09 Dec Alive
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Estimated reading time — 32 minutes
Fear of the unknown… a fear that almost all humans feel, an outcome that is uncertain. The fear of darkness is something that is mysterious, something we experience every single night. Each and every person has their own nightmares they encounter throughout their life. But what exactly are they and what do they look like? Why can’t we recognize some people in our dreams? When we see an entity with a blurry face in our dream, is it someone we’ve never met?
In this story, you are about to read how a detective named Richard Laycox, often mentioned as Rick, will come face to face with the said problem, following an eerie night that will change his life forever…
Being a detective means sacrificing a lot in life, the biggest problem being balancing a family life alongside it. There are big chances the detective’s family might get hurt, and that’s why sometimes detectives decide to abstain from having one, and so they live their life alone… The following story tells what kind of consequences Rick will face as well as find the one and only reason to have a family.
Rick begins his career working as an ordinary police officer. After being on the job for a while, he is assigned to one of the hardest cases he has ever seen. Rick’s job is to investigate and study the case of the master executioner in the “Sleepwalkers” mafia, one of the most notorious groups of criminals around. At the age of thirty-one, he arrests the executioner, Mitch, and puts him behind bars. Mitch is sentenced to life imprisonment for all the heinous crimes he has committed, and shortly after solving the case, Rick is promoted to a detective for his stellar work, now known as one of the best detectives in Blackbert City.
What is he ready to do to solve the problems that await him?
It all begins with a single 911 call. Someone reports a gunshot heard next door. The police hastily make their way to the specified location. Detective Richard arrives at the crime scene, sent to investigate the case. He enters the room and sees a man lying down on a table. As he explores more of the scene, he finds out that there are no neighbors in the building. Therefore, the emergency call becomes immediately suspicious.
Rick’s eye is caught by a tape recorder next to the dead body. He turns it on and hears a male voice saying “I can’t take this anymore” followed by the echoing sound of a gunshot. He goes to the other policemen and asks if anyone has touched the tape recorder. Everyone denies. Rick remembers that he had only pressed the ‘play’ button to listen to the tape recorder and not the “rewind” one. He straightforwardly knows that the tape is a decoy for murder set up as a suicide by a very skilled killer.
Rick leaves the building and encounters the chief officer at Blackbert City Police Department, Jerylin, an African-American woman. She tells Rick that it’s Christmas and that he should go home to spend more time with his family and get some rest as he has already made too much effort for the day.
Located in the suburbs of Blackbert, lives the Laycox family. On the beautiful Christmas Eve, Rick, along with his wife Ashley and their six-year-old daughter, Amygail, celebrate Christmas time together. While celebrating, enjoying Christmas dishes and talking to each other, on the TV screen is a live broadcast on the “Sleepwalkers” mafia, showing one of the local markets in Blackbert being sabotaged. After a moment the faces of the main members of the mafia, Martin Di Fatta, Mitch Caulton, and Zander Maddison (founded by Martin; the name being made up regarding the fact that he never sleeps, hence a “Sleepwalker”) are shown, too. The criminals are seen moving towards the TV reporter and the cameraman and obliterating them. Rick is terrified of the situation because he recognizes explicitly one of their faces, the master executioner, Mitch. He is shocked to see him out of prison.
Amygail asks her father what’s going on, but he tells her not to worry and that everything is fine. A few moments later, Amygail goes to her room, then comes back playing with the music box that Rick had bought her when they were at a carnival.
After some time, Rick can no longer control himself because of what he had just seen on the broadcast, so he fumes at his daughter, explaining that that is no toy, but a music box. He grabs it and goes to her room, intending to put it away. But as he goes up the stairs, his nose catches a bizarre, yet familiar smell. Approaching his daughter’s room, he feels the scent getting sharper. Having reached the door, he sees smoke trails underneath it. He puts his hand on the doorknob, but at the first touch, he is forced to pull back his hand… For some reason the doorknob is heated up. Quickly he gives it another shot, twists it and what he sees is terrifies him: smoke, flames and a wave of heat meet his face.
Rick calls for his wife, asking her to immediately call 911 as he goes inside and tries various ways of extinguishing the fire, but it is uncontrollable. In his rush to think of ways to gain control over it, he drops his daughter’s music box on the floor. Met with no success, he decides to rush out of the room and downstairs to inform his family that there is a fire. They report it to the authorities and ask them to send help, but the telephone line is interrupted. Rick tries to find a way to get his family out of the house but fails. The flames grow and spread rapidly, and within seconds, cover most of the upstairs floor. As Rick gets lost in thinking of how to approach the situation and is filled with adrenaline, a part of the house collapses and lands right in front of him.
Separated from his wife and daughter by the burning debris, Rick yells at them to stay calm and that he will find a way to get them out. As he twists and turns in panic, figuring out what to do, one of the building’s support beams collapses under the heat, hits him in the head and knocks him down, unconscious. Once Rick awakes everything is blurry in front of him. Laying down on the floor, he suddenly feels a hand grab his arm, belonging to one of the firefighters, who rescues him as the rest of the rescue forces make their way into the house. Together they pick Rick up, but as they drag him out of the smoldering remains of his living room and into safety, Rick sees his wife and daughter still locked inside, knocking on a window for help. Unable to do or say anything apart from some mumbling, they close him up in the back of the ambulance, sirens blaring while making their way to the nearest hospital.
