Feelers by Corey A. Edwards

“Do you see it?” Craig asked.

“Hang on . . .” Mandy’s gentle, probing fingers worked into the hair on the side of his head.

Craig closed his eyes, enjoying the moment, the attention, very conscious of the denim-covered thigh his cheek rested upon. With Mandy’s hectic schedule they had so little time together. Every aspect of their relationship, outside the bedroom, seemed like foreplay.

“Oh my god!”

“What?” he chuckled.

“This is so . . . weird.”

“What?” he asked again, his amusement fading under a thin sheet of growing concern. “It’s just a zit, right? An ingrown hair?”

“I . . . I think so. I don’t know . . . “

“What do you mean?”

“There’s something in there,” she said, boosting him off her lap with uncharacteristic brusqueness. “I need some tweezers.”

Craig sat blinking on the edge of the couch as Mandy disappeared down the hall, into the bathroom. His right hand found the spot on his skull and gently probed the swelling –it sure felt like a zit.

“Craig! Where are your tweezers?” she called from the bathroom.

“Try the right hand drawer, in the same tray as my razor.” He listened to her fumbling as he stared at the flickering, muted television.

She came back out, brandishing the tweezers.

“Okay, lay down” she ordered, patting her lap.

Craig lowered himself back onto her leg and closed his eyes.

Mandy sought again the tiny bump on his head, pushing his hair carefully away from it with her fingertips. Craig's suddenly jittery mind supplied an unlooked for vision of gorillas.

“What is it?” he asked.

“I don’t know. It’s white. Looks like . . . grass?”



He felt her take hold with the tweezers and pull. Though not the squeamish sort, Craig was immediately nauseated, his heart beating double time.

“Oh my god, Cray! It moved! I think it moved!”

“What?” he cried, trying to sit up, “No way!”

“Be still!” she ordered, finding the spot again and probing it with the tweezers.

He lay quiet, nervous as hell, sweat popping out of his forehead, and feeling as if he were naked on a plate.

“Oh my god, Cray . . .” she said as she renewed her efforts, sounding both repulsed and fascinated. “Oh – my - god.”

Craig forced his head to remain still in Mandy’s lap, the nearness of her sex forgotten now, his hands gripping the couch cushions.

Then it was out.

There was little pain, less like popping a zit than pulling off an old scab, but Craig gasped anyway and rolled away from Mandy; a freed prisoner.

Mandy didn’t notice. She was staring intently at the matter held firm in the tweezers. Craig leaned forward.

It did resemble grass; two stalks of thin but course fiber of unequal but roughly half an inch in length, a little thicker than strands of his hair, and joined together at the root end by a ball of pink, meaty pulp.

“What the fuck . . .?”

“This is creepy, Cray.”

“Lemme see it.” Craig took the tweezers and carefully released the pressure, allowing the thing to fall into his open palm. “I think it’s just a mutant hair,” he said, staring at it. “This moved?”

“I’d swear to it but-” Mandy laughed “but maybe I was imagining things.”

Craig cocked an eyebrow at her. “Mmm-hm.” He took each of the strands between finger and thumb and carefully drew them apart like a wishbone. It separated easily.

“Cray! Do you think you should do that?”


“Well . . . “ Mandy was embarrassed “I think you should have it looked at. It’s not right. Creepy.”

“Oh, c’mon!”

“Craig, what if it’s serious!”

“Serious?” he smirked, holding it up for her to look again “What –cancer of the hair?”

“No,” Mandy giggled “but you should still have it looked at.”

“I don’t think my insurance covers hair cancer.”

“I’m serious!”

Craig snickered then saw her eyes.

“Listen, I’ll keep it around and, if anything else occurs we’ll take it in, okay?” After inspecting the wound on his head, Craig dutifully placed the two strands on the edge of the bathroom sink..

In the morning they were nowhere to be found.

After a few days the incident was all but forgotten. Craig’s in-home job as a web-site developer kept him busy and happy, hip deep in computer gear, burned CD’s, and expensive Japanese robot toys while Mandy, prop-master for a popular soap-opera, spent her days (and evenings) in mad pursuit of whatever bizarre items the show’s director called for at the last minute.

Only the fading scab in Craig’s scalp served as a reminder. He fingered it on occasion with a vague sense of regret and expectation which, when closely inspected, winked out of sight like a dying spark –or something hiding.

A few weeks later, Craig was lathering himself in the shower, humming a tune from his favorite video game, when he felt the bump on his chest.

