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Story 1

Trisha Ridinger McKee

What first drew me to Love and Migraines was its vivid description of migraine headaches. However, after this post-apocalypse story took a macabre turn, it became obvious that migraine headaches was not the only unique aspect of this story. A compelling plot, imaginative characters and the otherworldly environment keep you engaged until the gut-wrenching twist-ending. 

Trisha Ridinger McKee is a multi-genre author of nine books and over 100 published stories. Her short stories have appeared in publications such as Chicken Soup for the Soul, Deep Fried Horror, Myslexia, Travel, and more.

Love and Migraines was inspired by a random dream that I could not shake (the best kind of dream).

                                                                                                                  -- Trisha Ridinger McKee



Love and Migraines

by Trisha Ridinger McKee


He was yelling again.

For the love of God, Charlie was screaming about his damn video game. Viv tried to sit up, but her migraine made her feel as if she were spinning at high speed while a jackhammer was pounding into her skull.

She could not even groan as Charlie stomped into her room. “Did you mess with my game? When I saved it last night, I was past level 4 and-”

“Charlie,” Viv whispered, her arm slung over her eyes. “I’m sick.”

“Just answer my question - did-”


“Because it isn’t -”

“I can’t deal with this. Okay? I need you to go. Go home.”


Viv sat up and squinted, fighting a wave of nausea. “Leave. I can barely move. This… you… You’re yelling about a game. Can’t you see I have a migraine?”

His large frame was still for a moment, and Viv believed he was finally emerging from his own self-absorbed haze. Then he shook his head. “Yeah, well, you’ve been using that excuse for a few days now. I want to know what happened to the game.”

“Out. Just… just go.” She stumbled out of bed and tried to straighten, to confront Charlie, to do what she should have done months ago. But when Viv straightened, her head spun, spots impeding her vision, and before she could return to the safety of her bed, she fainted, smacking her head on the edge of the dresser on her way down.


Her head ached. That was Viv’s first thought as she slowly struggled to regain consciousness. Her second thought was that something was different. The air felt heavier, a smoky, slightly sulfurous smell invading her nostrils and nudging her closer to opening her eyes.

“Hey, I think she’s waking up.”

It was a deep voice, one she did not recognize, and that finally propelled her up, her eyes opening to see two strange guys squatting in front of her, their eyes narrowed in concern. She scrambled to her feet and drew back, her hands out in front of her. They stepped forward and then stopped, almost in unison.

“Viv? Hey… What…? You okay? Careful, you hit your head pretty hard.” The guy with the gorgeous cheekbones and puppy-dog eyes reached out, and she jumped farther back. 

“Who are you?” she demanded, bending forward as if ready to run through them. “Where am I?” She noticed it was dark, the sky an odd orange and gray mix. The trees were bare of leaves, but it was warm out, stifling, actually. 

“Who am I?”

The taller guy with the black hair and ridiculously long eyelashes elbowed the first guy. “I think she has amnesia.” He held out his hands. “Viv. It’s us. Nix and Treye. You… you had one of those brain pressures and fainted.”

“Brain pressures? Wha- where am I? Why isn’t there any grass or plants? What am I doing out here at night?”

“Night? It’s one in the afternoon.” 

Viv told herself it was a dream, and that usually caused her to wake up, but she blinked, and it was all there. The dismal sky, the guys staring at her, the barren land… She wanted to cry, but her head was still thumping, and tears would only make it worse. Pointing to the kinder looking of the guys, she asked, “You. What’s your name?”

“Nix. I’m Nix, Viv. We’ve known each other since we were five.”

She pointed to the other guy. “You’re Treye?”

He nodded, managing to grab her elbow. “Yes, Viv. Your boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend?” She eyed him skeptically. Nothing about him was familiar, but everything about him was hot and not her type. All muscles and smoldering eyes. “No. Charlie’s my boyfriend.”

Treye frowned. “Who the hell is Charlie?”

“Treye, she has amnesia. She probably has a concussion.” Nix turned away and paused for a moment. “You hear that?”

“Shit!” Treye and Nix ran over to a few large canvas bags and brought out large, shiny swords. Viv glanced around for the hidden cameras. This had to be a joke. Some cruel prank orchestrated by Charlie.

