“Mommy, wake up.”
I glance first at him, then at the clock. I’m meant to be up for work in three hours, but my son is more important, so I resist groaning in frustration. “What is it, sweetie?”
“The man in the Moon is trying to scream.”
Nightmares again. “Honey, there’s no man in the Moon,” I assure him. “The Moon is just a big bright rock in space. It’s outside, not inside in your room. It can’t hurt you.”
“He’s trying to scream, mommy.” I know when my son is terrified. He keeps a straight face, but his voice gives him away. “I think he wants to eat me.”
I glance at the clock again, this time allowing myself a sigh. “Okay. Okay, sweetie.” I get out of bed, neck cramping, muscles heavy. “I’ll lay down with you, okay? There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
He nods and takes my hand.
Five minutes later, my son is snoring away in his bed. I stare up at the ceiling, unable to get comfortable. If I try to leave, I’ll just wake him back up, so I resign myself to three hours of charitable boredom and parental satisfaction.
I think I’m starting to doze off when I see it. At first I assume it’s the fuzz of early sleep creeping over my eyes. Moving my head doesn’t change it, though, and neither does opening my eyes further.
Small lines trace their way across the ceiling, gathering in one spot until the paint looks cracked. When their converging paths knock glow-in-the-dark stars off and send them scattering, that’s when I realize I must be dreaming.
The lines thicken into glistening strands, wet veins in the nightlight dim, plump with blood.
From the center of the slick clump something white emerges. First a tiny, greasy pimple. It expands until it’s maybe the size of a soccer ball, sleek and shiny and engorged, dangling down like a spider’s egg sac.
I’m frozen in place. I haven’t had night terrors in a long time, but I remember sleep paralysis. That must be what’s going on.
Damp droplets hit my face as it bursts open, and two bloodshot eyes emerge from the white clump. They’re too close together and off to one side. Uneven.
I can’t peel my eyes away as a mouth pops open. Thin strings of a thick liquid hang down from its knife-gash maw and a chalky rasp like wood on wet metal escapes.
Something grabs my arm and I almost shout. When I realize it’s my son, I’m not sure whether to feel better or worse.
“Mommy,” he whispers, his voice shaking. “I thought you said the Moon was supposed to be outside.”