Guilt

October 15, 2016 at 12:00 AM

“Don’t you wish you wouldn’t have done that?“ an unfamiliar voice asked me.
I rose my head, but I was blindfolded. I tried to move my hand, my leg, my finger – anything at this point – but it seemed that I was completely paralyzed.
“Victoria,“ the creature (I hardly believe it is human) whispered in my ear. “Why?“
“Please,“ I cried. “I don’t know what I’ve done! Where am I? What do you want?“
I heard a loud knock on the door and I could sense the creature got a little nervous.
“I will come for you!“
I heard another knock and then my body started to shake.
“Vicky! Wake up,“ I heard my mother’s voice. “You need to get ready for school.“
I looked around. I was in my room again. I was able to move, I was able to see. Everything was back to normal. Even though I knew I just had a bad dream, I couldn’t stop tears running down my face as soon as my mother turned her back.
I was always superstitious and I always believed there is a meaning behind every action, every fear and every dream. I believed in karma and in life after death. So, I couldn’t let go of the fact ‘it was just a dream’, because I felt in my bones that there has to be something behind that. Maybe nothing paranormal or supernatural. Just something in my subconscious that is bothering me.
After I’ve had breakfast and left for school, I didn’t worry as much as I did earlier. I met my friend Lisa and we walked together to our classes. We talked a little about what we did over the weekend. I, as usual, stayed at home, learning for the upcoming exams.
We separated in the school hallway soon after the bell rang and as I was going down the hallway to my classroom, I noticed I am completely alone. I turned around to double check, and there was no one to be seen. Nothing unusual, I was already a bit late for class, but being alone after having such terrible dream made me panic. I started running and quickly reached for the door handle, before the teacher shut the door.
“How many times do I have to tell you this,“ Mrs. Lovegood started. “When the bell rings you have to be behind your desk and NOT on your way to the classroom.“
“I- I’m sorry.“ I sincerely apologized and then sat behind my desk.
I was always a good student, sometimes maybe a bit late, but I oddly have a lot of nightmares lately, which is one of the reasons I oversleep occasionally. Well, the nightmares I have had are nothing like the one I had this morning – this one seemed real.
I was half asleep during this lesson and I couldn’t concentrate, so I leaned my head on the wall slightly and looked out of my window, to my left. Children were carelessly playing outside in the playground – all, except for one. He seemed to be pointing on to something, without any particular expression. No fear, no excitement, no happiness, nothing. As if he was just a body, without a soul. I turned my head back to my teacher, to make a quick eye contact, to make her believe I am listening to the words she’s saying, and then I looked back at the strange kid outside in the playground. He was still pointing his finger up, almost to our classroom window, but our eyes didn’t meet, so I was guessing it’s something behind the wall, that I can’t see. A huge spider maybe? Thousands of spiders?
I leaned forward and followed the stare of this boy.
“No, no, NO!“ I yelled, jumping, grabbing my bag, and running out of the classroom, down the hallway, and I only stopped at the front door.
I saw a body – not a human body though – a lot slimmer and awkward looking and kind of sleazy – holding to the wall with his long nails and the mucus dripping from his body. His face was gray, without a visible nose, with two small, jet black eyes, and a wide opened mouth that was filled with even more mucus or something alike.
Even though, in my dreams, I didn’t see the creature who was talking to me, I just knew that was him. He came for me, like he promised.
I saw the teacher running towards me and I didn’t know whether to hide or stay, tell the truth or just make something up? No one would believe me either way. I wanted to turn around and run home, but what if this thing was waiting for me outside of the door?
“What happened? Are you alright?“ she asked me and I burst into tears.
“I can’t really breathe,“ I told her and it wasn’t even a lie – I felt trapped and the fear was suffocating me. “I need to call my parents to come get me.“
And within half an hour they did. I didn’t tell them what happened, just that I felt really sick.
“Good to see you again,“ the voice I heard in my last dream said as soon as I fall asleep that night. I wasn’t blindfolded anymore, but my body was still resting in a chair and I was unable to move. In front of me, the face of a creature I saw in school earlier, was staring at me closely. “Now that you’ve seen me, there is no point in hiding, right?“
His voice was disturbing and static. I tasted my tears through the closed lips. I couldn’t open them, no matter how hard I tried.
“Now, I just want to know why,“ he said, with a mad smile on his face, but he wasn’t happy at all, I could tell. Not even hurting me would satisfy him enough, but to him, it was better than nothing. “No, that’s not true. I ALSO want to know why, but the ending is going to be the same either way. So, why would you do that to me and my family?“
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!“ I screamed, my voice shaking. I didn’t even realize I said it out loud, though that was what I was trying to do. I guess he was the one in charge of my body. When he decided to let me speak, I was able to do so. “I swear!“
“LIAR!“ the creature yelled at me with high pitch static voice, causing more tears flow down my face. “You remember. You said you do. You told your family about it. They sometimes talk about that time you did, even though they still don’t entirely believe you. It was hard to trace you and now that I did, I want to know how could you-“
I woke up in a cold sweat, crying out loud. I heard my phone ringing and I guess that woke me up. It was 2 AM, so I didn’t expect any callers at that time. When I picked it up, I noticed it was Lisa and as I was about to answer, my mother rushed through the door. She turned on the light and hugged me. I told her I only had a nightmare – which is true – even though I really saw the same creature yesterday, and so did the strange kid. Or maybe I thought I saw that kid, but he was just part of my imagination too.
My mother picked up something that looked like a book, that was lying on the end of my bed.
“Where did you find that?“ she asked. I didn’t know what she was talking about.
“What?“
“Were you in my room again? You know, I don’t go through your things either!“ she stood up and threw the book back on the bed.
“Wait,“ I called, when she was about to leave my room. “Please stay, I’m sorry.“ I went along.
She is stubborn, but she couldn’t just leave me in fear, which she could tell I still was, since it was written all over my face. As she sat on the edge of my bed, I reached for the book and opened it.
It was my diary from when I was five years old – not well written and it was hard to read, because some of the words were misspelled, but I managed to get through a couple of sentences and put them together.
I read it out loud: “I used to be a queen, before I was me. I was evil. I killed people, because I was angry. I set people and whole families on fire if they were in my way. But I like me now. I’m good.“
I looked at my mother’s expression, that was hiding shame. She knew about that diary. That’s why it was in her room – she was hiding it from me.
I had no idea how it ended up here, on my bed, but it did.
I turned page after page and there was no more words, just bad drawings of people set on fire or being hanged. And the page, with one particular drawing, let the electricity out and shook my finger. I looked at my mum again, but it was like she didn’t see that. And maybe she really didn’t.
On the picture, there was a family of five – farmers maybe, as far as I could tell – a pregnant wife, a young boy, a little younger brother, and a tall, slim guy. Everyone, except for the man, was on fire, but he was covered in some sort of liquid and I couldn’t tell what it was, but it made me think, if this is the man I was dreaming about.
As I’ve said before, I believe in life after death, so if I really was the queen in my previous life and I did hurt and kill people, maybe it’s the guilt that’s causing the hallucinations and nightmares.
I asked my mum about the diary – or, well, some sort of a memory book – and she told me that I was convinced, at that age, that I used to be an evil queen. Apparently I explained the drawings the first time I let my mum see the book and I told her that this family had a farm, but didn’t make enough food as they should. At first I gave them some more time, but because most of the food they brought was rotten again, there wasn’t enough as the city needed, so I decided to get rid of them. I had people to do the dirty work for me, so they set their house on fire at night. The man escaped and the next day they found his wife and children outside of the house too, but dead, as if he tried to help them, but he was too late. I sent my men after him and then had a little fun with him myself – punishing him for trying to escape. First, I would starve him for a couple of days, then let my men beat him up, and ended his life, splashing him with sticky, poisonous fluid from plants.
I still didn’t tell my mother that I saw that man in my dreams and in school, since I was convinced now, that it’s just part of my imagination, because I subconsciously remembered my past life. I sighed with relief and we both went back to sleep after that discussion.
I saw him in my dreams again after that. I was terrified, but not like before, because I knew it’s just guilt haunting me as a bad dream.
“I’m sorry,“ I said to the creature, moments later.
He was slowly approaching me from the other side of the dark room. I was paralyzed as always and I started to panic a little, but it’s just a dream. A lot of people are lucid dreaming, thinking it’s real. I just have to go through that and tomorrow I’ll go to the doctor to get some pills, I told myself.
The creature touched my jaw with both hands and let out a static scream at first, then said: “Not good enough.“
He forcefully opened my mouth, wider than it is possible to, and I could feel it breaking. It was real pain. I cried and screamed. He pushed his head inside and started crawling inside me. My whole body was shaking, my eyeballs were about to pop out, and I noticed my tears are turning red. I was choking and there was no one who could save me.
As soon as he climbed inside of me, my mouth closed behind him, and I woke up.
It was morning already and I had a strange feeling that this is the end. My jaw did indeed hurt a little – maybe I actually believed that the dreams were real and slept with my mouth opened – and I was a little afraid, in a way. After all it has been a terrible dream.
I thought to myself: Him crawling inside of me was most likely just the way I deal with this guilt – I swallowed it, just like you swallow the pride, and I let it go, because there is no point in holding on. I’m sure there won’t be any more nightmares, but I’m still going to visit the doctor, to prescribe me something. Just in case.
I went downstairs, to the kitchen, and made myself cereal. I accidentally spilled milk over my pj’s.
“Oops. Good morning mum,“ is what I was trying to say, but that’s not what my voice said. Instead, it was: “Where is dad?“
Weird, I swear I wanted to say ‘Good morning’. Maybe I’m still a little sleepy, it wasn’t one of my best nights. And I really need to change, because this milk looks a little odd, plus it stinks.
“He is still in bed. Morning, sweetie,“ she said, giving me a kiss on the forehead.
I went over to the counter, to get a towel and try to get rid of the milk on my skin, but I grabbed the matches that my mother kept on the shelf together with her cigarettes. I tried to released them, but I couldn’t.
“Mum?“ I said, but nothing came out of me. “Mum! Help!“
Nothing.
No words spoken, I ran, still in my pj’s, to the garage and grabbed the gasoline.
“No, no, no, no!“
I poured it around my house and then proceeded to pour it out, inside of our home. My mother didn’t turn around, even though I begged her. She was in the living room, reading a newspaper. I put some more gasoline in the room, where my dad was sleeping, crying (well, in my mind at least, but I could feel my muscles hurt from smiling) and then I heard my mother yell out to me.
“Victoria? Do you smell gas?“
“No, mum!“ is what it came out of my mouth after I left the staircase. I ran outside again, struck the match and throw it into the puddle of gas, just like that.
“Enjoy the show,“ I said to myself as the flames caught the house. I heard a scream just a little after I started running to the nearest park, away from the house and the people I wanted to save, and I ended up under a bridge, on my own.
“Don’t save me,“ I wanted to say to the creature, now that he took everything in this world that I love, but I wasn’t in charge of my body anymore. I couldn’t say what I wanted and I couldn’t move where I wanted. Still, he knew.
“I won’t.“ said my actual voice. “Wasn’t that milk a little sticky?“

