Alanah Winters

Alanah Winters: Compelling fiction


The Unknown

The first time you go through an experience it stays with you; even if fuzzy and disjointed, the aura of it sticks. The realization of lost time that never comes to recollection really fucks with your well-being. My life was “normal” for the most part. Yet, here I was standing clueless as to how I even got into this building in the first place.

I listened to the children’s voices make a constant hum around me. The playful chatter of squeals and laughter worked to deepen my confusion. It took me a moment to realize I was holding the hand of my very antsy son, Cameron. As our eyes met, his mouth curled into one of his signature gappy smiles. Even his wondrous nature didn’t help to soothe my nerves.

It looked as if he had no idea of my growing panic; that was at least something to be thankful for. I felt like my brain had been emptied of answers, leaving only questions.  First off, what was I doing in the middle of my children’s school?  The last thing I could remember was warming up the car to take them. The drive here, talking with the kids, parking the car, I had no memory of any of it. I felt my chest tighten as my heart raced. There had to be some way of explaining this!

It was taking every fiber of my being to hide the chaos in my head. I began to walk across the glossy linoleum floor. The slight tug of Cameron’s arm persisted as my strides quickened. I barely noticed that my son had to break into a light jog to keep up. I just needed to get him to his class so I could sort out what was happening. I turned my thoughts toward something else before I went crazy in front of everyone.

“Okay Baby Boy we’re off to Miss Feather’s class, for a great, funtastic day, right?” still keeping my frantic pace.

I think I was more trying to convince myself. Just keep moving and everything will be fine. What was the classroom number again?

“Mommy, where are we going?” Cameron questioned.

I stopped in my tracks, unsure for a moment how to answer him. “I’m walking you to class, silly.”

The slight tremble in my voice was evident, at least to me. I could feel my resolve crumbling and panic ready and willing to fill the spaces. Cameron let go of my hand, wiping it down his cargo shorts.

“Mommy, you just passed my class.” He shared as he pointed behind him.

I was relieved that we were close to our destination. In my frantic state I hadn’t even realized we walked right past it. Being able to see the class entry seemed to lessen my panic, but I knew there were fresh worries to take its place. One such worry took root and started growing. Where was my daughter? She should be in class, but I had no idea if she was. The thought gnawed at me.

“Did Mommy give your sister her lunch money before she went to class?”

I hoped my question would hide my true inquiry of his sister’s whereabouts. My son eyed me strangely for a second. He seemed to decide my curious behavior wasn’t worth his time as his expression changed to one of indifference.

“Yep, like you always do.”

I wiped my own palm down my scrubs before taking his hand once again. As we neared his classroom, Cameron’s face lit up with anticipation.

“Mommy, do you see my picture of a rainbow with the bucket of gold?” He asked excitedly as his head tilted upward towards a drawing pinned on his class’s monthly bulletin board.

I found it hard to concentrate on the sea of pinned construction paper. When my eyes finally found my son’s art interpretation I couldn’t help but to smile.

“Yeah, I see it. It’s the picture of the glowing leprechaun, guarding the gold, right? Very artsy son, I love it.”

I quickly noticed I bruised his ego. Cameron’s arms went firmly across his chest as his brown, almond-shaped eyes showed his dissatisfaction with my comment

“Mommy, I’m in first grade now, leprechauns are little kids’ stuff. My gold is protected by a radioactive Wolverine! See the big claws?”

For first time I could remember that day, I felt the urge to laugh. Everyone would agree my son looked a lot like me, especially our eyes. The only difference being our eye color. I’ve been told I shared my mother’s hazel eye color. But I wouldn’t know from seeing her. She died before I was able to form a single memory of her.

The bell started its shrill ring. Children started to fill their seats. The sound of giggling girls and scuffing of chairs against the floor carried on.

“Oh yeah, I do see it. Okay sweetie, hurry or you’re going to be late. Be good and I‘ll be here to pick you up afterschool. ”

I gave him a kiss on the forehead and ushered him in-side the busy classroom. I hoped I actually could make good on my last statement. If the day continued as it started, who knows where I would end up?