“Viv!” Nix approached her, his gaze intense, not allowing her to look away or back up. “Listen, the Leftuls are on their way. We have two minutes, if that.”


Treye spun in a circle, cursing and rubbing his face, but Nix continued to focus on her with a calmness that touched her. That spread through her. “Yes. Leftuls. That rumbling you hear… They are coming, and we have to stab them before they stomp us.” He thrust a sword into her hand and started to turn away.

“Wait! I’ve never… I don’t know how to use this.”

“Sure you do,” Treye assured her, buttoning up his jacket. “You’re great at it. Better than me and Nix combined.”

“But I can’t remember….”

“Instinct. It’ll come to you. Trust me.”

They had no more time to argue because suddenly there were these large creatures that resembled bulls on steroids charging on two feet toward them. And Viv held the sword like she had seen in the movies, trembling as the ground shook and the sky roared. She heard the grunts of the guys as they plunged swords into these beasts and then ripped them out, and she turned toward Nix. Suddenly she felt an arm curl around her waist, and she was lifted up and swung to the side. It all happened so fast that by the time she was on her feet, she saw Treye stabbing one of those rabid, bull-like creatures. He threw down the sword and bent over, placing his hands on his knees. Trying to catch his breath, he glanced up and stated, “They attack from the left.”

For a moment, she was frozen. This dream was going too far. She just wanted to wake up and focus on trivial things, such as arguing with Charlie or getting enough sleep to function at her job the next day. But fighting wicked beasts on a darkened day with two men that she would otherwise be swooning over… this was not in the plans.

The guys were already gathering up parts of the camp. “Others are going to smell the blood. We have to get moving.”

“Others?” she mumbled, but she moved with them, stuffing items into bags, mimicking their actions. 

Treye helped move the canvas bag over her shoulder, adjusting it to fit. “How’s your head? Your balance? Think you can hike with this bag? If not, I can carry mine and yours.”

Viv realized that her head was clear, and she actually felt lighter, filled with more energy than she had in awhile. She guessed battling dream creatures would do that for a person. 

As they walked along a dirt path, Viv tried to get some information. “Doesn’t the sun exist?”

“Still no memory?” Treye grumbled, kicking at a stone.

Nix shot him a dark look and then answered, “Sometimes. Maybe once a month the sun peeks through for a good part of the day. Those are always your favorite days. We try to find a field and just bask in the light. It gets almost unbearably hot when the sun is out, but you… you love it. It makes sense you would ask about it.” He gave her a comforting grin, but she noticed it did not reach his eyes. 

“Hey, there’s a building over there. Lamp’s on.” Treye stopped and pointed toward the thickest part of the forest to their right. Viv squinted and did see a golden light shimmering through the bare branches. “Let’s go.”

“So…” She stopped and gave a small jump, adjusting the strap of her bag up farther on her shoulder, and then smiled as Nix took it off her shoulder and slung it over his. “There are other people?” It had occurred to her that she had seen no cars, no other humans on their hike. 

“Yeah,” Treye paused, waiting for them to catch up, and Viv caught him give Nix an annoyed look when he saw him carrying her bag. “There are other people. Just not as many as … there was.”

“And we can just stop in?”

“We’re going to find out.”

The building was a large, wooden structure, painted in a checkered red and white design, with candles burning in many of the windows. They used the knocker on the wooden, rounded door, and Viv tried to ignore the icy fingers going up and down her spine. It was a weird sensation, but this was a weird dream. 

The door swung open, and an older man with a large gray beard smiled. “Seekers?”

“Yes, sir,” Nix responded. “We were hoping for a night’s shelter.”

“Of course! Come in.” 

The group moved in sync behind their host as he led them through a series of rooms, all designed in a unique way. There were stripes, colorful blocked painting, and even spirals adorning the walls. The guys did not seem to notice the oddities, so Viv simply followed and tried not to appear too overwhelmed. 

Finally they were seated at a large, oak table in a room that could be described as a child’s craft room. The walls were splashed with bright colors of yellow and blue and red, and various pieces of crafts decorated the walls. A milk jug watering can, paper mache turtles, and several popsicle flowers cluttered the table. 