Credit: Loraine Carlile

The Long Night

September 28, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Bound in night’s shackles, an ageing man yearns to be free. As he tries to cry aloud only a starved, raspy breath escapes his tired lungs. Too weak to be heard, he faces this terror alone.

Nearly suffocating under the potent anxiety carried forth by an atmosphere starved in darkness, he is desperate to feed on the security of light. Treading carefully amongst the unknown, he fumbles for a light source. He gropes aimlessly at unseen walls around him, but no light switch can be found.

In his haste he dislodges an object hanging from the wall. Suddenly, he is startled by the screeching of iron against the hard surface beneath him. Straining to bend down so that he can inspect the fallen object, he brushes his hand over its surface. Suspecting and, indeed, hoping it may be a lantern, he searches his pockets for a matchbox. Absurdly, he retrieves one. Surprised by his good fortune, he strikes a match and applies the flame to the object. To his relief the lantern casts a dim light which brings the immediate area around him into view. For a moment he is comforted by the emergence of light, but his comfort is soon disturbed. A new fear is brought to the forefront of his mind: What if this light reveals no trace of familiarity? He wonders, fearfully. What if I cannot find my way back home? With cold sweat dampening his face, his mind is ablaze with quandary, but he does not truly understand why. Not yet.

With little choice but to press on in spite of his fear, the old man proceeds to survey his immediate surroundings. By his discoveries he is dismayed. Everything about this room is uncomfortably alien. First, examining the floor beneath him, he realises this is no homely environment: the surface is reinforced concrete laid bare. There is no carpet covering to breathe life or solace. Examining the mostly featureless confines, out of the corner of his eye he notices the handrail of a flight of stairs. Turning to look upon the stairs, he considers the opportunities which might lie above. If he were strong enough to ascend the staircase, who knows what he may find? Perhaps I would be safer up there. He speculates. Perhaps there might be some means of communication; a telephone, perhaps? Perhaps … it does not matter. Whatever haven of respite lies beyond these steps is, for now and always, beyond my reach. Knowing this, he is forlorn. How cruel it is that such a false promise of hope could be offered to him like this. Returning to his search, he finds the strange emptiness of the room serves only to increase his feelings of isolation and confusion. Even the walls appear to encircle him – taunting him.

It is not long before another feature of the room seeks to entice him. A combination of curiosity and dread grows inside of him as he fixes his eyes upon this all at once inviting and foreboding detail. The object of his attention is unremarkable, yet far from unassuming. It is a windowless steel door. Terror looms closer still – but curiosity lingers – as the man becomes acutely aware of distant cries. They are hostile. Whatever foul creatures loom beyond this door, he does not wish to find out. Yet he must proceed. His journey has brought him too far to avoid it much longer. Perhaps subconsciously he knows this. Why else would he be struggling for breath? For what other reason would his heart beat at the disconcerting rate it is so doing?

Hesitating briefly, he wonders what might happen were he to refuse to open the door; to defy whatever forces would have him venture beyond it. It takes him no great effort to dispel such thoughts, however. His determination to return home is powerful enough to keep him moving forward. As he reaches the door, he presses an ear to its cold surface. Whatever lurks beyond is unmistakably agitated. He pulls himself away and, with a deep breath, braces himself as he carefully opens the door. The scene before him is unimaginable.

Where prior to opening the door the air had possessed an aura of foreboding stillness, now a vicious gale ravages the atmosphere. Its cries, once distant, now verge on deafening. In the midst of the storm archers in the sky target the building with a relentless barrage of liquid arrows. Before him – revealed only by a warning light high above his head – perturbed waves writhe and thrash as if in attempt to free themselves from the night’s dreadful curse. Vain, yet persistent. Deep into the heart of a vast ocean of unfathomable depths, the man is trapped. Alone. It matters not how he came to be here; he is too far gone for anyone to help him now.

