The Science of Nightmares
Written by Efrain Hernandez
Based on Vincenzo Natali's "Splice"
Elsa scooped the cheesecake into her mouth and ate it cheerfully. She smiled at the scruffy looking man sitting across the table. He winked and waited. Elsa leaned back in her chair and toyed the creaminess around with her tongue. The man crossed his arms and watched Elsa's cheeks squeeze in and out.
Elsa swallowed the mouthful and tucked a blond strand of hair behind her ear. "You're staring, Gian."
"Observing," Gian answered. He leaned over the table and took a bite of the cheesecake himself. "Not bad."
"No, observing is watching without expectations. You're expecting an answer."
"So what is it?"
Gian pointed at the plate. "The cheesecake! What's the verdict?"
Elsa poked the side of the cheesecake with her fork. "It's very chewy. What's in it?"
"A special concoction of essential vitamins and minerals made just for you," Gian beamed.
Elsa looked at the cafeteria around them. There were families and professionals eating out of lunch trays and conversing among themselves about whatever was bringing them together. The white tile floors and walls made everything feel very clean. Elsa was never a neat freak herself. Gian's spontaneity was probably what allured Elsa out of seclusion. She liked his charm and brilliance but overall Elsa knew it was the individuality that counted the most.
"So where'd you make it, in the Hospital Kitchen?" Elsa laughed quietly as she stabbed herself another piece.
Gian laughed with her and shrugged. "Well…the kitchens in the back aren't half bad but I prefer the intimacy of my own kitchen."
"I cook more than I bake, but yes."
"Impressive." Elsa wiped her mouth with her napkin.
Gian bowed his head. "Grazi."
Elsa noticed Gian's coat pocket blinking with light. "You're flashing, Gian."
Gian panicked and checked his zipper.
He reached in his pocket and checked the text message that had just been sent to him. His faced grimaced.
"I thought you had an hour."
"I did and it was a very good hour. Don't forget about your frequent bathroom breaks."
"I'm pregnant, Gian. Sue me."
Gian got up from his chair and walked over to hug Elsa. Elsa closed her eyes and smiled as the pressure of his arms tightened around her shoulders.
"Good seeing you again. If you didn't like the cheesecake just throw the rest away."
"No, no. I liked it. The folic acid will do some good for me anyway."
"Awesome. Now I don't want to sound like your practitioner, which I am by the way, but you'll need to come back next week for another check up. I want to see how the fetus is developing."
"Get some rest Elsie, you look stressed."
"I'll be fine."
Gian's pocket lit up again and he raised his hands up in surrender. "Duty calls."
"Go save the world, Doctor." Elsa smiled as Gian walked away from her and the cheesecake. Elsa took another bite before getting up to throw the cheesecake into the trash can. She grabbed her purse and hurried out of the cafeteria.
On her way to the bathroom Elsa kept her cool as always and saved the hurting for the lavatory. She cradled her lower abdomen with her hand and bit her lower lip. In her head she knew the pressure was getting more intense but she couldn't afford to tell anyone that, especially not Gian. As soon as she entered the door with the women icon Elsa was home free to cry in angst.
Elsa woke up in water. She thought she had been sleeping her bed but after realizing that she was instead drifting away naked on the surface of a calm sea she knew what reality to her was. She looked around her and saw white petals and orchids drifting alongside her body. White rose petals spiraled from the bright blue sky above her. She was in a haven.
Elsa flipped her body around and sunk lower into the water. Beneath her there was darkness and warmth. She thought of underwater volcanoes that were ready to burst. She preferred the sunshine and petals that shadowed above her to the emptiness below. As she swam upwards a school of colorful fish danced around her arms and legs. They complimented her curves with their currents.
As she followed the fish back to the surface Elsa noticed the water breaking into a fountain of bubbles several feet away. Elsa felt her skin tighten as the temperature in the water began to rise. She floated on the surface, moving her arms and legs around until she felt one with the sea and the fish. Then the fish circled the bubbling on the water until the activity had stopped. Elsa saw something floating where the activity was and decided to swim towards it. But as she neared the thing Elsa recognized its pink fleshiness as an enlarged human fetus.
Elsa had no time to react. One tug around her ankle and she was pulled back into the darkness of the water below. She didn't know what it was but she knew that it had gotten a hold of her and it wasn't letting go.
She woke up again but in her bed instead. There was no warm water to surround her or beautiful flowers to graze her skin. She was reminded of the blackness by the room she was in. She kicked away the blankets and pulled her knees into her stomach. The city lights shone through the blinds and immersed the room with dark stripes.
Elsa touched her chest and relaxed her muscles. It had been two weeks since Clive's death and she was still calling the apartment home. She ate where they used to eat, bathed where they used to wash together and every room she stepped into still smelled of him. But in that moment where her only home was a tomb and her head was still repeating the nightmare, Elsa would've given anything to be somewhere else.