Sometimes my brain does things in my dreams that I don't readily understand.

I'm sitting in a room, and across from me is a faceless man, about my age, but more clean cut. It seems like we stare at each other in that grey, autumn, it's-raining-outside-and-it's-almost-night-time-anyways nonlight for hours. I can't see his eyes but I know he can see mine.

Eventually I can see blurry movement from his hands. I hear a small rattling noise and then the strike of a match. I can smell sulphur as the match burns, and the sudden light makes me squint, so that I still can't see his face.

The match burns down to his fingers and extinguishes. He drops the spent stick, opens the matchbox, strikes another match, lets it burn down, drops it, repeat. I could see the number on the side of the matchbox, it said five hundred, and I started counting.

I didn't get to see his face until 499. He lit the match and this time held it right by his left temple. I looked into his eyes and saw that it was me. I was lighting matches and letting them burn down in some grotesque mockery of old bad dreams I knew I used to have. The 500th match that the other me lit ended up not burning down at all, just igniting and sort of hanging in the air. This is where things got weird.

I was still staring at myself from across this room, but this time when I made eye contact, I really was staring at myself, looking into my own eyes in a mirror in a bathroom that had kept the same lighting as the empty room myself and I were previously in.

I was crying, and I noticed that my tears were black. I wiped one away, and then the smell hit me.

Oil. I was crying oil.

I tried to wipe the rest of the tears away but my hands wouldn't open up anymore, so I just kept hitting myself in the face. When I grabbed my right hand with my left so I wouldn't knock myself out, the skin started to slough off. I saw bits of machinery, robotics, metal and gears. I panicked and started clawing at the skin, on both arms now, until from the elbow down my arms were laid bare of it. Arms like machines, crying slow, oily tears, I couldn't take it anymore.

I started slamming my rusty, metal arms on the sink, trying to break them off. After three strikes my left arm splintered and sent a spinning jagged cog into my cheek. I picked it out with my right hand and saw that I was bleeding oil. The skin on my face started to slacken, and I saw I gears and bladders clicking and inflating under my skin. I looked animatronic. I punched the mirror in the middle of a scream. I really ended up punching the other me, back in the room, still with skinless arms and a mechanical face.

I blacked out. I woke up.