Standing transfixed in the agape doorway, his body trembles violently under the ominous shadows of the night. In horrified bewilderment, he gazes listlessly into the void. Amidst the callous taunts of the wrathful waves he seeks desperately for a rational explanation. With tremendous concentration he tries to take his mind back to the moment of his arrival. With great frustration he finds he cannot retrace his steps to a point in time prior to finding himself in the dark.

He reassures himself that in all the confusion of this scenario, combined with his deteriorating mental faculty, he is bound to be less capable of coherent thought. Whether he remembers this or not he reasons that the only rational explanation is he must have arrived by boat. Yes, Of course! He realises, almost gleefully. What other explanation could there possibly be? Approaching the railing, he searches the perimeter of the lighthouse for any sign of a vessel. With a quivering hand he raises the lantern above him as he walks along the railing, examining the illuminated ocean waves for any sign of the boat on which he arrived. Several minutes pass, to no avail. He becomes increasingly disheartened as the cruel realisation settles inside of him: There is not a single ship in sight. The much stronger light above confirms this. With no signs of life as far as the eye can see, the man now truly begins to comprehend his worrying isolation. Understanding the full extent of the emptiness of his surroundings, a truly mystifying awareness dawns on him: This building does not belong so far out into the ocean. I should not be here!

He is pulled back from the inner turmoil of his mind by the sudden awareness of the increasing agitation of the ocean’s waves. With great urgency he staggers back inside the building – back to its cold but sheltering enclosure. Once inside, he shuts the door tightly. He is drenched in icy water, quivering in unbearable discomfort. The lantern has been extinguished by the storm; the room is now submerged in utter darkness. Using the handrail for support, he lowers himself onto the third step, resting the now lifeless lantern down beside him. He leans forward, his elbows resting on his thighs, and his head resting upon cupped palms. Considering the absurdity of this situation he feels it would be fitting to laugh, but in his devastation he can only weep. In search of consolation his mind takes him to the fondest moments of his past, as it has so often done in times of distress. It is in the imagining of his wife’s beautiful face that refuge is to be found. His memory of her is so strong it is almost palpable. Above all else he remembers how beautiful she had appeared on their wedding day – how happy she had made him feel that day. Smiling through tears, he recalls the blissful memory of reciting his vows and the gleeful celebration which reigned until dawn the following day. He had loved her dearly; his memories of her have always brought comfort when nothing else could. Since her death, he has often longed to hold her; he has yearned to hear her soft, reassuring voice – to simply tell her one last time, “I love you.”

Through a mist of cold tears, he sees before him a vibrant aura. Its mere presence eases his sorrow. Drying his eyes so that he might see for himself the entity before him, he is left incredulous by its appearance. A mere arm’s length away from him stands his wife in the flesh. She is vibrant and youthful. He is overcome with joy, for her vivacity breathes life into an otherwise decadent atmosphere. He reaches out to touch her, but she steps away, slipping from his grasp once again. Fear creeps back into his soul as she evades his touch. With graceful effervescence, she glides towards the door, glancing back every few steps, smiling playfully as she does so. She is beckoning him. Realising this, the old man struggles to his feet, heading towards the door. Stopping inside the doorway, he watches in horror as his wife stands on the outside of the railing, preparing to leap. He tries to cry out for her to stop; to plead with her to stay. She turns to face him, smiling innocently, urging him to trust her. She relinquishes her grip, allowing the waves to carry her away. For a moment the man hears nothing but the distressing laughter of the ocean. Then, out from the depths, he hears the soothing voice once more. “Don’t be afraid, my love,” she reassures him. “We can be together again, I promise you. Just let go.” He edges closer to the railing, knowing perfectly well what he must do to be reunited with his love.

The now faint light – a spectral apparition dancing on the blackened water – begins to flicker. With this, the old man’s hearing begins to fail him; the scene before him fades to a blur of uncharacteristic forms. The bitter cold is now imperceptible. His time is short. With great strain, he steps closer to railing. The restless waves now strike the derelict structure with malevolent intent. It is as though their forces have now been completely alerted to his presence. To him, however, the waves are barely audible; their soothing cadence puts him at ease. No longer trembling quite so violently he closes his eyes, trusting the ocean to deliver him from this place of suffering and solitude; to deliver him into his wife’s loving embrace.

In an instant, immense waves engulf the lighthouse entrance. At once, lucidity is lost. Unseen servants of the night descend on the old man’s feeble form with devastating precision. Without hesitation they pierce his withered heart, dragging him further into their everlasting embrace. A pitiful, gargling whimper escapes him as consciousness seeps out of his body. Submerged in dark waters, vacant eyes stare helplessly into sightless visions of eternity.

Silence accompanies the night.

Credit: TheGreatNadir

Headspace

September 17, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Part 1

Growing up, people always thought that I had a really big imagination. When I was younger, my mom would ask if I wanted to watch TV or play a board game with her. She was usually prompted to do this after she would notice that I had been sitting nearly motionless at our big bay window that overlooked the front yard for hours on end. Sometimes I would amiably agree to participate in a different activity with her. Most often, though, I would come out of my reverie just long enough to shake my head at her and reply with a, “No thank you. I’m waiting for Vim right now.” She’d sometimes frown, sometimes scold me, or sometimes force me to do something different. No matter what, though, she’d take my face, look deep into my eyes and say, “You live so much in your head, Cara. What is going on in there?”

Vim was my “imaginary” friend and had been for some time. My mom knew all about his and my exploits together. I’d chronicle them for her at the start of every day while we ate breakfast. I’d regale her with stories of us two bold adventurers catching frogs in the stream behind our house or climbing the study maple in the backyard so that we could survey our kingdom from on high.

While I was very little, my mom enjoyed my stories of Vim. She wanted to know all about him. How old he was, what he looked like, where he came from. I always told her enthusiastically about Vim. He wanted my mom to know all about him. He was just that kind of sort.

Vim was a curious little creature. I likened him to a cross between a large teddy bear and a cat in my mind. He stood on two legs at about two feet tall and had the softest fur that you can imagine. It was a bright, shimmery pink color that glittered when the sun struck it. His gentle face had big beautiful eyes, a perfect pink nose that twitched when he was sniffing something, and delicate whiskers. He had a long tail that he would wrap around me when I was cold, and little hands that would grip mine tight when we were scared. My favorite part about Vim, though, was his ears. They stood straight up, almost like a German Shepard’s, except for the very tips which flopped forward. I loved to stroke their velvety softness and the space in-between them. He loved it too. I would know because he would sigh softly and lean into me when I did it.

Vim was my best friend in the world. I didn’t get to always see him, though. He lived in The Place That Isn’t as he referred to it. I could never really comprehend what he meant, though I understood that it was a world that existed alongside mine, but that I couldn’t see.

There were other creatures from The Place That Isn’t as well. Sometimes they would come and visit with Vim. Some, like the tiny and syrupy sweet smelling Sorg, and giant Ness, who was a towering orange character with cottony fur, I loved. Others, like Hobble, the foul-tempered and mean-spirited little imp, I truly disliked and attempted to avoid as much as possible.

As I got older, I saw even more of Vim and the others from The Place That Isn’t, not less as one might expect of childhood friends like Vim. It was around the time that I was 12 that my mother started to become very concerned that I was still playing with my “imaginary” friends. She began to become angry that I still referred to Vim often and that I seemingly only spent time with him and not with any other children. It was also around this time that Hobble started to become more and more of a problem.

