He visits me in my nightmares. He texts me.
“It’s hot down here.”
One night, I went to water the flowers on his grave, and a hand burst through the dirt and grabbed me. I awoke on the floor in a cold sweat, my scream so piercing it couldn’t have come from my own body. On my wrist was a purple bruise in the shape of a hand, as if someone had violently dragged me out of bed. I thought I was finally rid of the marks he would leave on my body.
I stopped sleeping after that.
I sit at the kitchen table drinking my third straight cup of coffee. It has a nutty aftertaste that I attribute to the vanilla creamer. Next to me, my phone buzzes.
“Aren’t you allergic to peanut oil?”
It’s his number, but I’m awake. I swear I am awake. I guzzle the coffee, feeling its heat travel from my esophagus on down. The phone buzzes again.
“Coffee taste funny?”
My throat tightens. I’m stuck to my chair—under a form of sleep paralysis, though I never actually fell asleep—unable to move for the spice cabinet, where I keep my EpiPen and all other medicines for foodborne illnesses, along with a half-emptied bottle of sleep pills I used only once in a bowl of curry.
I’m wheezing for air. The swelling in my glands has sealed off access to my lungs. I’m fading in and out of consciousness—a lack of oxygen to my brain. My eyes scan the room for any hint of salvation.
So this was the panic you felt right before you died.
A final text flashes on the screen.
“See you soon.”
I know where he is. I know he wants me down there.
I know because I sent him there.