Dead Friends: Chapter 47

The new pastor in town refuses to make the trip out to see me, though much of his congregation had come. Many of them are now permanent residents. I don’t know what started when Margaret fell into the well, but it has been spreading and getting more aggressive.

The barn was finished. I hoped that it would help protect against the evil getting worse. I was such a fool. What evil have I unleashed upon this world? Oh God, forgive me for what I have done.

****

Lizzie read those words again, looking the wrinkles at the end of the page. The man had obviously been crying when he wrote them, and the last word had a long stroke off of the ‘e’ like he had dragged the pen on the page. He had obviously been upset, and how could he not have have been, he had been the first. Yet, he knew so much more about this than anyone else.

His entry had seemed so final, like that had been the end of it, but Lizzie was surprised as she turned the page over, that there was quite a few more pages. These were not as nicely written, the ink splotchy in many places and the handwriting barely recognizable as it was written in a rush scrawl.

She was finally able to work out the first sentence, and gasped, nearly dropping the page in her hand.

****

Today, I fucked a shadow woman, and my soul will now no longer be my own. My family is now and forever cursed. Hell is all we have to look forward to, and it was all because of me and what I have done. My soul be damned.

I hate such foul language, but it seems apt for the world I am now cursed too.

When I finished the barn, I thought that by locking away the darkness of the well, that I would find peace. Instead I have created a place for the darkness to rise. Within days of the completion of the barn, the darkness was no longer deep in the depths of the accursed object. It was now brimming at the top.

The moment I entered the barn, the last board having been hammered home not five minutes, I saw the well. It looked like water had risen up, but I knew better than to get near it. That well was older than this house, and not once had it ever had water that high.

Even still, I could see that the dark liquid moved, and it was not clear. From the door to the barn, I could see the pitch black of night in that surface. There was no light there. There was very little light in the barn itself, but nothing penetrated that surface. It didn’t even reflect the little bit of light that was present. It was like a black nothing, and I could feel the cold presence that pushed out from it.

I didn’t know what else to do. I don’t know how long I stood there, just watching the gentle lapping of the water. It could have been hours or days lost in just what was a few seconds of me standing there. Time was gone, and I could feel the distance receding between me and it.

I might have been lost then had what sounded like a large bear came crashing through the woods nearby. I never found out what made the sound, but it had pulled me back, and I was able to blink myself out of whatever trance I had been in.

I wasn’t any closer to the well, but it had changed. I saw them now. There were little strands of black that had emerged. They were moving through the air like strands of web from a spider. They seemed like they were floating on the breeze, but that couldn’t be right. The little bit of wind was flowing into the barn, and these strands were not. They were moving throughout the barn, and towards me. The closest one was only a foot away.

I was getting pulled into another trance. I realized it the moment that closest strand nearly touched my cheek and I still hadn’t moved back. Just feeling it get near me, I could feel how cold it was. It was like ice had just touched me, and the strand was still inches away.

I stepped away from the barn, afraid of it and what I might have just done. The evil was spreading, had I just given it a home to grow? Was I fostering it like a weed? I have never been much of a gardener, but was I nurturing this thing like you would a tomato? Tomatoes need sunlight so you plant them where they will get it. Whatever this is, it needs darkness. Did I really just build a place where it could grow and become whatever it was to become?

I needed help. Those who were dead around me, they were all telling me I was going to hell. Once a new person arrived, Margaret was quick to tell them about how the evil had been awakened. It didn’t take long for an army to hate me, spouting vile and obscene threats.

Much of that changed when I backed away from the entrance to the barn and the first strand tried to leave. It burst into smoke when it touched the sun’s light and around me, the God fearing residents of the town watched in horror as it recoiled back into the confines of the barn.

“You need Patrick.” A quiet voice said near me. I turned and saw that it was Margaret herself, her crushed face looking in horror as the darkness writhed. “You need him here now before it gets dark.”

She was right, and the moment she said it, I knew what she meant. The sun would only be overhead for so long, then that creature would be free, and I slept only yards away. Who knew what it would do to me once I found myself wrapped by that cold darkness.

I knew I had to go into town and find Pastor Patrick.

****

However, I did go into town, and I had found the pastor. I’d already spoken to him before. He knew my situation. I pleaded with him, telling him there was no other way. He was bringing forth the end of the world if he didn’t home back with me. I told him everything, confessing everything to God and priest. I did all of that, and it was for nothing. He would not come back with me to this cursed place. I can’t even say I really blame him. I wouldn’t come here if I didn’t have no where else to go.

I must admit, if I’m being truly honest with myself, that I’m surprised he didn’t throw me out of the church. He told me that just that morning, Miss Maisel had passed away in the night. He has now lost nearly half of his congregation, and he himself was not sure what must be done. More and more of them are dying from some disease that has been sweeping through the perish. Some in town have started calling it the sleeping sickness. Others have called it the Roger’s curse. I don’t know which is true. Is it my curse? Have I started this? What was there that I could do about it? It was obvious by the fear I saw in that young pastor’s face, that he would not be of any help.

I had thanked him, and prepared to leave, when he did offer me one thing, and at this point as useless as I felt it was, he offered to pray with me.

I don’t remember much of the prayer. I think I’ve already established that while I go to church occasionally, I am not much of a praying man. Something about that prayer did strike me though. I don’t remember the exact words, but the pastor had said something. It was a passage I could tell that he was reading from the Bible. Something about bringing light to the darkness, or casting out the darkness with light. I don’t know why, but something about him saying that, as I kneeled there with him, well it got me to thinking about ways of possibly doing just that.

How do you get rid of darkness, you bring light to it. The barn didn’t have electricity, not yet at least, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t set fire to it. Fire. Set the whole thing on fire, burn it all down…

Or, that was my first thought.

As I made my way home, I thought about why I had built the barn. Or tried to. It was hard, as I couldn’t recall to much of what had possessed me to do such a terrible idea. There were safety concerns, worried that others might fall into the well, but seriously, how often did that happen? There had to be other reasons, and I didn’t think it was all wrong. It does trap the evil during the day. I just needed to find a way to make whatever barrier is in place stronger.

Still, I was stuck on the idea of fire. I couldn’t get the picture out of my head, this huge blaze burning away, burning it all away. In my head, starting the fire turned into this monstrous beacon of light that lit the whole area and rose up high into the sky. It was glorious, this halo that would surround the world and push away the darkness.

It was foolhearty of course, and I knew I would never do it. That didn’t mean there wasn’t some merit to the idea. I didn’t have much time left before dusk would turn into night, and while I had an idea of what to do, I wasn’t sure of how I was going to do it. However, something was in my favor.

I don’t remember doing it. I don’t remember going to the store or purchasing any of the supplies, but as I neared the house, I smelled kerosene. On the floor board was a jug of the stuff. In the back seat, I saw long sticks and a pile of rags. I don’t know where it came from. Even if I had gone to the general store in town, I doubted they would have had the cloth, not in the dirty disheveled state of what was in my back seat. The poles were also dirty. So none of it was new.

Were had I gone after I left the church? As much as I tried to remember, it was like there was a dark patch in my memory. It wasn’t even that something had guided me, this was flat out, I had no clue where I was or had been.

Something was wrong, and it would have troubled me more had I not just put the car in park, and was looking at the haggard cabin I was now calling a home.

I could still burn it all down…

I knew as much as I wanted to as I got out of that car and walked my way around back, listening to the angry screams from the dead as I did so. Burning the barn would be a mistake. If I did, what was in there would be free. Whatever had kept it trapped before was withered away now since Margarets murder. My only chance was the barn. It was the only way I could contain it.

I stopped when I reached the back corner of the cabin to look at the barn. The shadows had grown long and I had forgotten to bring the torch making supplies with me. So what I saw there, the long shadows stretched out from the front of the barn, filled with the dark flailing tendrils of evil… There was not a chance in hell I was taking another step towards any of that without fire leading the way.

Maybe it was a good thing I hadn’t brought the supplies the first time. Before, I hadn’t had a plan, but as I watched the things shifting through that darkness, I got an idea. I would need my hammer, and it was only going to be a temporary solution. Probably would work only for tonight, I couldn’t know for sure. It might not work at all.

I grabbed the supplies and brought them to the back, and then went to grab my hammer. I thought it would be in my tool box, and when I went into the cabin for it, thought it would be on the kitchen counter where my box sat open.

It wasn’t there…

Had I really only finished the barn this afternoon?

I had, and all of this had started when I had gone into the barn, my hammer still in hand. What had I done with the hammer then? I knew the answer, but didn’t want to acknowledge the truth.

Of course, when I stepped outside and looked at the barn, I could see my hammer. Not at first, but as the dark tendrils flicked back and forth, I could see it there at the threshold of the barn. I had dropped it…

There was already not enough time to get this done, how could I ever do this… And now I had no hammer. I needed it if my plan was to work.

The thought of going back into town for a new hammer was appealing, but I knew there was less time for that, and I would never be able to contain this thing if I did that. I had to get my hammer back.

“And hey, look on the bright side, at least I’ll be able to see if this whole torch idea was even going to work.” I had said it out loud, but had meant it as a thought to myself. Kathryn and Margaret were both near me when I said and they both snickered.

“Serves you right. You’re going to die.” Margaret said.

“You need to do this. If you don’t, everyone else will die.” Kathryn said. I could see the pain in her eyes, and knew she was worried. Both of them were, which surprised me without much Margaret would love to see my die horribly.

I felt the wetness at the corner of my eye, but brushed away. I didn’t have any time for that. I quickly went to work on making my first torch.

Dead Friends: Chapter 46

Lizzie wasn’t sure how long she had been sitting there in the corner before she finally stood. She knew it had been awhile as her butt was sore as pins and needles ran up her foot and thighs. None of her pain, or the time she had been sitting there changed the fact that the bed was empty. Jessica was gone, leaving Lizzie alone in her house of death.

The light outside was fading and the room was growing dark in the waning afternoon light. It would be full dark now. There was a part of her that welcomed it. It was becoming to hard to keep fighting. Not when everyone close to her or helped her would just keep dying.

Lizzie had no doubt that she would see Jessica soon, and that will have joined one of the dead outside. Now it was only a matter of time. Then with Jessica gone, who would she have left? All her closest friends will have died. Who would it take next?

Lizzie turned on the light and stared back at the bed. Just how long had Lizzie slept? How long had she been out before her friend decided to leave? Had that been her plan since before trying to get Lizzie to lie down? Jessica had been adamant about going to see the old woman, but that had been before they read the part of the note.

Lizzie tried to think back. Had Jessica still been adamant about going to see the her. Even after they had read the note, had the desire still been there? She thought Jessica had chilled, but Lizzie could have been wrong. When had they fought. Was it before or after?

The last few hours hand become a blew and she barely knew when things had happened. With the midday nap, it really made everything feels like a new day, that all that stuff happened yesterday or something. The timeline wasn’t clear in her head.

What did it matter anyway? Jessica was gone. Soon, another one of her friends will have died.

All she would have left would be the dead ones outside. She could hear them bickering out there. Most times, she always had music or some show playing just to cut down on the stillness of the cabin and the noise outside. With Jessica there, she had turned it off.

Now that silence was growing heavy, and she could feel the pressure of the walls closing in. The space of the cabin felt smaller, the rooms tighter with not enough space for her to move through.

She had to get out of the bedroom. The dark interior seemed like it was reaching out to her, that the light had hid shadows that were coming alive. The room itself was getting stuffy. She was sweating, but yet she felt cold at the same time. Her heart was thumping in her chest and the walls started to tremble. She couldn’t tell if it was the cabin or her own eyes playing tricks. It was impossible to tell as her own body felt like it was betraying her. What was happening to her?

She rushed out of the room, coughing, unable to breathe. She made it only a few more steps, the world spinning around her before she passed out, crashing to the floor.

****

It was hard to breathe. No, wait, it was where she was at that was hard, how she was lying there. Her head hurt, but so did the rest of her. She tried to move, but everything was stiff. Her mind was stiff. The fog that clouded her thoughts did not want to dissipate. Am I waking up? Where am I?

