I finally succumbed to sleep last night. I don’t really remember falling asleep, but the second I saw the familiar light up ahead, I knew it had happened.
There was no laughter last night, just his breath, ragged and almost excited. Every now and again, those words.
“Little fawn…” I just looked straight ahead. I could hear his voice around me. I could see beckoning fingertips, the glow of the lantern, and I walked, reluctantly but resigned, like a moth to the flame. Like a lamb to the slaughter.
“Come home, little fawn.”
There I was, as I always ended up, inches from the lantern, reaching out with shaking fingertips, feeling the heat of his slender hands as they encased my own. Breathing through the burning, begging for the scream that was denied to me, but this time was different.
I should have woken up, but I was still trapped. The laughter began, brassy and bold, his grip on my hands became intolerable, and he pulled me close to him.
The smoke rose from our hands and his laughter was everywhere. I tried to pull back, but he was relentless, cackling as he held onto my struggling body. Cigarette smoke seemed to fill the air, and the light was flashing with some kind of madness that made me sure that I’d never be free.
That was when I woke up, but for a second, I saw him.
His hands, thin but with sharp nails, almost claws, a tattered suit, a wide smile and a top hat that seemed to go on forever. As I sped back to reality, it felt like I was falling down into the ground, where I’d never ever looked, so I fixed my eyes on him, the endless hat, the way the lantern lit up his face, and his charmless little wave as his laughter rang out.