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January 3, 2018 | Fiction

Night

Hugo dos Santos

Night photo

On November 13, 2012, Hugo Dos Santos awoke shortly after 1 am with an urgent need to urinate. He got up from bed and took two steps out into the hallway when he saw three small creatures in surgical masks and lab coats, each no more than two feet tall, engaged in some kind of group preparation outside his son’s bedroom. His first instinct was to protect his boy, and he was momentarily proud of his reaction, but the creatures were much stronger than their size would suggest. They easily wrestled him facedown to the dark oak floor and pinned his arms. They covered his mouth with a handkerchief that smelled faintly of his mother's perfume, a scent from childhood that time had erased from his memory. The scent brought back an Easter from his childhood, pink candy-covered almonds on a festive tablecloth—then nothing. He woke up in the morning feeling tired but with no recollection of what had occurred. At work, he was overcome by a strange need to call his mother, which he did, during his lunch break. Her voice was soothing and he blamed himself for not calling her more often after her stroke. On March 5, 2015, Hugo awoke a little before 2 am with an urgent need to pee. He took two steps out into the hallway where he saw three small creatures in surgical masks and lab coats, each no more than two feet tall, engaged in a strange preparation outside his son’s bedroom. Hugo was alarmed because he had never before seen creatures of this sort. He managed to take one step toward them, an attempt to protect his boy, but the creatures were much stronger than their size would suggest. They easily wrestled him facedown to the floor, pinned him by his arms. They covered his mouth with a handkerchief that smelled faintly of his mother's perfume, a scent from childhood that had returned to him a little over two years ago without apparent cause or reason. The scent brought back a memory of one of his mother’s outfits from one of their first Christmases in the States, a green dress with shoulder pads and gold buttons down the front, then blackness. He woke up in the morning feeling tired but with no recollection of what had occurred. At work, he was overcome by a strange need to call his mother, which he did, during his lunch break. At the clinic where she was recovering from another stroke, the third in a matter of three years, he left a message with the nurse who assured him she would pass on the message to his mother because the frail woman would find comfort in hearing that her son had thought of her. He blamed himself for not visiting his mother more often at the clinic. On January 3, 2018, Hugo awoke from a strange dream around 1:30 am. In the dream, three small creatures in surgical masks and lab coats, each no more than two feet tall, had entered the house in the middle of the night and were in his son’s bedroom inspecting the stuffed animals in the boy’s toy basket. Hugo managed to grab one of the small creatures by the back of the neck but the creatures were stronger than their size would suggest and they were able to quickly subdue him. They pinned him to the floor and erased his memory by covering his mouth with a fragrant handkerchief. In the dream, he woke up the next morning without any memory of what had occurred and later called his mother from work. In bed, now wide awake and hopeful for cover in darkness, Hugo was so terrified of the dream and of the image of those creatures and of the idea of having his memory erased that he found himself unable to move from under the covers. He remained very still, afraid to make any kind of sound that would betray him. He stayed like that for hours. He stayed like that even when he started to hear a faint scratching on the hardwood floor in the hallway. The sound was like that of three sets of little feet shuffling back and forth outside his son’s bedroom, but Hugo could not bring himself to go look.

 

image: Hugo Dos Santos


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