Usually when Hobble came around, he would just be mean to me. Maybe say something to hurt my feelings, or tell me that he could read the minds of all the kids that I went to school with and that they all thought I was weird and that they hated me. But as I got older, Hobble got more aggressive. Though not particularly big, he was strong. His long gray-green arms had hands with fingernails that were as sharp as daggers. His wide flat face held a large mouth with rows of pointy teeth and a long tongue he used like a whip. He began to physically harm me when I turned 14. At first he would just poke me or push me down, but it quickly progressed to him pinching me tightly with his sharp nails or punching me hard enough in the arms and legs that he would leave bruises. Vim and the others would do their best to stop him, but they weren’t always around when Hobble would decide to show up.

My mother began to see the evidence of Hobble’s viciousness and would often ask what had happened. I knew that she would never believe me if I told her the truth, so I always lied and told her that I was clumsy and that I had accidentally hurt myself in various ways. As time went on, her concern only grew and I could tell that my lies were no longer working.

One dreary afternoon when I was 15, Vim and I were sitting together on the couch watching TV. His favorite show was Hell’s Kitchen so we watched reruns together often. About mid-way through the episode, Hobble strolled into the living room where Vim and I were. He crossed his scaly arms and leaned against the doorframe. With a smirk, Hobble inclined his head towards the television.

“Hell’s Kitchen, eh? Looks nothing like Hell to me. And I should know,” he said, jabbing himself in his chest with his thumb. “I’ve been there. This isn’t Hell. It’s a show for babies.”

“Go away, Hobble,” Vim said in an annoyed voice. “Nobody wants you here.”

“She does,” Hobble sneered, turning his attention to me. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”

I had nearly had more of Hobble than I could take recently. My left foot still ached from where he had stomped on it the last time he visited. I was almost certain he had broken my pinky toe. I was close to my breaking point with the nasty little goblin. “Go away, Hobble,” I said through gritted teeth. “I hate you. You’re horrible, you hurt me, and to top it all off, you reek!” While that wasn’t exactly true, he did often have an unpleasant odor around him, like decaying flowers. He smelled exactly like I remembered the funeral home smelling like when we buried my father.

Hobble’s tiny eyes widened to the size of golfballs and became as dark as storm clouds. “You little bitch,” he snarled, “I’ll teach you to say that I stink!” With that, he launched himself across the room at me. Before either Vim or I could react, Hobble sank his mouthful of sharp teeth deep into my forearm. Blood immediately spurted from my arm into Hobble’s mouth and began running down onto my pants and onto the couch. I let out a blood-curdling scream while Vim yelled and began striking Hobble in the face. Hobble let go and, laughing maniacally, gave me a sarcastic wave and ran out of the room, blood running down his front. My scream roused my mother who was folding laundry upstairs. I heard her flying down the stairs yelling, “Cara, what on Earth is wrong?”

“Vim,” I whimpered. “Help me. What is my mother going to do when she sees all this?” I asked, gesturing to my mangled arm with my head. He shook his head at me. “You have to tell her the truth, Cara. Hobble is feeding off of your lies to her about him. She needs to know. It might help keep him away if she believes you!”

My mother burst around the corner and paled when she saw me clutching my arm, blood all over me. “Cara, what happened?”

Sobbing, I proceeded to tell her all about Hobble and how he was behind all of my injuries and that they were only getting worse. Her face became more concerned for a time, and then more worried and drawn as I continued. When I had finished, she took my arm and said, “Come on, child, let’s get your arm cleaned up.” “You believe me, though, don’t you,” I cried. She didn’t reply, but the worry in her face became even more pronounced. “You live so much in your head, Cara. What is going on in there?”

That night, as I tried to go to sleep, I heard my mother’s worried voice coming from downstairs. I crept to the top of the stairs and strained to hear what she was saying. Her voice floated up to me and chilled me. “Yes, Dr. Richards. She’s always had these imaginary friends for as long as I can remember. The last few years, she’s been getting injured more and more regularly. She told me it was just clumsiness and I believed her for a while, but the injuries are becoming more severe. I think she’s self harming. Today it looked like she ripped into her own arm with her fingernails or something. And then she blamed it on one of these imaginary characters!”

I had heard enough. My mom didn’t believe me. She thought I was crazy. I turned to go back into my room and found Vim waiting for me in the doorway. “Cara, we have to get rid of Hobble. I think I know how to do it, but it’s not going to be pleasant.”

“I don’t care,” I said, wiping tears from my eyes. “He’s hurt me for the last time. What do we have to do.”

“We have to call The Dredge,” he said, whispering the name with a terrified look around him. “Who is The Dredge?” I asked. Vim gave me a panicked look. “Quietly! I don’t want to summon him until we’re ready. The Dredge is a gatekeeper of sorts. He holds the key to the door from here to The Place That Isn’t, and to all the other doors in all of the other universes and worlds that I know of, and even the ones that I don’t. We need him to open up a door to a place that no one can return from, and then we need to send Hobble through that door!”

“Great!” I exclaimed. “Why didn’t we do this earlier? It’s perfect!”

“No, Cara,” Vim said softly. “You don’t understand. The Dredge isn’t good. He’s not exactly evil, but he always demands a price for a favor such as this, and he sets the terms. And often you won’t even know what the terms are until after you’ve agreed. There was a hefty price to pay to permanently open the door from The Place That Isn’t to here.” Vim’s eyes took on a faraway look for a moment. When he looked back to me I could have sworn that he looked older, though I had never seen any stamp of time on him before.

“Ok, Vim, I get it. There’s a price to pay. But if I don’t pay it, my mom may stick me in the nut house! Or worse, Hobble could permanently injure me or kill me. What other choice do we have?”

“One, I’m afraid,” said Vim sadly. “Instead of you opening a door and paying the price to The Dredge, I could close the door to The Place That Isn’t, lock Hobble inside, and pay the price myself. But I will have to stay there, too. We will never see each other again.”

“No,” I cried out. “Vim, I need you! I’ll pay it. Whatever it is, it will be better that losing you forever.” Again Vim got that faraway look in his eyes. “I certainly hope so, Cara.”

Over the next few weeks, Vim and I prepared to summon The Dredge, gathering up certain items to entice him to come to us, things that Vim said he liked. Things like old skeleton keys and ornate antique doorknobs. We were finally ready one bright and sunny afternoon, just a few days before my 16th birthday.

“Ok, Vim. I think we have everything we need. What now?” I asked.

“Just call him,” said Vim. “If he likes what we’ve gathered, he’ll be here.”

“That’s it?” I asked skeptically. “Call him? Now? In broad daylight?”

Though Vim’s face was etched with worry, he managed a small chuckle. “Yes, that’s it. The Dredge doesn’t need to deal in darkness or secret. He’s no more or less likely to come in the daylight than he is at midnight.”

“Ok,” I said with a shrug. I began to call for him. “Dredge? Hello, Dredge? If you can hear me, and it so pleases you, could you come to me? I have gifts for you and would like to make a deal.” It felt a bit awkward to me, but I had no idea exactly how one was supposed to address an invisible and potentially malevolent gatekeeper.

For a few moments, nothing happened. Vim and I exchanged glances. I opened my mouth to call again when suddenly it was like all of the air was ripped out of my lungs, and indeed, the whole world. Gasping and choking I dropped to my knees only to see a huge rip forming in the very fabric of the landscape in front of me. Out of the slit came two grotesque looking hands, ancient and withered. They grabbed the sides of the tear from the inside and pulled, opening the hole wider and forming a door.