The main eye-catching display was a chain of paper bunny faces strewn across the room. The bunnies had closed eyes, and the man who introduced himself as Joshyua, caught Viv looking. He caught her eye and whispered, “Try to be quiet. They’re sleeping.” With a wink, he left the room.

They were given beef stew, and Vic realized how hungry she was. The stew was delicious and hot, served in wooden bowls with wooden spoons, and as they sat and ate, Viv glanced up and saw one of the paper bunnies watching her. When it realized Viv was looking directly at it, the paper bunny shut its eyes. 

With a heavy sigh, Viv remarked, “This is weird, guys. Something’s off.”

Without another word, they set down their spoons and stood, grabbing their bags. 

“Wait… What are you doing?”

Nix glanced up at her. “You always have an uncanny knack for spotting traps. Let’s go.”

“But… I don’t remember any of this. It’s all off to me.”

“Yeah but if this is off enough for you to comment, we can’t chance it,” Treye explained, grabbing her hand and pulling her toward the door. He tried the handle. “Locked.” 

Suddenly there was whispering overpowering the room. Viv pointed. “The bunnies. They’re … they’re talking!” The paper bunnies had their eyes open, their gazes sliding back and forth, their mouths moving.

“They’re probably Spyrows,” Nix threw out absently, his back turned as he searched for a way out.

“They’re what? Never mind.” As the sound of the bunnies got louder and louder, she spun around and tried to block it out. “Hey, guys.” And because she knew there was no time to explain her plan, she grabbed a chair and threw it against the window. Treye pulled her back and took the chair, managing to bust through the glass on the first try. 

By the time they were all on the ground running, the bunnies were screaming, “Escaping! They’re escaping!”

The group ran through the thickest part of the forest, the dark night giving little relief as they darted around trees and tripped over rocks. Before long, Viv realized she was leading the guys, and she wanted to stop and explain she did not know where to go. But something was leading her, an instinct she could not describe. She glanced over her shoulder to see a green haze surrounding the building they had just escaped, and she swung forward, not wanting to see more. 

She heard Nix call to her, ask if she was okay, if she knew. But she kept running, and they kept following. After twenty minutes, just as she was running out of breath and about to drop, she saw a clear wall, a sky-high boundary of wavy air. She hesitated for just a moment before jumping through it. 

The point of contact sent jolts through her, and Viv fell to the ground on the other side, rolling, but otherwise fine. She got up just as the guys made it through.

“Damn, Viv. Still got that runner’s advantage,” Treye grumbled, brushing the dirt off his knees. “But I knew that instinct would kick in. Holy shit, we found it a lot quicker than I thought we would.”

Viv tilted her head and looked around. The sky was still an ominous orange-gray, clouds closer than before. The trees were still bare, and the air was still stifling. “Where are we? Did we just go through another dimension?”

To her embarrassment, the guys laughed. Seeing her expression, Nix stifled his chuckles. “I’m sorry, Viv. Just… your dreams can really be outrageous. No, it was a short cut of sorts. Instead of running through the entire forest and probably getting more lost, you found the Woodrunner’s Path.” He shook his head, “I’ll explain it all later. But you did good, Viv. Now we have to set up camp. We’re far enough to not worry about Leftuls or that bunny dude finding us.”

Viv focused on helping to set up the tent and get a fire started. She was amazed at how much she actually did now. This was an empowering dream. She was kicking ass in all the areas she normally would have no skill set in. 

They sat around the fire eating canned corn and a substance much like hot dogs in her awake world. Treye sat beside her, giving her little space as he and Nix explained a few things to her.

“Spyrows are messengers that take information they get and send it back to their keepers, their makers. Those paper bunnies - Spyrows. You’ve always been good at spotting things like that,” Treye explained, pausing between sentences to press his lips against her head. “The green haze was the telltale sign that the guy was a sorcerer and probably wanted us there to complete some spell or even to have us obtain information for him, whether we wanted to or not.”

“I know the term sorcerer. So this life has always been… the darkness and the bare forest… it’s normal?”

