Donny Polk sat upright in his bed, back against the headboard as terrible memories of his childhood began flooding back to him.

Memories about the Bird Woman—the creature his diseased mind had conjured up during his youth. The thirty-nine-year-old family man was no stranger to schizophrenia, though he hadn’t felt its symptoms since he was a boy—before his doctors had put him on a plethora of anti-psychotic medication.

He remembered the way The Bird Woman would wake him in the dead of the night, her slippery, forked tongue sliding into his ear, wriggling and writhing like some sort of alien parasite attempting to invade his brain. He could still vividly recall the way her breath always smelled of rotten meat, how its stench would rape his mouth, leaving its rancid flavor in the back of his throat every time she leaned her face into his and whispered her awful secrets. Secrets that appalled him as a young boy, that terrified him even more than her hideous, warped face.

He glanced over to his wife, Gina, who was sound asleep next to him in bed. Donny hoped a familiar sight would somehow snap him back to reality. She looked so peaceful as she dozed; her tranquil slumber uninterrupted by the panic attack her husband was currently experiencing. He felt as though he was losing his grip on reality. Gina was real. That much he was sure. What he wasn’t sure about was whether or not The Bird Woman hovering at the foot of his bed was real too.

It was the first time he had seen her in three decades, but she was just how he remembered her—pale white skin, stringy black hair, and a pair of mustard yellow eyes that’s perverse stare made Donny feel both terrified and unclean at the same time. His old nightmare had finally found a key to the vault in his mind and now she was free—unleashed for the first time in years and back for vengeance.

The Bird Woman lifted her leg and placed a deformed foot on top of his bed. Her black, crust-covered toenails left grime and dirt on his Egyptian cotton white sheets. Donny’s heart skipped a beat as he watched the creature slide a second filthy, grotesque appendage on top of his mattress. She was coming for him—just like when he was a child. He considered waking Gina, who was still snoozing next to him. His wife knew about his history with hallucinations, but had never seen him have an actual breakdown. Donny wasn’t sure how she’d react. The Bird Woman crouched on top of his legs like a wild predator stalking a wounded animal. Horrible whispers had begun to trickle out of her disfigured mouth.

His meds!

How could he have forgotten about them?

Donny remembered that he always kept a bottle of Clozapine in his nightstand incase his hallucinations ever returned while he was in bed. He opened the drawer and rummaged through the darkness, frantically searching for the anti-psychotics while the Bird Woman started to slink up the bed. The smell of rotten meat began to force its way up his nostrils. Donny held his breath in an effort to prevent the repugnant stench from entering his lungs.

The Bird Woman was half way up his torso now. Her grubby claws nipped playfully at his crotch as Donny hunted for the drugs. The whispers had gotten louder even though the awful creature’s lips weren’t even moving. Donny tried to calm down by reminding himself that the monstrosity was just a product of his mental illness, but she seemed so real. The desperate man’s fingers grazed up against a plastic cylinder inside the drawer. He had found what he was looking for!

Donny yanked the pill-bottle from the nightstand and unscrewed the cap. The creature’s chin was resting on his chest. Her forked tongue hung from her mouth, snaking back and forth across the base of his neck as if it had a mind of its own. He poured a handful of pills, not bothering to worry about the recommended dosage as Bird Woman’s slimy tongue slithered its way up the side of his face. The smell of her putrid breath had become overpowering.

With one eye trained on the monstrous sight, Donny raised the fistful of pills to his mouth, but felt a tug on his arm, giving him pause before he had a chance to pop the drugs. He turned his head to see his wife, Gina, eyes wide and full of panic, looking back at him. She swatted at her husband’s hand, causing the pills to scatter across the bedroom floor.

The Bird Woman’s gaze stayed fixated on Donny as she lapped at his cheek like a child with a melting Popsicle. Gina opened her mouth to speak, voice quivering between her lips. Her words would send a new wave of horror through her husband’s body, the likes of which Donny Polk had never felt before.

“Donny,” Gina whispered. “I see her too.”

Credited to Vincent Vena Cava