Strawberry, vanilla, or chocolate.
In theory, it shouldn’t matter. They just poured the gunk down the feeding tube directly into my stomach. In practice, though—the stuff worked its way back up my esophagus. Chalky battery acid.
Maybe if I drank the stuff properly, it wouldn’t be too bad. The way I got it was disgusting. I generally stuck with one flavor until I couldn’t take it anymore then switched to another.
I blinked at the nurse until she understood that I wanted chocolate.
Most of my meds went straight down the tube as well, or into my veins, but for some reason, my sleeping pill had to be swallowed. I loved the sleeping pill, though, and was more than happy to fight to get it down.
The nurse dimmed the light, and I started doing simple math problems in my head. By themselves, they wouldn’t work, but with the sleeping pill, I should be asleep in a few minutes.
As I drifted off, my eyes flicked open for just a moment, and something strange stood at the door. Something that couldn’t possibly be real. The dim light outlined some sort of huge, vicious bird.
Silently, it swooped down toward the bed. Inch-long talons, razor sharp, bit into the metal of the bed’s railings.
I fought to stay conscious—although what defense I could muster if I managed, I had no idea.
Sleep took me.
I woke with a soundless scream. The lights were on, and an aide was cleaning me up.
The aide was one of the good ones. He chatted amiable nonsense while he worked. Most of the aides just treated me like an inconvenient chunk of meat, and some were deliberately cruel. I did the closest approximation to a smile I could manage toward him, and he grinned back.
After he left, I thought about what must have been the beginnings of a nightmare last night. Images of claws and wings. I was pretty sure, it wasn’t the first time I’d had that dream. I couldn’t move my head, of course, but by forcing myself almost cross-eyed, I could look towards the spot on the railing where I’d seen the vision of the bird.
Deep scratches scarred the metal.
Probably what triggered the dream in the first place.
In addition to writing fiction, Arlen Feldman is a software engineer, entrepreneur and computer book author. He is also a costumer (albeit of questionable taste) and maker, and frequently talks at conventions on various topics.
Featured Photo Credit: Thevan and the Raven Monster by Vincent Lefevre