Estimated reading time — 15 minutes
This is part four and a half in the Ubloo Series. Please visit the series tag to read the prior installments!
I’ve escorted a few criminals in my time on the force, ranging from petty thefts to drunks and all the way to an attempted murder suspect. What I learned is there are really only two types of people. The ones who are quiet in the back of the car, and the ones who make noise.
If you make noise in the back of the cop car you may as well just sign a confession. We have a saying for this on the force; “only guilty dogs bark,” and it holds truer than you’d imagine. But the ones who are quiet are a completely different story. More often than not they’re innocent, but sometimes—just sometimes—they’re the most dangerous people of all.
I snuck a glance into the rear view mirror and saw the old man sitting there, hands folded on his lap, looking out the side window at the houses as we made our way to the station. He had come peacefully and almost willingly—not that I expected a struggle—yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off with that first interaction.
After the initial uncomfortable silence between the two of us, he asked if I was the one investigating the death of the Abian fellow. I told him I was, and asked if he knew the man. He told me he only met him briefly but they have been in contact since. After that, I asked him if he’d like to come to the station to answer some questions—he obliged—and here we are.
But the way he looked at that journal, and the way his eyes widened when he saw my name plate… I shook my head. I know I must be imagining things. Maybe it’s the shitty night of sleep I got, but it felt like my instincts weren’t as sharp as they usually are.
Eventually we reached the police station, and I walked him past reception, through the cubicles smelling faintly of Bill’s burnt coffee, and into an interrogation room, where we’d be able to speak in private.
“If you could just take a seat here—“ I pulled a chair back for him from one side of the table as I maneuvered over to the other.
“Much obliged sir.” He said as he sat down, letting out a small sigh as he sort of plopped the last few inches into the seat. He must be older than he looks.
I took my seat at the other side of the table and set the journal down off to my right. I took out a pen and my notepad and flipped to a clean page.
“Alright, let’s start with your name—and something to corroborate it of course—driver’s license if you have one.”
“Sure thing.” He said as he reached into his back pocket to pry out his wallet. “The name’s Eli Jacobs.”
He slipped his driver’s license out and slid it across the table to me. I began copying the information down onto my notepad.
“Great, thanks. And is this still your current address?”
“Yessir, yes it is.”
I looked back up at him as I was scribbling down the address.
“Natchez, Mississippi eh? You’re a long way from home partner.”
“Yessir, got me a nice little farmhouse there. I’m retired now but I used to be the African History professor at Northwestern. After all those long cold winters and noisy city summers I decided I wanted to be somewhere warm and quiet and well—Natchez it was.”
“So.” I said while tapping the butt of my pen onto the pad of paper, and sliding his license back over to him. “Can’t shoot the shit like this forever, huh?”
“That we can’t.” He said, shifting so he could put away his wallet, his face showing no emotion.
I felt the chills run up my neck.
“Let’s start from the beginning. How did you know Thomas Abian?”
The old man took his hat off and set on the table, and ran his hand over his white goatee. Then he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, folded his hands on the table and leaned in. I did as well.
“One day I get an email completely out of the blue. Came from this guy who said he had an ancient book—written in a near dead language that he needed translated. Well, as one who’s always curious, I responded and asked him to send over a sample of the text.”
“Were you able to translate it?” I asked.
“Hell, it was his lucky day because I’m maybe one of four or five people left on this earth I know of who can. See, ancient African writing was close to hieroglyphics—not entirely like it—but similar. See, it used a combination of symbols for nouns, but written out words for dialogue and pretty much all else. To the untrained eye it’s near impossible to distinguish what’s a noun versus a character in a word, and this also makes writing out a dictionary a huge bother, that frankly four or five people—the second youngest of which you’re talking to now I may add—simply don’t have the time and resources to finish.”
“That’s pretty impressive.” I finally responded after his long winded reply. “I learned Spanish in high school but I’ve damn near forgot it all now. Picked up some Arabic while I was overseas, but even that’s beginning to rust.”
“Time and practice, that’s the key to getting it fluent.” He said. “The first of which I’ve clearly got you outnumbered with.”
I chuckled a bit and leaned back, tapping my pen again.
