Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
Kelly woke abruptly, sweating and scarcely holding back her screams. She sat up and threw off the blankets, remaining on the edge of the bed until her ragged breaths had calmed down and her heart no longer sounded like irregular drumbeats in her ears. She’d been having nightmares for months now, and each night they dragged on longer and stuck more vividly in her mind. A few nights ago she’d woken her parents up crying for help in her sleep, and although she couldn’t remember the dreams when she woke up, they always left her terrified and exhausted. She could barely sleep at night and was ill at ease during the daylight hours. However, she also felt childish and stupid when she realized how afraid of her own dreams she’d become, and so she hadn’t revealed to anyone just how disturbed by them she was.
Deciding she wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep, and having no desire to anyway, Kelly stood and walked over to her dresser. She brushed out her hair and changed into school clothes, looking at the clock for the first time that morning. It was six twenty-five; the alarm would have woken her in five minutes even if her dreams hadn’t. Turning the alarm off, she headed downstairs to find something to eat.
In the cafeteria at school later, Kelly waited in line behind her best friend Jessica and chewed her lip indecisively. She wanted to confide in her friend, to ask for advice or just seek reassurance about her dreams, but she was afraid to. What if Jessica told her she was being a baby and that they were just dreams she should get over?
Later, as she got ready for bed, she couldn’t shake the feeling of dread that had shadowed her every night for the past months. She climbed into bed but left the lamp on, feeling just a little bit better, as if nightmares couldn’t disturb her with the light to keep them away. This was untrue, of course.
She dreamed that she was walking down a street at night; all the buildings around her were deserted, abandoned, the windows shattered, paint peeling and frames crumbling. A dark shadow moved behind her; she turned to face it and her terror was so great it paralyzed her and rendered her unable to unleash the horrified scream tearing at her throat.
The thing that was stalking her was just inches from her. Its form appeared human and it was clad in a black cloak, the hood drawn over the face. However, when she saw it the creature revealed its face, which was hideously scarred from fire and covered in blood but not wounded, as if the thing had just finished smearing the stuff on its face. It was bald and barefoot, and wherever bare skin showed, the scars from being burned were evident, as was the fact that the thing was barely more than a skeleton; its skin was stretched tightly over bones that were grossly apparent.
The scarred, blood-smeared, skeletal face opened its mouth wide to reveal jagged, broken teeth also coated in blood, and released a deep rumbling laugh as its hands reached for her and scraped at her arms with claw-like fingernails. This time she managed to move her feet; she ran with terror beating in her heart, but didn’t hear the creature following her. She ran past dark buildings and down empty streets until she had to stop, had to breathe, had to rest her aching legs.
And then it grabbed her from behind.
She tried to scream but its bony hands covered her mouth. There were more of the creatures now, and they all reached for her, drawing blood as they raked her with fingernails. Then she was dragged away, kicking and screaming, down the abandoned street. When she managed to twist out of their grasp and run, they caught up with her and bound her limbs so she could barely struggle.
On they marched, and eventually she gave in and grew limp in their grasp. Tears stung her eyes. Suddenly the creatures stopped; the one holding her took a few paces forward and before she realized what it intended to do, the thing hurled her into the air. This time no one was muffling her screams as she plummeted over the side of the cliff and towards the jagged rocks and dark water below. Just when she would have hit them, she woke.
Her hands were balled into fists; her hair was tangled and she felt suffocated by her pillow, so she threw it to the floor, drew her legs to her chest and leaned against the wall. She sobbed until her eyes hurt from crying and her body was sore from it. Only then did she allow sleep to claim her once more; but this time there was darkness, for which she was grateful. She did not dream again.
The next night was worse. It was a repeat of the previous dream, only with some alterations; this time after she was thrown over the cliff, she hit the swirling black water and felt the pain of it like a giant slap. She’d missed the jagged rocks but felt herself sinking, deeper and deeper with no way to free her limbs from thier binds. As she struggled in vain and water invaded her mouth and nose, choking her, blackness crept over her vision and she awakened in terror.
