By Alex Antiuk

I could hear the slightest mumble.

            “Hug?” Case suddenly began to repeat, in a surprisingly lucid whisper. Her mouth was crusted over and her cheeks deathly pale, but within the moonlight of our bedroom I let out a chuckle — Case was placing her arms high in the air in preparation, but while wearing her oversized sleep mask hadn’t a clue where to land them, as she was completely blind.

            Case’s request had awoken me from an unsettling dream. It had left my body with a mild shake, but instead of using my usual remedy I grabbed hold of her.

            Her slumbering body was warm, and as she landed her arms around my back beneath the mountain of blankets, I became immobile in relief.

My nightmares began to dissipate and I found my eyes beginning to shut, but then Case accidentally tugged at the blankets and scattered them onto the floor.

Without the blankets, the frigid air bombarded through the flimsy windows and landed on my face. I felt the chill smack across my cheeks and make its way down my spine. It left me in a state of growing panic, until I noticed the blankets were within arms reach.

I leaned over and grabbed them, placing them neatly over Case and me.

But during this lull, long, laboured breaths began to exhale from Case nostrils in a constant, thumping rhythm — I was too late.

I was attempting to fall asleep beside a congested choir, that I’d only recently made the acquaintance of. It left me in a panic, as I knew the longer I stayed awake the faster my thoughts would return, and in desperation I jabbed my palm into the soft section of flesh above her hip and below her ribs.

            Case replied with a devilish snort, then a brief, welcomed silence, but slowly fell straight back into heavy breaths — leaving me once again with a shiver. It was soon intensified by the chill that trickled in from the uninsulated windows, and despite wrapping myself up in the pile of blankets I was unable to lay still.

I was shaking in a distressed limbo, unable to find an ounce of solace until I felt an unexpected flailing arm wack against my head.

“Another!” Case drowsily exclaimed, holding her arms towards the ceiling.

I immediately smiled, grabbed hold of her, and felt my body begin to warm and my muscles calm. Our embrace only lasted for a moment, but I felt my eyes drift close with the wondrous knowledge that anytime I had the company of Case’s snores, she would always be willing to lend a hug.

Alex Antiuk is from New York, and his work can be found in Ink Pantry and Expat Press, and forthcoming in Free Flash Fiction and Random Sample Review. He can also be found here:

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