Her eyes didn’t wan’t to open. They felt glued shut, and there was this pounding that was pulsating through her. At first she thought it was her headache, throbbing enough she could not only feel it in her teeth, but all the way down to her toes.

At least I still have toes. At least I’m still alive. But really, did she still want to be alive? Life just meant that she was still alone.

Jessica! Jessica had left her there to be alone.

Some of the thickness in her head pulled back and she started to remember the panic attack she had. That had been, by far, one of the worst she had ever experienced. God, I hope that never happens again. Though, she knew she couldn’t even make that promise. After all, what was going to happen when she did see Jessica again, as one of the dead outside.

Dead inside, dead inside, what you gonna do with the dead inside… A song was floating through her heads, the track suddenly on repeat. Even worse was she couldn’t place the song, and she was sure those weren’t the correct lyrics.

And please make that damn pounding go away! She wanted to scream at it to just stop shaking her. Her body hurt enough.

She finally opened her eyes. She had been right. She was lying on the hard wood floor. Not comfortably either. All of her was sprawled out like she hadn’t caught herself when lying down there, her face flat to the floor, her back twisted as though she had been in mid turn when she crashed.

All of her hurt… but the pounding, not that was strangled alien. It took her a few more moments to process that it was the floor shaking with the pounding, the vibration shaking through her.

Someone was pounding from outside.

“Hello!” She heard a gruff male voice barking from outside. The voice sounded angry. Who would be so angry?

Oh God, it had to be someone who know about the dead. Oh no, maybe one of the loved ones found out somehow and were now out there to get their revenge. They were going to kill me? I’m about to die.

Lizzie suddenly found herself fully awake as she pushed herself up from the floor, a slight trail of drool the only remnant to show where her face had been.

“I see the car out here, now open this door. I know you’re here.” The gruff voice growled from beyond the door as it assaulted it with a fresh barrage. “This is Sheriff <name>. We spoke at the hospital. Now open this door.”

Lizzie knew she was fully awake, but she still felt like the fog was swirling its way around her head again and her chest was tight. It was like the couldn’t breathe all over again, and she saw the darkness in the corner of her vision. She was on the verge of passing out again. Maybe SHE needed to go to the hospital again. It wasn’t right for her to keep passing out, or nearly passing out.

She worked to force herself through it, standing up, but she had done it too fast. The world spun around her and before she realized what she was doing, she had reached out to the wall and caught herself.

“I can hear you in there.”

“Just-” she tried to call out, struggling to form the sentence, “Just a second” in the hopes to get herself a reprieve from the fists slamming on the door. Each pounding beat was like a fresh wave of drum lines that struck through her head, working to rebound off her aching skull.

She couldn’t get it all out though, and was left with moving closer to the wall, leaning on it for support. She rested her head on it, enjoying the sensation of the cool wood. That was until the fresh round of pounding caused the cabin to shake and vibrated the wall.

“Open up. This is the sheriff, and I want some damn answers. Open this damn door.” She clearly heard him say, though afterwards, she swore she could a muffled, “Damn kids today have no respect for the law.” It was as though he said this to herself, and even through the pain, she felt a slight smile on her lips as fresh wetness formed at the corner of her eyes.

Come on, Lizzie, get your shit together. All you have to do is open your door and let him in. She knew that wasn’t true though. She had to let him in, but then she had to talk to him, and what did he want to talk about? How much did he know? Well, he was there, so he had to have an idea of what was going on. He had grown up around her hadn’t he? She had no clue, but even if he hadn’t, if there were as many rumors as the journal made out, then he had to have heard things.

She would never know until she opened the door.

Her head wouldn’t stop spinning, and she wondered when was the last time she ate? How long had she been on the floor? Could she be so off because of food?

FOCUS!

The voice screamed at her, and it pulled her out of the fog she knew she had been slipping back into. Enough at least, so she could push herself off of the wall and start stumbling towards the door.

****

“Hello,” She said, her voice sounding weak to her own ears as she stared up at the tall uniformed man standing outside. She barely remembered him from the hospital, but recalled how she hadn’t like him then. Elisabeth had to save her from him then, pulling him out of the room, telling him that Lizzie still needed time to recover. Lizzie didn’t recall him ever coming back though, to ask more questions. Maybe he had and she had just been out of it. That time in the hospital felt so long ago, and everything capture in this haze of confusion between what had all been happening to her lately.

What did she remember?

She hadn’t remembered him being so short. She knew that much. Her memory was fuzzy, but she recalled him towering over her, his presence filling the hospital room as Sarah was trying to calm her down.

Lizzie had hid in the bathroom, she had been terrified, but it hadn’t been the sheriff that had scared her. There had been something else there, some other creature, and it had been after her.

All those memories were a blurry mess, and she wasn’t sure how much of them were reliable. She had no clue what drugs that had been pumping into her. There was something about snakes. She had thought they had been around her, trying to attack her, but she had been in a hospital.

The sheriff watched her, now, not saying anything, and she realized that she had just stood there with the door open, allowing her thoughts to wander after saying hello. He was studying her, that much was obvious, but why, she wasn’t sure.

You do realize that Roland’s car is still parked out there. That you had driven it here after leaving him dead in his hotel room. He must have run the plates by now. He knows that you stole it. What else does he know. He’s here to take you to jail.

How long would she even stay in jail before a padded room would be needed?

“Can..Can I help you?” She asked. She had started shifting back and forth, uncomfortable as the man was staring at her, not saying a thing.

At least he’s alive, not like all the dead who were standing out in the yard watching the exchange.

“Arrest her!” Josh was yelling. He was obviously afraid to get to close to the house as he kept his distance when he yelled. He was doing his best though to get the sheriff’s attention, trying to pick up rocks and toss them at the house. The best he could do was shuffle them around, which only Lizzie noticed.

The rest were quiet, watching with interest.

“We’ve met before.” He finally said. Lizzie didn’t think it was a question, but she answered it anyway, unsure of what really to say to the man.

“I think so. I think you came to ask me about my attack.”

“And about your friend dying.”

“Yes, Sarah.”

“She was killed here, in the kitchen.” Lizzie winced as the sheriff said, kitchen, he nodded towards the room behind her. At first Lizzie didn’t feel comfortable that the man knew the layout of her house. It made sense though. He would have been in there when they were investigating the m-… death. She struggled not to think of her friend as being killed that way.

“I’ve been looking into your friends death. We don’t get many murders around here, so when one happens, I like to be thorough.”

Lizzie doesn’t know what to say. She nods, as though she’s understanding, but doesn’t move, still standing there in the door. It takes all her concentration to listen to him, as her mind wants to travel back in time to when Sarah was still alive. Her friend, going with her to movies, or just shopping as they would talk about what new infatuation either of them had.

“I think I told you about your killer. He had been dead for less than a week, but somehow his corpse came here…and killed your friend. How does that happen?”

Lizzie felt herself wanting to scream, at the sheriff and at everything around her. She wanted to run up to him and yell into his face “Because I’m cursed asshole and all kinds of weird shit happens around me with the dead. I have a back yard full of them. Do you want to come and see? I’m sure if you stay here long enough you’ll join them. I bet you would like that wouldn’t you mother fucker.”

The rage, as sudden as it was, was invigorating. The fog that had kept pushing in on her thoughts was suddenly forced away and she was suddenly looking at the man standing in the threshold with a sudden clarity. Why was he here? What did he know? Why wasn’t he asking her to come in?

Suddenly all the warning bells were flashing through her skull as something was off about this man. He must have seen it too, seen the shift in her eyes, as he changed his stance and his hand dropped to rest on the revolver holstered on his belt.

“What…What are you trying to say?” Lizzie asked, her mouth suddenly dry, but she forced the words out, the fury lacing them with self righteous anger induced sarcasm. This anger actually felt good. It felt like she was finding some of herself again. Some of the woman she’d been before her friends around her started dying.

“I’m not sure yet. That was odd. First I thought that you and your friend had dug him up as some kind of kinky sex thing. Sick, but who knows what you city types do to get your kicks. Tim Hicks, the medical examiner did say, however, that it did look like the ol’ coot did climb himself out of his own grave. All the physical evidence supports it. So… Why did he come here? What brought him here?”

“Don’t know deputy. Any other recently dead bodies start waking up? If any of them stop by, I will make sure to let you know.”

“Sheriff. Sheriff Hartley. I apologize for not introducing myself. You are Elizabeth Rogers, friends, those still alive at least, call you Lizzie. You inherited this house and now live here I gather as no one has seen your around your apartment in over a week. You used to date a,” The sheriff pulls out a small notebook from his chest pocket. She already knows what he is going to say. It was obvious as he had been looking into her. Why her? He already said he’d figured out about the old man, so there was nothing more for him to investigate.

He also didn’t answer your question when you asked him if there had been any more dead bodies to get up and leave the cemetery.

“Roland, who died one week ago from what looks to be a heart attack in a hotel room. That’s his car-” The sheriff said, nodding over his should to the car parked out from. “Parked right over there. You were with him when he died.”

“I was.”

“Then you stole his car.”

“I was freaked out. I needed to get out of there.”

The sheriff stands there for while, looking at her. That stern look never changes. The man could be carved out of marble. He definitely looks like he had been around for awhile, his weather face, the winkles that show age with his pale skin.

“Taking the car was illegal, but his parents said they wouldn’t file charges if it turned out you had taken it. They say hello by the way and worried about how you are doing.”

“I’m doing okay.”

“Hiding out here in the woods.”

“I said, I’m doing okay.”

“Yeah, well, they said if I found it with you, you can keep it.”

“How would any of that be in your jurisdiction. That was down in Milwaukee, not way the hell up here.”

“You’re right. I was looking into you, and came across the case. I let the Milwaukee PD know that I would try and help them out. That case is going to be closed, just as all the cases that surround you.”

“Okay. Then why are you here. You obviously know I haven’t done anything.”

“Other than steal the car.”

“Which you now said was okay. What are you doing here sheriff?”

Who is this woman and where had she been in the last two weeks? Lizzie was proud of herself. Maybe it was just easier to stand up to the law when you’ve been dealing with the dead and creepy other things from beyond this world. After that, the sheriff seemed not as imposing.

“The cases were closed, and I’ll admit, I’m not from this area. I moved here just a few years ago, caught up in an opening for the sheriff’s department for the county. Seems that it was hard to find a local willing to patrol this area and no one could tell me why.”

“Okay. Why are you telling me this?”

“I didn’t ask any questions then. You see, I needed a job, and most places asked too many questions about ones past. Up here, though, they didn’t care about my past. They saw my experience and that I was willing to patrol the area without questions. I was hired within days.

“It’s a quiet area. Nothing really happens. There are no major highways in my zone so I never have to worry about speeders. Bothered me at first as I wasn’t sure this district enforced any kind of quota, but the people who hired me had no issues. I felt like I wasn’t doing my duty, but I quickly learned I could just sleep away my shifts and no one would care. I was in the dark zone, and as long as someone was here, they didn’t care what I did.”

Lizzie was suddenly not feeling so well. Her stomach rolled and she felt like she was closer to his man than she wanted to be. Her face was flushed.

She swore that look had changed. He was looking at her with a hunger. She swore she could see it in his eyes. That they had shifted, The brown had changed as the black of his iris’s expanded. His voice was growing more gravely, and she watched as he swayed forward and back.

He reached out and put a hand on the door frame to steady himself.

As soon as his hand touched the wood, he brought it back, clutching it to himself. Lizzie swore she could see smoke from between the fingers of his other hand. Was it just a trick of the light? She didn’t think so as the brown returned to his eyes and he was now clearly snarling. The look was feral as he licked his lips.

“Then your friend died.” He growled. “It seems like there are a lot of people who die around you. Have you noticed that. The nurse and her boyfriend, they brought you home and then were killed in a bad accident. Do you know how long it has been since the last accident in this area? It had been over ten years ago, and do you want to guess where it occurred? I’m sure you already know. I’m sure you know a lot of things.