“So let’s fast forward. This Abian fellow, you tell him you can translate it. Then what?”
Eli went on to tell me all about how Abian was driving down from Massachusetts to Tawson, and could stop over in Mississippi. That he looked like shit when he finally got to Eli’s house. He said the book that he brought with him was incredibly old and valuable—but Abian wouldn’t elaborate on how he came into possession of it. Apparently he only wanted one small portion of text translated—and when he was done—he abruptly left, leaving the book with Eli. So I asked the obvious question.
“What did the text say? The part he wanted translated?”
Eli looked back at me and let out a deep sigh as he leaned back in his chair. He gripped his hat on the table and spun it gently on the smooth aluminum tabletop.
“Before I tell you this, I need you to promise me that you’re not going to hold what I say against me.”
I raised my eyebrows.
“Well that’s hard to say” I returned. “I can’t promise you I won’t hold it against you, but then again, we haven’t been recording this little chat.”
Eli cracked a smile at the corners of his lips.
“Trust me officer. No one is going to believe you anyway.”
I hate the expression “my blood ran cold” but damn if it isn’t the only way to describe how what he said made me feel. I gathered my composure back and put my pen down.
“Spill it.” I said.
“Thomas Abian wanted to know about a very old and very powerful witch doctor. One who lived thousands of years ago.” He said, never dropping his gaze, never even blinking. “This witch doctor performed a ritual and summoned an incredibly angry and vengeful spirit, one that infects the victim’s dreams, renders him unable to sleep—and eventually—to take his own life.”
I frowned a little.
“Abian believed all this?”
Eli looked me square in the eye. “Yes.”
“And do you?”
He paused, closed his eyes and let out a small sigh.
I leaned back in my chair.
“And let me guess, the reason this Abian guy looked like shit is because he hasn’t been sleeping—because he’s being attacked by this sleep monster.”
“Well, shit.” I said, closing my notepad. “Could have been down at forensics checking out this guy’s possessions yet here I am wasting my fucking time talking to a loon.”
I pushed myself back from the table and stood up. I turned around and checked the clock on the wall. Half past four. Perfect. No way I’ll be able to go through all this guy’s shit before it’s time to—
My thoughts came to a crashing halt.
I turned around and saw Eli, still sitting in the chair, hands folded on the table.
“What did you just say?”
Eli pushed his glasses back up his nose.
“You were the one who found him, weren’t you? The first? The one I spoke to on the phone?”
I swallowed, hard, and nodded.
“You’ve heard that word before, haven’t you?”
My voice was gone. The crashing halt of my thoughts spun through my brain like a tornado—the box, Danny, the interrogators, that word.
“Arab, right? Guy said it in my dream last night, couldn’t remember what it meant.” I finally managed to push it out. “But how did y—“
“Not Arab.” He said, standing up. “African—Khoe specifically.”
He slowly walked around the table over to where I stood. I knew I should ask him to stop but I was frozen in fear.
“It is short for ‘Ubua Loo’ which is a common phrase in that tongue. It roughly translates to ‘wake up.’”
I shook my head.
“You’re fucking with me.”
“I’m sorry you had to find out like this officer.”
“Back the fuck up.” I said, my grip on my notepad tightening.
“The monster jumps from person to person by infecting whoever finds the previous victim’s dead body first.”
“I’m warning you, stop.”
“Doctor Abian’s patient was infected and he found him dead in his apartment, who found his Father shortly after he had died, who found a dead tenant in the apartment he owned that hadn’t been paying rent for a few months.”
I realized I was back peddling, my heel hit the wall of the interrogation room.
“You found Doctor Abian in that old house—the house he came here to investigate that he learned of from one of the previous victims. You’ve heard that word only in your dreams, there’s no way I could have known you’d understand it. I’m truly so very sorry for this, Jeff, but the monster, it’s telling you to wake up.”
“But…” I stammered, trying to process so much at once. “But why tell me to wake up?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know.” He said, eyes shifting to the floor. “Thomas had a theory. You see, back in ancient Africa whoever was afflicted would be assigned someone to wake them up if they began thrashing in their sleep. These people would shake the victim and yell ‘Ubloo’ to wake them, let them know they’re only dreaming. This, Thomas believed, the spirit picked up on, and still says to this day.”
