It was the stink that woke him; the swampy, dank sourness that roiled his insides.
He was partway between dream-self and not, where some of the outside world inveigles its way into the dream-scape when only half a dreamy brain acknowledges the outside world.
He tasted it before his neurons had ordered themselves into categorizing the smell. Like the invitation of a roast meal before the first bite, or the approaching invitation of a fragrant bath. But this smell was somehow different, somehow intrusive. With eyes still closed, he tried to place it, tried to contextualize.
With two senses betraying him, he shuffled partly out of the bedclothes and tuned his ears. No morning sounds, no nighttime echoes. He noted a slight movement, a gritty shuffle, coming from the vague direction of the smell and moved his head. Time for eyes open. Curiosity defeated languor.
His first response was bloodless surprise. Anticipating a hallway behind the open doorway, he had no time to adjust his expectations. His bowels were liquid. A new smell intruded.
As the shape shambled toward him, he was no horror-movie teen.
There was no hand to mouth, no piercing wail, no discordant violin shriek. There was only paralyzing panic. And the overwhelming foulness of corrupted flesh.
The last tick of his brain was fear. He made no move to save the soft parts of his face as the fetid creature feasted, gnawing through flesh and tearing tendon. He slid, bloodied but silent, back into where the dreams waited.