A foul, disgusting creature emerged from the newly formed entryway. It was bent and twisted at odd angles, it’s skin the color of a corpse, the place where its eyes should have been were dark empty pits. I had never felt such terror or revulsion in my life. At least I hadn’t until it turned its hideous face towards me. It was then that I knew what true fear was. This was a primordial creature, one who had no real interest in the affairs of mortals or of the living, no matter what species or world they came from. This was a being that cared only for itself and its own gains.

It took longer than I’d like to admit until I was able to calm myself enough to begin speaking to The Dredge. Thankfully, Vim had reached up and squeezed my hand, which had always helped. “Dredge, I humbly ask for your help,” I began. Somehow, through the horror and the air which still seemed almost non-existent, I was able to explain what I wanted. When I was finished The Dredge opened its horrible mouth and began making a low rumble that quickly intensified into a higher pitched groan and then into a full on scream. It was a noise that I will never forget. It felt like it was both in my own head and everywhere else all at once. It was so loud and so utterly terrifying that it rocked me back on my heels and I also began to wail. I clapped my hands over my ears and squeezed my eyes shut tight. Next to me I could hear Vim whimpering pathetically. Then, as suddenly as it began, it was over. The air came back in a whoosh and I could hear birds again. I opened my ears and peeked over at Vim. He looked traumatized but otherwise unharmed.

“Did it work?” I asked anxiously.

“Look,” said Vim, “the gifts are gone. He accepted.”

“So Hobble won’t be a problem anymore, right?” I asked, no longer sure if going through that ordeal had even been worth getting rid of the beastly rascal.

“Right,” said Vim. “Hobble should be locked away in another dimension now where he can’t hurt you anymore.”

“And what about the price I have to pay? When will I know what it is?”

Vim’s fuzzy forehead creased as he thought about it. “I imagine soon. As far as I know, The Dredge has never taken long to call in a debt.” At this, he reached up for me to lift him off the ground. I had never really realized before that as I got older and taller, I was rapidly outgrowing his own little height. The thought made me sad as I pulled him into my arms.

He looked deep into my eyes. “One thing, though, Cara, that you must never do. No matter what happens. Do not go through a door that The Dredge has opened. Ever. No matter what. That won’t be his payment from you, don’t worry. But he will try to trick you. To make you go with him. In addition to being the gatekeeper to all of the dimensions, The Dredge is a collector of sorts. He collects souls and keeps them trapped behind doors he has tricked them into going through. But as long as you make your payment and don’t go through a door with him, we’ll be alright. You and me, we’ll be together forever.”

I buried my face in Vim’s soft fur and hugged him tighter than I ever had. It felt like maybe we could actually be ok.

That night as I laid down to sleep, I had a sudden resurgence of the terror I felt in the presence of The Dredge earlier that day, though it was admittedly muted this time.

I could hear The Dredge’s awful scream in my head, but it felt far away. I began to hear a voice too, almost too quiet at first to hear, though the volume rapidly ratcheted up to a near deafening level.

“Pathetic human child, you called upon me to banish a creature from your world forever. It has been done. Thus, payment is owed and must be made. From now until the end of your days, your dreams belong to me. When you slumber, all dreams, good or bad, belong to me. They will be of my design and will last as long as I wish. This is the payment, beginning tonight.”

The voice and scream ended abruptly. I felt a short burst of relief. That was it? He just wanted my dreams? Fine, he could have them. He said good or bad, so surely there would be some good ones in there too. Seemed like a small price to pay to be free of Hobble and to keep Vim forever. Sighing softly, I rolled in my bed to get comfortable for sleep, excited to tell Vim all about the payment The Dredge required in the morning.

Part 2

“Cara! CARA!”

I was woken up abruptly by Nurse Heidi. Drenched in sweat, I quickly sat up in my bed and wiped the damp hair out of my eyes and off of my forehead. Chest heaving, I looked up at Heidi and saw the concern in her face.

“It was happening again?” I asked.

“It was,” Heidi said gently. “I thought you were going to fling yourself out of your bed this time. I thought it best to wake you up.”

I nodded mutely at her and, suddenly remembering my manners, thanked her softly. She responded by squeezing my hand and giving me a small, sad smile. “Breakfast is still about an hour away. There’s time for a quick shower, if you’d like. Let me know if you want to and I’ll let you out” With that, Nurse Heidi left, leaving me and my thoughts all alone.

I knew I should get up and get a shower; get the sweat and sleep smell off before breakfast. Instead, I flopped back on my bed and stared up at my ceiling. The same ceiling I’d been staring at since I was 15 years old.

I live in the Lone Gateway mental health facility, two towns over from where my mom still lives and where I spent my childhood. It’s a decent place, considering it’s technically a loony bin. There are rules, of course, like no touching the other patients, designated shower times, and lights out at 9:30pm, but no one’s trapped in a straight jacket or padded room. I mean, there are locks on the doors of our rooms at night, but they do a good job of not making us feel like caged animals here.

I was brought here when I was 15 because my poor mother was at her wit’s end with me. I still had imaginary friends at that age, and though it was simply worrisome for awhile, I began hurting myself around age 14 and blaming it on the imaginary friends. One in particular, Hobble, I think I called him, was especially vicious, and caused me to do myself a fair amount of harm. My mom started taking me to doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists when the bruises and cuts started getting worse. Dissociative Identity Disorder was the first official diagnoses. When I insisted that the creatures weren’t me, that they were real and outside me, they threw in Schizophrenia as the next diagnoses. And then, when things only got worse, even with medication, they threw me in here, and that was that.

I’ve come a long way since then. I’m 17 now and have done a pretty good job of blocking these creatures out. I still see them from time to time, but I’ve gotten really good at simply ignoring them until they go away. I know they’re not real now. The only real problem I have left are these awful dreams. Dreams like the one Nurse Heidi saved me from this morning. They are vivid, nightmarish things. Dreams in which I have to watch horrible scenes like people I love dying in the most gruesome ways imaginable, and ones where I’m being tortured endlessly by a host of demonic creatures with green scaly skin and razor sharp teeth…

Last night’s dream was particularly brutal. I was trapped in a dim room, manacled to the wall with thick steel bracelets that had spikes all around the interior. If I moved my wrists at all, the cruel spines would jam into my flesh. Across the room, my mother was bound to a chair, gagged and blindfolded. She moaned every once in awhile, so I knew she was alive. One of those green creatures entered the room with a small dagger in his hands. He grinned at me with his wide, terrible mouth, and walked over to my mother. Staring straight into my eyes he asked, “Was it worth it, Cara?” and began stabbing my mother repeatedly in the face. While she screamed, I began thrashing against the cuffs as they bit into my wrists, sobbing, trying to reach her. As the spikes cut down to the bone, I heard a voice, ancient and terrifying, whisper, “You can make it end, Cara. Just go through the door.”

What door, I would never find out. Nurse Heidi had woken me up at that exact moment. It wasn’t the first time, though, one of these awful dreams had ended with that proposition. Sometimes, it would get to the point where a door would open in front of me. I could never see what was on the other side, but it always filled me with dread. However, as the dreams got more brutal, the door was beginning to seem like a viable option. Maybe I should go through just to see what was on the other side. Next time, I decided, I’d go through if I could.

Glancing at the clock on the wall, I saw that it was 7:45am; only 15 minutes left until breakfast. I had missed my window of opportunity to grab that shower without anyone knowing. Now I’d have to wait until my 11am designated time. Sighing, I rolled out of bed and went to change into some clean clothes.