“But why? If it only has power in our dreams why wake us up?”
“That’s the part he could never figure out.” Eli sighed.
There was a long pause between us, as Eli let everything sink in.
“So what now?” I finally said.
“Well, I brought that book with me. If you’ll allow it, I’d like to leave and run through it a few more times. Maybe there’s something I’ve missed. In the meantime you should flip through Abian’s diary—it’s likely that he’s kept detailed notes on the whole ordeal and—“
“No.” I interrupted. Eli stopped speaking abruptly. “I mean what happens to me?”
Eli reached down and pick up his hat. Returned it to his head, shifted the brim a little and then pushed his glasses back up his nose.
“Try not to fall asleep.”
It was now close to eight o’clock at night—or maybe it was nine—I’d lost track to be honest.
I begrudgingly let Eli return to his hotel. After all I had nothing to charge him with and couldn’t really keep him here if I wanted to. We exchanged numbers and he told me he’d call if he learned anything, and that I should do the same, or if I had any questions.
The pages of Thomas’ diary were stiff from the ink that had settled into them. Page after page I turned carefully, reading slowly to be sure I took everything in. The man may have lost it at the end but he was thorough, I’ll give him that.
His diary corroborated everything Eli had told me, in deeper detail. He even noted down his sleep schedule—how long he slept and how much time he feels he spent dreaming—trying to find a connection between the two to see if he could optimize his time spent asleep to dream the least. It was all very impressive—but it looks like he kept getting trouble from “microsleep,” instances where he wouldn’t know he was sleeping until he woke up.
“Ubloo has learned a way to weave dreams into my life, seamlessly, so as to no longer rouse my suspicions. It understand that my fear is far greater when I can’t tell I’ve fallen asleep. The Adderall may be able to keep me up for prolonged periods of time but without REM sleep I’ll continue experiencing microsleep. I feel like a dog chasing my tail. Either I give in and sleep for what by now will probably be over 24 hours or continue pressing on, getting what little bit I can safely.”
It was all so horribly depressing. There were long paragraphs of theories that had been crossed off—notes in the margins explaining why he’d disproved them.
I finally reached the end, and got the shivers as I read it.
“Arrived at the school. 2:31 AM. No sign of activity in it from the outside. Can probably give myself no more than a half hour to search—will report my findings later.”
I shut the notebook, put it down on my desk and took a sip of coffee, digesting everything.
My heart almost exploded.
“Fucking hell, Bill. I almost spilled this coffee all over my shirt. You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that.”
“I thought you always said I was too fat to be sneaky.” He said smirking.
I frowned and looked at him. Fuck, he was right, he got me this time.
“Evidence has come back on your guy. It’s downstairs in the locker if you wanna go through it.”
My eyes widened.
“I’m gonna do that right now, who’s got the keys?”
Bill tossed them to me and started a slow victorious waddle back to his desk.
I got up and practically ran to the evidence room. I fumbled with the keys a little, but eventually got the door open.
The Abian box was on a bottom shelf. I squatted down and picked it up and brought it over to the table. There was a heavy duffle bag filled with burglary tools, a wallet, half empty pill bottle, the bloody revolver. I started going through everything trying to make sense of it all.
The pills he used to stay awake, wrote about those in his diary. Burglary tools were used to get into the church—that much made sense. Revolver must have been for protection, though it doesn’t look like it did him much good.
I continued to rummage around his bag until my hand brushed something that felt brittle. I stopped, gently grasped it and pulled it from the bag.
It was a piece of paper, folded, ages old from the look of it. I unfolded the paper and read it aloud.
“I asked you how you sleep at night. Now I’ve got my answer.
My head started to spin. Abian mentioned in his diary that Eli had told him that the monster had been stalled. Long periods of time where there were no recorded deaths due to it, but somehow it always managed to return, without explanation.
I read the note again one more time.
“Monaya Guthrie.” I said shaking my head. Who the hell is this, and why did Abian have this note?
Just then my phone rang.
I pulled it from my pocket to see the picture of my wife staring back at me that I used for her caller ID. I answered.
