I don’t know where it came from. It was during one of those moves, the kind that took me to a new place with unfamiliar faces and rooms the wrong size. Unpacking and unwrapping, kicking empty boxes across the floor into a pile. Arms aching with the sun sinking low.
I didn’t even put the bed frame together, just flopped on the mattress as night fell. Open window letting in the cool breeze. There was plenty to do tomorrow, getting settled and starting the new job. I wondered what my co-workers would look like, if they’d be happy I was there.
Too quickly it was morning, with beams of sunlight prying open my sleepy eyes. I had dreamt of endless cubicle rows, wandering to find a meeting room I couldn’t find. There were no people, just the overhead lights humming as I walked for what seemed like hours.
Washing my face, seeing the circles under my eyes. I looked like a wreck, but it was just the jitters of something new. Maybe I should’ve started the job much later, not a day after my move. It would be fine. Just get through today and I’d be able to get a good sleep tonight.
Work was busy, with calls and meetings. I loosened my tie while stepping outside, catching the bus back to my apartment. Just a few more things to unpack, and then I could relax. A quick dinner and more box wrangling, everything had a place. The shelves were standing tall next to my bed, two smaller tables on either side.
Sitting on the bed, my foot touched a book on the floor. I must’ve dropped it in the bustle of getting things ready. It was a high-quality paperback, with a matte paper cover that felt silky to the touch. There was no title or author, just blank pages as I flipped from the end forward.
Then I saw the pictures.
Endless cubicle rows, machines perched on desks in identical angles. Overhead lights glaring from above. This was different though, there were people in the back. Not brightly lit, just shadows on the edges. I couldn’t tell if they were facing me or turned away.
I put the book down, creeping unease filling my heart with dread. How could that be? Just a coincidence? I picked it up again, turning to the beginning. The same cubicle rows were there, but now with spindly things crawling over the top. One had glowing eyes looking directly at the camera – or however this was captured on paper.
I closed it again and put it on the side table. It was getting late, I wouldn’t solve this puzzle tonight. Sleep came quickly and with it vivid images, smoky column of ash rising from a volcano in the distance. I was alone on a vast field of hardened lava. Neon-bright flows in the distance, catching spindly trees on fire.
I woke, with crickets chirping outside. The moon had risen, bright and full. It was early in the morning, hours before sunrise. I sat up and looked at the book again. Something drew me to it, like the tug of a magnet on the surface of a fridge when you put up a picture. I opened it to the front, turning pages quickly.
The picture was there. Smoky columns and snaking lava flows in the distance. I turned the page ahead, seeing nothing but blank paper. Turning the page back, same volcano but other things were on the fields. Impossibly long legs and withered limbs. This couldn’t be right.
I threw the book on the floor, burying my head in the pillows. I needed some sleep. Even just a few hours before work would be better than nothing. My heart was racing, feeling my pulse throb at my temples. Just keep calm. Get some sleep and look at it fresh in the morning.
The dreams kept coming.
Then I woke, and went to work. Feeling odd, sitting across the desk from my boss. He was explaining something important, but my ears kept fuzzing out. His voice would fade and waver, like he was talking under water. I rose my hand to ask a question. He looked at me, then opened his jaw wide.
Lines of razor teeth in rows all the way back to his throat, dark tongue reaching out.
I woke up, sweating profusely. Pounding in my head. The urge to know, to see the pictures consumed me. Its been days now, I’m not sure. You must be reading the book now, with its pages that are ever changing. Do you see me? Do you see them?
Tell me how to get out, I beg of you.
Don’t turn the page.