At 7:55, I heard the familiar buzz of my room door unlocking. Now feeling rather famished, I pulled the door open and headed out into the hallway, quickly making my way down to the large dining room. As I rounded the corner, a bright pink, fluffy little creature bounded down the hall towards me.

“Cara! Cara! Please listen to me, Cara!” the little character cried out to me. I brushed past him, not even glancing his way. “He’s not real. Not real,” I muttered to myself.

“Cara, please wake up! Come back to me!” Annoyed now, I picked up my pace. The creature ran alongside me and repeatedly tried to grab my hand. “You’re sleeping, Cara! This is a nightmare! Wake up! Don’t go with The Dredge, Cara!”

At the sound of “The Dredge” a little flutter of fear touched my chest, though I didn’t know why. This only served to make me more angry. “Go away!” I shouted. “You’re not real! And I’m obviously not sleeping!”

An aide poked his head out of one of the rooms that I was passing. “Ok, Cara?” he asked. “Yes,” I snarled through gritted teeth. “Ok,” he said, raising an eyebrow at me. As he disappeared back into the room, I sighed with the realization that this little incident would likely mean my medication dosage would be upped again. “Dammit,” I muttered. An increased dosage meant I was even further away from getting out of here, not closer.

The next few weeks passed without incident in my waking hours. However, though I didn’t see the pink creature again, the nightmares only got worse. I began seeing a withered, twisted, gray, shrouded figure with a featureless face except for huge black pits where its eyes should have been. This monstrosity terrified me to my core. When it would begin screaming, it felt like I would die from fear. Usually, when it began screaming, one of those doors would appear again, and that voice would return. “Go through the door, Cara. End this.”

I kept trying to go through the door in my dreams, but it felt as though as I was moving through molasses. Before I could ever reach it, one of the nurses, usually Nurse Heidi, would wake me up. I was growing increasingly frustrated. I tried to tell them to let me sleep, to ignore my thrashing and screaming, but they ignored my pleas. Finally, I decided to take matters into my own hands. During my next visit with Lone Gateway’s resident psychiatrist, I told her I was struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep and that I could really use some medication to help.

“I don’t know, Cara,” she said with a frown. “I’m worried about how you may react on drugs like these with your disorders and your current medications.”

However, after working up some very convincing crocodile tears, telling her about my violent and terrifying dreams and begging her to give me something to help me stay asleep, she relented.

“Ok, Cara. I’ll prescribe you some sleeping pills. Just be aware, in conjunction with your other medications, they may cause some uncomfortable side effects. Things like hallucinations. If you experience anything like that, you need to tell me.”

Nodding, I thanked her profusely and headed to the pharmacy for my first dose. I was so hopeful that this might be what allowed me to dream in a deep enough state of sleep that I wouldn’t flop around and alert any of the nurses to my nightmares.

Just before lights out that night, I popped the sleeping pill straight into my mouth and snuggled down into my bed. As I was nodding off, a noise in the hallway disturbed me. I was about to shrug it off as someone getting back to their room a little late when a high pitched squeal came from outside my door. I jerked straight up, recognizing the noise from somewhere deep inside my memories. “Vim?” I wondered in my head. I didn’t know where I had come up with that name, but I knew I had to figure out what that noise was.

I peered out of the small window near the top of my door, but couldn’t see anything in the dim hallway. The only light came from the tiny nighttime lights in the ceiling spaced a few feet apart. Without thinking, I put my hand on the doorknob and pulled. To my utter surprise, the door opened with ease. Nervously, I peered into the hallway. It seemed like there was something at the end of it, but it was hard to tell. I desperately wanted to crawl back into bed, but something was driving me to figure out what that noise had been. I crept slowly towards the figure at the end of the hall, pausing every few steps to see if I could make out what it was any clearer. The silence in the hall was oppressive. I could hear the blood pounding in my ears from my anxious heart beat.

When I just about reached the end of the hallway, I could suddenly tell that what I had thought was a tall, spindly creature was really just a new coat rack that someone had put in the hallway. I let out a big breath that I hadn’t even realized that I had been holding. “Probably for doctors to hang their coats,” I thought to myself. “Stupid place to put it, really.”

It was then that I felt a chill sweep over my back and every hair on my neck stood straight up. I turned around slowly and found myself face to face with the ancient gray demon from my dreams. In his right hand he held the pink creature up by the ears. His poor little face was bloodied and his limbs twisted at wrong angles. I stumbled backwards and cried out in terror. The monster held the mangled pink animal out towards me and then drew out a large knife. Realizing that he meant to kill the little creature in front of me, I began screaming. Suddenly, a door appeared out of nowhere to my right. The pink character’s eyes flew open and he yelled, “No, Cara!”

But I heard the sandpapery voice saying, “Save him, Cara. Go through the door.” Though my heart was in my throat, I knew I had to take the chance. I dove through the door and…opened my eyes in my old bedroom. I could smell bacon cooking downstairs and could hear my mom humming to herself. The extreme juxtaposition of where I had just been and where I now was was jarring. I blinked a few times and shook my head and then heard a musical tinkling laugh come from behind me. I turned around and saw an angelic child smiling at me. “See, Cara!” it said with another giggle. I told you if you went through the door everything would be ok!” Stunned, I could only manage to gape around the room some more.

“Well,” the little cherub said, “you’re not exactly home yet. You have to go through the door for real, next time. Then you can really be home! Wouldn’t you like that?”

When I finally managed to nod, the golden child walked up to me and held out its arms for me to lift it up. As I lifted the child, not for the first time, I felt a strange ping in the back of my mind, like I was almost remembering something, but not quite. “Close your eyes,” the angel said. I obliged and felt tiny soft lips brush my eyelids. “Wake,” whispered the musical voice.

I woke up clutching my pillow in my room at Lone Gateway. When I realized where I was, I wanted so desperately to cry. That had all been a dream? I had been so close to being home. So close to this nightmare being over that the fact that I was back here was devastating. I pressed my palms into my eyes and tried to remember what the dream child had said. It had told me to go through the door for real next time. Next time? In my next dream? Who was that angelic being? And why had it sounded so terrifying on one side of the door, but so lovely on the other?

With all of these questions burning in my mind, I knew I’d never get back to sleep. I paced the room and waited impatiently until my door buzzed open for breakfast. Walking down, I was once again greeted by the pink half teddy bear, half cat creature that often plagued me. Seeing his face whole reminded me of how bent and broken it had been in my nightmare the night before. Shaking my head, I once again walked faster to try and outpace him. “I’ll have to tell the doctor that these meds are giving me hallucinations,” I said out loud.

“I’m not a hallucination, Cara! It’s me, Vim! This is our last chance! This isn’t real! You’re dreaming and sleepwalking!” I stopped abruptly and whipped around to tell him to leave me alone when something caught my attention in the corner of my eye. I looked around and saw the last thing I ever wanted to see again. The gray monstrosity from my nightmares stood at the end of the hallway, long knife in hand, low groan emanating from deep inside its chest.

“The Dredge,” I heard Vim whimper. “Cara, I’m begging you, don’t go through any doors.” Just then, what had simply looked like a crack in the wall began to rip open and a dark doorway formed. Freezing, dry, stale air blew out at me.

“No!” Vim wailed. I looked down at the furry pink creature and my nightmare from before leapt into my mind. “I think I have to, Vim. To save you from that,” I said, glancing back up at The Dredge, who had begun advancing. “It will be ok,” I said, as Vim clung to my hand, crying. “I went through in a dream last night. I got to go home. I was normal again. Everything will be ok.”