The Worst Nightmare
After the event, Rick wakes up in the local hospital and tries to remember the past events. In the room he is situated, he sees a nurse and his sister, Rachel. He immediately asks his sister where his wife and daughter are, but she does not reply. He asks her the same question once again, this time in a much more anxious tone, but as she is about to answer, they get interrupted by his partner Aleksei entering the room.
He is happy to see that Rick is awake since he had been in a coma for several days. Once more, Rick poses the same question, but this time directed at his partner, Aleksei, asking where his wife and daughter are. Aleksei tells Rick that he needs to rest and he will be informed about the situation once his mind is cleared, afterward suggesting that everyone leaves and gives Rick some time alone.
As he makes his exit, Aleksei turns on the TV so that Rick is not bored. The tv is set to show the local news channel, and displays a statement at the bottom: “The house of detective Richard Laycox set on fire!”. The news reports that he is housed in a local hospital, but his daughter and his wife were found too late and passed away in the fire. Rick does not believe what he hears and starts to panic. He tries to get up but is unable to do so. As he pushes his upper body forward, he realizes he is restrained to the bed. The nurse, Rachel, and Aleksei enter the room and try to calm him down, but to no avail. Rick starts screaming and having fits of panic, followed by an attempt at throwing himself out of bed with his full body force. The nurse quickly reaches for an injection to put him back to sleep.
Entering the dream world, Rick finds himself with Ashley and Amygail in a local park. He sits next to his wife on a bench while Amygail is on the swing. While they are talking, they hear a mighty squealing coming from the direction of the swing as their daughter cries out: “Dad! Daddy! Dad! “. As he is about to get up from the bench to see what is happening, he wakes up and sees a black silhouette of his daughter repeating: “Dad!, Daddy!, Dad!,” but the silhouette vanishes the moment a bolt of lightning hits the ground. He notices the restraints are no longer there, gets out of his bed and sees that the room he is situated in now looks much more different. Something seems strange to him, for as Rick gets up, he becomes aware that he is not in his hospital clothes, but outfitted in his work attire. He yells for his sister Rachel and is met with nothing but silence.
Darkness, cold, and emptiness are what Rick sees and feels. He leaves his room cautiously and once more calls out if anyone is there, yet again met with nothing but his own voice echoing down the halls of the hospital. After having left his room to investigate what is going on, his daughter’s silhouette appears again, which Rick tries to follow along the way. He walks around to looks for any sign of life, but the building looks twisted, black and there’s blood everywhere.
It looks like there had been a massacre, but not a single body lies on the floor. Rick is in shock and does not know what’s going on. As he slowly walks through the halls, he hears a loud shatter from a door nearby. In fear, he opens the door and sees a shadow of a man being killed and blood is shed only on the shadow. As he turns around to check his surroundings, he sees a doctor who works at the hospital running in panic and throwing objects around. Rick goes over to him, sees the doctor’s blood and asks him what is going on there, why he is injured. The doctor tells him that the shadows had attacked him and are chasing him down. As he finishes his sentence, a specter with no defined appearance enters the doctor’s mouth, and he then starts to scream with pain.
Rick watches the doctor’s skin become dark and quickly makes his way into the room he had just entered to hide behind the table. The doctor’s skin becomes even darker, and it begins to look like he’s being overtaken and transformed. All around the doctor’s body grow small shadowy tentacles, as he can no longer control himself. His face becomes blurry, and his hands a bit longer than usual. The movement of this creature does not seem human-like, and fumes with hostile intent. As Rick is crouched behind the table, he cannot believe his eyes and what had just happened. Before he could come to his senses, he sees the entity turn its head towards him. Having noticed Rick hiding behind the table, it charges towards him.
Fortunately, in his work uniform, Rick has his tools on him, and as he reaches for a knife from the belt, he decides it’s ‘kill or be killed.’ As he stabs the haunted creature multiple times, it shatters in a million pieces and vanishes into thin air.
Rick is totally shocked by what unfolds before his eyes and decided it is time to get the hell out of the hospital. While exiting the room and silently making his way through the building, he encounters more of these haunted creatures. Rick sees an elevator and decides to make a run for it. In his rush, he presses every button in there, and the elevator takes him three floors below. The doors open and as he exits and walks down the corridor, he sees the black silhouette of his daughter appear once more, signing that he should follow it.
Suddenly it comes to a stop and vanishes before his eyes. Rick turns his head around to see where it has taken him and notices that on his right there are huge windows, covered by torn up white curtains, swaying up and down, as if they are being blown by the wind, but he feels not a single gust of air. On one of the windows, his wife appears in a half-form of a silhouette, with burns on her body. He sees her head twisting at a very high speed and knows that he’s experiencing the worst nightmare he’s ever had. He tries to approach the window, but as he gets closer, she vanishes. He looks behind and spots a similar black creature to the one he had previously encountered, but this time its magnitude is much higher. Around him, he notices something similar to a fire, but it’s made out of a black shadow, and a lot of dark and twisted hands start engulfing his body.