“Hey baby what’s up?”
“JEFF! JEFF YOU NEED TO GET HOME.” She yelled frantically.
“What? Is everything alright?”
“IT’S DANNY. HE WAS IN THE TUB AND—AND—AND THE SHOWER CURTAIN FELL ON HIM AND HE GOT TANGLED UP. HE WAS STUCK UNDERWATER AND HE’S NOT BREATHING!”
My heart was beating so hard that my whole body was shaking.
“Baby call 911. I’m coming home right now. Start CPR.”
I rushed out the door of the evidence locker and sprinted down the hall to the main entrance, phone still to my ear. She was crying hysterically.
“I-I DON’T KNOW HOW!”
“Two breaths thirty compressions! You hear me?! Tilt his head back when you breathe. I’m hanging up right now to call 911 so you can do this, you have to.”
She was still sobbing.
I hung up the phone and immediately dialed 911. By this time I was at my car and jumped into the driver’s seat. I turned the key and the car roared to life as if it sensed my urgency. I flipped the switches for the lights and the sirens and peeled out of the parking lot, gunning it towards home.
“911 what’s your emergency?”
I shouted my address into the phone, or at least I think I did I don’t know, I was weaving through traffic.
“—NOT BREATHING. SEVEN YEARS OLD. BRING AN AED, CPR BEING PERFORMED. CAN YOU CONFIRM?”
“Yes sir, I’ll dispatch an ambulance right away.”
I tossed my phone into the passenger seat without bothering to hang up. The engine growled as my speed crept up to almost 100 miles per hour on the stretch of open road my street was off of. I rounded the corner and felt the car barely keep its grip on the road. I came to a screeching halt outside my house and sprinted to the door, bursting into the living room.
“MARY!” I called out.
“JEFF! JEFF IN HERE!”
I sprinted down the hall to our bedroom. Mary was sitting with her back against our bed, eyes bloodshot and make-up streaming down her face. She was a wreck, gripping a bottle of liquor so tight her knuckles were turning white.
“Mary… What? Where’s Danny?!” I asked, confused and panicked.
“He…” She sobbed. “I couldn’t Jeff, I couldn’t.” She lifted her arm and pointed to the room across the hall.
I turned and dashed into the room. Mary hadn’t touched a drop of booze since Danny was born. Was she drunk or did this start because she couldn’t handle doing the—
I dropped to my knees.
There laying on his back on the floor was my son Danny, his lips a pale shade of blue, the color draining from his body.
“NO NO NO NO!” I crawled up next to him listened for breathing.
I tilted his head back and breathed two deep breaths into his mouth, then began doing compressions, counting them in my head against Mary’s sobs from the other room.
I did this for what felt like an eternity.
I finally heard someone say from down the hall.
“IN HERE! QUICK!” I screamed.
Two young men who couldn’t have been older than 30 came in the room. One carrying an oxygen mask and the other what looked like a large plastic brief case—what must have been the AED.
I stood up and stepped back as they got to work, the first man putting on the mask and the other attaching the AED.
“SHOCK ADVISED. CHARGING.” The machine called out.
The first man kept pumping oxygen, the second setting the dial on the AED.
“READY TO SHOCK.”
“CLEAR!” the man yelled.
There was a whizz and a thump as Danny’s body jolted up and back down onto the floor. Nothing,
“SHOCK ADVISED. READY TO SHOCK.”
Another whizz and a thump, but nothing.
Just then I heard someone else clamoring down the hall. “Jeff?”
“IN HERE!” I yelled.
Bill ran into the room, breathing heavily.
“Jeff oh my god I’m so sorry, I came just as fast I could when I heard it on the scanner.”
I wasn’t listening, my eyes were on Danny.
“SHOCK ADVISED. READY TO SHOCK.”
The whizz and a thump and then nothing, or what looked like nothing. Then I noticed the heart beat was registering on the AED.
“OH MY GOD!” I pointed down to it.
Why wasn’t it saying anything? They need to get him up and into the back of the—
“SHOCK ADVISED. READY TO SHOCK.”
“NO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!”
I lunged at the man with the AED but I was held back. I looked down in a panic and saw Bill’s arms around my waist.