“Cara, no, please,” Vim sobbed. “You are dreaming now! YOU’RE SLEEP WALKING! Please wake up!”

“Come with me,” I said, scooping the little pink creature into my arms, as The Dredge came ever closer.

“Ok,” said Vim, still crying. “If that’s what I have to do to be with you again.” I smiled and kissed his little forehead and turned to go through the door when I felt Vim yanked out of my arms by an icy cold grip. I tried to grab him back, but The Dredge held him out of my reach. Though my heart was in my throat, I knew what I had to do. I dove through the door.

Part 3

I slowly opened my eyes as I struggled to wake up from my latest nightmare. It had something to do with being trapped in a mental hospital for years, though the details were already growing fuzzy. The gloom of another cloudy day did not make it any easier to wake up. As I glanced around the room I’d been sleeping in since I was a child, I realized that I should probably redecorate soon. There were still posters up of boy bands that had been broken up for years. Oh well, just another thing I needed to add to my list of things to do.

I swung my legs out of bed and put my feet down on the wooden floor. It was cold enough that I jerked my feet back into my warm bed. “Jesus,” I muttered to myself. “Why can’t I get this house any warmer? I’ll have to call a heating guy to come take a look at the furnace or something.”

I wasn’t looking forward to having to deal with that myself. A few mornings ago, I had awoken to a note from my mom saying that she would be visiting with her sister out of town for awhile and that she would be back soon and that I shouldn’t worry. I’ve tried calling her cell, but it just rings and rings and she never picks up. I’m not really that worried yet, though. My aunt lives way out in the boonies. She normally doesn’t have great cell service out there anyway.

I padded softly down to the kitchen for some breakfast. The cupboards were woefully bare. “Add shopping to the list of things to do today,” I grumbled. I managed to find a loaf of bread that was about 12 hours away from being inedible. As I munched on my stale toast, I went and stared out of the big bay window in our living room. It was so gray and cloudy out that it barely felt like it was actually daytime. This oppressive grayness had been stubbornly sticking around for days. I felt like it had started right around the time my mom left for her sister’s. It would figure that the days I was feeling lonely without my mom would be the nastiest days possible.

I wandered over to the TV to turn on the weather and see when I could expect the sun to return. I flipped the TV on and tried to get the weather channel, but every station was static. I turned it back off and flung the remote back on the coffee table disgustedly. Why was everything determined to break at the exact same time?

Snapping my fingers suddenly, I remembered I had the weather app on my phone that I could check. But I couldn’t find my phone, even after tearing the house apart looking for it. Feeling close to tears, I pressed my palms into my eyes until I saw stars behind my eyelids. After a few deep breaths, I decided I just needed to get out of the house. I had been in here for too long by myself with no company except for the ever-present gloom and chill that hung around the whole house.

Feeling like buying some food was the most important item on my to-do list, I went back into the kitchen to see what I needed. Everything was the answer. Even the quart of milk in the fridge had gone bad. I gagged when I opened it and gave it a whiff. “Gee, thanks for leaving suddenly with no provisions in the house for your only daughter, mom,” I snarled to no one in particular. I grabbed a handful of money from the jar she kept in the back of the pantry and headed out to the store.

It was only a short bike ride from our house, so I took my time. I didn’t see anyone out as I pedaled slowly down the street, but that was to be expected, I suppose. No one wanted to be outside in this nasty weather.

When I reached the store, it was pretty dead inside as well. I could see a few people hurrying around corners and rushing down aisles, always in the opposite direction I was headed. No one was talking. Not that it really bothered me. I wasn’t usually inclined to talk to other people anyway.

When I got to the checkout counter, the woman scanned my groceries robotically and didn’t say anything to me either. The silence was becoming so odd and oppressive that I attempted to engage her in some polite small talk while I bagged the groceries. But despite my best efforts with comments about the bleakness of the weather, I got nothing in return. Only a blank stare with no real life behind it.

Feeling even weirder and more lonely than ever before, I biked home quickly. Once back in the house, my sense of loneliness only intensified. I tried calling my mom again, but I still got no answer. I could feel a sense of panic rising in my chest. Why did everything just feel wrong? I closed my eyes and took some more deep breaths. When I opened my eyes, they fell on the DVD shelf across the room. “Perfect!” I thought. Even if the TV wasn’t working, I could watch a funny DVD. That would make me feel better. I selected one, popped it in, and curled up on the couch under a blanket. I did feel better while the movie was running, but as soon as it was over, the heaviness and dread reappeared almost immediately. I stared out the window hoping to see another person. Some kids playing ball, the mailman dropping off a package, someone walking their dog. But there was no one. I momentarily considered calling the police, but I had no idea what I would even say. “Excuse me officer, I think I’m having a mental breakdown because it’s cloudy out, my house is cold, my mom doesn’t have cell service, no one talked to me in the grocery store today, and no one is outside in this terrible weather.” Hearing myself say that in my head made me realize how ridiculous I was being. I gave myself a little mental shake and decided it was time for some dinner.

After whipping up a meal of all of my favorite things, I spotted a bottle of wine high up on a shelf. I only thought about it for a split second before I was grabbing a stool to get the bottle down. “Who cares if I’m only 17?” I thought. “This is what my mom gets for leaving a teenager alone in the house.”

I ate and drank myself into a near oblivion. Drunk, full, and tired, I dragged myself up the stairs and to my room. “ ‘S time for bed, I guess,” I slurred out loud. I pulled my pajamas on and crawled into bed. I searched under the covers for the little bright pink stuffed teddy bear that was really half bear/half cat that I slept with every night. I’d had it as long as I could remember. As I pulled it close into a hug, my fingers brushed over the scar on my arm from when the neighbor’s Cocker Spaniel bit me a few years back. I had had an extreme fear of dogs since then, but I was slowly getting over it. “Maybe I’ll go play with some puppies at the animal shelter, tomorrow,” I mused to myself. “Get some company and get over my fear of dogs at the same time. Kill two birds with one stone.”

Rolling over, I let out a huge yawn and closed my eyes. For a moment, I could have sworn I heard a pounding noise from very far away, like someone was knocking on a door loudly from a few houses down the street. As I was drifting off, it also sounded like a tiny, faraway voice was squeaking, “Cara! Cara, where are you?” I chuckled to myself. I had been hearing that same knocking and voice for a few nights now, but as I could never find any source of it, I guessed I must have been imagining it. And tonight I was certainly too tired and drunk to take another fruitless search around. “Oh well,” I thought, as I could feel myself being pulled into sleep. “At least the sun might be out tomorrow.”

The end

Credit: N. Christ

Underneath Reality

September 14, 2016 at 12:00 AM

When I was a kid, I had this recurring nightmare that always preceded the death of a loved one. It wasn’t quite a premonition – I didn’t know who was going to die, how they would die, or when – only that it would be within the next few days to a week. I had the dream a few times before I figured out the link between the dream and the deaths. These were ordinary deaths – elderly relatives, my grandfather’s terminal cancer, my aunt who lost a child during preterm labor. I grieved for each lost loved one.