Zits and ingrown hairs were not unknown to Craig. He was a chunky, hairy young man, accustomed to staying up too late, drinking soda, and eating pizza and chips as he worked or jerked around on the internet. This lifestyle had his body producing a perpetual, light sheen of grease that, if not scrubbed off on a daily basis, clogged his pores and left him speckled with white heads or the occasional throbbing monster of a zit. Craig’s work often left him too distracted to remember to bathe every day, with the expected results.

This particular protrusion, swollen to the size of pencil eraser and angry looking, was different, however. As he peered down at it through the sudsy follicles of his left pectoral, it almost seemed as if it was peering back up at him and, in the depths of his disconnected mind, his reptile brain, he thought maybe he sensed a view of his own face from the perspective of the zit, looking down with a not unkind concern and interest.

This thought, so bizarre, so unexpected, so absurd, amused him to such a degree that he broke out in a wide, chuckling grin, his eyes straying up from the irritated pink of the bump.

Then it happened.

He felt it more in his mind than his chest: a kind of tickle followed by the sensation of being exposed. Craig's smile vanished and he looked back down to see two grassy strands extending from the bump on his chest and gently waving about like a pair of curious antennae.

Not knowing what else to do he blinked, then blinked some more. He knew he should be disturbed and frightened by this insane development and, to a certain degree he was, but more so was he feeling a sense of awe, wonder, and protectiveness, as if he had just been handed a kitten or a fresh addiction.

Craig brought his hand up to touch the –feelers?- and jumped back in fright from his gigantic fingers as the strand quickly retracted, leaving only the swollen pore on his chest. The thought of touching it sickened him and he retched into the steam of his forgotten shower.

That night, when Mandy came over, Craig neglected to mention his new growth, nor did he bring it up the next night they had together, even though he could feel it looking at and touching her while they were making love. There was something about it that made him want to keep it secret from the cruel world of bright lights, probes and tweezers. Something that made him feel about it as he would his own arm or leg and he was all too aware, as was it, of how the outside world would react if they saw not only the growth but its independent and apparently intelligent motion. Craig was especially unwilling to expose his weak but ever more apparent mental affinity with it.

Despite this in-depth awareness, it took a casual comment from Mandy to alert him to the growth of another of what he’d come to think of as ‘the feelers’.

They were drinking wine and playing mancala when she squinted over the coffee table and proclaimed: “I think you’ve got a grey hair!”

“Get outta here. Stop trying to distract me.” He said, counting cups and stones.

“Hey, hey! Look who’s going grey!” she giggled, moving to her knees and reaching as if to touch his hair.

“Hey, cut it out!” he cried in what he hoped sounded like mock but was in fact real dismay, knocking her hand away and brushing his hair so as to hide what he suddenly knew –felt- it must be.

“Ow! Craig!” Mandy cried, holding her wrist where he’d hit her then flailing at him in vain.

“Goddammit, Mandy!” he barked, pushing away from the table, not really mad with her but frightened that the feelers might be exposed.

“Cray!” Mandy called after him, hating his overreaction and herself for having somehow managed to ruin what had been a fun evening. Didn’t he know she thought grey hair was sexy?

Before too long Craig was peppered with the things. They appeared wherever his hair grew –face, feet, back, scalp, ass, arms, balls and legs- upwards of thirty pair and more seemed imminent. In order to disguise those that were the most high profile, Craig allowed his perpetual five-o'clock shadow to flourish unmolested, stopped maintaining his years old crew cut, and wore only pants and long sleeved shirts when seeing anyone. Luckily the feelers were shy, preferring to remain retracted unless Craig was alone. After their initial eruption, the redness of the skin around the new feelers would ease down to a happier pink -but the bumps remained, causing Craig no end of social apprehension.

Yet he was happy -happier than he’d ever been.

Somehow they gave him a sustained sense of wonder and excitement no Christmas morning, eBay purchase, or girlfriend ever had. He could spend hours with them, searching for new growth and playing with the old for, as they grew in number, so, too, did their apparent trust and interest in him. He could stroke them now, or let them lightly grip the tip of his pinky, and they seemed to thrive on the attention. Often, when he was eating, he’d hold up a morsel for them to sniff at or touch if they wanted. They were interested in all the things he did and he found their curiosity both endearing and sobering for he began to feel it was his responsibility to expose them to all sorts of different smells and textures. It was like having a schoolyard of inquisitive children living all over his body.

