When I woke up, my instinct was to look at the clock, like I'd done every other time. Yep, 8AM. This time they'd stolen about ten hours. Less than the first time, more than in recent memory.
Yesterday'd been no different: Around ten at night, I was slicing up some strawberries to throw in the blender with the ice cream. The whole house was dim. I was working by the stove light, half looking out the window at the marsh. Shep was at my feet, begging even though he'd have no use for strawberries. I remember thinking it was cold, even for late September in Maine. Shep let out a crooked bark and strolled quickly out of the kitchen. A mustiness set over the room, as usual. Even though the kitchen windows were cracked, the room started to feel oppressive. Like an underground garage. Thick air; metallic, dusky smell.
The worst thing about it isn't the unaccounted time. It's the moment just before things go fuzzy. You feel a firm, but coldly gentle heaviness on your shoulders. Like someone's easing you into an armchair. Sometimes you fall, but it doesn't hurt when you hit the floor. You fall and it's like sinking into loose sand or dry mud. Just before I'm completely out of control, I always want to scream, but the scream gets stuck in my head. It's never allowed to leave.
During these times is when I've seen them. Maybe I'll catch a foot out of the corner of my eye while I'm down on the floor. Or one of them will start to peer into my face and the last thing I'll see before I totally fade are those black eyes. The eyes of a vivisector; professional and deadly. It's the color of their flesh that gets me though. A shade close to pale olive or marble gray. Like a cadaver's skin.
One morning, just after a two- or three-day "hiatus" (that's the polite word I use for these intrusions), I actually saw one in the yard. I guess it had tarried too long and forgot that I'd be awake. I looked out the window and just saw its back as it ran toward the stand of pine trees near the driveway. I stared long enough to see how awkward its body was. How ill-fitted it was for physical exertion. How tiny it was; the size of a four year-old.
I must have stared too long for somebody's liking because I hit the floor, this time writhing in pain. A terrible headache and loud whispers. I mean like somebody shouting whispered threats inside my head. It went on -- I guess -- long enough for them to leave.
One time, something must have gone wrong. I was jerked out of my hiatus briefly. Only I couldn't open my eyes or move my body. I was paralyzed, but my flesh was still sensitive. I could still feel. It was cold and dry.
It was like being in a dark room with your eyes shut, only someone in the room has a bright strobe light and he's got it aimed at your face. A flash! and then black. A flash! and then black, and so on…
I could hear a steady hum like an amplifier left on. I could also hear them chattering in their language, distant or real close, it was hard to tell. They spoke in guttural whispers, but it didn't sound vulgar. Very complicated. Very intelligent, I guess.
Paralyzed as I was, I just tried to listen for a while. I may have heard one of them singing. A syrupy sound, like bees or wasps, only more tonal. Then, a shout.
Apparently, they realized I was somewhat coherent. I felt a hundred dead fingertips grab me everywhere. Then, the strobe light stopped.
I've tried moving around the country, but they always find me. I've even tried telling people, at least at first, but I've pushed everybody away now. They think I'm quiet, I'm hiding something. If I find someone I trust enough to tell, they think I'm out of my mind. Wouldn't you? I would. I'd lump me in with the rest of those people, too. So Shep and me will stay here. I've learned to treat it like some folks treat dizzy spells or asthma attacks. I enjoy life, when I'm not on hiatus.