The dream was short. It took place in this massive white room, so big that I couldn’t see the walls. Maybe there weren’t any walls. It was like I was looking through a rip in reality – more like I was seeing behind the fabric of the reality we live in, seeing the machine that operates our universe. I say machine because it felt so cold, so mechanical. In the vast nothingness of all white, I would see this gray, not-quite-steel cable, extending as far as the eye could see. On the cable was a massive black sphere. No light reflected off of this sphere. In this too-bright, white plane, the sphere was impossibly dark, as if it absorbed any light. The sphere would move swiftly along this cable, until suddenly, the rest of the cable would just vanish and the sphere would stop instantly, without any slowing. Then a wall would appear, a too-bright white wall that was indistinguishable from the rest of the too-bright whiteness, but I would know that it was there. On the wall, a name was printed. At least, I always assumed it was a name. I could never picture it after I woke up. This wall would only stay up for a split second, but it was an eternity. Everything around me would evaporate, and I’d have this feeling in my entire body that was a combination of pure weightlessness, the feeling you get when you’re about to fall, and utter, consuming dread.

In that split second, something – someone – ended. This was an absolute ending; there is no afterlife, no heaven or hell, after the certainty of this mechanism.

I would wake up gasping, crying, completely disoriented. The first time I remember having this dream was when I was 7, although it was already familiar to me then, so I’m sure I was even younger when it first started. I was raised Catholic, and was actually pretty religious when I was a kid. This dream was the antithesis of my entire religion. I tried to ignore it at first, tried to forget about this dream.

I had the dream a couple more times after that. When I was 9, I had it 3 nights in a row. Then my great-grandma passed away, and that night was dream-free. I realized what it meant, and tried talking to my parents about it. They chalked it up to grief and an overactive imagination. I tried talking to the school counselor about it. She talked to my parents. My parents were going through a rough patch, made worse by having to foster and provide for three of my cousins, plus my brother and I. I overheard things like, “seeking attention,” “acting out,” “maybe she got it from one of her books,” “needs more socialization.” I tried talking to our church’s priest about it too, who seemed very skeptical and just told me to have faith in God and pray more. After that, I learned my lesson and stopped talking about it.

The dream came again when I was 10, and I guessed (correctly) that it was my grandfather, who had been ill for some time with terminal brain cancer. I convinced my dad that they should go see him that weekend (he lived a couple hours away from us with his wife). My grandpa passed the night after they arrived.

I tried researching the dream, but unlike the movies, neither our school library nor our public library had many books about premonitions, the afterlife (aside from biblical texts), or anything supernatural. The internet wasn’t helpful either – this was in the 90’s. And not surprisingly, it’s hard to come up with relevant results for something like “big black ball precognitive dream death.” I did pick up dream interpretation as a hobby, and because of all the time I’ve spent digging into dream symbols, I’m pretty good at interpreting people’s dreams.

I had the dream again when I was 11 (great-grandma), then again when I was 13. This time the dream started nightly on September 4th, 2001. By the next week, I was very paranoid and freaking my parents out, mostly because I kept urging them to be careful, and telling them that I loved them approximately 100 times a day. They kept asking what was wrong, but I didn’t think they’d believe me, so I didn’t tell them. September 11th, 2001 happened, and I didn’t have the dream that night. I didn’t lose anyone close to me in the attacks, but it was a tragedy felt by the whole nation.

The next day, my mom asked me why I had been so weird all week, and all I told her was that I had a dream, that I knew something bad was going to happen, but I didn’t know who it was going to happen to or when. She didn’t say anything after that, but I got the feeling that she believed me and was a little scared of it.

I was just shy of my 14th birthday when the dream started coming again. I also had the flu, and was running a fever, so I’m not sure if that affected me and made me a little delusional but I spent about a week feeling like I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or not, even though I was awake. Two nights before my birthday, my fever peaked, and I went to bed early. The dreams were intense, alternating between my recurring dream and other, creepy black-and-white dreams that I’ve never been able to remember. What I do remember is sleepwalking. I’ve always been a sleep-talker but this is the only time I have ever sleepwalked. And I have lucid dreams quite often, where I’m able to change the dream that I’m in, and remember it, but this was completely different. I wasn’t in control of myself. I knew I was dreaming, but I was trapped inside myself, a spectator, helplessly watching as I walked around.

My house was different, too. The blinds and curtains were gone from the windows, and instead of the streetlamps and lawns outside, there was just black. A flash of light, similar to lightning, would go off and light up the blackness for a split second, but there was no ground, nothing to light up. The inside of the house was stripped bare, down to just the beds – no other furniture, no clothes, toys, towels, anything else that you normally see lying around a house. Everything was black and white, except the people – my family. I walked around, in my sleep, not in control but fully aware of what was going on, checking on all of my family members to see if they were alive. Once I had checked on all of them, I looked out this big window at the landing of the stairs, and when the lightning-like flash went off, I glimpsed the familiar cable and giant sphere in the distance. I felt this cold, unforgiving, omnipotent presence behind me, at the bottom of the stairs, and I knew that I had been found – something knew that I had seen behind the curtain, had seen the mechanics operating our world, and it was here to fix that problem. I turned to face it.

The next thing I knew, it was morning, the sun was shining through the blinds of my bedroom window, the birds were chirping outside (I’m not being dramatic, I remember this very clearly) and I was lying in bed. I felt great – my fever was gone, and the flu that had me in bed for a week had disappeared overnight. It was a beautiful morning, the stuff of fairytales (minus the singing birds and animals that help with chores), and I was utterly confused by it, because it seemed like a second ago, I had been nearly face to face with something that didn’t want me peeking behind that rip in reality. I was still filled with such dread, and I rushed downstairs to find my mom to ask if everyone was okay. Now that I think about it, I should probably apologize to my mom for that morning, because I’m sure I scared the hell out of her. The day before, I was so sick that I couldn’t keep any food down, and I had to alternate tylenol and ibuprofen just to keep my fever below 104. Then that morning, I was running around, looking much better, except I was obviously scared and asking if everyone was okay.

Everyone was fine. Everything was fine. But someone was still going to die, and I had no idea who. I spent the day frustrated and scared because I was powerless to stop whatever was going to happen, and even though that presence was gone, there’s not really a guarantee when it comes to forces that are far beyond mortal comprehension. I tried not to think about the sleepwalking – I was in no way ready to begin to wonder what happened there.

No dreams that night. I slept great, but I awoke with a heavy heart, because I knew what it meant. It was my birthday, but I was not celebrating.

Around 5pm that day, my mom came into my room and sat on my bed by me. She was trying to hold back sobs as she told me that a friend of mine was in his parents’ van, with his dad driving, his mom in the front seat, and his sister sitting next to him, heading into town the night before. For some reason (they think maybe an animal ran into the road), the van swerved and went off the side of the road, flipped upside down, and landed in the river. Several hours later, someone was driving by and saw frost on a tire that was barely sticking out of the water, and called it in. The family had all drowned.

It took me years to find an uneasy peace with what had happened. I felt such guilt, like I could have prevented it, like I could have stopped any of it. Losing my friend and his family was devastating to me. They were wonderful people, and although my friend and I were young, we could have been more than just friends eventually.

I never had the dream again. I’ve tried again and again to make some sense out of it, but I’ve never really found anything close to what I experienced. I know I didn’t cause any of these deaths, that I was just someone who, either by chance or for an unknown reason, saw through this immersive illusion we call reality, and got a glimpse into the mechanism behind it. I don’t feel like I was punished by the presence I felt – I think it simply closed up that rift that I was seeing through. I still don’t understand any of it; I don’t think we are able to understand. We just aren’t meant to.

Credit: WiltedRose52

A Haunted Dream

September 5, 2016 at 12:00 AM

A Haunted Dream | Creepypasta Film


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Credit: Michael Whitehouse, Calum MacPhail & Martin Yates

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