TWO MONTHS LATER
I'm dreaming again. I know I am. I've had this dream too many times before. I'm in the restaurant with Sharon again--except this time I look at her face and I'm not really sure who it is, Sharon or Lisa. Except it has to be Sharon, because I only met Lisa after the Creatures came. Here in this restaurant, surrounded by life and warmth and music and safety, this is definitely a world before the Creatures.
And Sharon or Lisa is holding something, a bundle which she cradles against her body like a child. And I know with awful certainty what that bundle is. She holds it out across the table to me, and I can't stop myself reaching out to take it, and when I look down it's not the sleeping face of an infant I see, but a small mass of bone-white armour, a pair of tiny, pit-like eyes staring up at me like the sockets of a skull.
The door to the restaurant bangs open and the Creatures are here, ripping the diners from their seats. The Worm slithers in from the kitchen, knocking tables aside with its girth. I'm holding the baby, Lisa's baby, the monster baby and I get up, knowing that I have to run, have to save it, and knowing that there's nowhere to go. I watch Sharon or Lisa being plucked up from her seat and dangled over the mouth of the worm. And this time I turn away before she falls, and I hear her scream, and suddenly the baby's gone--I don't know where--and the restaurant is gone too and I'm in the cottage...I'm in the cottage lying on a makeshift bed in front of the fireplace, Lisa by my side.
I'm awake. Nightmare over now, nothing to fear. Well, less to fear anyway.
I settle back onto the mattress, and wait for the galloping pace of my heart to slow. It takes a while. Beside me, Lisa stirs in her sleep, turning over and pulling at the covers. At least I didn't wake her this time. Over the last few weeks the nightmares have been so frequent. I watch her sleep for a moment, and as ever, my eyes are drawn downward to the now-prominent swell of her stomach. Yesterday evening I remember how we were sitting by the fire reading when she gasped and grabbed my arm.
"What's wrong?" I said.
"Nothing, but..." A slow smile spread across her face. "Feel this. It's kicking, here."
She pressed my hand against her stomach. A moment passed and then, sure enough, something inside her moved, very slightly. I felt it pushing against my hand, and the sensation was so strange and so wonderful that for a long time I couldn't even speak. It's alive, I remember thinking. It's actually real and alive and inside of her, waiting to come out.
Ever since that night when she finally admitted to me that she was pregnant we'd hardly talked about the baby. But then feeling it kick like that had opened the floodgates, and we'd spoken for hours, long into the night.
"It's so scary," Lisa said. "It's like a wall. There in the future, it's a wall and I'm flying towards it too fast to stop. I can't see past the birth. It scares me so much that I can't even imagine a time after it. You know what I mean, don't you?"
"Of course," I said. What I didn't say then was that I felt exactly the same way.
Judging by the light outside it must be getting close to morning, and although I know I'll be tired tomorrow I just can't seem to get back to sleep. I'm too awake, the images of the nightmare too fresh, too many worries and questions buzzing through my mind. After a fruitless hour of turning this way and that trying to get back to sleep I crawl out of bed and tiptoe into the kitchen. It's crisply, shiveringly cold, and so I take one of the coats off the back of the door and wrap it around myself before taking a seat by the window, to look out at the brightening world and think of what to do.