I was just about to turn away when Cameron’s teacher, better known as the school’s busybody, hurried over. “Good Morning Mrs. Smith, I mean Danielle. I have a few questions about your involvement in next week’s PTA meeting.”

Why I ever joined that stupid PTA in the first place was another question to throw on the pile. However, I did know I wasn’t in the mood for her interrogation.

“I’ll give you a call later. I have an appointment I just can’t be late for.” I lied as I turned and began walking away before my comment could dry on her ears.

I gave a courteous turn of my head in her direction with a smile and slight wave of my hand. Her eyes fluttered as if it would take the agitation away.

“I guess I’ll talk to you when you’re not so busy.” She yelled after me.

“Sounds super, have a great day.” I said while I continued to walk away.

I couldn’t leave just yet. I hurried down the hall and up the stairs to take a quick peek into my daughter’s classroom. I reached my destination and looked in through the glass pane of her class door. I wasn’t aware I was holding my breath until I felt myself let it out.

Her honey blonde hair flowed effortlessly down her back. Alexis’s class seemed to be in the middle of a test. Even though the back of her head faced me, I already knew the look of confidence that covered her face. Tests and awards of excellence came easy to her. Under Miss Feather’s recommendation Lexi was bumped into the second grade. Even though she had left her brother to fend for himself, they seemed to adjust well to the changes. It might have lessened the pressure on Cameron to have his own space and no one to compare him to his twin. 

Alexis was definitely her father’s child, extremely intelligent with devilish good looks. There wasn’t a person that could dispute her beauty. It would be doubtful if she ever went through an awkward stage. She knew she was “all sorts of awesome”, as she called it, and rarely tried to hide it. Her confidence and intelligence didn’t make it easy for her to make friends though.

Cameron was an average student and a good looking kid, but his strongest suit was his charisma. It was off the charts. Cam didn’t meet a person that he didn’t like and they him in return. He also got that from his dad. That was the one thing Lexi was jealous of when it came to her brother, even though she would never admit it. She claimed her friendship with Jessica was all she needed.

Jessica was a homely girl with unkempt hair, big thick glasses, and a dire need for braces. But there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t thank God for her presence in my little girl’s life. She was terribly sweet and Lexi’s only link to a social life.

With knowing both of my children were safe in school, my thoughts automatically switched back to my ongoing problem.

I walked towards the parking lot, trying to recall my lost memory. As I stepped out of the building I realized I wasn’t aware of where I had parked the damn car. The stiffness in my neck spread down into my shoulders. My heart began to race as knots of tension filled my stomach. This was insane! I was seconds away from hysterics. I stopped by a line of trash cans and closed my eyes, taking in a breath. It wasn’t an option to forego logic. That would be what my husband, Nathan would say. It was obvious I had an issue, but Nathan would know what to do. I let out the breath, replacing it with another huge gulp of air.

I reopened my eyes. That was it, Nathan, he would know how to help. My hands started searching all my scrub pockets. The only items to be found were my keys. I went back to my breaths but it did less to soothe my panic. Think, think, think Danni, you can do this. What was I doing before? Okay, I came home after pulling a double shift. I made breakfast for the family. I kissed my husband goodbye before he left for work. I was waiting for the kids in the Subaru… I mentally begged, concentrated and pleaded, but still nothing. The next memory was of holding Cameron’s hand.

My gaze went over the whole of the area. I was grasping at straws. I’m not sure why, but the trees caught my attention. Did I park by a tree? I racked my brain, nothing. Now I knew I was fucking grasping. Without any other choices, I started walking toward the street, following the line of trees. The cars that would’ve littered this area during morning drop off were gone. I kept going down the road, close to tears.

 The sight that unfolded in front of me made me pause. It was my car, sitting under an oak tree. I had to restrain myself from jumping for joy. The walk towards it seemed to take forever as I reached for the keys in my pocket.