“Not normal,” Nix corrected softly, and Viv noticed he avoided glancing over at Treye and her as they cuddled close on the log. “Two years normal. Two years ago there was a change. No one is sure if it was nuclear or something falling from space. A lot of … 75 percent of the population was wiped out. But those of us that were in lower levels or far enough in woods, we seemed to have survived. Me, you, and Treye were in your basement.”

Treye kept his arm around Viv but leaned forward, seeking Nix’s gaze. When he had it, he asked softly, “This seems worse than any other of her brain pressure episodes.”

She sat up straight. “What?”

Nix shot Treye a dark look before facing her. “You have a lot of brain pressures. Painful, makes you forget a lot. Your dreams get really out there. No big deal. The past two years have been traumatic. On all of us. But we’re closer to the west coast. There’s more people there. More places to live, rebuild. That’s what we’ve heard, anyways.”

“So this change two years ago… it created things like Leftuls and Spryows?”

Treye laughed, but it was short and hard, and she sensed he was losing patience with her. “No, Viv. We’ve always had Leftuls and Spyrows.” He patted her shoulder and stood. “I’m tired. You taking the first shift, Nix?”

“Yeah. You guys have a good night.”

“I’m actually going to stay out here for a little bit.” As Treye frowned, she realized she said the wrong thing.

“C’mon, Viv. Don’t be like that.”

“No, I’m honestly not being like anything. I just won’t be able to sleep for awhile.”

Treye shrugged and stomped off to the tent. Viv and Nix sat in silence, only exchanging smiles when Nix covered her with a blanket before returning to his log to sit and poke at the fire. Finally, still staring into the dancing flames, he said, “His impatience… it’s really just concern. You scared us with that fall today. Hitting your head.”

She lifted her head up and down slowly to indicate she heard him, but she did not understand. None of this made sense to her. What was she doing here, why couldn’t she wake up from this intense dream? “Are we safe out here?”

“Yeah. Well, I mean, if we listen for the Leftuls, but we’re far out. I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.”

“What would happen if I went back through that portal?”

Nix narrowed his eyes. “Portal?”

“Yeah. That wall of fog or whatever it was.”

He laughed. “Not a portal, Viv. It was a shortcut. And you’d just go back to where the bunny house was. That’s all. I know this isn’t funny at all, but when you lose your memory, you say the funniest things.”

“So then why do we take shifts?”

“Just to be extra safe.”

“In case snakes slither in?” she teased.

He gave her a blank look. “Snakes? What are snakes?”

At first she suspected he was joking, but when he persisted in knowing, she explained what a snake was. Nix drew back with a horrified laugh. “That sounds absolutely terrifying! No limbs and … it just slides around. And bites? And Leftuls freak you out? Wow.”

Viv found herself laughing for the first time since opening her eyes that day. When she caught her breath, she looked up to see him grinning at her and confided, “I don’t understand. Treye’s my… the one I’m with but … you seem much more in line with my personality. I’m sorry if that’s forward. I just still feel like I’m dreaming, so I’m a bit more bold.”

She noticed the hesitation, the slight wobble of his smile, but Nix quickly composed himself and shrugged his shoulders. “Observant. You and I were a couple. For years. Until six months ago.”


He sighed and met her gaze. “When you had a brain pressure, had a vivid dream, and woke up insisting that you and Treye were soulmates. He was more than happy to play that part.”

“Oh.” Viv felt shame wash over her. “I’m sorry. That… And you’re still here? Are you stuck with us?”

“No,” he was quick to reassure her, and she felt even worse. She had broken his heart, and this man still wanted to ensure she was happy. “I mean, it’s best to be in a group of three, so that played a part in it. But … sometimes Treye… he cares about you, no doubt, but you have these episodes, and I wanted to be sure… .“

Viv could not hold back. She moved to sit beside him, inching forward, and Nix was meeting her halfway, their lips meeting in an explosion of familiar passion. For the first time, Viv wondered if this was her life. Because this... Nix... felt like everything she knew and all that she wanted. She never wanted this sensation to end, but he pulled back, his hand cupping her cheek.

“Baby girl, you have to figure things out.”