Suddenly the whole building begins to shake. As Rick turns to looks back at the elevator for a way out, he notices that it had disappeared and is now just one extended hallway engulfed by shadowy flames. He decides to run in the opposite direction from the massive creature behind him, as it tries to grab him with its long, dark, twisted hands, but he dodges out of the way.
As everything around him falls to the ground and starts to break, Rick sees a single window at the end of the corridor and jumps through it. While he falls, he sees the creature looking down at him from the window as it has missed its opportunity. He turns his gaze back to the ground, but there is no bottom. Everything turns to light. Suddenly, Rick wakes up and realizes that it had just been a dream.
Insanity or Reality?
After Rick wakes up, he realizes that it had just been a dream, but it’s not clear to him how it felt so… real, as if he were in the existing world. He turns his head and sees his sister Rachel, and asks her how long he was sleeping. She tells him that he had only been asleep for a few minutes and that they had to give him an injection that would put him to sleep in the first place, so he could calm down. She tells him that his daughter and wife were found dead in the house and Rick begins to cry. Unable to believe the terrible news, he starts to blame himself.
While talking, the television news broadcast reports something very odd. On the same night when the detective’s house was burnt down, the deadliest mafia member Mitch has been found dead nearby. The news reporter declares that he had died of an overdose. Rick starts to boggle his mind about what might have happened that night, but his sister breaks his train of thought by suggesting that they go to the graveyard together, to the place where his daughter and wife are buried. After reaching the cemetery as they walk towards the graves, Rachel tells him in details what had happened that night. Rick again blames himself for the situation, but his sister tries to convince him that it had just been an accident. Rick doubts it.
When they finally arrive at the graves, Rick still has a hard time believing what is happening and starts to break down. He begins to recall all the joyous moments he had had with his wife and daughter as tears start pouring down his cheek. His sister tries to calm him and tells him that he will be fine and that he should stay at her place because he doesn’t have anywhere else to go.
While she speaks to him, Rick falls deeply into thought. As Rick stares at one of the other nearby graves, where his colleague Brian is buried, he sees himself in the grave through the shadow of the funeral plaque, and it’s as if a black figure passes. His spiral of emotions and thoughts gets interrupted when Rachel touches his shoulder and asks if he has heard what she was telling him, Rick returns from his thoughts and confirms. After they leave the cemetery, Rick and Rachel get into her car. While she drives, Rachel tells Rick that he can make himself at home at her place, that he’s her brother after all, but in the middle of her sentence, Rick begins to lose consciousness. As he does, his sister turns to him and cries out his name, but to Rick, she doesn’t appear the same as before. Rachel looks just like the creatures from his dream, completely dark and shadowy.
Rick is afraid, and his sister again notices that he has slipped away from reality. She asks whether he is listening to her. Rick starts to explain what he dreamed of and that the same thing is happening right then and there. Rachel is tired and thinks that what Rick sees is only a coping mechanism because he has experienced a tragic event and tells him that she will bring him to one of the best psychiatrists, Carl. Rachel tells him that Carl will take care of him.
As soon as they arrive, Rachel introduces Rick to Carl, and from then on, she leaves them alone. Rick explains to Carl that what he sees seems realistic and that this place he dreams of is dark, cold, and empty. Carl puts the metronome on the table and tells him to breathe along with the ticks he hears. Carl explains to Rick that it had just been a dream and that the unusual things he saw are a consequence of the tragic event he experienced. As the metronome begins to tick, Rick starts drifting off, and the psychiatrist suddenly disappears as he is speaking.
Rick enters that other world again. He does not understand what is happening and goes out of the psychiatrist’s office. As he opens the door of the clinic to explore the surroundings, he sees that it leads to a forest. Rick explores the woods and finds more of those same haunted creatures. This time, he has his gun with him, and there’s a flashlight attached underneath it. Barely able to wield the weapon, his hands shake from all the things he had been going through of late. As he manages to get a hold of himself, he aims the barrel of the gun, flashlight underneath it, at a figure closing in on him. The figure stops in his tracks and suddenly lets out an eerie shriek, though Rick hasn’t fired a single bullet yet. His mind pieces it together, and he figures that everything has a weakness, and for a world covered in darkness, the weakness could only be its complete antipode – light.
Rick notices the other figures were attracted by the loud shriek. He shoots at them and disables them successfully, though, to his shock, temporarily. The areas of their shadowy figures which Rick managed to hit, tear up and fade away, but as they fall to the ground afterward, their parts are regenerated, and they reanimate. Rick figures that for now, he may have found a weakness but not one that is able to end them. Rick makes a run for it while the figures are in the process of their regeneration, realizing he only has so many bullets in the clip and it’s pointless to waste them all on a futile task.
After some exploration of the forest, Rick finds a cabin and enters it with caution. Inside, after making sure the area is clear, he finds a piece of paper in the kitchen drawer with a message: “Silver is their biggest weakness.”. Next to the sheet, there is a box of hollow point silver ammunition. As he stares at the box, his mind recalls what happened in the hospital when he stabbed such a haunted creature with his knife, and it shattered into thousands of particles. He figures that the knife he has must be made of silver and is given to him by his father who had once been a policeman, just like him.