Never gregarious, Craig’s increased hermit-like behavior was not noticed by any of his few acquaintances –and certainly his internet ‘friends’ hardly noticed the decrease in his previous loquaciousness- yet his secretive nature regarding his body began to have a marked affect upon his relationship with Mandy. The endless excuses sounded lame to his own ears and, when he was finally forced to give in out of decency, she acted alternately hurt and angry, he remote, their affection for each other became blunted from the constant dueling, their intimacies chintzy and forced. It was apparent to him that he would haveto break off the relationship soon and was surprised how little it bothered him, though he did worry about the feelers, which had grown fond of giving her their secret caresses.

“Craig, I’m leaving.”

“Bye.” Craig replied, his head pulled under the blanket, hiding and listening to the light scratching sound of the feelers as they inspected the fabric of his bedclothes.

Silence. Craig lay still, not breathing. He knew she was still there, watching him huddle under the sheets, her angry, pointless vigilance creating a palpable tension in the air of the room.

“I don’t know what I’ve done, Cray, to make you hate me, but I’m sorry.”

Guilt washed over him. “It isn’t you, Mandy. I don’t hate you, I love y. . .”

“It doesn’t matter Cray. I can’t take it any more” she said, her voice matter of fact, plowing ahead while her strength remained. “I can’t be in a relationship with someone who won’t tell me what’s wrong, what –oh, I don’t even want to go through it again.”

Craig shifted under the blankets, sticking his tongue out to let a pair of feelers dabble in the spit between his taste buds, only half listening to her.

“Would you at least look at me?”

Craig hesitated, then slowly composed himself and peeped out from under the blanket at her, blinking dramatically. “Headache. Sorry babe.” he said.

Mandy shrugged, dismissing it as another fabrication.

“Listen, we’re on location in Hawaii for the next two weeks, maybe longer. It depends. I had hoped to take you along, make a vacation of it, but now I want to go alone. Take a month or so and get my head together –give us both a chance to think things over. When I come back –IF I come back- IF I’m still interested, I’m going to give it one last go.” She looked long at him, his expression so earnest yet so vague, just a disembodied head lying there on the rumpled pillows.

“I do love you, Cray, but this has got to stop. I can’t take it.”

Craig watched as she turned and walked away, down the hall, listened as she opened the front door and went out, closing it behind her with a steady click. He knew he should go after her, take her in his arms and beg forgiveness, and a good sized part of him yearned to do just that –but a larger part, a part that grew with each passing day, was just so happy to finally be allowed to come out and look around!

The feelers grew exponentially and, as Craig watched them take over his body, choking off and plucking out his hair, he hit upon the idea of using them as hair. Sure, they didn’t look exactly like hair but he lived in an urban environment –who was going to notice? He happily went about shaving all that remained, the feelers retracting at the razors pass, copasetic.

Two weeks after Mandy left, Craig went from brunette to blond, sporting what appeared to be one of the most unconvincing dye-jobs ever seen –but he loved it. He liked standing in front of the mirror and rubbing his hand over his ‘hair’ and feel it rubbing back. Even more entertaining -and exhilarating!- was standing back and letting the feelers move on their own.

Independently or in groups they swayed, feeling, licking the air, his skin, each other. Sometimes they’d shift as an entire colony like a bed of eel grass in the current, the ripple running from the tops of his toes, up his body to his head and back down again. The sensation never failed to give him an erection.

With his new-do, Craig was feeling more confident and, at the ceaseless urgings of the feelers, he began to take short walks. Usually just down the street to the park where old men sat on benches and young mothers brought their children to play in the sandbox. The feelers wanted to touch everything –trees, grass, concrete, dirt, trash, mud, dead birds, children- their urges were as strong as they were irrational and Craig had to watch himself or he’d get carried away by them, lost in the shared sensation.

He knew that he looked strange and acted odd. That the park regulars got up and left when they saw him coming. That newcomers backed away after a double take or two -but he didn’t care. He was too busy keeping the feelers from pulling all his clothes off so that they could feel en masse.

Everywhere he went the feelers urged him to touch, to rub, to pick up things or lean against them. A casual brush of his arm against a freshly planted telephone pole, it’s grain reeking of creosote, was enough to send them into shivers of dancing ecstasy, a feeling which Craig’s brain also translated, satiating him in a way he’d never felt a need of before.