* * * * *
Kelly could no longer sleep. She had lain awake in bed the previous night, exhausted beyond belief but refusing to fall asleep. The next morning she rose and dressed for school, but her actions were those of a robot; she was so tired that she barely noticed what she was wearing and didn’t taste her breakfast. Nor did she feel the cold rain outside or hear the conversations of other kids on the ride to school.
By lunch hour, her friends had definitely noticed her unusual quietness, how red and puffy her eyes looked and how she stumbled through her classes half-asleep. When she sat down to eat she felt sick to her stomach and picked halfheartedly at her food. All she wanted to do was curl up and sleep, but how could she with nightmares to torment her mind and physically exhaust her?
There was a new kid at their table today. This fact did not immediately register in Kelly’s mind, but when it did, she felt a slight spark of interest. When Jessica introduced him as Don’s friend Chris, she was compelled to introduce herself and engage in a short conversation. She didn’t miss the relieved glances Jessica passed to all her other friends, and realized that she’d basically ignored them the past few days due to her prolonged fatigue and depression.
The next day she scrambled onto the bus and found a seat in the far back. She knew that her physical condition was deteriorating: her eyes had dark circles underneath them and they were constantly bloodshot: she’d lost the battle against sleep and had woken close to screaming a few times now.
She began to doze as the bus made its rounds and woke suddenly to find Chris sitting beside her. For a moment she stared at him, disoriented and upset that shed been woken from the only dreamless sleep she was likely to get for a while.
“Kelly,” Chris began.
She waited expectantly for him to continue.
“I know you haven’t been sleeping,” he told her. “Or more importantly, I know why you haven’t been sleeping.”
“I have nightmares,” Kelly whispered hoarsely, hugging her bag to her chest. “I can’t remember most of them, but they wake me up every night, and I can barely sleep… For a while I tried not to, but I was too tired.”
“I know. Kelly, I had the same dreams.”
She looked at Chris in astonishment. “What do you mean?”
“I mean you’re not the only one. And your dreams aren’t going to stop until you do something about them.”
“What can I do? They’re terrible, but I can’t make them go away.”
“Here,” Chris said, handing a folded piece of paper towards her. “This is an incantation for protection; if you remember to say it when your dream begins, it will drive the creatures away.”
She unfolded it; one word was written across the paper in a foreign language.
“It’s very simple to remember,” Chris told her, “but also powerful–it means ‘Surrender’. It will make the dreams end.”
Desperately grasping at any means to end her horrified dreams, Kelly, unfortunately, placed her trust in Chris. Little did she know, this would be the last mistake of her life.
That night sleep came slowly. She didn’t feel tired; she was charged with fearful anticipation. When she found herself in the dark, deserted street once more, Kelly stood her ground and tried to focus her thoughts. It took her a moment to remember the most vital piece of information: she was dreaming. She was dreaming, and she must stand her ground when the creatures came; she must remember to say the word that would drive them away.
When the wraithlike creatures appeared this time, with salivating dogs at their heels, she did not turn and run. Instead she faced her foes and tried to keep calm as she drew breath to utter one word. Emboldened, she suddenly screamed it at them.
the creatures stopped dead: the dogs whined and glanced at their masters as if in search of permission. Then a gaping hole broke wide beneath her feet, and Kelly was plunged downward through scorching-hot air, down, down, until-thud-she smacked into solid ground. Pain flared through the side of her body that she’d landed on, and she realized she lay upon a huge slab of smooth black stone. She spun around frantically, searching the underground cavern for an exit. Why wasn’t she waking up? Chris had said…he’d told her…he’d promised that she would awaken after facing the creatures.
And then she saw him.
Sitting on a throne carved out of the same kind of stone she’d landed upon, two cold dark eyes stared down at her. A spiked crown sat atop his head, and between his fingers he held a razor-sharp spear. A wicked grin broke across his face as the unmistakable Greek god Hades rose to his full impressive height and answered her unspoken question: “Yes, Kelly, your friend Chris has betrayed you. And you are now enslaved to me forever; you will never again awaken.”
Credit To – Weeping Willow