Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
A small, rainy town sits near a dense grove of trees as a series of streams run past and into the dark thicket beyond. There is newfound fear within the town of the approaching century. The growing popularity of gasoline powered automobiles and electric powered telephones are deemed an unnecessary change in the little town, with wild stories from the outside world only furthering their confusion and displeasure about the new inventions. This threat from the outside world is a drop of water in an ocean compared to the harsh realities within their tiny corner of the world. The time stands at eleven o’clock as the townspeople move about the dark streets as though it were the middle of the day.
The silent torment of inner dread is seen in every pair of eyes as they look upon one another with a strange kind of hopeless desperation. Their days pass by like any other but the fall of night had their worried glances reveal an old fear, untouched by time. They knew what was soon to happen and that their anguished cries would be useless. Eleven o’clock comes again. Twenty-six minutes more to wait. Every minute is counted in the heads of the people in the small town by the dark grove. Every night when the clock strikes eleven twenty-six, a collective sound of fear is heard before the inevitable silence as every person within the town succumb to a simultaneous slumber.
Nobody has been able to remain conscious after this time to bear witness to what goes on around them. To add to this strange event, all those in the slumber awaken together at exactly six fifteen every morning. The people born in the town refuse to leave and visitors are rare, but the ones who come across the little town tend to make their stay a transitory one after hearing the warnings from the townspeople. Those in the nearest town are aware of the curse, with people refusing to enter the dark grove after eleven twenty-six at night for fear of what might happen to them. Some believe their bodies will collapse after crossing the border and others believe they will witness horrors worse than their imaginations can conjure up. The residents here claim that it has not always been like this and one day it will return to good, much to the chagrin of outsiders who believe them to be in the company of delusions.
An elderly man, born in the cursed town, had one night decided to walk across the border and observe the town from the outside. He saw nothing at all for how far his eyes took him, but the view of the main street was not perceivable from his position and he returned to the grove the next day with nothing to tell.
A thirty year old man can be heard wailing into the night, every night as he wanders through the main street. He worries strenuously about what is being done to him as he sleeps and whether tonight will be the night they finally put an end to his life. Men seem to have the most reason to worry here. Nightmares of unfathomable horror and hopelessness fill their minds but leave the women dreaming of nothing but darkness. Some men have dreamed repeatedly of their wives hurling them over cliffs and drowning them in the deepest waters. Their thoughts have been twisted by this continual barrage of images and subsequently driven to desperate acts derived from a broken mind. Wives and lovers are left fleeing from the town in a blind panic as paranoia runs rampant among the men. Despite this unrest, all the people of the dark grove have agreed that they are not alone after they pass into the unknown sleep.
It was a well-known fact that women did not dream here, so when one cold morning a twenty-eight year old woman ran out into the street shouting about the dream she had during the unknown sleep, it sent a shock wave through the town. The sea of gasps and murmurs surrounded the woman as questioning eyes focused on only her. She was different to the others now and more people feared her as the concerned and curious looks quickly turned to expressions of confusion and terror. She was pestered endlessly about her dreams from that day on and she insisted that the only dream she had each night was a recurring one, but many accused her of being deceptive. Some even claimed she remained awake as they slept and somehow had a part in the unknown atrocities.
She told the truth about dreaming of the same thing every night but she had also lied to the people about the contents of her recurring dream. The images of the translucent forms of the townspeople; her family and friends, wandering aimlessly through blackened streets like they were not even aware they existed in the world, plagued her dreams every night. The last thing she wanted to do was to unleash real panic among the people so she told them she merely dreamed of walking along a sunny beach, but she could see the suspicion in their eyes, suppressed only by their fear of the unknown.
She had the same dream the next night. Once again the static forms of the townspeople littered the streets before her, not really seeing anything as they stared ahead through lifeless eyes. The dream would usually end with her collapsing into a pile on the ground and awaking in her bed, but she remained standing as she continued to observe the spectacle before her. Something was different this time around. There was a shift in the air as she looked all around her. It had never gone on for this long and she was almost wishing her body would collapse so she could wake up in her bed with the morning light on her arm. Dark patches began to appear next to each person, wandering along with them. She moved her head forward as she blinked, trying to focus on whatever was attached to the townspeople. She watched for only a few seconds more before she took a step back and almost fell over some clutter on the ground behind her, sending something rattling away as she breathed out loudly through her teeth.
She looked up to see that they had all stopped, now standing motionless as the dark spots appeared to detach themselves and move slowly towards her. They flickered erratically, making her wonder if they really existed and if they were even capable of harm. She stumbled back, cutting her arm upon a nail that stuck out from the side of the door frame as she watched them move closer.
She frowned as she peered down at the gash along her arm. She had never felt pain in her dreams before but the sting and burn from the cut was very real. She placed her left hand over the wound as the realization that she was not dreaming wrought a strange kind of calm over her. She did not see a face from the dark forms that enclosed her but she could feel her body dying the closer they came, like years were being stripped from her as every moment passed. Her head rolled forward as her chin rested on her chest with her body remaining upright in a perfect standing position. She did not know how they had killed her but at some undetermined point she suddenly knew she would never wake up in her bed again. She could not remember if they even touched her but it seemed unimportant in that particular moment. She drifted upwards, not even knowing if she was even herself anymore as she watched her body remain standing on the ground as some unknown part of her exited this world.
She did not feel at ease anymore as she watched in horror as her earthly body looked up at her with a blank expression as it reached its arms up towards her as far as humanly possible. She stared into the eyes of the empty shell of her former self. She did not know what moved the body now but she could see past the lifeless expression as its eyes quivered underneath the calm mask. She wondered if the same fate had befallen the townspeople, and they simply walked around with some unknown entity possessing their bodies. She wondered if there was any part of them that still remained.
She could not stop herself from rising now and she was not sure if she even wanted to stop it. She could feel more and more of who she was disappear as her memories faded without apology. Before she closed her eyes to accept her fate, she glanced down once more to see her human shell smile sadly up at her before collapsing to the floor. The dark forms had disappeared as the dull light of dawn began to fill the little room.