When I closed the gap between myself and the car, I hit the alarm, opened the door, and took my rightful seat at the wheel. I sharply inhaled. The smell of leather invaded my nostrils. It was weird, but it felt as if it worked as a calming agent. I sat in the driver’s seat ready to put a logical explanation in place of my confusion.

I have been working way too many hours lately. It made sense that the stress and fatigue caused by my extreme workload had me frazzled. There wasn’t any way I really lost any memory of what I did. I’m just worn out and need a good night’s sleep, if not two. I’d heard of a lot of bizarre things people do and think while experiencing sleep deprivation. With being in the safety of my car and finally thinking logically I felt much better. I reached for my seatbelt, satisfied with my self-diagnosis. I did my best to ignore the “what if” that plagued the background of my thoughts.

I was more than ready to put the frantic morning be-hind me. There was no shaking the numbness that hung over me. I couldn’t wait to get home.

The air in the cabin thinned some as I came to my housing tract. Even though the yearning to be safely locked away in my house was strong, I slowed to a snail’s pace as I turned into my community, Sliver Hawk. I did it more out of habit than need, since all the kids were at school. It was an older neighborhood, but it held up nicely. Nathan thought it was better for us to buy in an establish community than to build in a new one.

A minute or two later, I parked in my driveway. The pull of sleep tightened its grip as I looked out of the window. The thick lusciousness of the grass appeared soft enough to sleep on. I loved when the grass looked like that, but Nathan would think differently. He would be partial to the lawn being cut low and tight. I’m sure Na-than being president of the H.O.A. played a part in his preference. But it did make sense that we would have to lead by example for all who lived here; I’d have to call our gardener, Juan.

I exited the car, leaving it to warm in the sun. My attention went to the lit porch light as I reached the front door. It must’ve been left on from the previous night. It was barely noticeable in the morning’s light and it didn’t matter much, but I’d rather not have to listen to Nathan’s heavy sighs as he paid the electric bill.

I opened the door to the welcomed scent of lavender and a hint of bleach. I don’t know why, but the smell of bleach always convinced me of the cleanliness of an area. Probably some of the nursing crazy I had picked up. I slipped my feet out of my crocs, feeling instantly better. My goal of relaxation and comfort almost made me for-get to turn off the porch light altogether as I absently slid my hand down the switch’s panel.

On my way towards the kitchen I looked over our formal living room. Everything was in its rightful place, as it always was. My eyes regarded the light crème sofa set adorn with burnt-orange throw pillows. It was so pretty, elegant even, which made me feel a brief twinge of guilt that I had left my shoes out in the foyer. It was nice having beautiful things, but I never really under-stood the purpose of a formal sitting area. I actually preferred to entertain in the family room or backyard. Maybe that was because both areas connected to my favorite spot of the house.

This time last year, Nathan surprised me with a full kitchen remodel. I now had the “Martha Stewart dream kitchen”, as he called it. The stainless steel appliances throughout and forty-two inch cherry wood cabinets were gorgeous. But that wasn’t the whole reason why it was my favorite area. It was where a lot of family memories were made. Not to mention it was where the food was held.

I headed straight for the fridge. I ignored the kid’s chocolate cake as I grabbed a container of yogurt. It had become second nature for me to pick the healthy choice, but that hadn’t always been the case. During my pregnancy I had picked up a really bad cheesecake habit. Now I try to keep to the cheesecake flavored yogurts instead.

I leaned against the island as I ate. My gaze fixed on the kitchen’s window as it often did. There weren’t many times I would let my brain shutdown unless I was asleep, but that window served as a meditation portal of sorts. I watched as a few little birds hopped around, seemingly at random. The quiet in the house was comforting until my thoughts tried to fill the silence with the memory of the incident that happened this morning; I fought hard against it. I hurried through my breakfast instead of lingering at the window, as I usually did.

