Someone downstairs was screaming.
Brent woke up, dizzy and disoriented, emerging through the haze like he was clawing his way to the surface.
He'd been drowning again--the all too familiar dream that haunted his nights. They weren't nightmares--that would belittle their realism. It was as if he'd actually experienced it in some life gone past. And though time had dulled the pain, eased the fright, it hadn't quite massaged away the discomfort of suffocation.
"Oh god. ohgod. ohgod. ohgod ohgodohgodohgodohgod." someone was repeating over and over. Out in the hallway.
"C'mon Elly." a second voice said--a man's deep baritone. "Let's go back inside."
"No. Don' wanna." Elly replied, breaking her litany. "There're ants everywhere."
The man sighed. Brent bent his eye to the peephole, and saw Eleanor Stetson splayed along the hallway, scratching at her arms and face. Her blonde hair was frizzy and tufted out in all different directions. There was blood on her house-coat.
Towering above her was her homecare worker, a thick-set black man with a shaved head and a patient demeanor. Usually, you couldn't find anything that would stop Eugene's smile. He wasn't smiling now, though.
"They gonna kill him. I know it. They invaded Rice World and now they're in the rice. And everyone eats rice. We all do. You. Me. You can't deny it." Elly continued as Eugene literally picked her up off of the floor. "Just try to deny it! I saw you eat rice just last night."
"No, Elly. I eat rice." He said quietly.
"See! I told you. You've been infected too. You're one of them. The Ant-People. You're going to kill me in my sleep aren't you? You'd do that, wouldn't you? You goddamn, oafish, self-righteous rice-eating porch--"
The door closed behind them, muffling the rest of Elly's monolgue. But the damage was done.
Brent was awake at five in the morning.