“Not a lot of people die around here. Statistically its one of the safest, and healthiest counties in the U.S. Though it is a small county, so there are not a lot of people left. Those that are, they don’t like to come out here. Do you want to know why?”

Lizzie was pretty sure she knew why. She wanted to step back from the sheriff. She was no longer convinced he was a man. She wasn’t sure what he was, but he wasn’t human. If she turned her back on him now, she felt, no she knew that he would be on her, attacking her, ripping her to shreds. It didn’t matter what protection the house had, it looked like it only hurt him, and she didn’t think that would stop him. Not if she allowed him to give in to his nature. He was a predator, and you never turn your back on a predator.

“Why?”

“Because people die when they come out here. Just like little Tommy Wallace. Do you know who that is?”

Lizzie shook her head.

“He delivered your groceries last week. He died this morning. Another car accident. He was run over by a semi truck. Not much of the body was left. He only had one arm attached, both of his legs had been ripped off. It was like when he got caught up in the trucks large tires, it grinded him up. He had been riding his bicycle, so that was with him. He face had spokes from the tires sticking out of him, one of his eye balls had been affixed to the end of one like a shishkabob.

“I had to scrape that poor kid up off the gravel this morning, and you know what I realized? That all this death, it all comes back to this place. That is all comes back to you.”

“People died before me, sheriff.” Lizzie could barely find her voice. She couldn’t stop thinking about the kid who had delivered her groceries. She hadn’t thought about him much. She had barely said anything to him, not wanting to cause him harm. He had tried to ask her things, but she had barely said a word.

None of that had worked. He had died anyway.

“That’s what I’m told. Doesn’t matter. It all comes back to you now.”

Lizzie blinked away her thoughts to look at the cop who was standing at the door. She noticed his hand was still resting on his revolver. He hadn’t flicked off the strap, but she could see his finger hovering.

“Does it?”

She see his tension, and it was like watching the wheels turn. She realized that his predator self didn’t need to come into the house. A bullet from that gun would have nothing to stop it. He could end this all now, and it would be over with for her. She might be able to find peace, but then it would be her brother’s turn. How would he ever be able to protect himself?

She saw as the sheriff must have come to a conclusion. His shoulders relaxed as he started to study the house around her.

“It might not. I know about your brother too. I know about your whole family. So here is what we’re going to do.” He said as his hand fell away from his revolver.

“Whenever you need groceries, or something brought to the house, you call me at the sheriffs department. I’ll bring it out. You don’t call the grocery store, you call me. You do not leave this house for any reason. You don’t go anywhere, you don’t do anything. If you feel like you need to get out, too bad. Think of this as your jail cell, because you are now under house arrest, you got that.”

Lizzie wanted to argue with the man, but she kept thinking of that little boy. She knew she would be seeing him again soon. Jessica and now him. Two more to join her legion of horrors outside.

“What if I say no?”

“Is that what you want?” The sheriff said, bringing his hand back to his revolver. Lizzie understood the threat, though in truth, it wasn’t needed. She agreed with the sheriff. For whatever he was, this might be the best solution.

She shook her head no, in response to his threat.

“Good.”

“What do you know about all this? What do you know that your not telling me.”

“That’s none of your concern.” The sheriff said. Then he went down the stairs, keeping his back away from her. She watched him until he was out of sight, blocked from view by the metal slab.

With him gone, she closed the door. She thought she would collapse like she had done before. Instead, she looked across the room at the pages scattered on the table.

Dead Friends: Chapter 42

Brian sat at the window watching the birds. He was always there, in his room, watching birds. It was his life. What else did he have to do? He was trapped and alone not just in this place but in his own mind. He was a prisoner his own body, constantly screaming to be free.

“Scream as I scream, but no one listens to me.” He would have said to the empty room, but to talk would have meant he would have to have typed it out using the one finger tip that he did have enough control over to use. It would have been typed, not spoken, and then the room would have heard the computer generated voice that was now what he thought of as his own.

How much of him was even presented to the world? How did the world see him, just the crippled in the chair or did any of them ever see what he was in side.

What did they matter, he was an outcast inside and out…

A new bird chirped as it landed close to other and the two caught over some unseen worm. The fight drew him out of his thoughts though he knew it would only be temporary. He had woken up again in a foul mood. He couldn’t place why he had been waking up in such temperaments, but felt the blame had something to do with his dreams lately. He couldn’t remember them, but would wake up shivering and sweating.

“And how is my young athlete doing this morning?” A booming, chipper voice called out behind him. Brian didn’t turn around to look. He couldn’t, not without moving his whole chair, but he also didn’t have to, to know that the voice belonged to Jerome. “We ready to get up and take on the day.”

Jerome wasn’t this insensitive to all the patients he cared for. He was a good guy, and his jokes were often tailored to his audience. Brian could take the joke and most days the barbs would be returned in a jousting match of insults and sarcasm, all good natured. However today wasn’t a good day. Instead there was an anger that was building, that dark feeling that was following him out from his dreams. It made him want to snarl and lash out at the world, and for right now, the world was Jerome.

“You shouldn’t say that,” Came the computer generated voice from the speaker attached to his chair. It was followed by a single tear that ran down his cheek.

Jerome had continued into the room as he had talked and had gone to the sheet next to the bed, writing in some information into the log sheet there. At the sound of the voice box, Brian watched through the reflected glass as the man looked up in shock at the boy sitting in the wheelchair. Jeromes mouth had opened in shock, and Brian could see how much pain now spread on his face.

“Bro, I’m sorry. You know I was just kidding.” Jerome set down the clipboard and walked over to Brian, coming around and lowering himself so he could look into the boy’s eyes. “You know I don’t mean stuff like that right. We just always kid. Something getting you this morning.”

Brian could feel like more tears threatening to stream out of him in a flood of emotions he himself didn’t even understand. He could feel them right below the surface, but not the cause of why they were there. They were bottling up, just like the anger he was feeling. All of it, fighting as to which emotion was going to break free, and at the same time he didn’t want to release any of it. Not now, not in front of Jerome when it had been Jerome’s own words that had brought all of this to the surface.

“What is wrong with you lately” the little voice inside him asked as he looked back at Jerome. No he glared at him, the anger taking the forefront of the storm. He refused to even reply as he just stared into those dark ember eyes that looked at him with compassion.

The moment lingered and doubt creased along Jerome’s face until he stood and backed away. Brian could tell the big guy was thinking, which wouldn’t surprise Brian as Jerome was a pretty smart guy. He was normally fun and geeky, full of comic book knowledge and always up on the latest movies coming out. Not only that but he knew about stuff and was a deep thinker. Jerome had once told him that he was minoring in philosophy in college before he decided to dedicate himself full time to helping people, and sure while much of that could have been bullshit, Brian didn’t think so. He believed him, because Jerome was also very earnest.

So as Jerome stood up and looked outside, at the grass that was covered in fall colored leaves, Brian knew he was deep into his thoughts about something.

“When was the last time your sister came by to see you?” Jerome asked, looking back to Brian. Brian wanted to scoff. He tried too, and he even typed in “ha, ha” into his little keyboard, but all that came out was the digital laugh that sounded eerily creepy.

“That’s what I thought. Don’t seem right. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t know her, she’s not my sister, but sure seems selfish how she stays away. Just doesn’t seem right.” Jerome was again looking out the window and his voice had grown distant as he kept his gaze locked on the trees.

Brian looked in that direction and was struck by the shadows. They were dancing. He could first see how the ones that stretched out from the woods into the grass swayed back and forth and gyrated like people in a seductive rhythm. Bodies of darkness were intertwined, wrapping around one another as though moving to their own song. They were beckoning, reaching out to him, he could see it. He could even feel it inside his chest, burning inside his soul. He felt something inside him shift, and though while knowing it was impossible, he could feel his penis growing stiff.

The shadows pulled him in, and he found himself looking at the trees. Was that a man he saw there? It was far enough away he couldn’t be sure. The man was hidden, but somehow Brian knew that if he did see him, he would still not be able to make out any details.

There were other patients, members of the long term care society just like himself. Many of them would be walking along the paths, escorted by one of the many orderlies. They were out there, mulling around like cows out to pasture. Though as they all walked, everyone avoided the shadows. He even watched as Nelson, a zombie of a person so out of touch on med’s that he never responded to anyone, shocked the orderly he suddenly sidestepped out of the path of a dancing shadow that had stretched towards him.

They all were avoiding them and avoiding the woods. What was out there?

Brian adjust his wheelchair so he could see Jerome who was still looking off to the woods.

“Jay.” The digital voice called out for Brian. “J-man, come on.”

Jerome looked at him, the jolly smile Jerome normally had was spread wider into an unnatural tooth filled grin, and there were so many teeth. Brian was sure there were more teeth than what was right and that there might have been another set of teeth buried deeper within. Jerome’s kind eyes were gone, burned away by a purple flame that burned in his eyes.

Brian’s friend was disappearing before him and something else was replacing him. It wasn’t the thing in the woods, as Brian was convinced that he would never see the things features had the shadow man been in there.

Why are you so sure of that? He didn’t know, he just was. This was something else, and it was wrong to this world.

“Hey B-dawg, what’s wrong.” The thing said, its voice stretched and broken, somehow rattling as it spoke. It was like the voice was formed as wind blowing through broken glass, shaking then shards as sound stretched into words.

It sent a shiver through Brian. He knew he should run, and he did want to get away, but he also knew how pointless that would be. Even now as terrified as he was and shook in terror, none of it was visible as his body trapped him. He had nowhere to go. He was more a prisoner in his own body than he was to the room around him. He had been trapped long before this creature appeared.

“You see me…” the thing spoke, but Brian noted the surprise when it struggled with the words. Each syllable was slow and paused. It reminded Brian of how his older speaker system had been, when the system spoke each word as he typed rather than waiting for him to finish what he had typed. It had made for long stretched out sentences all because the machine kept saying a word, pause, then say another word.

“You see him too.” The creature who had once been Jerome looked towards the trees much as Jerome had before this thing took his body. “It thinks it is master just because it found it first and has been here longer.”

The creature looked back to Brian and Brian knew Jerome was lost. The burning eyes were melting away the skin around the sockets and the mouth that had torn wide to accommodate the new set of growing, sharpening teeth was continuing to bleed. Blood was dripping from its gums and now the lower jaw was red as it spat out when the thing spoke. There was no returning from this.

Brian knew he should be scared, and for the skip of a heart beat, he had been. Then he hadn’t died. The thing was there and it wasn’t attacking him. So the fear slipped to the back of his mind, still there, but lulled as he watch the thing talking to him. Maybe it was part of his condition, or it was because he was used to being trapped within himself and that was worse than whatever this thing could do. It could just be that logic had won out and he realized that if he was alive and this thing was still talking to him, then it needed him. Whatever was the case, he found himself not the terrified mouse looking back at the predator, but as the grizzled vet, staring at the end of his life.

It knelt down close and Brian could smell the blood on its breath as it spoke.

“It does not control me. It wants you.” Blood spattering Brian’s face as it spoke. “It wants you to its collection. Some think it be a trickster, but I’ve known it too long. It be a collector. It wants you for its collection.” Brian felt the chill from the thing’s eyes and wished he could turn his face away. He couldn’t. He was locked in and his eyes were fixed on staring into the cold flames.

How could cold burn into him? He wasn’t sure, but he felt it. There was no getting away from what he felt. As much as he wanted to, there was no escape.

“I’m not going to kill you. If I kill you, then you become a part of it’s collection.” It said as it backed away from Brian. Brian tried to take in a quick gasp of air in relief, but found that his body was fighting him. Instead, his breathing was still quick, struggling to keep up with his racing heart. He was more terrified than he realized, but it was all alien to him. His body reacted, but his mind felt detached. Like it could watch this thing as it moved and transformed, while still being able to study it and think rationally. The thing had just told him it was there to kill him. Then why was it there?