When Rick leaves the cabin, after a short time he encounters a wolf, but something seems odd about it. It is not black, like the other shadowy creatures, so he figures he is looking at another living being. Suddenly the wolf notices Rick’s existence, turns its head towards him and starts to growl. As it hovers toward him, its fur starts transforming. It appears false hope had struck Rick. The creature slowly turns black, just like everything else in this forsaken place.
Rick fires his gun, loaded with the silver ammunition he had just picked up. At the point of impact where the bullet connects, a visible black wound appears, looking as if the wolf’s skin is burnt, accompanied by a loud howl from the creature. It charges towards Rick, teeth showing and charging at full speed. After shooting several more bullets, the wolf shatters into many parts.
Following some exploration of the forest, Rick encounters some more haunted creatures, mainly wolves, although, along the way, he also notices silver bear traps which at first scare him. But Rick starts to lose that feeling, coming to terms with the fact that whatever this place is, everything he encounters will likely result in a ‘kill or be killed’ scenario.
On his way, a haunted man appears who speaks in a distorted voice and says to Rick that he should never have come here. Rick is ready to shoot anything he encounters at will, but before drawing his firearm, he notices something off about this man. He wields a hunting rifle strapped to his back, his leg has a visible wound, and on his body, there’s a bloody bear paw as if he’s carrying a trophy from his hunt. Up until now, all the haunted creatures that had attacked him had no weapons or showed any signs of communication. The haunted man stumbles towards Rick and suddenly comes to a stop right in front of him.
After Rick fights down that haunted man, and as he shatters, a light appears, and Rick wakes up in the psychiatrist’s office. He notices that both Rachel and Carl are sitting near him, both of their eyes glued to him, patiently waiting to hear what had just happened. Rick, covered in sweat and still not done panting, tells Carl that he’d seen the same world again, but this time he was in the woods nearby. Rick tells Carl that this time he had not only seen those haunted human-like creatures, but he’d also seen a variety of animals that displayed the same hostile behavior as everything else he had encountered. After explaining what exactly had happened along the way, he tells Carl that near the end, he saw something that looked like the shadowy figures, but appeared to be a hunter. Carl replies with confusion and says that what Rick is experiencing is just a nightmare, that such things are impossible.
After the event in the psychiatrist’s office, Rick decides to go to the police station to find out more about Mitch’s death. Having arrived there, Rick goes to his own office where he encounters his partner, Aleksei. He tells him about what he’d experienced so far, and Aleksei displays concern about Rick’s wellbeing. Meanwhile, Rick asks him if he has any information about Mitch’s death, to which he replies that according to the autopsy it has been confirmed that he died of a drug overdose. Aleksei tells Rick that the symbol Mitch carried on his hand had a strange form and that his body is in the morgue. Rick says he’ll check it out and let him know.
Paying a quick visit to the office armory, Rick picks up a shotgun as reinforcement, after which he leaves the police station to go to the morgue where Mitch’s body is being held. Rick’s exceptional skills, acquired over the span of his career, have a significant role during the investigation of this case. At the end of the research, Rick wants to check Mitch’s hand.
On his hand is the symbol of the mafia. Inside a circular shape – half sun, half-moon, there is a tree, whose half on the side of the sun is blooming, and the other half is withering. As the tree moves downward and enters the moon, it starts to look more and more sere. Around the circle, there are seven runes, each representing one of the seven deadly sins. Every member of the “Sleepwalkers” mafia has the symbol tattooed on the outer part of their palm or on their wrist and thus give the oath of loyalty.
What’s odd about this particular case of the symbol on Mitch’s body is that it looks like it’s been burned into his skin, not tattooed beneath it. Rick touches the emblem, and suddenly the world around him changes. As he is being transferred to the outer world, the drawers of refrigerators, in which the other dead bodies from the morgue are stored, begin to open and close rapidly.
Rick enters this outer world once more. He leaves the morgue, and as the door opens, a great light suddenly appears, but when Rick gets a clear vision, he is baffled. He finds he has ended up in the courtyard of the hospital for people with mental illnesses, known as Mirror Lake. As Rick enters the hospital to investigate his surroundings, he once more encounters many haunted creatures, but this time they are outfitted in white doctor’s uniforms. After Rick defeats them, he investigates the hospital and finds material that contains information about Mitch. In that documentation, he reads about the history of Mitch’s life.
“At the age of 17, in Blue Land, Mitch killed his parents while they were asleep. After doing so, he called the police to turn himself in for murder. He was immediately arrested. Because he had always said that he had done this because of the nightmares, he was sent to Mirror Lake Mental Asylum. While being housed there, he’s killed every single person in the facility, but it is said that there had been someone who collaborated with Mitch. There is currently no trace of that person.”
After Rick reads the information, he hears an object moving and instinctively pulls the gun to check it out. Rick notices that something moves at a tremendous speed, but he cannot see it, because it’s faster than the blink of an eye. As that “something” stops near him, out of nowhere, Mitch appears, who grabs Rick’s gun-wielding hand and paralyzes him. Rick is unable to believe what he’s witnessing. He feels his whole body get paralyzed and is left unable to act. Mitch, just like every other being in this world is completely dark, but unlike theirs, his face has a human-like form. Only around the eyes, there are black stains, one of his eyes being yellow, while the other brown.