One night he hit upon the idea of taking them to the park for a midnight stroll. Cloaked in evening’s velvet shadow, might he not get a better chance to expose more of them to the things they wished to touch? Would things feel different at night? Craig thought they might and the feelers were excited at the prospect.

Slipped on a pair of silky running shorts, a pair the feelers absolutely loved, and a light tank top, Craig set out.

The night was fabulous, warm. A quarter moon drowsed above, no longer competing with the streetlamps and halogen headlights that illuminated the city. Craig inhaled deep the smell of the avenue –gas, oil, rubber, exhaust from the 9th street overpass- and felt the tiny feelers in his nose wave, caressing the heavy, pervasive scent.

He walked with a smile curled beneath his beard, his bare feet light on the pavement. The feelers swayed with his gait, their roots not unlike goose pimples to Craig and the thought brought a pleasant, excited shiver up his back. He felt like one of the mutant superheroes from the comics he once collected.

There was little traffic, the few voices he heard were muted and distant, the muffled echo of hundreds of television sets and domestic arguments blaring behind the closed panes and drawn curtains of night’s steady progression.

The park was not deserted as Craig hoped. A homeless man lolled on a bench near his regular entrance and he could see two young men hanging out in the basketball court, smoking and laughing.

Craig walked on, skirting the perimeter of the park to enter at the opposite end near the children’s play equipment. Sure no one was looking, Craig jammed his arms deep into the nearest trash receptacle, feeling the jumble of it’s odoriferous contents –damp paper plates, half-empty pop cans, sticky wrappers, newspapers, soiled diapers. Craig flexed his fingers and worked his elbows as he leaned deeper into the can, the tendrils on his shoulders and face straining to share in the experience.

After a few moments of this, Craig extracted himself from the depths of the can, the feelers licking themselves clean, and wandered in amongst the play yard. There he flitted from urge to urge, undaunted by the now absent children and their caretakers, driven ever on by the curious little sensors inhabiting the landscape of his body.

The feelers wanted to know the grit of the sand in the sandbox, the texture of the shredded wood chips around the base of the fort, the cool feel of the thin, steel rungs used by thousands of tiny hands as they pulled their giggling masters to the beckoning mouth of the corkscrewing, yellow slide above.

Craig gave in to them for a long while and then, breathless and tingling, he staggered away from the swings and sand to collapse on the grass behind a low screen of shrubs and stunted trees, shadowed from the park’s buzzing artificial lights.

The night air felt good on his skin, the grass marvelous. He could feel the little tentacles on his body reacting to their newfound freedom and, partaking in it on an emotional level, did nothing to stop them from working off his clothes until he lay naked across the green, convulsed with orgasmic abandon.

An unexpected sensation of cold followed by a laugh of disgust stopped his reverie.

Dizzy, Craig sat up, shaking his head, his hands clawing for his clothes.

“You – fat - faggot.”

“Jesus, Red!” called the other. “Lookit the freak! Naked as a baby!”

“Fuckin’ faggot.” 'Red' said.

Craig suddenly felt very alone. Looking down for support he noted that all the feelers had retracted and he was left bare, not even a hair to hide his red, pimpled nakedness. Fear welled up out of the depths of his belly, an undeniable pool of black, inky emotion.

“Get up, faggot.” a vicious kick punctuated the order.

Craig clutched his silk shorts to his abdomen and began to stand but another blow, just above the ear, sent him back to the turf.

“Get up, faggot!”

Craig rolled over onto all fours trying and tried to clear his head. He knew he needed to stand up but found himself doubled over with nausea. As a successful, self-employed, twenty-eight year old he'd forgotten the face of fear. All through high school he’d dreaded a confrontation such as this and somehow managed to avoid it, though he’d always been a little fat and geeky -a tempting target in those dark days.

“Lookit his little dick!”

“Where’s yer hair, faggot?” called Red with another kick, this one harder.

They were laughing now and, for the first time, Craig took in their faces: young features cast hard under the stark, contrasting glare of the park’s overhead lamps.

They were ordinary guys -just kids really. The same young men you saw everywhere: working at the supermarket, appearing in the just-married section of the newspaper, laughing between classes on college campuses, jumping assumed homosexuals in the park on a Thursday night –your typical all-Americans.