I ignored my stomach’s demand for more food and made my way to the stairs. The fatigue that was held at bay started to over shadow any other need I felt as I climbed. It was easier than usual to ignore my son’s ran-sacked room this morning as I passed by it to check the thermostat. On my way back through the hall I glanced into Alexis’s room. It was picture perfect as it always was. I shook my head continuing on to my sanctuary. It would be nice if Cameron was a cleaner little person, but I also thought Lexi could afford to be a little messier. I swear in the hopes of balancing your children I could see why it was so easy to confuse the heck out of them in-stead. 

Once I closed myself into my own domain, I couldn’t peel-off my scrubs fast enough as I left them in a heap by the door. God, I hope Nathan didn’t get off early today. The trail of mess I left around the house would just confuse him to no end. The look I imagined he would’ve had almost made me chuckle. He wouldn’t have found it funny though.

 I walked into the bathroom, turning on the shower for a quick wash. It would’ve been easy enough to fall straight to sleep, but the thought of jumping into bed without a stint in the “rain locker” as my dad called it, made my skin crawl. My eyelids felt heavy as if my body didn’t agree with my cleanliness sensibilities. That all changed when I placed my hand into the water’s flow. The sensation of the hot stream pouring over my skin made me yearn for more. I took my place under the fall of water, feeling my muscles instantly relax. Now I felt as if I could spend a lifetime under the shower head, but I cut it short as I had first planned.

My body reacted to the cold as I reached for the towel. I couldn’t help but to watch myself in the huge mirror. Even though I’d never done well with compliments, I’ve been told on more than one occasion that my hazel eyes were striking. Though, at the moment they were being over shadowed by dark, deep circles which seemed to cause the surrounding skin to look slightly sickly, instead of my natural olive tan.

My gaze also noticed the looser skin around different parts of my body. The eighty pounds I had lost in a year was the culprit for that particular flaw. I had tried all the gimmicks known to man after having the twins, but in the end the old fashioned way of diet and exercise was what worked. Still, the body doesn’t always bounce back the way you would want it to. Maybe my episode had something to do with my weight loss. It could be a hormonal imbalance, who the hell knows.

As I dried myself, my eyes seemed to want to close on their own. Before I let sleep in though, I knew I needed to make a doctor’s appointment. Just to be on the safe side.

I walked over to Nathan’s side of the bed, grabbing the phone. When the phone started to ring I waited for the familiar voice I’d become accustomed to.

“Hello, this is Dr. Emery’s personal assistant. How may I help you?” Rose recited.

“Hi Rose, it’s Danni, how are you doing?”

“Hi Danni, I’m doing great. But if you’re calling for the boys they’re not in and Dr. Emery made me promise not tell you where they were.” She said playfully.

I rolled my eyes, because I knew exactly where they were. “Let me guess, golfing at the Temecula Country Club, right?”

“You didn’t hear it from me. But if you really need either, I can page them if you’d like.”

Dr. Emery and my husband have been pretty close for a few years now. Nathan didn’t work at Dr. Emery’s practice but they belonged to the same committee that brought doctors together to discuss special cases. I didn’t remember Nathan telling me he was going to be staying close to home today. But that wasn’t too surprising with the morning I had. He could’ve told me he was going to the moon and I wouldn’t remember it. A shudder went down my spine. I knew I had to tell my husband what happened sooner or later. For now, I chose later. It might rectify itself and if it didn’t, that was why I was making an appointment, right? Nathan being a neurologist, he would understand and try to help, but I wasn’t ready for him to start probing at me just yet.

“No, don’t bother, let them have their male bonding. I was just calling to make an appointment. I need a check-up and some labs drawn. Are there any openings?”

I waited as I listened to the tapping of her pen hitting her desk. “How about after the weekend, this Monday at 2:00, does that work for you?”

“Great, thanks Rose, enjoy the rest of your day.”

“You’re welcome honey, bye.”


I disconnected the call and collapsed on the bed. As the cool duvet touched my naked skin I realized my nudity, but I didn’t care. Instead of finding clothes I found my pillow. I used the last bit of energy to set the alarm for the kid’s afternoon pick up. My eyes closed as my head found the pillow again. I blindly fumbled my way under the covers and recited a silent prayer as I drifted off.