Rick and Mitch are former greatest rivals. Mitch is the executioner of the “Sleepwalkers” mafia, and Rick was the one to put Mitch behind bars, thereby earning his promotion to detective. Mitch tells Rick that the call he received for the suicide case was actually him committing the murder. The call was just something to draw Rick’s attention, while Mitch prepared himself to set his house on fire as a sign of revenge. He tells Rick that he enjoyed the “show,” as he watched his wife and daughter burn and scream to death. His goal is, as much as he can, to provoke Rick because he knows where his greatest pain lies.
Shortly after, Mitch throws Rick’s gun on the ground, pulls out his black knife and tells him that the same fate as his family awaits him. To mock Rick, he releases him from paralysis, unknowing of Rick’s concealed weapon. He quickly and efficiently pulls out his silver knife and parries Mitch’s black one before it could pierce his body. As they collide, the blade of Mitch’s knife shatters, and he quickly teleports to another location, warning Rick to watch his back.
After the confrontation between them, Rick encounters problems that need to be solved to reach him. Soon, having settled this multitude of problems, Rick reaches Mitch. It’s still not clear to him whether he’s dead, so Mitch denies it. Following their short conversation, they both face one another to finally settle their rivalry once and for all. Once Mitch is eliminated, he evaporates in particles, the light reappears, and Rick returns to the real world.
Beyond Good and Evil
Rick returns to the police station. He tries to find Aleksei to tell him about what he had seen. He fails in doing so, for Aleksei had already gone home. While Rick is in the police station, it’s time to find out more information about the “Sleepwalkers” mafia. He enters Aleksei’s office and tries to find some clues because he knows that he had been there at the crime scene when Mitch was found dead. Searching through the office, Rick comes across many documents among which there is one with details about Mitch. As he returns them, his eye catches a record that he doesn’t know about. It contains information Aleksei has gathered about a laboratory located in Novgorod. The record contains information from the moment he learns about such a laboratory until the moment he was thrown out of the case, even though he had never really given up. Even though Aleksei was already kicked out of his native country, it was his goal to resolve the mystery that was behind this particular case.
As Rick reads what his partner had written down, he moves on to the pictures. Suddenly one of the photos of the laboratory shifts into a shadow and Rick returns to the same dark world. This time he is in the police station, which is completely destroyed but replicated from the real world.
Rick goes through the police station, but as he walks, he enters some tunnels. Rick passes through the tunnels and suddenly finds himself in the same place he saw in the photos, that is the laboratory Aleksei has researched. As Rick investigates through it and uncovers the mysteries hidden in the lab, one of the documents reads that the laboratory was used for experiments on people who wanted to link several bodies in one, to make a living mutation. While Rick is reading all of this, a spider-shaped creature moves on the wall, much larger than any he has met before.
Three human bodies connected as one; the central body part, having two heads, one on the front, one on the back. On each side of its body, there are three hands. Above the thorax, there is a carrier body in an undefined form, that resembles a sphere in which the other two bodies are connected. In the middle of that spherical form is the third head, which is the central core of the creature and looks humanoid.
Rick barely manages to defeat the creature. After he has beaten the beast, Rick goes deeper into the laboratory and hears shooting. From the location where the shots are coming, he sees a man running. That man is Aleksei. Rick is confused because he had not seen many real human faces in that world until now; the only one he had met so far had been the doctor in the hospital he watched transform into a dark being. He tries to explain to Aleksei about what he’d learned from the laboratory, to which Aleksei replies that he already knows. Rick and Aleksei together as a team move through the laboratory and face the haunted creatures of that world.
As they go deeper into the laboratory, suddenly, the same black creature that Rick saw in the hospital appears. The same large form, a black flame around him, black hands protecting his body. Rick does not run this time. Having gained knowledge about this world’s beings from his previous encounters, he is confident, having a weapon with ammunition that has been proved to kill such atrocities. But after hitting multiple shots, he sees that nothing happens to the dark creature. It does not die like the other ones, and Rick is confused. The big creature summons an undefined specter figure and vanishes. The specter moves at a tremendous speed, leaping straight into Aleksei’s mouth. Rick sees a repeat of what he saw in the hospital.
Aleksei suddenly starts to tremble and transform all over from the specter’s influence and the dark world, turning into one of those haunted creatures. He loses all sense, becomes aggressive towards Rick and attacks him. Rick is reluctant to defend himself, he tries to calm Aleksei down and does not want to retaliate because he knows who is hiding behind the dark specter. Rick gets put into a corner with nowhere else to go, he has no choice but to defend himself with his knife. He cuts up Aleksei’s transformed body, which in turn makes the specter more and more aggressive. Given no other choice, Rick eventually decides to eliminate it. As Rick ends the being, the undefined apparition dies and with it, so does the body that had been overtaken. Aleksei passes in the real world as well.
Hidden in Plain Sight
After Aleksei dies, his funeral the next day is attended by his family and Rick. During the ceremony, Rick is worried about what might have happened and how Aleksei could have died in his sleep, with a bullet passed through him. While Rick is lost in thought, he starts to hear whispers, turning into voices, and suddenly the world begins to shift and once more he is in that cruel, dark world. He gets up and goes to the place where Aleksei’s body is covered, but the body is gone, and Rick is confused. While he stares in confusion, behind him appears the silhouette of his daughter, which tells Rick to follow her. Rick does as he is told, but from time to time he sees a vision of his wife, the same one he saw at the hospital. Over time, he gets a flashback from the fire in his house and his family burning.