“What then? If you are not going to kill me?” Brian asked. He did. It took him a couple seconds to comprehend it, but he had said the words, not the speaker. He had not taken the time to type the message out, but instead had just blurted it out. Something he hadn’t been able to do for over three years, but yet the words had come to him, and they had left his own lips.

He felt the tear as it stung his cheek, and knew there would be a tidal wave behind it. He had spoke. That was a miracle, and one he had given up on long ago. He had moved more than just a few muscles. If he could do that, then what else could he do?

The thing was looking back at him, and that wide, tooth filled smile stretched wider, tearing more skin.

“I want you to get something for me.”

“I can’t.”

“You can. What would you do to have your body back? Would you kill?”

Brian shook his head ‘no,’ before he realized he was doing it. Then his eyes opened wide in disbelief and suddenly he wasn’t so sure he wouldn’t kill to have his body back.

“You would. I can see the doubt. You think you wouldn’t, but you would.”

“No.” Something about hearing his own thoughts come from the thing’s mouth gave Brian a new found resolve. Having his body back would be great, but he realized he would never be able to live with himself if it meant taking another’s life.

The thing just nodded and went back to walking around the room. Brian hadn’t noticed before, but even when it had been close to the window, it still moved to stay away from any direct source of light. It always moved around them, working to stay in the shadows, even if the shadows were faint in the well lit room.

It went to the door and closed it.

“No? Well, we’ll see, but I don’t need you to kill. I just need you to get some things. Things that it can’t get. Things that we want. Things that we need. Things that a few people have…including your sister.”

Dead Friends: Chapter 4

Beep

Beep beep

Beep

Beep beep

tik

tik-a-too

tik

tik-a-tok

Lizzie’s eyes shot open, her breath caught in her chest in mid a scream that never came. She was ready to scream forever into the dark, but something was wrong. She held it in, and it burned her lungs like a fire storming inside her.

There were lights. They weren’t in the room she was in, but it was nearby and illuminated just enough around her that she could see the walls.

Walls in a room that trapped her. They were white, she was trapped back at the house and it was night now. The naked man or the tik-tok man must have dragged her back there and now they were going too…

Was she tied up?

She wasn’t sure. How could she not be sure? She didn’t know but when she tried to move, the room moved more than she did as it tried to spin around her. The world was shaking, was it an earthquake?

There was a loud laugh from somewhere deep in the darkness. It turned into a cackling. The room echoed with it and she could see where pieces of tile started to shatter away and cracks formed running down from the ceiling.

Plaster fell around her and exploded into white powder that lingered in the air. The room was becoming a fog of white as more pieces fell. It was growing thick and she couldn’t breathe. She began to cough, but her throat was raw. It came out as a dry rasp and she had to struggle.

“Calm down. It’s going to be okay.”

She heard a woman’s voice and it was nearby. An angel had come to rescue her. Finally she was saved.

She heard her heart. It was pounding so loudly in her chest that it throbbed through her ears. Still over it she could hear that wonderful voice.

“Just lie back down. Everything’s okay. You’re safe now. You’re safe.” The voice told her and she felt it. The voice reached in to her and relaxed her, pushing her back down on the bed. She had realized how she had arched up her back and had been focused on the ceiling until she melted back onto the bed.

Light flooded the room and she saw where she was. The beeping equipment, the wall mounted tv and the little wooden cabinet on the other side of the room made the hospital room unmistakable. The smell hit her. How had she not noticed that anesthetic odor, mingling with the stench of shit from unchanged bed pans?

Her bed pan… how long had she been out? Had she been in a coma? Her muscles were sore but she didn’t feel like she was weak. She wouldn’t have any energy if she’d been in a coma, right? That’s what she thought but she wasn’t sure.

“Come on girl, just breathe. Deep breaths.”

Lizzie felt something touch her shoulder and she jumped, her scared eyes shooting in the direction of the voice. There was the owner of the voice, and Lizzie looked at her with eyes open wide, another scream at the tip of her tongue.

The large black woman who looked at Lizzie with so much heartwarming compassion and sadness that Lizzie felt like she should be able to trust the woman, but how could she trust anyone? She couldn’t stop her body from reacting and recoiling, kicking herself back trying to get as far away as possible. She felt the bed rocking, and didn’t know if it would tip. She just had to run, to, get away and flee from strangers.

The nurse reached out and grabbed both of her shoulders, keeping her eyes locked on Lizzie. As she did, another woman came into the room and rushed to take Lizzie’s legs and pull them away from her so Lizzie was helpless, falling flat on her back.

No, I am not going to be helpless! Not ever again!

She thrashed around.

“Elizabeth! Its okay. You are okay. You are okay. We need you to relax. Everything is okay.”

The woman’s mouth was moving. Lizzie could hear the words but they just didn’t make sense.  There was a wall inside her and she only heard the cackling. It had stayed in the room after the darkness left and she could hear it in the undercurrent. It reverberated around her. It was a part of her, inside her and it just made…her…want…to…SCREAM!

It finally erupted out from her. The scream echoed through her, billowing out from her, shattering glass around her. She didn’t know where any of it came from but she was now in a rainfall of tiny shards that glistened in the fluorescent light.

A man emerged from behind the curtain. A curtain? She hadn’t noticed that before but one whole wall of her room was just a curtain. Beyond was a lighted hallway she could only catch a glimpse of before the curtain fell back into place.

“What’s going on?” She guessed he was a doctor as he had stepped into her room, is it really your room if it only has three walls, with an air of authority.

“She woke up and immediately went into hysterics.” The woman, a short stout woman wearing flower designed scrubs. She had glasses and silver hair pulled back into a pony tail. She didn’t look old though, and the silver hair was probably died.

“This the woman they found in the woods?”

The silver haired woman nodded.

“Okay, let her go.” The doctor said as he stepped closer to the bed. He held his hands up, showing there was nothing in them. He was moving slow and kept his eyes locked on hers. “You are  going to be okay,” he said soothingly as he approached.

The woman at the end of the bed let Lizzie’s legs go and took a tentative step back. The two of them shared a skeptical glance, neither one trusting the other. Then Lizzie felt the pressure relax on her shoulders and turned as the other woman was straightening.

This one didn’t step back. The nurse stayed there, looking down at her with a deep sadness. Lizzie could see the winkles creasing her face and felt a fond affection for the woman. Something about her was like that of a grandmother. It wasn’t of her own grandma, but there was that quality she always imagined, there in how she looked at her. She pictured Mrs. Brady of that old TV show. The one with all the sisters and brothers. Mrs. Brady hadn’t been a grandmother, but she should have been as she had that kindness. It made Lizzie just want to reach up and give the woman a hug.

“Did we get any identification?” The doctor asked the nurse as he stood next to her, the pair looking down at Lizzie.

“No, there hadn’t been anything when they brought her in and this is the full time she has regained consciousness.”

“Hi, my name is Doctor Everson,” he said as he eased closer to her, bending down. She could see he had something in his hand. It was long and she could see the glint of metal. “Can you tell me what your name is?”

His voice was smooth and hearing it calmed her frayed nerves. He was a doctor. He was a good guy, the white hat from westerns, or her Prince Charming. No, doctors didn’t do the saving, well she guessed they actually did do the saving, but they weren’t the rescuers that pulled you from a burning building.  This man was just going to look her over and make her all okay. She needed to trust him, she knew that.

He still had that metal thing hidden in his hand. What was he hiding from her?

And why were they asking her for her name? The nurse had said her name hadn’t she, when she had first come in.

Lizzie’s head spun and she had to struggle to concentrate as none of this was making sense. She needed to talk, and realized the doctor was waiting for her to answer, hovering over her but not moving any closer. It was like the world was hanging, waiting on her and everyone was watching her.

“Lizzie” she said to break the stillness and it proved harder than she would have thought. Her throat was dry and it came out as a raspy breath. It sent her into a flurry of dry coughing and she would have thought one of them would have come to rub her back or offer her water. Instead they stood their, statues afraid to come any nearer.

“Okay Lizzie, is that a nickname?”

She had to say more, but feared it would send her into another coughing fit. She wished she could write it down, but didn’t see any pens or paper.

“Elizabeth. Elizabeth Rogers.”

“Okay Lizzie, and is there any family I should call?”

“Rolan-“ she didn’t finish as she knew that wasn’t right and it took her a minute before she remembered that she had broken up with Roland. That had been over a month ago. Who could they call? Other than her brother, who did she have now?

She really didn’t want to get Brian upset, and there was nothing he could do for her so why call him? Why should she ever call him. She was pretty good at avoiding him and didn’t want to change that

now. Not for this?

Sarah would have been the one she wanted to call. Her friend until the end, the girl she had grown up with and was like a sister to her. The girl who’s dead glassy eyes kept looking at her every time Lizzie closed her eyes.

She hadn’t realized she had stopped talking just as she had started. The three others in the room were watching her and the doctor was saying something…

“Roland who? Can I get a last name?”

“Never mind him,” she said as she tried to wiggle herself up in the bed. She wanted to sit up but didn’t trust herself yet, the world still threatening to do some more spinning. “Can I get some water?”

“Sure. Nurse?” the doctor looked at the one who was standing at the foot of her bed. The nurse pursed her lips, but she nodded and turned to the first cabinet to the right. She scanned her id card into a panel to the side and it popped open. Lizzie couldn’t see what was inside of it, but she saw the large hospital cup the woman pulled out and then went to a sink to her left that Lizzie hadn’t noticed before.

“Lizzie. Is there anyone we can call tik-a-too?” She heard the doctor say and she quickly turned towards him, her shoulders again tensing.

“Where’s Sarah?”

“Lizzie, I need you to stay calm.” He said in that milk chocolate tone of voice that made her want to melt, but it was too late for melting. She had heard it. He must be one of them.

“Who’s Sarah tik-a-too?” The black nurse said. She had a note pad now and was taking notes.

They were all with him. What were they going to do to her? She thought again about that glint of metal, oh no, they were going to cut her throat. They’re going to kill me!

She tried to see what he had done with it, but he had positioned his hand so it was obscured from her view, hidden behind his body.

“Lizzie, come on Lizzie. I need you to focus and to stay calm. Who can we call. Who should know that you’re here in the hospital?”

I’m not in any hospital. It may look like a hospital, but these people want to cut me open. They’re going to slice me up like they opened up Sarah. They want to know who they can call so I can give them more people to kill.

She shook her head. At first it was a simple back and forth, signaling her refusal, but as she again worked to pull herself back in the bed it grew more furious.

“She’s having a seizure!” someone called out. She wasn’t looking to see who. She clawed at the bed, trying to melt her way into it.

Arms pressed down on her shoulder and someone grabbed her head. She closed her eyes refusing to see the knife coming at her. That had to have been what was in his hand. Though doctor’s didn’t call them knives. They were scalpels and they were even sharper that knives. They were razors that could slice through her flesh with barely any pressure. He was bringing that down on her, she knew it. It was coming for her eyes. It was always about the eyes. They were the windows to her soul, and they wanted to look inside of her.

No, they wanted her soul.

Here it comes.

Light blossomed around her. Everything turned pink as the light was pushing in on her closed eyes. Then her eyes were forced open and she saw the light that pointed straight at her, blinding her as it hovered there.

Then it turned off, and she saw through the circles of light that clouded her vision, the doctor straightening from how he had hovered over her.

“She might have hit her head harder than the EMT’s thought.”

“We don’t know what she’s been through. She had looked pretty beaten up when they brought her in. It looked like she’d been attacked.” The nurse who had gone for the water said. She held the large jug in her hand, presumably with the water and was now standing across from the doctor on the other side of the bed.

“Attacked? Here, in the woods. That’s unlikely.”

“Maybe.”

“Okay, well, get her name to Pinkerton. He’ll want an update, and if she was attacked, he’d need to start investigating, I guess.” This the doctor had said to the black nurse next to him and she took down the notes before nodding to him and heading back out of Lizzie’s room.