After my nap I went through the rest of the day, thank God, without any weird occurrences. I went through my to-do list with ease: pick up the kids, dry cleaning, soccer practice, and order pizza from Pizza Depot. By the time the children and I finished dinner, what I experienced earlier seemed like a bad dream. I didn’t want to rehash any part of the morning’s debacle. I did notice I felt tired again, but with a list like the one I had anyone would be. I would just make it an early night.

I busied myself with throwing away the paper plates. I really did love pizza night. The kids were in the family room, immersed in their show. They had been watching television for the past hour or so, but there was no school tomorrow so a little extra brain rot was fine, right? I second guessed my logic as Nathan’s voice played in my head. ‘We weren’t the type of parents that let the television raise our children for us.’

“Hey guys, do you want to help Mommy make some cupcakes to surprise Daddy with?” They continued to watch television without any acknowledgement.

“Don’t everyone jump up at once.”

Cameron finally popped up off the couch, running to my side. His dirty blonde hair bobbing as he ran. “Do I get to lick the bowl?” He asked excitedly.

I smiled down at him. “Sure baby. Alexis you’d better hurry before I claim the spoon.”

Finally I was able to tear her away from the couch. She skipped into the kitchen. “Dibbs on the spoon, but I’ll let you have a lick Mommy.”

“Oh how gracious of you.” I said full of theatrics.

Lexi nodded her head before she giggled. By the time we were done putting on the icing on our finished product, I was exhausted but I was in a great mood. Lexi educated me on the habits of kimono dragons and Cameron had me in tears reenacting his teacher’s reaction after the class snake escaped its cage.

“Daddy is going to love these. Can we stay up so we can see him eat them?” Lexi asked.

Some of the stress came swopping back. I didn’t know what time Nathan was going be home. Between his sleep study research and medical conferences we were lucky to see him at all.

“No, sorry baby girl, it’s almost time for bed. So, bath time; Cameron you go first.”

“Mom, I took a bath last night!” He whined.

The phone rang, interrupting Cameron’s outburst and giving me a way out of our nightly argument. “March, and don’t forget to clean inside your belly button and ears. Alexis, I’ll make sure your dad gets a cupcake you decorated, okay?”

Lexi skipped upstairs seemingly happy with our com-promise. Her brother lazily followed.

I ran for the phone. As I raced to beat the answering machine, I almost tripped over Cameron’s toy truck. “Damn it; these kids are going to be the death of me.” I murmured.

Nathan’s voice echoed through the house; “Hi, you have reached the Smith’s…”

“Hello, hello I’m here.”

“Well hello stranger, nice to hear your voice. I was starting to think you moved to Tibet and became one of those silent monks.”

I could always depend on my friend to keep the jokes coming. “Hi Porsha. If I’m not mistaken we just talked yesterday.”

“Yeah like for ten minutes, that doesn’t count. I thought maybe my B.F.F. wanted to know how the mediation went with Stan. However, I could be wrong since I didn’t even receive a call. I mean a text would have sufficed. I’m just saying.” She teased.

My hand went to my temple as I readied myself to apologize. Porsha was in the middle of a nasty divorce with the king of assholes. Stan looked great on paper. He was an established movie producer with deep pockets that gave generously to charity. He wasn’t hard to look at either. His problem was he was always looking for new talent to share his casting couch. Porsha finally had enough. She just wanted out, trying to leave with the little dignity she had left. To add insult to injury, when she served him the divorce papers he had the gall to feel betrayed. He swore she wouldn’t see a penny, even though she had financed her fair share of his ventures.

“I’m so sorry. I totally forgot. How did it go?”

 “Yeah, you lost at least ten friend points today. But I checked the score sheet and I don’t have to toss you out on your ass just yet.” Porsha joked.

“Okay enough with the jokes. I know this can’t be easy. How are you holding up, really?”

“Honestly I feel numb, but that could be the wine kicking in.”

There was a pause. I waited for her to continue.

