ON THE COUCH • by David Van Vranken

All I can remember is pitch blackness accompanied by an odd warmth. It felt close, unbearably so. The same warmth always comes. It comes but never goes. It lingers and becomes sickly sweet.

Next comes the light — a bright, coulrophic kaleidoscope of color. The revving of an engine fills the space. I’m in a tent. A car arrives — always impossibly small, always impossibly full.

A red, floppy foot comes out of the car. Another. Then another. My heart races as I turn to run. I run and run but can’t seem to get away. I hear a rhythmic chuckle and squeaking horns. It feels like they’re right behind, the sounds reverberating within my mind. I start to make distance between me and them but the floppy feet, chuckles and squeaks creep ever closer.

“And then what?” a voice asks me from outside the darkness and light.

“And then,” I pause, struggling to finish. This part is crushing and nearly impossible to live through, let alone recite.

“It’s okay, Frank. You’re safe here.”

“And then the candy comes and I drown.”

“Hmm,” my shrink grunts out. His verbose responses are worth every penny of his $100 per hour fee.

“What? What is it? Why ‘Hmm?’”

“You see, Frank,” he says, getting up. “You are reliving—”

He’s cut off by the revving of an engine.

The squeak of a horn.

A rhythmic chuckle.

My shrink goes to the window and looks outside. “What in the blazes is this?”

I don’t answer him. I can’t. My throat is swollen shut in fear. But, I know what it is.

I can hear the crinkle of candy wrappers pouring against the door, the weight pressing on the wood. It’ll bust through before long.

My mind croaks out what little it can: They’re coming this way.

David Van Vranken writes in Houston, TX. He has previously published once before with Entropy magazine.

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