Rick faces his biggest nightmare because he’d just lost his partner, Aleksei, and his family, but somehow manages to calm down. He continues to follow the silhouette of his daughter who leads him to an abandoned building of medium size. Rick enters it and faces one of those undefined specters. However, right before it attacks him, someone behind it shouts for help. The specter changes the direction to that man, takes him, and turns him into a haunted creature. Rick successfully defeats it.
He further explores the insides of the building and finally enters the cellar. Down there, he notices something completely different: the floorboards. Rick notices that it does not look like an ordinary basement: the boards are painted in a different color and finds a door in the floor, tied to a chain, that leads somewhere. He cuts the chain, opens the door and goes down the stairs. Once Rick descends, he is in an underground cemetery, some sort of catacombs. He is confused as to why the building is connected to such a structure.
While down there, he finds inscriptions which read “The big haunted man with many hands, shaped by shadows around him,” and several undefined apparitions. On the wall carvings, he sees what the world looks like, and some kind of people with black coats and crow masks on their faces. When Rick rotates the knob on the wall 180 degrees, that world now looks just like the real one. Rick recalls the moment when he defeated the creature and the giant being called the undefined specter in front of his eyes that overtook his partner.
After recalling all of this, Rick finds out that the world in which he is and the real world are connected and that he is the cause of Aleksei’s death – he was the one who killed him! Rick falls to the ground on his knees, devastated by what he has done, and begins to feel guilty of all that has happened. Once more, his daughter’s silhouette appears, and Rick follows it, but that’s the only thing that’s not clear to him. As he follows, he finds himself in a vast room, and the silhouette vanishes.
He hears some voices and quickly hides to see what is going on in the distance. From afar, he sees people in black mantles gathered in a circle, doing some kind of a ritual. At that moment, one of the undefined black apparitions silences the voices, and the rest of them seize one of their bodies, making it impossible for it to move. The voices stop and in front of Rick appears the one, represented as the master of the world. Rick suddenly returns to the cemetery, at the moment of the funeral ceremony of his partner Aleksei, to the real world.
When the ceremony ends, they leave the cemetery and Rick sees the same building which he entered in the other world. He sees an ambulance in front of him. Rick strives to see what is happening and sees something he had forgotten before. That one man who shouted for help back in the other world is found dead, and thus Rick knows that both worlds are directly connected, therefore every action he takes in the other world also affects reality.
Rick goes to his sister’s house. He tells her about the experience he had during the funeral. Finally, Rachel begins to believe him. Rick recalls that his sister is an archivist and asks her for help gathering more information about the “Sleepwalker” mafia. She tells him to go to the attic because she keeps all her newspapers and videotapes up there. He climbs upstairs to search around in some boxes and after a while finds a box containing the newspapers as mentioned earlier and videotapes. He opens one of the papers and sees Zander’s massacre combined with an image of where his first crimes had taken place.
Rick takes one of the videotapes and sees Zander torturing a squirrel. As he fast forwards through the tape, Rick sees occasions where Zander tortures people as well, afterward ending their life, all of which he records onto a videotape. Being left disgusted by what he had just seen, Rick gets down from the attic and nervously approaches Rachel. He asks her where she got the videotapes, to which she rebukes that the video records were left by some unknown person a long time ago and that she that they mustn’t be seen by anyone. Rick assures her that everything will be fine and that he will take care of it.
Rick goes to sleep, but after a while, he hears footsteps, and when he opens his eyes he sees many of the haunted creatures he has previously seen. Rick cannot move or speak, but he can only see. Surrounded by all sides, as they begin to approach him, Rick shifts to the other world and the creatures disappear. He comes out of the room, and after opening the door, he is in Lochedge, the location where Zander committed his crimes. He is on a farm that has a vast amount of scarecrows, for reasons unknown.
As he moves through the village, he feels that something is wrong, because it is quiet and it’s unusual in that world for it to be so. After a while, the loud sound of a chainsaw is heard blaring through the air, and as Rick looks behind, he sees Zander, who is twice his size. He starts running, quickly turning it into a sprint across the farm’s field and entering a barn to hide. As Rick makes it inside and barricades the door, the sound of the chainsaw stops. It remains silent for a while, Rick being confident enough that Zander has left, he decides to leave the barn.
As he exits, he sees those haunted creatures again and faces them. This time there are not only specters but also animals shaped by dark apparitions which represent the nightmares of Zander; every animal and every man that’s tortured and killed by him, but nothing can stand in Rick’s way.
In the end, he reaches a large wooden gate. Before entering, he hears the sound of a hammer. Rick thinks he had seen all the horrifying capabilities of this world, but yet another gruesome scene presents itself before him. As he enters the gate, he sees that living people are being tormented by various devices. The combined noise of people screaming, crying and bones cracking echoes through the room. At the end of the room stands Zander, keeping a man captive, crushing his hand with a hammer and with his bare hands ripping the nails straight from his fingertips. Rick loudly shouts Zander’s name. He interrupts Zander’s work and charges towards him, but this time Rick is encouraged and will not run away because he does not want to face the nightmare again. Rick overcomes Zander, and so he wakes up again in the real world, in which Zander dies at the same time. Zander had forgotten to use synthetic drugs to stay awake, and so Martin remains alone.