This was really getting pretty frustrating. She was right there, and they were talking about her like she wasn’t even there. What was she, some wild animal they needed to tame.

Don’t worry about that right now. She needed to get away from them. They were with him, and while they were talking, she guessed about helping her, they didn’t mean it. As soon as she let her guard down, they were going to strike. So, she couldn’t allow her guard to fall. No matter what, she had to stay alert to what these two were doing.

“Drink this…it’s poison.” She heard the nurse say, though it sounded more like she had hissed out the last part. Lizzie turned to see that the woman’s face had become that of a snake, it’s tongue flicking out as she was holding the large cup out to her. “Drinkssss.”

“Get away from me.” Lizzie said. She reached up and grabbed the cup from the things hand. It wasn’t even a hand, not anymore. It had become a viscous claw, talons extending around the cup and Lizzie could see where they dug into the plastic. Lizzie didn’t stop to think about it or how she got the cup away. She tore off the top and flung its contents. The water hit the serpent nurse in the face and she stumbled back, sputtering from the sudden display.

The nurse took the hint and stayed back, but the hairs on the back of Lizzie’s neck rose. She turned just in time to see that the doctor was moving to hover over her, presumably to push her back down. All he would have to do is get her down flat and then the other one would be back to strap her down.

“No! Get away!”

“Lizzie, calm down.” The doctor was repeating, his smooth voice had now a tinge of sternness. He was getting frustrated. Well, that was too bad, she was not going to make this easy for them. Her friend had died because she had made it too easy. She was done making it easy. If they wanted to hurt her, they were going to have to fight for it.

He reached out to push her down into the bed and she pushed his arms away. She didn’t hold back. As she grabbed to pull his arms away, she dug in her nails and twisted. The nails dug into his flesh.

“Ugh.” the doctor cried out in pain and confusion and stumbled back. “Lizzie, you have to let us help you.”

The room started to shake around her. The cackling was getting stronger and in the back of her mind she heard the dark man chanting. Tik-a-tak, tik-a-too, boo, boo, boo…bounced around her thoughts and grew stronger. It brought tears to her eyes as it pushed its way through anything else and it hurt. Fighting it sent lightening bolts to behind her eyes as she fought.

“Get..sedative…dy” she heard the doctor saying, but it was hard to hear him outside her mind as the voice in her head was getting stronger.

“Li…This wi…ck…you…lit..ile” The doctor said. She only caught pieces of it, but thought again about that metal he had in his hand. She couldn’t see it anymore. He did have something else. It was long. A long tube with a sharp point. A needle. They were going to try and poison her again. They were…

“Okay, its inssss.”

Lizzie spun her head to see that the nurse was standing near an IV drip. She had a needle inserted into a piece of plastic connected to it. She pulled out the needle and looked at her, a smile at the corner of that snake like mouth. The tongue flicked out and in. Then the mouth opened and Lizzie watched as long fangs flicked out as the snake thing prepared to attack.

They truly were going to poison her, but it was going to be snake venom. It would look like a natural death, death by snake.

But why would that matter?

She had no clue, but what did any of it matter anymore? Who cared about any of it?

She did, wait, what was happening to her. This wasn’t right. She was upset, she needed to fight back.

They had done it. They had poisoned her after all. The needle, the IV.

She looked down at her hands. On her left hand she saw now that the IV was running into her. They had slipped it that way. She hadn’t needed to watch for the doctor.

Damn how could I have been so stupid.

She felt herself slipping away. It would be the last time she ever woke up. She knew it. Damn, she was too young for this. She hadn’t traveled enough. She should have traveled more. Gone to England and gotten laid by some hot Englishman, or checked out China and visit the great wall.

She wouldn’t be doing any of that now.

The sedative did its job, and Lizzie faded off to sleep. She barely heard the two talking over her, but caught part of what they were saying.

“…she be okay?”

“…been through a lot, b…be okay.”

The darkness took her and she slipped away.

Book Review: Deadfall Hotel

Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave…”

Richard has lost his wife and in his grief, has accepted a job offer at a very unique hotel. It is one of mysteries and wonder, and where the dead can walk the halls with the living. It is a place where dreams can take shape and pets can mutate into monsters.

This book is an interesting read with some odd directions, and for the most part, I found it highly enjoyable. Now I’ll say that with the caveat that I do not feel like many others will like this book. It has an odd detached tone to it while things are happening and it leaves the reader like you are never fully brought into the secrets of the hotel. I enjoyed that because our main character often never feels like he has fully been brought into the fold.

It also does not have a straight central story line where it leads to a massive climax that gets resolved. Instead, the book introduces us to the main character, we have a few adventures with him and his daughter and then the story is over and we are left saying goodbye. I’m okay with that, however the end isn’t fully explained and we’re left not fully understanding what changed. It is the ending that keeps me from rating this book higher.

I did listen to this as an audiobook and the narrator did a fantastic job. In fact, the next audiobook I am going to listen to, by pure coincidence, is also narrated by him and I am looking forward to it.

Rating 4/5

****

Purchase your copy today. Available in your local book store or on Amazon.
If in Wausau, WI, please make sure to buy your copy from Janke Books Store

Dead Friends: Chapter 22

The first thing Lizzie felt when she woke up was an immense pain in her temple and that sense of being pulled out of some other world. The one she was now in still was rich in haze from the fog of slumber and remnants were still fresh in her thoughts from the one she left behind.

Had it been real? Had any of that just happened? It had been so real. It felt more like memories than dream fragments, but if that was the case why had she been Jessica. She had known her thoughts, her past, things that Jessica had never told her about herself. About her friend. She couldn’t have made all that up, could she? She was unsure, but it unsettled her, because if it was real, then her friend was dead.

The rock formed in her stomach. She had wanted to warn her earlier. She had tried to warn Jessica that something was coming after her. She had known they were next, but maybe it was because of that premonition that she had dreamed about it.

The dream had been so real. Too real. She still felt the bone deep cold inside her, and as she opened her eyes and exhaled a puff of mist formed from her lips. Lips that had just hours before been kissed by Roland. How could she have slept with him  after everything that has happened between the two of them. She could never have been that stupid, but yet she had.

The heart wants what the heart wants.

“But honey, that hadn’t been your heart talking, that had been something else. That was you pussy talking and it was hungry for the ‘D’.” A voice said to her in her head. She recognized it as a voice from long ago, though who it belonged to, she couldn’t recall. It was a voice from out of time floating in from some forgotten past.

As she tried to focus on it, more of the dream faded away yet the cold remained. It was very cold, too cold even. A shiver ran through her and that shouldn’t be right. She shouldn’t be shivering from a dream, should she?

Something tapped into her back and she had to remember that she was still in the hotel room. He was there too, asleep behind her in the bed.

How could she have been so stupid?

She wanted desperately to get out of there. She didn’t know how long she had been asleep, but the little of it she had was enough to clear her mind. God! What had she been thinking?

Didn’t matter. The deed was done and tomorrow he would wake up and remind her of it, maybe even try for a repeat as if everything was forgotten and forgiven. Men.

She wished she had driven herself. Then she could sneak out into the night and disappear, letting the miles between them build until maybe this would become another ungodly nightmare.

First she needed to call Jessica, make sure she was okay. It was the middle of the night, the outside light filtering through the hotels curtains confirmed that suspicion, and she would probably wake her friend.

I just need to make sure she’s okay.

But you know she’s not.

I don’t know that, just the dream had been so real.

The conversation played out in her mind and she continued to lie there in indecision. She should wake up Roland and tell him about it. He would calm her down, tell her she was being silly, but hey, here’s my cell phone if you want to call her. He’d do all those things, as he was a good guy who cared for her. So why did he also have to be such a lying cheating bastard?

Last night she had believed all his bullshit. Why couldn’t she believe him now? Because she had come to her senses, that’s why. What had she been thinking?

She could feel him shift in the bed behind her and let out a soft moan.

He probably sensed that she was awake and was waking up too. He had always been good about waking up with her whenever she couldn’t sleep. He was usually a heavy sleeper, but the moment she had a bad dream, he was up and had her in his arms. When her parents died, he had slept over a lot, and there were many of these nights when she would find herself crying on his chest.

She didn’t want him knowing she was awake. Damn. Maybe if she was still and stayed on her side, he wouldn’t know, but she wanted to call Jess. Damn. What if she fell back to sleep waiting for him to fall back to sleep. Damn, damn, damn.

She pulled the blankets tighter around her. It was so cold in the room. They must had forgotten to turn on the heat when they had come in. Considering how they had been with each other, she wasn’t surprised. They had been generating their own heat.

Now the room was an ice box. She could use the temperature of the room as a refrigerator, their bottled water would be nicely chilled for drinking where it sat on the little table across the room. The temp had must of dropped down much lower than forecasted if the room was this cold. She hadn’t brought enough clothes.

Roland moaned louder. Then he moaned even louder. This wasn’t him waking up.

Then he screamed and she turned over to see that she had gone from dreaming one nightmare to be living in another.

“tik-a-too, tik-a-ted, there’s a dead man in your bed.” The hideous voice cackled. She could see the dark shape that was sitting on Roland. It was hovering over him but watching her and smiling at her. Even in the dimly lit room, and his obscured form, she saw the bright whites of a chilling smile as he laughed at her. He was so close. Too close, she couldn’t do anything, but get away. Immediately she jumped out of the bed and twisted to never take her eyes on him. She didn’t stop backing away until she hit the wall, then she pressed herself against it as hard as she could. She would have melted into it if she could find away.

Run. She should just run away, get herself out of there and make her escape, but it had Roland. It had turned away from her, ignoring her because for now it had what it wanted.

Roland. She looked at him, and she could see that the shadow thing had one of its hands deep into Roland’s chest. It hadn’t broken the skin, it was like the shadow man was only part way into this world and because of that, his hand didn’t have any substance. He was was in Roland’s chest, but it had gone through the skin, not breaking it.

That wasn’t true, as Lizzie watched Roland shake violently, the shadow man laughing as he squeezed inside. The shadow was killing him. It was suffocating him from the inside or squeezing his heart. She didn’t know what, but it didn’t matter. This was how it really enjoyed taking lives.

She wasn’t sure how she knew, but as soon as the thought occurred to her, she was certain she was right. It liked death, and took it in any way that it could. When Sarah had been killed, it had no way of killing her directly. Same way with Josh and Elisabeth, it couldn’t touch them directly. She didn’t know why, and there was much of it that didn’t make sense. There must be some set of rules this shadow had to play by, and killing directly was a no-no. It used surrogates and manipulation to take most the lives, so it was less accustomed to the joy of taking life within its own dark grasp.

So what had changed the rules? Why was it there now, killing Roland? Was it getting stronger? She vaguely recalled something Josh and Sarah had been arguing about. There had been many things, but something Sarah had wanted Lizzie to notice.

There had been the picture. Last night, oh God had it really just been last night that Josh had appeared to them? It had and this had easily become one of the longest days in human history or at least she’d ever had because it seemed like so much shit just kept rolling her way.

But the picture. It fell. The two fighting had been able to move it and the picture fell and then it broke. How had she not noticed that before?

She thought back to the hospital room and how Sarah by herself hadn’t been able to move anything no matter how hard she tried. Oh, and then there was the touching each other. They had both made each other sick trying to do it, but at the coffee shop Sarah had no issues with choking her.

You still don’t know if Sarah was even there. It hadn’t been like before. That could have been just you. You know your losing your mind, right?

She wished she could silence her own thoughts, especially with some of the newer thought voices that kept giving her their opinions.

It had been Sarah and she had been choking her. They were getting stronger. He was getting stronger. She was feeding it somehow.

It was all the people around her that was doing it. They kept dying. It fed off the death. It wanted her friends to die, her loved ones. It was killing them, all of them, and was going to keep doing it until she stopped it.

If she could stop it. Her uncle hadn’t been able to.