“I can’t believe my life turned out to be so shitty. My childhood wasn’t the best. We’re not even going to touch my adolescence; we’ll just say it was a hot mess. Now I’m dealing with a prick that ruined the very thing I thought was good in my life while he tries to put me in the poor house. I understand a person isn’t supposed to be happy 24/7 but this is just ridiculous.”

I felt horrible for her, she was a good person and deserved better than she got. “So nothing was figured out at today’s meeting?”

“My lawyer says we're in the beginning stages. With me keeping records of our shared investments including the winery and vacation home, he’s going to be forced into a settlement. Luckily my daddy didn’t raise any fool.”

“Good, Stan deserves everything that’s coming his way. I was thinking maybe we can go out this weekend, have a good riddance celebration. What do you think?”

“I think hell yes! Wait, don’t you have to go to work? Did the sick and dying get up and leave? You never miss work.”

I didn’t want to get into the same conversation I was dreading having with Nathan, so I decided to lie. “Human resources called telling me I had to use or lose my vacation time. So I have no choice in the matter.”

In truth, I called in and told them I was sick and wouldn’t be back until I had seen my doctor. I couldn’t risk stressing myself out like that again.

“I’m in. Okay, you’re talking about just the two of us without the children right? Don’t get me wrong, your kids are the cutest, but I think I’m still too fragile to deal with never ending questions and their sticky, mystery-goo fingers.”

I felt the smile form on my face. “You’re too much. We’ll come up with a plan tomorrow.”

“Does the plan include a babysitter?”

I was trying my best not to laugh. “Bye Porsha.”

I hung up the phone and picked up Cam’s toy. I slogged upstairs to check on the kid’s progress. Lexi was about to take a bath and Cameron was playing on his bedroom floor. I dangled his toy in front of him. “Are you missing something?”

I finished with the kids, tucking them into their beds. As I entered my bedroom I felt alone; the master suite could have graced the pages of “Better Homes and Gar-dens”, but when I was left to my own devices it just seemed cold. Some of the feeling of loneliness went away after turning on the television. I soon lost track of time, slipping in and out of consciousness.

I awoke to the vague creak of the bedroom door. “Na-than is that you?”

“Hey sweetheart, sorry, I tried to be quiet.”

I turned over in the bed, focusing on the clock that stood on the night stand. “That’s okay; I needed to talk to you anyway.”

My eyes squinted from the room’s new found brightness as Nathan turned on the room light. He started his nightly ritual of removing his watch and emptying his pockets.

“Honey, it’s three in the morning, can it wait until I get some sleep? I didn’t get my usual nap before rounds and the new sleep study is proving to be tedious.”

“Yeah, you should’ve caught some zzz’s instead of practicing your golf swing, huh?” I lightly joked.

He sat on his side of the bed with his best Cary Grant smolder in place. Nathan knew I was a sucker for his crooked sexy smiles. “Who ratted me out?”

I tried to look mysterious. “I have my ways.”

From his chuckle it was obvious he didn’t buy my act. Nathan undid his tie and let it hang loosely around his broad shoulders. He smiled from ear to ear as he leaned over the bed, laying a kiss firmly on my lips.

“Of course, and I’m very fond of your ways.” He sat back and paused, taking a moment to scan my silhouette against the duvet as I lay on my side, supporting my head with my hand. I could feel the heat in my cheeks spread. After nine years of marriage he still knew how to make me melt like butter on a hot summer’s day.

His smile returned, seeming to reach his blue eyes before he continued. “But you know the funding game; if I don’t show my face at an occasional charity or the country club, my solo research would be dead in the water.”

He moved off the bed and began unbuttoning his shirt, showing off his lean chiseled torso. “So how’s Rose doing?” He said as he walked into the closet.

Out of nowhere, an overwhelming fragrance took hold of my attention. My free hand automatically went to shield my nostrils from its assault. I knew the scent well; I should, since it belonged to my husband. My brows furrowed in confusion. What was happening? He was just sitting next to me a minute ago and I didn’t notice his scent any more than I ever had in the past. I have always loved how my husband smelled, but tonight it seemed to overpower the whole area.