The Nightmare Realm
When Rick returns to the real world, he wants to find out more information about the other world, the world by which he is surrounded all the time. He recalls an essential detail from when the accident happened, the fire in his house. He remembers that when he’d exited his daughter’s room, the music box fell from his hands. Rick starts to gather pieces of the puzzle, starting from the music box and the way it looked, all the way to the marked symbol on Mitch’s hand. He realizes that the element of the music box he gave to his daughter is on the marked part of Mitch’s hand. Rick also remembers that he bought the music box from a carnival he had previously visited with his daughter, as she loved the gift too much and that Rick had no other choice but to buy it as her Christmas present.
Rick immediately heads off to the carnival and tries to find the person whom he purchased the gift from. When he arrives at the carnival, he enters a red tent to ask about the music box. Rick cannot see whom he is talking to, because it is too dark. The only light source is the candle that is placed on the table itself, dimly lighting the surroundings. He only sees white frizzy hair, because the person to whom the tent belongs to has a cloak on her head. He listens to a sharp female voice explaining to him what the music box actually is and she tells him that everything is his fault. The cloaked person states that the music box is part of a ritual. The candle’s flame extinguishes, Rick is frightened and runs out of the tent. Before he knows it, he starts shifting to the other world, but this time “not by his own will.” He has once more entered the world of nightmares. In there he faces many haunted creatures from the carnival, and after having eliminated them, the creatures of the past nightmares begin to emerge around him. The animals and villagers that Zander has killed, the doctors who Mitch has killed at the hospital, the mutations about which Aleksei tried to find out.
Rick, affected by his deep agony, eliminates everything that stands in his way, after which he reaches the park of the carnival and encounters a dead end. He gets attacked by a throng of apparitions and haunted creatures. Rick attempts to retaliate by firing his flare gun in front of him to make a small barrier. The specters, once aggressive, suddenly become passive and retreat. A strong screeching is heard from nearby, followed by an echo of the steps. The big black creature with shadowy arms around him comes, and his name is Jack. He passes straight through the flare barrier, unaffected by it, leaving Rick terrified. Jack gives a command to the apparitions to retreat. Rick is flabbergasted at what is going on. At that moment Jack stretches out his left hand, and on it with his right hand begins to form small shadows showing 3 figures in a shape of people moving.
There is a crossfire between his gang and another English gang. All the other members die, except him. Jack succeeds in saving himself, and he finds the old pagan lady, Anastasia. She promises to save him and that she can pull him out of the situation, giving him a necklace with a symbol that was found on Mitch’s hand (Half-moon and half sun with a big tree in the middle that separates them. The left part of the tree is withering where the moon is and, the right part of the tree is blooming, where the sun is. The whole circle is surrounded by seven runes that mark the seven deadly sins). The necklace he receives is cursed, and it means that he will not be able to die, but after he dies, he will go to that other world and be reborn. He goes from England to Blackbert City.
After a year, he meets Martin and founds the “Sleepwalkers” mafia. He becomes the Mafia’s ‘brain’ and comes up with all the plans as to how the mafia will succeed. From here on, he becomes Martin’s right hand. The Mafia’s logo is the symbol on Jack’s necklace. After exactly 17 years (2010), Mitch and Zander, jealous of Jack’s position, decide to set him up so his plans would fail. These two destroy some of the factories (which were hidden) for the production of synthetic drugs, making it look like some other gang had done it. It is not possible for others to find out about the location of those factories, so Martin doubts that Jack sabotages him and is a spy from another Mafia. The event happens after Mitch escapes from jail and accuses Jack of being the reason he was imprisoned for the detective to succeed.
When Martin finds out, Jack is heinously tortured to death. He is tied to the back of the chair, there is a tiny strap on his throat, one with a sturdy rod with a spike on each side. Jack is tortured so he does not fall asleep, because if he does, he will bend his head and the spike will pierce straight into his throat and his chest. He managed to withstand for a few days, but Zander loses his patience, which is not typical for someone so in love with the act of torture, so he decides to tie a small cauldron around his body with a rat inside it. Afterward, he starts to heat the bottom of the cauldron, forcing the rat to panic and eventually to begin gnawing into his belly to find salvation.
With this torture, Jack starts to pass out slowly followed by his unconscious body dropping straight into the spike, as it pierces his throat he eventually dies. When the spike is pinned, the logo of the chain is broken into two parts (one stays on him, one falls to the ground). After dying here, his curse by the pagan old lady appears and becomes too powerful in the afterlife so-called “the nightmare world.” Zander and Mitch take the remaining part and throw it into a trash bin outside. From there, this part is found by the pagan old lady, Anastasia. “Rick learns that the person with whom he spoke in the tent is actually Anastasia.”
When Jack shows the story to Rick and what had actually happened, he gives him the necklace, the second half of the element. As he hands it to Rick, the lower part of the blade of the silver knife he carries is engraved with the whole element in the form of shadows. Rick knows that the next step is to kill Martin by getting rid of this world. Jack immediately sends Rick back into the real world.