Her uncle hadn’t been able too. How did she know he had fought it. Because it all made sense. He had hidden himself back in the woods, away from everyone, cutting himself off from the outside world because anyone he cared about was killed.

She couldn’t think about it right now but it all was rushing at her. This thing had killed her parents. It killed her aunt. It had been after all of them and when her uncle couldn’t handle it anymore, he had killed himself and now it was killing everyone she loved.

Tears rolled down her cheek but she paid them no attention. Instead, she looked around the room for something, anything she could use. She heard Roland’s wheezing breath, and knew she had to be quick.

But why even try. Her uncle had years to fight this thing and it had never done any good. How are you going to stop it?

She didn’t know and the thought voice was becoming increasingly annoying. She wished it would just shut up. Shut up and let her think, dammit!

In the dim light she could see Roland, his face was turning grey, dark lines stretching along his cheeks and bulging from around his eyes. She feared those were his veins. His blood was being replaced by the shadows darkness and now his veins were visible through his skin by their black hue.

She wasn’t sure what possessed her to throw it, but she had unplugged the coffee maker by ripping it from the desk. The cable struck her and she grabbed it, quickly wrapping it around the little gadget and them flung it across the room. She didn’t wait to see the thing react as she grabbed more from the desk. She used the tray the coffee maker had been on, a local phone book, and a folder that must have contained local delivery options or the TV guide directory. It didn’t matter because if she could lift it, she had thrown it. She didn’t stop until she tried to lift the large lamp at the end of the desk only to find that it was mounted to the desk. She was pulling at it, trying to shake it back and forth, wrestling it free when she heard the laugh coming from behind her.

She couldn’t get the lamp free and she had nothing else to throw. Slumping her shoulders she turned to look back to the bed wrestling with another idea, one that was crazy and not like her to even think it. Maybe if she ran at the thing, jumped at it, even wrestled with it, it would release its death grip on Roland.

She stopped when she saw the thing was looking at her. It’s eyes burned red with some internal flame, and they burned into her. His smile was wide, and somehow the light that flickered from his eyes never touched his teeth, as they were white to the point that they seemed to glow and they were sharp, each tooth ending in a narrow point.

“Hello.” It said, speaking to her for the first time without that sing-song cadence. Now it was fixated on her, and she was hypnotized as the unseen lips moved, only noticeable for how they blocked the glow of its teeth when it spoke.

“Get away from him.” She said. She could hear the tears in her voice but was surprised at the anger. Where had that come from? At first she wasn’t sure but as she stood there, clenching and unclenching her fists, remembering what this thing has taken from her, her friends that it has killed. She knew the anger, and she embraced it. She wanted to be done with allowing this creature to come into her life and steal everywhere cared for from her.

“Why should I? What is he to you? A lover? A friend? You care about him that much?” The voice grated on her nerves. It was rough, a gravely voice that echoed in her ears as though many voices tried to speak as one.

Lizzie took at deep breath and let it out through her mouth. Her fists unclenched and she shook out her hands before she clenched them again. She could feel her nails digging in, the uneven edges from how she chewed at them threatening to break her skin.

“He’s nobody to me.” She tried to sound convincing. Yesterday she wasn’t sure if she would even have stopped the shadow thing from taking Roland, though she likes to think that deep down she was a good person. Even a good person wouldn’t let a lying, cheating son-of-a-bitch to die when she could stop it.

Today, she found that she still did care about him. Her feelings were still there and that is why she had hated him so much. Because under all that anger she did love him.

She couldn’t tell this thing that. It had some kind of connection to her. It killed those close to her. So she had to find that anger and hate she had for Roland if she was ever going to save him.

She had to find a way to kill the shadow man.

It had been watching her as she stood there and the longer she didn’t say anything more, a sound grew from him. It wasn’t until it developed into a sound she recognized that she realized it was laughing at her.

“You sleep with him. He fucks you, and you say he is nobody to you.” And as it says that, Roland writhes in agony below it.

“Fuck you.” She says to him, the anger now boiling up inside her. She had noticed something. She had just caught the slight glint of metal on the floor and had taken a moment to realize just what it was. The keys to the car had fallen to the floor, probably having dropped out of Roland’s pockets as she had pulled his pants off of him.

“Those you wish about and those you love

From the wings of an morning dove

All those in which you cherish

Will slowly die in agony and perish

They will be mine these dreary few

And once they are gone I will come for you.”

She hadn’t waited for him to finish. She didn’t want to hear any more of his creepy words. Each once made her skin tingle and her back tense. She tuned him out the best she could as she made her plan. It wasn’t a good one, and she knew it wouldn’t work, but it was her doing some thing. She was so tired of not doing anything. She had to try something to stop him.

She rushed forward, grabbing the keys as she moved. Her arm rose high, she had her sites set, aimed for where she wanted to strike while fumbling in her hand to have one key out between her fingers. She was unsure of herself, having never been a fighter, but did all she could to put everything she had when she brought her hand down.

It struck just below the eyes. Or it would have, had the shadow man been anything more than shadow. Her hand slipped through him, and then she was slipping through him, her momentum carrying her into him and landing on top of Roland.

This had been a mistake. She had realized it the moment she had made contact, but as she was flung over the bed, she realized just how much of a mistake it had been.

Her skin had turned to near ice as he was just so cold. She couldn’t breathe. Her breath was frozen in her lungs. All of her was frozen. She was trapped and even worse, she was in his essence and there she could see… something.

She didn’t know what it was. Around her there was so much darkness. It was an ether. She knew she wasn’t on earth. It was an ‘other’ place, one where there was no light to cast the shadows. Shadows were not made, they were things, and hid other things.

She could feel that hate that emanated from that place, from all the creatures that surrounded her there. She couldn’t see them, only feel them, sensing that they were reaching out for her. They wanted her, to take her, torture her how they have been torture. She was a creature of the light and they hated her for it.

How did she know that?

Because she was inside of him. He was from this place and he felt that way towards her. But that didn’t make sense. If he hated her, all of them so much, then why not just kill her. Why kill all of her friends.

Because the shadow man, thing didn’t hate her, it hated man. She was a person, one who lived in night and day. The shadow man, wanted all light to be perished from the world.

She was the lock that kept them at bay. She didn’t know how that worked.

Now she was there in the dark place. The things were moving around her. They had noticed her. She could feel them moving towards her. A wave of fear ran through her but it wasn’t her fear. The shadow man was afraid of these things. It was afraid… of them. It didn’t want it to get her.

She was not sure what to make of that and she didn’t have the time to find out as she found herself ripped out of him, back in her own world and being hurled across the hotel room. She had the briefest of sensations of no control, the weightless as she flew, and then the pain. She hit the wall, and it forced the air out of her lungs. Then she fell to the floor and everything hurt. Her insides felt like they had been squished, her arms and legs were sore. She wasn’t sure if she broke anything. It felt like if she hadn’t then she had definitely sprained something, everything.

Across the room, cutting through the cold and dark was a blood curdling scream that was quickly cut short.

The room grew deathly still. The only thing Lizzie heard was the repetitive sound of her breathing. Even the hum from the electronics in the room was silent. The darkness felt out of time. She was all alone. She feared what she would find when she stood and looked on the bed.

She pulled herself up. Each movement took a concerted effort as she fought against the pain.

When she stood, she turned and saw Roland on the bed, the shadow man was gone and he wasn’t breathing. His skin was ash grey and she knew he wasn’t coming back. She was alone in the room with her dead ex-boyfriend. A man she had made many public threats against his life and bodily harm.

She was quick putting on her clothes, finding her phone and wallet before grabbing the car keys and getting out of there.

Outside, the world was dark, the street lights having burned out in the last half hour. She worked her way through the dark the best she could, got in Roland’s car, and drove away. She knew she should call the police. There would be plenty of questions and they would wonder why she just left. She wasn’t sure if she had any answers for them.

She was empty. Empty of answers, empty of emotions, empty of everything. She was a shell, and even the tears weren’t coming.

She made her way to the interstate. Within a half hour she was speeding down the road, on her way to somewhere unknown.

END OF PART 2

Dead Friends: Chapter 21

The wind had turned cold. There had been a chill earlier, but it hadn’t bothered her so when she left, she hadn’t grabbed her jacket from the counter. It wasn’t winter yet, and the nights had been mild. She was a big girl, she’d grown up in Wisconsin and had lived there all her life, she could handle a little October chill. No one was going to tell her different and even though there was no one around, she would not give in to wearing a jacket this early in the season.

And it hadn’t been that cold when she left. Come on Jess, your tougher than this, she thought as she tripped over another root. She’d been walking through the woods for a while now, stumbling through the dark forest trying to find her damned boyfriend. Dennis had come out there earlier and at this point in her search for him she was sure she was going to kill him if she ever did find him.

Damn! Another root she hadn’t seen, and another stumble. She caught herself, she always had been graced with amazing balance but after the years of boxing and martial arts training, her balance had only improved. Now she was not only a well toned fighting machine that people often overlooked due to her smaller stature, but she was also as graceful as a butterfly on a spring morning. Dance like a butterfly, sting like a bee, she has always loved that and admired the man who had once said it.

She scanned her flashlight around her. She was still on the path that on which Dennis had left. He had told her it was the path to the lake though she thought they were much closer to the lake than this. She’d been walking for twenty minutes and still not even a trace of it.

Had he lied to her? If so, his ass was grass when she got her hands on him.

She had just left hanging out with Lizzie earlier when Dennis had called and said he had made arrangements for them to go to his Dad’s cabin for the weekend. They’d never been up there and Lizzie had never heard of his dad owning a cabin, which she had thought was strange for how long they’ve been together. She would have thought he’d of said something in all that time. He knew how much she loved rustic cabins. They brought back some of her best memories, allowing her to slip away into memories of grandpa and fishing trips as a little girl.

He knew that. She had told him stories about it.

Then when he picked her up, he had explained that his dad had just bought the cabin. He hadn’t discussed it with any of them, even his mom. So now both his parents were fighting, the big D word, divorce, has been thrown around a few times though Jessica couldn’t imagine it coming to that. Those two were such an amazing couple who normally did everything together.

This trip had been as much as a romantic getaway for them as it was an escape from his parents fighting. Though Jessica didn’t know how much his dad paid for it, she thought that whenever his mom did come to give it a chance, she would like it.

The cabin was clean, much cleaner than she expected after hearing the story of his dad buying it on a whim. She had assumed his dad had gotten it especially cheap which lead her to believe it would have been a small shack covered in dust and filled with animal bones. She had expected to walk into a horror film, much like Lizzie had, and was surprised when she had found a well cleaned, nicely furnished rustic cabin home out in the woods.

Dennis had immediately put their bags in the upper bedroom and then had gone outside to start up the wood stove. Okay, maybe it was a charcoal grill… she hadn’t looked it over too closely but knew he had to work to get the fire started and once it warmed up, he had thrown on steaks he had brought with him.

He had done it up, that was sure. He had cooked steaks on the grill, lit the fireplace in the main room of the cabin, and then somehow, he had placed and lit half a dozen candles throughout so that when he brought in dinner, they had cozy firelight, that romantic flicker washing over them as they ate.

If there wasn’t the air hanging over them about his parents fighting, she would have thought he was going to propose to her. He had already asked her to marry him once before, but that had been a shamefully bad attempt and had gone terribly. She knew he felt bad about that and wondered if he was going to do it again now that he had gone all out and created this wonderful setting.

She felt a tingle inside her. No, that tingle was on her arm. She felt something something dancing along the skin, and found herself back in the woods, ripped out of her memory from earlier to look at her arm, shaking it and quickly stepping away from where she had been.

She flashed the flashlight in that direction and couldn’t see anything and she still felt that tingling. She looked, it was getting closer to her body, moving up her arm. She moved the light beam to her arm and…

There was nothing there. She ran her hand along her fingers along her arm, accidentally flashing to light into her own eyes, but couldn’t feel anything where she had felt the tingle. There was nothing there.

Damn she was really starting to hate he woods. What have ever allowed her to think she would like it out there.

