Excerpt from my second novel, “Belvedere.”

Just this morning, in this very same motel room, I dreamt him. For some reason, I could feel Gale’s presence in the dream too, unless I was experiencing it through her eyes – I’m not sure. But I was naked and strapped down to a flat surface that felt soft, leathery and moist. The room was so dark that I couldn’t see where it ended, or whether or not there were even walls. Everything was shadowed and shrouded in darkness, and it made the space around me feel vast and endless, almost as though I was floating in the ocean at night, but the water was calm and motionless. The only light in this room seemed to be emanating from the ceiling – not on it, but through it, as though the ceiling itself was translucent. The texture of the ceiling resembled a layer of flesh that was being stretched tightly like a drum, and almost to the point of breaking. From the corners of the ceiling, and then from all sides, came a black fluid that was pooling into the center of the skin, forming a mass of swirling liquid that was filling the space directly above my head. The fluid seeped in slowly at first, but then continued to flow rapidly, stretching and concaving the ceiling as all of its weight accumulated towards the middle. I watched, absolutely mortified, as the fluid gained in mass above me, and then began to sag and stretch down, inching closer and closer to where I was lying. I was expecting it to break eventually, and drop whatever fluid this was all over my naked body. But it didn’t break. It just continued to stretch, like a balloon that was being filled with water, expanding as it lowered and dipped, falling faster as it closed the gap between us. It began to descend even quicker now, and just as I was preparing to be drenched in the fluid, a shape began to form directly in front of me. First, it created a set of hands that pressed down from within. Then it developed fingers that stretched outward, as though they were trying to reach for me. The hands curled and the fingers gnarled, but still the skin did not break. It just stretched even further now, inching closer as the beast continued to construct itself behind a veil that was now paper thin and still expanding to defy its own limits. Now the shape of a face began to mold. The head was sloshing together as the fluid broke against itself like crashing waves, spraying droplets of its spume across the surface like black rain. The waves continued to cascade inward from all directions, merging to form a body, and then connecting the streams as the outlined figure creaked and moaned. It drew closer still, pressing downward and increasing in mass and weight until its slimy fingers were almost within range to converge with my skin. I watched in horror as the finishing touches were applied to this living, liquid sculpture. It began to fashion a smooth, but almost featureless face, just inches above mine. The eye sockets sunk inward to create two deep, eyeless holes. But even without eyes, its piercing stare seemed to penetrate my skull, sifting through my fears, and seeking out the one secret terror that would be my undoing. It was as though it was searching for the precise thread to pull that would disentangle my mind and unhinge my sanity. Then a set of lips appeared, and they began to spread across the face in a grotesquely thin line before parting into a sinister grimace. The maw then wrenched open and gaped wider than any human could ever achieve – wider than any snake even. It was as though the very jaws of the beast had somehow unhooked and divided, forcing the mouth to separate like a chasm. It opened so large that it was almost wide enough to swallow me whole, and for a brief moment, I actually thought that was exactly what it intended to do. But then the entire mass began to shake and quiver, just like an unstable jelly mold, and the liquid lapped and dispersed all over the skin in torrents, slurping and bubbling violently. The convulsing motion gave it the illusion of a silent, but hysterical, mad laughter. But then again, maybe it was laughing, because what happened next could only be found humorous to a nefarious beast as evil and demonic as this. The mouth had finally stretched to its limit now, pushing the boundaries of the material and expanding the skin beyond its threshold. Then it suddenly split open, and the black fluid surged out like a breaking dam, rushing into my face like a deluge, and flooding over me with an intense force. The pressure of the burst pried my eyes open, even though I fought with every ounce of my being to keep them shut. What I saw from between my flapping eyelids looked almost like a strobe light, as beams of the pale glow penetrated the ooze in places, staining my vision with its sickly hue. Somewhere between froth and luminosity, the dark sheet of bubbles gleamed and refracted as it washed over my open eyes. My mouth was forced open too, and now the fluid instantly filled my throat, lungs and stomach as I struggled and gasped for air. But the battle was frivolous, and the liquid had already won, deciding my fate as I lay helpless as a fish out of water. I wriggled with all of my might to free myself from its deadly hold, trying in vain to break the bonds that held me steadfast, only to find that it refused to relinquish its persistent clutches.

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