Note: This is a sequel to McDonald's

When I was fourteen, my parents died in the car accident that forced me to live with my divorced aunt and my cousin Carl. Carl was always coming up with ways to scare me when we were younger. He was older than me by two years. I remember one story being an old urban myth about a murderous “Pig Man” who wore a severed pig’s head and stalked people in the night. I recall him telling me this story during a sleepover when I was five and he was seven.

Fast forward eight years, Carl was living in an apartment with his wife, not too far from mine. They were expecting their first child. Last winter, however, Carl murdered his wife at his apartment. The news was truly shocking. I would never suspect Carl to do such a thing. He was admitted into the psychiatric ward of the hospital and now sits in an almost vegetative state. He never speaks, and never looks at the people who speak to him. He just stares off into one direction: directly in front of him. I visit every once in a while. It deeply depresses me to think of my unborn niece or nephew. I would have been an aunt.

I ended up getting a job at this hospital as a nurse, so I could visit my cousin every day. I worked the graveyard shift, from 8 PM to 4 AM. Only about two months after Carl’s admission into the hospital, I was working at around 2 AM when I heard a loud, panicked shouting coming from the room next to him. I ran to find that the patient in the room, who was bandaged and attached to several IVs, was screaming at the wall in the corner of the room. Several other nurses had to run in and assist me in sedating him, as he got more violent with us attempting to calm him.

I learned from another nurse that he had just awoken from a coma after getting hit by a car, and that the screaming was a side-effect of the morphine. His reasoning for being in the psych ward weren’t made clear, but the guy was apparently only in his 20s and had a low-paying job at McDonald’s. I checked in on Carl to find him doing the usual: staring into blankness.

When I got home, I drifted right off to sleep the moment my head hit the pillow. These hours were killing me, but money’s tight here in Chicago and I have to get by somehow. The pay is pretty good, so I just have to get used to the sleeping schedule.

My dreams were absolutely surreal. They always have been, but since the Carl incident, they’ve been worse, mostly playing out like flashbacks to the old days with Carl and I. This particular one had me standing in the middle of a graveyard amongst heavy snowfall. The grave in front of me reading simply “Laurie”: my name. I looked around to see that no other graves were in sight, with everything but the grave with my name being obscured by snow.

I stepped over my grave and walked straight until I saw a blackened figure ahead of me in the outline of a man. I walked towards it, and it walked towards me, and he came into focus: Carl. We didn’t exchange any words; he just walked right over to me. He was wearing a trench coat and his hair was slicked back. He put his arms around my waist, and without hesitation, we kissed each other. It felt lifelike as the cold snow hit our faces.

I woke up in a cold sweat. It was 8 AM. It might have been only three hours, but there was no way I could fall back asleep. Not after that dream. Why did I desire that? Why didn’t I push myself away from him? That’s my cousin. He’s a murderer. He’s insane. I’m insane for even dreaming of that.

At work that night, I got the news that the man who was throwing a fit the night before had died due to the complications of the car accident, peacefully in his sleep. I was saddened to learn that he was only 23, one year older than me. As usual I visited my cousin. He was still in his near-lifeless state, eyes wide, not even blinking. I couldn’t take it anymore.

Same routine: I got home at 4:30 and drifted off to sleep by 5. Another surreal dream. A flashback to the night Carl told me about the “Pig Man”, but this time a little different. He told me it as he took out a severed pig’s head and put it over his own, mimicking squealing sounds, peering at me from behind the bloody eye sockets of the animal.

I woke up, again in a cold sweat. Again at 8 AM. I decided it was time to do it. I ran into the bathroom and grabbed the bottle of prescription drugs that I use for my depression. I was finally going to do it. I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I couldn’t live with seeing my cousin like that, or having these terrible dreams. I took the whole bottle and was soon out like a light.

I woke up strapped to a hospital bed in a brightened room, but it wasn't a normal hospital room. Just a bright, white room, that appeared to stretch for eternity. Suddenly, a blackened figure appeared, walking towards my bed. Carl. He had the severed pig's head covering his own, but I could tell by the trench coat and the eyes behind the pig's bloody eye sockets that it was him.

He quietly crawled on top of me, taking the pig's head off, biting my lip and caressing my breast, telling me not to be scared. He put the pig's head over mine, and began to laugh. I watched as he walked away and dissolved into the white cloudy atmosphere that surrounded the bed. This time it wasn't a dream: it was my own personal Hell.

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