This wasn’t anything like when she had gone camping with her parents as a kid. Those places had woods but it was like a controlled wooded area. Small patches of trees easy to walk through and you never got the sense that you were getting lost. She had no clue, wait, she really didn’t know which was she was going. She wasn’t sure which way she had been coming down the path. Both ways looked the same. It was all the same and it was so damned dark out there.

On their drive up she had marveled at how beautiful the moon had been. It had been large in the sky and so bright she was sure that if Dennis had turned off his lights, they’d be able to find their way in that dark brightness.

Yeah, well, where the hell is that moon now, because she couldn’t see a thing. The trees reached so high and all of them joined together to blot out any chance of her seeing the sky above her.

She was lost. She should call out, yell, and maybe Dennis could hear her. She didn’t need to let him know she was freaking out. She was out there looking for him, why not call out his name.

“Dennis!” She yelled, not quite at the top of her lungs, not yet, but she still had a booming voice and in the silence of the woods around her, it was loud to her own ears. “Dennis!”

Why had he even left the damned cabin? He had set the scene, it was perfect, and then he stood up. She thought he was going to come around the table and get down on one knee. They had been sharing a moment, just looking deeply into on another’s eyes.

Then he had stood up, said he needed to take a walk down to the lake and that he’d be right back and that was it. A half hour later and he still hadn’t returned. It had gotten dark and he had left without a flashlight. Jessica didn’t know what to do, afraid that of she left to look for him, he would return to find her the one that has gone missing.

She had started looking through drawers in the kitchen not even realizing she was doing it. She just needed to do something while she waited. It was when she found the flashlight that it occurred to her that she had been searching for it.

What was up with him? This wasn’t like him and it made those knots forming in her stomach twist to think about what it meant. What if he hadn’t brought her up there to propose again? What if he brought her up there to break it off? Could she have done something wrong? Something that might have upset him? She couldn’t think of anything. Nothing. They had been happy, or so she thought.

But he had walked away from her. No real explanation, he just got up and left.

What the hell!? The path ended abruptly to thorn bushes. She hadn’t been paying attention and walked right into them, and they were tearing into her flesh. As she pulled herself back, she could see the scrapes on her hands as well as something else. There was something white and stringy. It stretched out from the bushes and was all over her arms, clinging to her sweater and hands.

It took her far longer than it should have to recognize the strands of the spider web. It probably had something to do with all the shifting black things that had kept her from fully comprehending what she had stepped into.

“Oh God, what the fuck.” She exclaimed as she took another step back, stumbling as she did. Damn another root, they’re frickin’ everywhere, she thought as she bit back another curse.

She lifted her foot higher and took another step backwards, this time slow so as to not put all her weight when she wasn’t sure of the ground. Her arms still had so much of the white crap and she kept shaking them, trying to get it off her. Those couldn’t be spiders, she had to keep telling herself that, but she could feel the tickling sensation moving across her arms. Then she felt them getting under her shirt. They were getting everywhere.

Her foot came down on something raised but it was also soft. She shifted her balance, glad she had kept her calm and had moved slowly. It was easy as she felt the dancing devils getting everywhere.

She turned as she moved and shined the flashlight down, glad she hadn’t dropped it.

Dennis was on the ground. A shape just behind it looked like a person hovering over him. If Jessica had continued back she would have fallen over the person. The person was looking down, close to Dennis as though she was kissing on his chest and neck. She was moving viciously and it almost looked like they were making out if it wasn’t for how still Dennis lied there, his eyes open and lifeless.

Then the face looked up at her, blood dripping from her mouth and Jessica recognized her though it wasn’t easy. The woman’s face was mangled, her skull looking like it had been crushed, one eye having exploded out of its socket and had dripped, now dried on her cheek. Her teeth were white beneath the blood splatter and caught in a haunting smile as she spoke.

“Hey Jess, missed me?” Sarah said, her voice on the verge of a cackling laugh as she spoke.

“Sarah..” The name escaped her own lips, though Jessica didn’t know this alien weak sound.

In the woods behind Sarah, others emerged, all mangled, blood dripping from wounds. None of these people she recognized, and she found herself looking back at what was her former friend as she stood up from where she had been devouring Jess’s fiancé.

Jessica wanted to back away and run. She could feel the tingle all over her body, it was electricity in the air and sent sparks to every part of her telling her to run. The dead were there for her and she needed to escape.

Spiders. That was made herself tingle. Come one Jess, they’re covering your body, you were trying to shake them off when you stumbled upon the dead.

She shown the light back to the bushes behind her, but they were gone.  Behind her was a wide open clearing, inside of which stood the shadow of a man. She flashed the light to where she saw the shadow, but the light went through him. She had to blink to wonder if she actually saw it, but then a twig snapped and it brought her spinning back to face the oncoming horror.

Jess, if you want to run, now you can. You saw where the path went now. Through the clearing the path went on. You can get out of here, escape.

She looked down at her fiancé, the mangled mess of his neck was exposed, his trachea stretched out to the side. She could see now that his eyes were gone, their sockets rough from where someone must have fought to scoop them out.

They had done this. Sarah had done this. Sarah.

Inside her the flame burned and she knew she wasn’t going to run. She knew it from the moment she had seen Dennis on the ground. She wasn’t a runner. She was a fighter.

As Sarah came into range, Jessica took a brief step back and then launched forward, using her weight and all her training to bring the blow perfect to slam into her jaw. It connected and with a satisfying crunch, she thought it t drove Sarah’s face back. Then she realized to late that her fist had broken through Sarah’s jaw, sinking through the brittle bone into her face. It through Jessica’s balance was off and she found herself falling forward.

Within a heart beat she could feel hands on her. Sarah twisted around, and as Jessica fell, she could feel the woman falling with her. Jessica fought to soften her landing but she could feel Sarah’s hands as they pulled at her. She was trapped, all of them were around her and she knew it, soon they would all be tearing into her.

She briefly wondered how Sarah would be munching on her with her mouth now a crunched, smashes in pulp of bone and dead flesh. As she hit ground, she twisted herself and realized her hand was still in Sarah’s face. The resistance of having her hand stuck prevented her from being able to turn with the fall, allowing the blunt force of the drop slam into her shoulder. The air left her. She winced in pain no matter how hard she tried to push it away and stay focused on getting out of there.

She rolled naturally from the fall, but her hand held fast. She could feel something soft and wet suctioning on it, like a muscle around her hand was contracting. She tried to pull away but the feeling intensified, nearly crushing her fingers together.

Jess turned to look, not being able to see to well and not sure where she had dropped the flashlight. When she did, even in the dark like, she saw the shape, what was left of Sarah’s face around Jessica’s hand. What had been her mouth, had gone inward when she had been hit but was was left of it was now around Jessica’s hand and it was like she was trying to maw on it, using the fractured pieces of her jaw to bite down with teeth that were no longer there.

“Ugh,” escaped her and she pulled harder on her hand. As she did, she was the spiders that had been crawling on her moving along her arm and up her legs. They danced in her hair and along her skin. She wanted to brush them away, but already Sarah was reaching out, frantically clawing at her, pulling at her clothes.

Then there the other dead people. They had surrounded her and now we’re dropping down to their knees reaching out their own hands at her. She didn’t know when but she had somehow become a victim in some zombie film as the dead surrounded her, grunted and reached to tear at her flesh. When had zombies become real? Had she missed the email on that one?

“Get the fuck off me you mother fucking fuckers!” She wasn’t just talking about the spiders or zombie things, she was talking about all of it. She kicked out whole twisting. She was thrashing, trying to keep any of them from getting a good grip on her. When she thought she had worked herself into having room to move, she quickly reached down to push herself up.

She was hoping to check the closest zombie and get him or her out of Jessica’s way as she ran back to the cabin. She was stopped when she reached down and felt her hand slip in a puddle of something wet and sticky under her.

Blood.

Dennis’s Blood

Don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t think about it.

She didn’t have time to think about it, just work with it. Maybe it was why these things were having a hard time grabbing hold of her. Now that she realized just how much of it had spread on the ground around her, she noticed how much she was covered in it.

They had also fallen in it. His blood was what keeping her alive as their hands were just as slick as hers. Just she was a fighter and used to reacting quickly, and to using her weight, her body as a weapon. Even in the dark she had balance and her inner perception. As she moved she looked inside to find that center and pushed in to find that calm that came to her when the outer rage burned.

She found her balance, twisted and turned, spun as she stood so they couldn’t grab her and then she was up standing. There was a large man on his knees in front of her. She didn’t even slow her momentum as she shifted her weight, accounting for the slippery ground and brought her knee up to connect with his face. It found its home and his head rocked back and the force of the blow propelled him out of her way.

Then she was running and found herself past him. She was on the path, she knew it was the right one and if she continued to run she would find herself back at the cabin, safe and able to call for help. All she had to do was keep running. The flashlight was gone, but the moon had re-emerged. The path was lit in the moonlight bright enough for her to see and she knew if she went back, she wouldn’t trip on a single root.

Yet she stopped in the path and turned back around to face the dead.

Jessica was not a runner. She hadn’t run since she was a child and had runaway that first time. That time when he had hurt her mom. She had run them, and her mom had been put into the hospital. Jessica had ran, and ran, and ran until she found a place to run to.

She had only been a teenager when she had found the gym, the small one that was almost hidden in its neighborhood. It was an old building and looked like the gym had been there for a long time thought Jessica hadn’t remembered ever seeing it before.

She had stepped into the building crying, unsure of why she was going in. She hadn’t ever been in any gym other than the one at her school and that was for P.E. and cheerleading practice.

Inside wreaked of sweat, old and new, and while the building seemed abandoned on the outside, inside was a bustle of activity. Upon walking in the door she attacked with the noise of clattering weights as they crashed down, and the loud thump from the back of the room as people dropped down barbells. To her left was a line of treadmills currently being used by a couple of old woman as they walked, focused on some far destination as though they would ever get there.

She didn’t know what to do, she hadn’t know why she had gone in there. She just stood there in the doorway unsure of what to do. She just kept watching in her mind as her dad struck her mom, throwing her against the wall.

“Can I help you?”

She blinked herself out of her trance and turned to see an older man stand behind the counter. He wasn’t old, old, but she’d guess he was easily over 50. A woman who came in behind her and walked past, tossed down a card on the counter as she addressed the man as “Stone.”

“Hey Rachel,” Stone said to the passerby, still keeping his eyes on this crying teenager who had just appeared from outside. “You competing in Strongman this weekend?”

“Not sure. Might have to work.”

“Okay, just let me know and I’ll need your entry fee by Friday.”

Jessica watched as the woman strode across the gym to where there stood a boxing ring in the back corner. A man already stood in the ring stretching. Without pausing the woman tossed her gym bag aside and climbed into the ring.

“You ready to get your ass kicked?” She asked.

The man in head gear and boxing gloves nodded. She gave him a clap on the back and then jumped down to where her bag had landed and started taking out her own boxing equipment.

“Hey kid! Can I help you.”

With a sniff and a wipe at drying tears, Jessica turned from the spectacle in the back could rise to look at the man.

“Do you teach people how to fight?”

“We do. We offer classes. Boxing, Tai Kwan Do, other forms of self defense. You should have your parents come sign you up.”

“What if it’s my dad I need to defend myself from?”

She saw something cross the man’s face, a cracking of stone she thought as the man had looked as hard as nails. Then he looked down to study the floor and then up to look outside the window. He looked anywhere expect to look back at the kid crying before him.

Jessica knew when she wasn’t wanted. It came from growing up and knowing that you were never wanted around. Stone might have felt this way but was being better than her dad would have been. He would have flat out yelled at her, telling her to get her lazy, ugly ass out of there.

She went to leave. Stone called out to her before she could do more than set her hand on the door.

“Are you a runner or a fighter?”

Jessica turned back to look at him.

“I don’t want him hitting her.”

“Are you a runner or a fighter?”

“I don’t know.” Her tears returned.

