her left hand shot down to her leg. A fresh jolt of pain greeted her hand, joined almost simultaneously by another at her right hip. Pam jerked her hand up and found a fierce looking fish latched onto her thumb. It's lidless eyes glared at her, and as she watched, its razor sharp teeth squeezed together. She heard as well as felt the crunch of bone as the piranha separated her thumb from her hand. Blood spurted in a spastic fountain in time with her heart's beating. Pam shrieked as she felt burst after burst of pain from her submerged body. She lost her grip on the side of the pool and thrashed in the churning water as she felt herself being devoured one bite at a time. Her entire body felt on fire, and the water that splashed into her screaming mouth held the salty taste of her own blood. Her struggles became weaker as the hungry fish stripped the flesh from her body, mouthful after mouthful. Pam slipped beneath the surface.

She opened her eyes to find herself lying on her side, soaked but whole, in her children's pool. Shaking her head, she stared at her side, and saw a piranha in the water swimming eagerly towards her face. Pam pushed herself away, upsetting the pool, and tumbled into the grass. She looked over to see the fish flopping helplessly in the grass nearby her. Her mind screamed in panic, though she stared in silence. Had she gone crazy? What would happen next?

Pam was given no more time to ponder, as the wooden fence separating her yard from her neighbor's exploded outward and a steamroller crushed the splinters beneath it. There was no doubt of the monstrosity's destination. It was heading straight for her. Pam's survival instinct kicked in again, and she began a sprint in the opposite direction. Or at least she tried to. The air felt like it had suddenly turned to glue, and though she tried to run, she felt as though she could scarcely move. Glancing behind her, she saw the steamroller was not so encumbered, and progressed towards her with deadly purpose.

Teeth clenched, Pam doubled her efforts, but to no avail. She turned her head again, and her vision was filled with the menacing steel roller that was now scant feet from her. It would pancake her in moments. Pam squeezed her eyes shut and willed herself to wake up.

Her eyes opened, and Pam found herself lying in a bed, although not her own. Yet she recognized the setting quickly enough. She was in a hospital. A nurse glanced over and smiled reassuringly at her. "Good. I see you're awake. I'll notify the doctor." She was off before Pam could voice a question.

The doctor entered, a middle-aged man with glasses and a solemn look about him. Pam tried to push herself up on her elbows to greet him, and found that she could not. It felt as though she had been strapped down. "What's going on?" she asked, still shaken up by her recent nightmares.

"Calm down, miss," the doctor said soothingly. "You were in an accident. You're in restraints to prevent you from tearing your stitches while asleep. You were tossing around quite a bit."

Pam relaxed. She could believe that. The doctor sat down beside her bed and pulled the sheet back, exposing her hand. Pam's mouth dropped open. Her right index finger was gone, revealing a cauterized stump, as was the first digit of her middle finger. The doctor picked up a dull scalpel tinged with rust and smiled at her. "Let's continue, shall we?" he said, and pressed the blade against the remaining knuckle of her middle finger.

Copyright 1990 by Kaol


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