When she crawled into the tent, Treye rolled to his side and hissed, “So I guess that’s that.”


“No. It’s fine. Let’s just get this over with and make it to the coast and then we can go our separate ways. I was getting sick of your issues anyways.” That stung. Whether this was a dream or not, she felt sad and embarrassed. 

She was amazed at how fast she fell asleep, only to be shaken awake. She peered up at Treye. “We need to get moving.”

He made no mention of the night before, and while he remained distant, he was not rude or angry. She helped pack up camp, musing over a dream she had had while sleeping. A dream of Charlie that haunted her even after waking up.

Suddenly a beam of light shot out from her, and Charlie materialized several feet away. He was faint, see-through, almost like he was part of the air, but he was there, and he stared at her and growled, “How could you?”

Then he was gone, the beam of light vanishing as quickly as it had come. She stared up at Nix and Treye who stared back at her. “Oh! Did you see that?”

Nix nodded slowly, stepping up to her. “Yes. Dream projection.”


“You just projected part of your dream. That’s all. It happens. You can learn to control it, but-”

“That was Charlie!”

Treye laughed. “That was Charlie? Damn, Viv. What the hell!” He stopped when he caught Nix’s dark look, and he demanded, “What? You were thinking the same thing!”

They hiked most of the day, stopping to eat and rest against some rocks, and Viv joked around with the guys, feeling more at ease. But again, Viv wished for sunlight. This constant darkness was beginning to weigh on her. As they neared a clearing, she saw a large, stone building. “There,” she pointed. “That old mansion. We can stop there.”

The guys studied her and then nodded, apparently still believing in her instincts. And somehow, she was believing in them as well. 

As they continued on the dirt path toward the building, a little old man neared them, his back curved and gaze persistent. Something about his gaze…

Viv started to call out a greeting, but Treye gave her a slight push and hissed, “Don’t make eye contact!”

She was disgusted. “Why? Because he’s poor? Old? Dirty?”

“No,” Nix answered, stepping between her and the old man. “Because he’s a Parasitic Traveler.”


The guys hurried her along the path, and once they were well past the guy, Viv had to admit, he was creepy. He continued to blatantly stare, turning to watch them, his eyes seeking theirs, and Nix had to nudge her and demand, “Don’t turn around.”

Once out of earshot and the creepy guy’s line of sight, Treye explained, “He was a Parasitic Traveler. He locks eyes with you and somehow connects to your soul and body and lives there for a few hours, a few days, even a couple weeks. It doesn’t kill you, but it’s not very pleasant.”

“How can you tell a parasitic traveler?”

Nix shrugged. “Usually old, worn-out body. Intense stare, doesn’t talk. You learn quick, and then it is really easy to tell.” He slowed his steps, motioning toward the iron gate. 

Viv jumped forward and pushed the button, tilting her head up. Immediate static met her ears, as if someone had been waiting to respond and then a low, “Yes?”

“A night’s shelter? Perhaps a meal?” she asked. 

Within moments the gates opened, creaking with each inch. The trio advanced slowly, looking around. Trees and green grass and even a garden surrounded them, shocking Viv while at the same time, satisfying her senses.

“Sorcery,” Treye spit out, glaring at the shockingly healthy surroundings.

“Let’s just check it out,” Nix urged, but he pulled Viv behind him when the double doors opened, and a young couple greeted them.

Something drove Viv to step out and say, “You have Spyrows out front. Maybe we shouldn’t….”

“We do,” the woman admitted. “It’s to warn us of who… or what is coming. But we have none inside. We can give you a hot meal and soft beds. Where are you from?”

“East,” Nix answered, watching Viv for any sign of discomfort. “We’re seekers. We were stationary dwellers before the change rolled in.”

The man smiled at Viv. “And you?”

“She’s one of us,” Treye answered irritably.

The man’s smile widened. “She’s not. There’s a glow about her. She travels farther.”

Viv was intrigued. She wanted to know more. What did he mean? She nodded to the guys that it seemed okay, and they followed the couple inside. 