“Whoa honey, did you just put on some after shave or cologne? It’s a bit much babe.”

“Why would I do that? I haven’t showered yet.”

What he said did make sense, and I was thinking the same. But if what I asked turned out to be true that would’ve been an easy logical explanation. I went to answer him when another impulse took over instead.

The smell was becoming even thicker. I felt my stomach turn, causing my mouth to water. I was seconds away from running to the toilet when the smell seemed to go away completely. For a second I thought my nose had just decided to turn off, but then I detected another scent altogether.

It was a weird sensation. I knew the cologne was still present, but it was as if my nose was able to bypass it, concentrating on a fainter scent. I halfway believed I was making it up in my head. I wanted it to go away. There was enough going on without adding any extra shit. But it was as if I didn’t have a choice. Like my instincts had taken over. What was I thinking? That couldn’t be right.

Without my blessing my nose kept working towards figuring the unknown scent. Nathan was still in the closet, but I knew he wouldn’t be in there for much longer. I hadn’t moved or made a sound since the new sensation had appeared. I was a prisoner of my own body as it collected small pieces of the puzzle. I couldn’t have him see me like this, just stuck. The smell became more profound, enticing even. I needed to move, to snap out of it.

I tried to push up out of the bed only to fall back into it. My strength seemed to have been taken. I could only lay there. I was too scared to do anything. I just laid there hoping it would go away. My big toe started to tingle. As the scent continued to be processed, the tingling spread. In seconds my body was numb. I’d never felt such panic before in my life.

I opened my mouth to call Nathan, nothing. Not a single word or sound came out. The fear of my silence was quickly eclipsed as the numbness was replaced with something much worse. My muscles locked in place as my body felt as if it was being engulfed in flames. I opened my mouth to scream in agony. Air escaped with-out a single sound to accompany it. The only sound I heard came from the racing of my heart. Jesus, was this how I would die?

Suddenly the pain lifted as if it was never there in the first place. However, the relief was short lived. I felt off, sinister in nature. An uncontrollable need consumed my thoughts, but what I needed was unclear. My confusion quickly turned to rage.

Then it was all gone. The horrific sensations: the smell, pain and cesspool of emotion, gone. I jumped out of the bed that had held me prisoner. Nathan came walking back into the bedroom. His head bowed as he tied the drawstring of his pajama bottoms.

“Danni did you hear me?”

My eyes were fixed on him. His head came up after finishing his task. I felt the tremble of my mouth as the tears fell down my face. Nathan rushed to my side, his face full of concern.

“Danni, what’s going on?”

I couldn’t answer him. The swell of emotion kept me from talking. All I could do was cry. I listened as my sobs grew louder. He reached out, touching my arm. His look of concern deepened.

“You’re burning up! Come lie down baby.”

I wouldn’t budge. I was terrified by the thought of lying down in that bed. What if the smell and pain returned, or worse, what if that thing came back to fuck with my head? I know it sounded crazy, but those sinister feelings I felt seemed tangible and connected to a source that wasn’t me. I couldn’t decipher the chaos of its emotions and I think that my ignorance upset it. It wasn’t my rage I felt. It was coming from that thing. That’s not possible, is it? Without noticing, I had wrapped my arms around Nathan, crying into his shoulder. I turned, resting my head on him. I willed myself to talk and hoped my body wouldn’t betray me again.

“I think I’m fine now.” I lifted my head, looking him in the eyes to give him some reassurance of the situation.

Relief came over his face but I was still able to see his confusion of what had happened. I guess he didn’t want to risk upsetting me, so he refrained from asking me to lie down again. Instead he left my side, retrieving his medical bag. He returned with the stethoscope around his neck, his face full of resolve as he put the bag down on the bed.

He turned to me as he opened his bag. “Can you come and lie down now?”

I was only able to shake my head. He frowned but he accepted my answer with a nod of his head.

“How do you feel about sitting on the chair in the corner then?” He said as his head nodded in its direction.