Craig marveled the pain from the blows. On the one hand, it was the same aching, raw throb he’d ever experienced from one of any number of minor injuries over the years, on the other was a new, shrieking horror exploding in the core of his skull as hundreds of mute voices jangled with startled, angry indignation at this unwanted sensation. Craig grasped onto this anger, allowing its swell to buoy his emotions, then directed it away from confusion towards purpose. The response flowed in a wave, permeating his brain and body as the numerous became one.

Red aimed another kick but Craig’s heightened senses warned him in time to drop, roll and gain his feet.

“Whoa, tubby can move!” Red laughed, moving in, fists in a traditional boxing posture.“C’mon, you fat faggot, let’s see what you got.”

Craig watched, quivering with energy as his assailant circled to his left, the other, taller boy hanging back and watching, amused.

“C’mon, queer, let’s see you fight.” Red called, weaving around a bit as he tested Craig’s reactions. Sensing none, his face contorted with disgust and he dropped his fists.

“Aw, fuck it, you’re too pussy to fight.” Red said as he turned, then spun back, launching a sucker-punch.

Craig deflected the blow, pulling Red in, down with his attacker's own forward momentum. There was a wet snapping noise and a scream as they crashed to the ground, their combined weight breaking Red’s arm.

Craig was dimly aware of the other boy running away but most of his attention was focused on the thrashing, panicked, screaming mass beneath him -and the feelers. They wormed against this new sensation with an angry fervor, Craig’s muscles and adrenaline giving them the strength to rend and burrow, penetrating fabric, tasting blood.

Red screamed twice more then fell silent, unconscious, leaving the night to Craig’s heavy breathing, the feelers, and the hush of distant traffic.

Craig lay naked on his couch, bathed in the glow of his idle computer monitors. Ever since the incident in the park he had been nervous about the amount of control he’d leant the feelers and how little they were willing to give back. Not that they did anything more disturbing than insist on feeling things Craig might not normally be so willing to touch but he could feel their influence in his every move, either compelling him or allowing him the action. No longer the excited passengers they once seemed so content to be.

Worse, he could feel his identity draining grain by grain into the whole of the feelers as he and they merged into one being. This caused him much worry but one of the happy side effects of his condition was that, as it progressed, fear and any other selfish feelings diminished daily in power and presence. He was becoming unimportant to himself outside of his importance to them or, as he was beginning to understand it, to ‘us’.

Still, the entity ‘Craig’ remained a vital resource for the feelers. Much of the details and understanding of the environment they found themselves in were still locked within his control, so they still needed ‘him’. They weren’t unkind, not even unpleasant, but Craig had lost his one-time sense of little-boy wonder about hosting them.

Other changes, more subtle ones, were becoming apparent as well. For example, he noticed he craved only meats or other animal by-products and that he was now easily satiated. No longer prone to fits of gorging on whole bags of chips or cookies he was losing weight. His sleep was disturbed and fleeting, his dreams filled with flights over alien landscapes and encounters with eerie, chittering visages, yet he felt no fatigue. Feelers were now beginning to sprout outside his hairline and he realized that soon it would be impossible to leave his home without gaining unwanted attention. Most disturbing; he had begun to sense something large moving and growing within his abdomen. As he watched, his belly pulsed a little on its own, as if something was stirring in the depths of his person. The feelers atop the area rose and swayed happily with the motion.

“Going to a doctor is out of the question,” Craig said to the room. “They would hurt us.”

Craig stalked down the sidewalk towards the newsstand in his overcoat and knit cap, his exposed skin hairless and speckled with tiny bumps in varying shades of red. Catching sight of him, most averted their eyes while the less hardy reversed course and headed back the direction they’d come.

“I need some papers.” Craig said in a husky, phlegmy voice.

Used to all manner of customers, the stand’s proprietor hardly batted an eyelash at Craig’s appearance and demeanor. “Whatcha get? Daily Standard?”

“I don’t care. Standard, Herald, Thrifty Nickel, I need them all.”

The man grabbed one each of every newspaper he carried, stacking them on the counter.

“That be all?”

“No!” Craig cried, grabbing up the papers. “This isn’t enough! I need all your papers! All of them!”

The proprietor peered at Craig for a long while, watching the sickly looking lad huff and wheeze. He’d seen the same look in the eyes of junkies and wondered what this kid’s trip was. Didn’t really matter, though, it was obvious he wasn’t long for this earth.

“How do you intend to pay for my day’s stock? And for that matter, how you gonna haul it?”

Craig seemed baffled by the questions, then his face broke out in an unconvincing smile.