The home was in pristine condition, if not outdated with oil lamps and antiques, velvet furniture and oriental rugs. People were in every room, smiling and greeting them. The couple introduced themselves as Avae and Codix and explained as they gave the tour that they housed almost thirty people, including five children. They had a community going where everyone worked, everyone put in energy to make this a functioning haven for those that had already endured too much.

They got settled in and talked at length with Avae and Codix and somehow the topic moved to Viv’s amnesia and the spells she experienced.

“I thought so,” Codix nodded. “I saw something about you. You’re a traveler. Teleporter. Those are not just brain pressures. You’re traveling, experiencing different dimensions.”

Treye snorted. “Right. That exists. She just suffers from brain pressures after all she’s been through. That’s it. And the last one, she fell and hit her head. She did not go anywhere.”

But Nix and Viv exchanged looks, remembering her dream projection and her insistence she lived a different life. Perhaps there was something to it.

After a delicious, filling meal, they talked long into the night, and finally the couple stood. “Okay, we can talk more tomorrow, but I think we would like to offer you three an extended invitation. We can discuss the rules and expectations if you decide to accept.”

Viv and Nix were excited, but Treye shook his head. “No way. I’m leaving tomorrow.”

“But this is what we were going west for. This. We have it. We found it,” Nix argued, his tone incredulous.

“No. I intended to go west. Not to settle down in some creepy castle with out-dated furniture. No. I’m leaving tomorrow.”

“I think we want to stay,” Viv admitted. She did not know much about this world, this life, but being in this community seemed safer than venturing out among Leftuls and Parasitic Travelers and Spryows. 

“Then stay.”

“Treye. C’mon. You know we can’t let you go off alone.”

“Then come with me. Either way, I’m leaving tomorrow.” He got up and stormed out of the room.

Nix studied Viv, and when she swung her gaze to him, he smiled. “Let him blow off some steam. He’ll come to his senses. Hey, how did you know there were Spyrows out front?”

She grinned, bumping his shoulder with her own. “I didn’t. Lucky guess.”

The next morning, Viv awoke with a blinding migraine. As she writhed in pain, Nix put a cool washcloth on her head and closed the curtains to shut out any light.

“She’s got a brain pressure,” he explained to Avae and Codix. 

Viv could hear the excitement in Codix’s voice as he said, “She’s getting ready to travel! She’s getting ready!”

Then she heard Treye, made out words about leaving and not wanting to deal with other people’s issues anymore. She sensed he was speaking out of hurt, and in her haste to stop him, she stood too fast and promptly fell, her head hitting the floor before darkness invaded.


“Hey, honey. You up?”

Viv woke, realizing she was in an actual bed, a soft bed. She sat up and saw Nix standing at the edge of the bed, smiling at her as he slid into a T-shirt. “Oh. This… you…” She was unable to verbalize her surprise, so she turned to see the sunlight streaming through the window, a gentle breeze softening the heat.

His grin widened. “Another crazy dream? That’s like the third night in a row. You’re safe. Home with your hubby.” And the gorgeous man leaned over and kissed her. Then he drew back. “You getting up soon? My friend’s coming over.” 


He eyed her with curiosity. “No. But who is this Treye that keeps coming up in your dreams? I’m curious. You’ve asked about him now three times after your dreams.”

“Hey, do you know what snakes are?”

“Snakes? Yeah, why? Did you see another one in the shed?”

“What about Leftuls?
            “Huh?” He shook his head with a chuckle. “Hey gorgeous, I’ll make breakfast. Come out when you’re ready.”

Viv indulged in a long, hot shower, trying to stop her thoughts from racing. She just had to wake up, had to clear her head and remember this life. The past experiences were dreams. This was right. Nix was right.

As she dried off and got dressed, she heard voices in the kitchen, so she ventured into the hallway and rounded the corner only to stop short.

Nix smiled, pushing a plate of pancakes toward her. “There you are. You remember my friend Charlie, right?”

And there was Charlie smirking at her. “Oh, she remembers.”

Oblivious, Nix held out a piece of paper. “Look. His daughter made you this. Thought we could hang it up on the fridge.”

Stunned, her gaze glued to Charlie, she reached out for the paper and then finally glanced down. In her hand was a sleeping paper bunny.






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