“NO! YOU CAN’T! LET ME GO!”
I looked down in horror as Danny’s eyes fluttered open briefly. They looked around the room in a panic and then locked with mine.
The sound of the shock filled the room, and Danny’s eyes rolled back into his head revealing only the white undersides before they shut again.
“NO WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!” I struggled against Bill’s grasp to break free but I couldn’t break from it.
I looked in horror as the heart beat monitor ran back to zero.
“SHOCK ADVISED. READY TO SHOCK,”
There was smoke rising now from where the panels of the AED were stuck to Danny’s skin.
“STOP IT! YOU’RE BURNING HIM!”
They didn’t even bother yelling clear this time.
The smoke was rising thicker now.
“PLEASE! STOP! I’M BEGGING YOU!”
Just then Danny’s eyes fluttered open again. They found mine through the smoke and the chaos that filled the room. I could smell the skin burning now, and it sickened me to the point where I was almost gagging. The smoke was rising dark and thick, clouding along the ceiling of the room. Beneath the oxygen mask I saw his lips move but couldn’t hear him, although I didn’t have to to know what he’d said.
“Daddy?” He mouthed to me.
Danny’s body exploded. The room was filled with blood and bits of bone and skin. It coated the floor and splashed against the walls and ceilings.
I stood there in shock and horror, unable to move or speak. I was covered in his blood, bits of guts clinging to my hair and shredded skin on my cheek. I looked down in horror as the two EMT’s were completely clean, and were preparing to shock what little remained on the floor of Danny’s corpse.
“SHOCK ADVISED. READY TO SHOCK.”
My head snapped up from the table and the light reflecting off the white walls almost blinded me. My phone was ringing. I stared around the room in a daze of cold sweat and panic, my heart pumping a mile a minute.
Eventually the phone ceased ringing and I got my bearings. I looked down at the table.
I had fallen asleep in the evidence locker.
My head dropped into my hands and I let out a long sigh, then realized what had happened and frantically looked for my phone.
I turned and pulled it from my jacket pocket on the back of my chair.
“One Missed Call: Mary”
My stomach dropped. I opened the phone and immediately called her back.
“Mary? Is everything alright?”
“…Yes?” She sounded confused.
I slumped back against my chair relieved.
“Okay, okay…” I managed.
“Jeff it’s almost one in the morning, I thought you were only working until ten?”
I stared down at my watch, she was right. How long had I been asleep for?
“Yeah sorry, I fell asleep at my desk.” I laughed.
“Real nice Jeff.” I could hear her smile through the phone. “Glad you’re putting my tax dollars to good work.”
I laughed again.
“You know what this job is.” I said, now smiling too.
“I know, I know.” She responded, then did a hyperbolic impression of my voice. “In a way your tax dollars are paying me to leave the house every day.”
We both laughed at that. It’s true, I loved saying that to her and she loved hearing it.
“I’ll be home soon baby, don’t wait up.”
“Alright, love you.”
“Love you too.”
I hung up the phone and put it back in my pocket. I neatly packed away the Abian evidence and put it back on the shelf.
There was a small skeleton crew still in the office. Some other poor SOB working late and the dispatch, who was currently telling off the janitor for vacuuming while he was trying to write down a plate number. Just before I reached the door to the main entrance I stopped.
I stood there for a short while and then turned and walked back to my desk. I sat down and wiggled the computer mouse and the screen glowed softly as it woke up.
I pulled up our database and punched in the name.
There was a hit, and I opened her file.
I scanned through it, stopped, and then took out my phone one last time and dialed a number.
It rang twice before someone answered.
“It’s Jeff. I’ve got a lead on where Abian was headed next. He was going after a woman named Monaya Guthrie. I’m headed there tomorrow, if you’d like to come.”
There was a pause.
“Sure. I’ll be ready at seven.” Eli responded.
“Sounds good.” I said, and then paused. “Have a good night.”
“You too.” He said, and then my phone went silent.
Ubloo part one may be found here
Ubloo part two is here
Ubloo part three is here
Ubloo part four is here
Ubloo part four and half is here
Ubloo part five is here
Ubloo part six is here
Ubloo part seven is here