After Rick finds himself in the real world, he goes to the Mafia mansion to eliminate Martin to be released. As he enters the estate, one of the Mafia’s henchman approaches Rick. With a swift slice, he kills one of the members with his knife. He sees how this man slowly turns black and starts becoming one of the specters, but this time it is different. The haunted creature does not attack Rick but instead turns on other members of the Mafia. This is because he has accepted the gift from Jack and to help him eliminate Martin since Jack cannot reach or influence him in the real world, now that Martin is constantly awake.
Rick moves through the Mafia mansion and eliminates their members with the help of the haunted creatures. Were he to be alone in his efforts, this would’ve been a suicide mission. The Mafia, after all, is filled with skilled, cold-blooded killers. Rick enters the central part of the mansion, and the haunted creatures start to shatter. There is a great source of light which the dark cannot survive, and in turn, they burn. Rick enters the room where Martin is and faces him.
Martin is one of the most notorious and capable criminals ever. He is too skillful in what he does best, killing.
After the massive massacre that he made in Florence in 1990, he had no choice but to leave the country and escape to Blackbert City. While sleeping, he pursues nightmares of what he has done, trying to overcome it but he cannot. He finds a way to deal with it – drugs. To supply himself with the drug that will never make him sleep, he needs vast amounts of money, so he decides on various major robberies. He forms the mafia that he calls “Sleepwalkers.” He gets the name because he encounters the “other” members that share a common interest – never sleeping. Over time, his mafia becomes one of the strongest in Blackbert City. He is continuously producing this synthetic drug, which, by consuming, will keep you awake forever. So that the nightmares may never return again.
When Rick enters the room, Martin tells him that he has been awaiting this day his entire life. Rick loses the battle at every move because Martin is much more skilled than him, but as Martin is about to finish him off, Rick is reminded of his knife. He drives it through Martin, though nothing happens. Martin knows about the “gift” that Rick got from Jack and merely laughs, even though he cannot move. Martin tells Rick that he is only a small part of the game they’re playing and that he is being used. Rick does not understand why Martin does not turn into a shadow creature. Rick believes and then pardons Martin, followed by putting his gun down on the ground. Martin is immobilized, yet insatiable, so he reaches for the gun and pulls the trigger to kill Rick.
All that is heard is the sound of a click, an empty magazine and no bullet in the chamber. As Rick is about to leave, he heard the sound of the gun and realized what Martin had tried to do. He sharply turns around and goes back to Martin followed by pushing the knife through his main artery. Martin is killed and sent to Jack, to the other world.
The Devil’s Pawn
Rick, released from the world of nightmares, is back in his sister’s home. When he enters, he notices that there is no one there, and sits down to rest. He checks in his uniform to see the necklace that Jack gave him but notices that it’s gone. Shortly after, Rick feels a sharp pain in his back, in the same spot where he was hit by the beam during the accident. He goes to the bathroom to check it out and sees the same sign that Mitch carried, now on his back. Rick returns to the house where the accident occurred. Before entering it, he again feels the sharp sting in his back and falls down on the ground, losing consciousness.
Rick opens his eyes and sees himself in his own home where everything is normal, accompanied by his wife telling him to wake up. Rick goes down the stairs, and everything feels like the very beginning, but the voices of his daughter and his wife begin to sound distorted as if he is in the other world. Suddenly his wife and daughter fade away, and everything starts to shake. There is an unknown voice in the background which tells him that everything is his fault.
He runs through the house and suddenly finds himself in a neutral world where everything is black, and he sees himself killing Martin. He sees the moment when he accepts Jack’s gift, eliminates Zander, eliminates Mitch, but the last thing Rick sees in front of him is his house burning, the beam collapses on his back, and he falls to the floor. Above him hovers Jack who marks him on the back while lying on the floor. With the marking itself, Jack can “throw” the person in the world of nightmares whenever he wants without them being asleep, but they must not be awake at the moment of the initial marking, and herefrom we know how Jack marked Mitch.
Suddenly everything fades away, and Rick sees Martin talking to someone much bigger than him, his feet are in the form of hooves, and on the head, there are horns. Rick hears Martin apologizing to his “master,” called so by Martin himself. The creature before him raises its hand, and Martin starts to float up in the air. For a few seconds, he screams as if he feels immense pain, and then… Martin shatters in a million pieces. Martin gets punished by one of the masters of the 7th pantheon, Mammon, the demon carrying the sin of greed. (No man can serve two Gods; he will either hate one or love the other. No man can be a “servant” to God (Jesus) and Mammon at the same time.)
Rick manages to wake up and enters his home, which is not entirely ruined. Once inside he hears steps from above. Rick runs upstairs to check and enters his daughter’s room. He sees Jack standing right there in front of him, in the real world, holding the music box and taking the second element. Rick does not understand how Jack got into the real world, but realizes he did use Rick for his own gains all this time; Martin was right, Jack was using him all along. Within a moment from Rick’s realization Jack joins the two elements together with the chain and is now able to influence the real world. He suddenly disappears, and Rick rushes to the window, he sees Jack moving toward Blackbert City.
The real world and the world of nightmares are now merged into one, this being the beginning of the nightmare world taking over and corrupting the city…
CREDIT : Nikolaj Janushev