“I will be paying by Visa. Do you accept that?”


“And I would like them delivered, if possible.”

The man behind the counter scratched his belly thoughtfully, taken aback by Craig’s sudden show of composure.“How many papers you really need?” he asked.

Craig placed his hand palm down on top of his head then drew it out to indicate an equal height.

“That many.”


Craig stood in the kitchen chewing and wondering. His shoulders were very sore and swollen and he twisted his head as he chewed, popping his neck and flexing his back around the discomfort.

He’d paid three months of rent in advance, had his mail held, and his power and phone would be off by the end of the week.

Black saliva dribbled down his chin and pattered on his chest, spreading the growing stain. After a bit the waves began again. Craig’s jaw worked, a look of helpless nausea contorting his face. He stooped and disgorged a chunky, grey mass onto the floor. Craig knelt and gave it form then stood and, taking a fresh sheet of newspaper off the pile, tore off a chunk and began chewing again.


Mandy stuck her key into Craig’s door and hesitated.

Why would his phone be disconnected? she wondered for the umpteenth time.

Cray never went on vacations, content to visit the world through his computer monitors, yet all evidence thus far collected pointed to just that conclusion –Craig was gone.

She’d been back over a week now and everything, with the exception of Craig, seemed so good. The vacation in Hawaii had been just what she needed. Her head was clear, filled with the knowledge that, with or without Cray, she would go back to school and finish her degree. With or without Cray, she would go out whenever and wherever she liked. With or without Cray, she could make these or any decisions she needed to make because with or without Cray, she’d be just fine. Of course, it would be better with Cray.

Yet, when she finally decided the time was ripe to see how he was doing, she found it impossible –phone disconnected, lights off whenever she drove past his place and, just now, the building manager had not allowed her to add a letter to Craig’s mail because, he said, he’d had it all held.

“So he’s gone?” she asked.

The building manager had only shrugged.

Now she was standing uncertain on the doorstep. She tried to tell herself that she was only there to collect the last few vestiges of her presence in his apartment but knew that she was really just hoping to get a sense of closure from walking the floors again or, better still, finding Craig inside and reconciling.

The latch clicked as the final tiny pressure of her hand pulled the bolt back into the door. Mandy, turned the doorknob and opened the door just wide enough to call “Hellooo? Cray?”


She wrinkled her nose at the musty, sour smell that wafted out of the apartment as she pushed the door open further and entered, trying the light switch next to the door. It didn't work so Mandy made her way over to the windows and opened the blinds, allowing afternoon’s gaze to blanket the room.

Craig’s computers, festooned with robot toys, caught her eye and, seeing them cold and dark, a lump took root in her throat. It was so, so . . . un-Cray.

What if he’s dead? she thought. What if he’s killed himself and lies in one of these rooms, rotting. Maybe that’s what you’re sme . . .

“Stop it!” she said out loud, annoyed with herself.

She walked past the computers and, holding her breath, peered around the corner into the kitchen.

A large shape in the middle of the adjoining dining area’s gloom caused her to suck her breath in with alarm but, realizing it wasn’t a person, alive or dead, she calmed down a little and, tiptoeing, went to inspect it.

Pulling the drapes back from the sliding glass window only improved her light, not her comprehension, of the disturbing, tattered, papier-mâché pillar that sprouted from the middle of the floor and, from the looks of it, once reached the ceiling, though it was now in serious disrepair, chunks of it littering the floor and hanging raggedly from the remnants of its foul smelling, crusty black maw.

What the hell are you doing, Cray? she wondered, her fear a small, huddled thing.

She looked a long while at the newsprint encrustation, turning it over in her mind, then gathered her courage and headed back towards the bedroom.

I’ll just get my stuff and get out, she told herself, wishing she would just leave now –and never come back.

Little of the light from the kitchen and living room windows reached the gloom of the windowless hallway. As Mandy made her way back towards the bedroom, her hands held out in front of her, she began to feel and hear things on the floor – more paper?

The doorknob felt warm in her hands and again she hesitated, the knob half-turned. For a second she thought she heard something so she pressed her ear up against the door and waited, listening, hearing only her own heartbeat in her throat and the door.

After a moment she steadied herself and then opened the door, surprised to find the room bathed with light, if from a source she never expected. It was mesmerizing; a deep blue which penetrated and calmed her mind and body.

She sighed, her hand slipping off the doorknob, limp.

Then Craig spread his chitinous wings.

cae 2004