My first impulse was to stay where I was, but I knew I had to give Nathan something. Without a word ex-changed, I followed his suggestion. He watched me until I had sat down, then he went back to rifling through his bag. I felt my levels of discomfort heighten as my husband methodically pulled out his tools. What if I was crazy? His voice brought me back from my thoughts.

“I need you to explain what happened in detail.”

I stalled. What was I thinking? When he had gone to the closet before the episode, I was moments away from telling him of the school incident. So why was it now that I didn’t want to tell him anything? I knew the thought of something actually being wrong with me, or inside of me, was unbearable. Being in a medical profession led me to imagine different causes for my symptoms; was it an infection, brain edema, cancer, or a mental illness? The last thought made a chill run down my back. What would that do to my family?

“I had an episode at the children’s school. I felt extremely light headed for a minute or two and a little forgetful. I felt fine after sleeping, but then I just experienced another spell a few minutes ago. I think taking on those extra shifts at the hospital finally did me in.”

I paused and looked at him, trying to gage if my large exclusions were noticed. Nathan’s honey blonde hair was blocking his eyes. It was impossible for me to read his reaction.

“I’m sorry if I scared you with my dramatics; I’d just never been so dizzy before, so it startled me. I have a doctor’s appointment set up for Monday. ”

Nathan walked over to me, placing a thermometer gently under my tongue.

“Danni, dizzy spells don’t cause a person to turn white as a sheet and raise their temperature.”

The thermometer’s beeping stopped Nathan’s rant. His brow furrowed at his findings. He didn’t say any-thing more as he started feeling around on my different body parts.

“I, uh, swore you had a fever, but your temp is perfectly normal. You said the first time you fainted happened earlier today. Why didn’t you call me?”

“I never fainted, I was just lightheaded. Besides, I didn’t want you to worry. Like I already said, I’ve been on the go lately and my body has just had enough. All I need is a break. But, just to be cautious I think it might be a good idea for the kids to take the bus, at least for Monday. I’m also going to use some vacation time. The director of nursing has been bugging me to use my time anyway.”

Again, I hoped he wouldn’t realize there was information I was withholding. I could feel the guilt grow with each statement but I didn’t feel as if I had a choice. He would think I was stark-raving mad if I described everything to him.

Nathan brushed the hair out of his eyes. It seemed he was fine with my telling of what happened. He finished with his crude checkup, seemingly satisfied with his end results as he started collecting his materials. He paused to look at me. “Maybe we could use a nanny to help lessen your load.”

The thought of another woman doing my God-given job didn’t sit well with me. “You know how I feel about that particular subject and nothing’s changed. I just need some time off to rest.”

He let out a breath before he continued. “I wasn’t trying to cause an argument Danielle. I just want you to stay healthy and not to wear yourself too thin. Will you at least think about it?”

“Let’s see what the doctor comes up with before you try to find our kids a new mom, shall we?” I snidely re-marked.

I couldn’t believe I actually said that to Nathan and by the surprise that quickly adorned his face, neither could he. This time the anger was all mine. But the feeling was foreign to me. I’d gotten mad at him before, but I would always take the time to process it on my own before he knew of it.

“I’m sorry I didn’t mean what I said.” I lied.

“Let’s just try to get some sleep and we'll talk more tomorrow; okay?” He said.

He came back towards me with his hand out. I reached for it, leaving the safe haven the chair furnished. Once I was on my feet he let go of my hand and went towards his side of the bed. I followed suit, even though my fear of the area hadn’t dissipated. Nathan sat on the bed, watching me take my place by his side. Once I had gotten as comfortable as I could, I laid my head on my pillow and looked up into his eyes. “Everything is going to be fine, you’ll see.” I said.

He gave me a tight lipped smile before turning and lying down. There wasn’t any more of the night’s earlier affection. I then realized I was being punished for my outburst. How could I blame him? He was only trying to help. I hoped the conviction I shared with Nathan just moments ago was enough to pull me out of this. I wasn’t sure of anything anymore. I closed my eyes, praying sleep would find me and that “thing” wouldn’t. I prayed very hard.

The Beast Within