“Go out that door and your a runner. You’ll what, runaway in a year or so, end up on the streets. Maybe end up in foster care when they find you if your lucky. If your not lucky, you’ll actually get away, maybe make it to some big city and end up doing what to survive? Have you thought about that.”

Her hand dropped away from the door. She felt sick to her stomach. He couldn’t be right, could he? She wasn’t going to abandon her mom, was she?

She turned back to him, finding a resolve forming inside her that she never knew was there.

“I’m a fighter.”

“Are you sure, because it looks like you ran here.”

“He hurts my mom. I want him to stop.”

“Then call the police.” Stone locked eyes with her and Jessica steps closer to his counter.

“Cops don’t care. They’ve come and never do anything.”

“I can call them. I’ve got friends.”

Jessica looked past him as Rachel was climbs back into the ring. She was in full fighting gear now and she had a dangerous air around her. She was electrified with a grace and moved with a confidence.

“There’s other ways to fight.”

“Yeah, Yeah, there are.” Stone looked back to the ring. “Wait until she’s done with her lesson then talk to her. Tell her I’ll pay for your lessons.”

“What do you mean.”

“I mean your going to become a fighter.”

And she had. Years of boxing, followed by various forms of kickboxing and karate turned her into on hell of a fighter.

It took time but eventually her dad stopped hitting her mom.

She was a fighter. She had made that decision. She didn’t run away. She wasn’t going to run now. If she ran to the cabin what would happen. Dennis was dead, killed by these dead things. If she let them go, who else would die by their hands. What if they didn’t follow her. They could go to town or one of the other neighboring communities. What if they got into these residential areas and went on a feeding frenzy. How would she live with herself if other people died and she would have been able to stop it.

She stood on the path and watched as the dead things worked themselves to where they were standing. Jessica wasn’t sure what they were, if they were zombies or ghouls or whatever the correct term was. She knew they could be fast. They had been lashing at her, viciously grabbing at her before.

She had to be faster. They had to be stopped. They killed Dennis, they could kill others. She changed that, repeating it in her head. Then she came at them.

The big one was closest. She struck him first with a round house kick that was time to keep her moving. Her foot had connected with his already broken face and it crumpled more of his skull. The momentum of the blow sent him into a nearby tree with a satisfying ‘crack.’

Two more had been behind him. These two were smaller and looked like they had been much younger when they died. These two seemed different from Sarah and the larger man. They weren’t moving fast to get to her and they looked more at each other than at her. Their hands held each other’s, had these two been lovers?

Jessica wasn’t going to waste time thinking about it. They were dead, their feelings didn’t matter. They were killers and she was going to put them down.

Her fist flew forward, her weight behind the blow as it slammed into his face. He staggered back and like expected, the girl had reached out for her. Jessica grabbed it and twisted, launching the girl over back and sending her to the ground. Jessica followed it up with a kick down, slamming the girl hard In the chest. Jessica didn’t hold back as she would with a living opponent and brought down her weight and she heard the satisfying crunch as ribs broke.

Then she spun around in time to see that the man, and Sarah were both coming for her. Sarah’s face was a mess, nearly unrecognizable, but Jessica knew those eyes, though the fury in them was foreign.

In most fights, Jessica would have considered the man to be the bigger threat and have attacked him while blocking Sarah. Something screamed to her that if she did that, she was dead. The man had no life left in there we eyes, this wasn’t a fight of passion with him, but Sarah was a beast who had gone rabid. Turning away from her would be a costly mistake.

Her adrenaline was flowing. She could see herself as she moved, and it made her think of an action movie. She wasn’t quiet like Jackie Chan and now fights were always so choreographed with chairs and ladders all around him so he could use them as weapons. No, this was more bare knuckle. This was a classic Van Damme film. She was a master, a brawler, and she saw it all as she was on the attack for her remaining opponents.

Jessica approached them almost with a strut of confidence, and when Sarah reached forward, Jessica grabbed it. She pulled and used the force to twist and spin into the man. The blow knocked him off his feet and freed Jessica to continue to spin and driving a powerful blow again into Sarah’s already weakened head. There was more crunching as the blow connected and the center of Sarah’s face crushed inward.

If she had been in a action film before, she had just crossed over into the absurd, cheesiness of a bad horror film. One of those films that went over the top with the gore, because as she hit Sarah her fist sunk deeper into her face than Jessica thought it should. Her fist going until she felt the thickness of the back of Sarah’s skull.

What had been Sarah’s brain, the grey matter that had made her a walking corpse was all over Jessica’s hand and it was like a jello mold around her fist. It suctioned around her hand as she tried to pull it back, sucking at it. Sarah wasn’t fighting her and re, her body had gone limp, but the head wouldn’t release her. As the body fell to the ground, Jessica was trapped and going with it. She fell, and only had a moment to realize she was going to land next to next to Dennis.

They were going to get married. She had come out there to find her fiancé because he had been asking so weird, but they were supposed to be planning the best day of their lives few together. There was still a lot to do, they hadn’t even been able to lock down a date yet, but she still could see it in her mind.

It was going to be in the church she had gone to while growing up. It was a beautiful church that loomed grandly in her memories. The cathedral rose high, the bell tower rising higher and ringing those wedding bells announcing that it was her day. Their day really as they were joining their lives together.

She would have a purple dress, having already decided that she would never be satisfied with traditional white. Tradition was for those who invited her family, a mother and a father. Her mother would be there, she would be giving Jessica away, but her father…

He would never be allowed within a hundred feet of the ceremony. Jessica had the restraining order, and had taught him more than once what happened when he broke it. He broke it, she broke bones. Not just one, but multiple. She enjoyed hearing him scream.

So no father to ruin the day, It was going to be filled with only things that would make her happy. Dennis. He made her happiest of all, and as her mother walked her down the aisle, he would be there, standing in front of Father Abraham. He would be in a suit, his friends behind him, his older brother standing as his best man behind him. Tony, the brother, would have the rings hidden away, his irresponsible self actually doing something right this time.

She would walk the aisle and once next to him, he would take her hand, and hold that hand until they were married. She would never let him go.

And as she fell, she thought of him, how she loved him, and was never going to let him go. Not in her heart.

She landed hard, no hands available to steady or catch herself. Her balance was off by her hand being stuck so she had no way to prepare, to tuck and roll with the motion. No, all of her weight and the momentum of her punch came down on her and she crashed into the unforgiving earth with the air expelling in a rush from her lungs.

The thing that was Sarah somehow landed on top of her and she immediately felt hands pulling at her. She knew it wouldn’t be long before the things around her pulled themselves close and were biting in to her, and really, what did it matter anymore.

She was looking into the dead eyes of Dennis as he was less than a foot away from her. Those dead eyes that killed her soul and twisted the knife buried in her chest. She wanted tears to flow but the cold had already dried them away.

She felt the stabbing pain as teeth ripped into her leg. Then more as something landed on top of her and tore a chunk out of her back. More hands grabbed at her, they were pulling in all different directions. If she wanted, she could turn over, or try to, she wasn’t sure she could actually do it, and use her hands to fight at them as they made their way onto her. She had done it once, she could probably do it again.

But she didn’t. Instead, she reached out her hand, extending to where Dennis was. His was covered in blood as was hers. Still hers slipped into his like they were meant to always be holding each other.

Blood was filling her lungs. The pain was shooting through her thoughts making everything around her impossible to focus on, but she fought it. As she gasped, wheezing towards her last breath, she coughed out “I love you.”

His hand slipped out of hers. She felt it but had to blink away the tears to see why. The pain had dulled as the world grew colder. Through her blurry vision, she watched as Dennis was moving. He was a shape coming towards her.

She couldn’t help herself, but she smiled as she coughed up another lung full of blood.

“Den-“ she couldn’t get it out as her chest spasmed. It didn’t matter. She used her outstretched arm to pull herself towards him though she could see he was nearly to her. She thought maybe they they would get their one last kiss. She hadn’t realized just how much to yearned to feel those lips again.

His lips neared her own and she could see the blood splattering his own lips. He had a large toothy smile, and she tried to force herself to return it through the pain. His mouth opened wide, and she had a brief second to mentally question why he was opening his mouth so wide when he was going to miss her and why did it look like his mouth was full of spiders.

Then his mouth closed over her own, and her scream was cut short as he bit off her own lips. The little bit that has remained of her mind, that had stayed focused on Dennis was ripped away as insanity took her moments before the eternal night.

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Book Review: The Deceased by Tom Piccirilli

Jacob Maelstrom’s family had been brutally murdered by his sister ten years ago in their family home. He was eleven then, and was found in the closet with no memory of what happened.

Now, on the anniversary of the killings, Jacob is being summoned home by the ghosts. They want him to visit. He’s been away from the family home for far too long…

Mr. Piccirilli is an excellent writer and that alone makes this book an interesting read. He has a great way of pulling you into the characters and their surroundings. That being said, I wanted to like this book more than I do. The storyline was very disjointed which I’m sure was intentional to create a surreal effect, however I wonder how much better the book would could have been.

Another aspect of this book, and something not really important to the review, is that there are certain parts of the book that read like a gothic self help book on how to write a horror novel. He intersperses little nuggets on how to write. I don’t know if you will, but I enjoyed them.

****

Purchase your copy today. Available in your local book store or on Amazon.
If in Wausau, WI, please make sure to buy your copy from Janke Books Store

Here There Be Dragons: Chapter 1 Rewrite

There is no such thing as dragons. There never has been. They are mythical creatures that have not now, or have ever been. They just do not exist.

Fossils have been found for dinosaurs of all different types. herbivores, omnivores, and even the dangerous carnivores have all been found and documented. You can go to the library or search online and see pictures. They have existed, it is proven to be true. You can look up a skeleton of a pterodactyl, or of a t-rex and you can see their bones. Go into a museum and there will be a skeleton of them.

You will never find a skeleton or a real photo of a dragon’s fossil. They have never existed.

Riley knew that fact because she loved dragon’s and had read many books about them. She knew they didn’t exist. Which was why she had no way of explaining as she stared up at the ginormous head of the beast, how she could be standing in front of one.

And it was looking down at her, angry. It’s large, orange eyes were like fire, red lines coursing through it that were in their own way, alive with energy. There was a large slit in the center of them of the darkest black, and behind them drew in such an anger that burned the flame inside to a heat hotter than the sun.

It was focused on her, and she was afraid of what might be coming. She could hear the building up in its chest as it was taking it deep breaths. She saw as that massive chest rose and fell rhythmically, creating its own drum beat to a deadly song.

“Run!” the boy in the dragon’s hand was saying. She glanced briefly at him, but then back to the dragon’s long snout where the nostrils were flaring in and out.

Then there was the motion. The dragon pitched back it’s head, opened it’s snout, bearings its rows of very large teeth, then launched forward, shooting out a torrent of flame that was aimed at her…

She knew it was over, and couldn’t stop herself from wondering, how had she ever gotten there to face a thing that did not exist. Just earlier that day, life had still been ordinary. How had all of this gone so…wrong.

****

Riley looked in the mirror and gave a weak smile. The mirror was full body so she see her t-shirt, her short hair, and her sneakers as well. It was everything she was used to seeing, and just like usual, she was impressed. There stood that scrawny kid with the pinched nose, and the small mouth. She was the annoying girl who everyone would look at and watch as she continued her annoying habit of snapping her fingers while she walked. She couldn’t help it, she was fidgety and being out in public made her nervous. That didn’t mean she didn’t like herself or how she looked.

There was so much to her than people saw. She knew she was more than that. Come on, she had to be more than that.  She was Riley, and you know what, she was cool.  Everyone who was anybody knew that.  That was, if you were her best friend, Suzy.

And Riley, she dressed cool.  She had her jeans on, sure she pulled them up a little too high, but it worked for her because she was that awesome.  That with the Captain Marvel t-shirt and her bright purple knee high socks, well on others it just didn’t fit but for her, she rocked it.  It’s because she was Riley.  Everyone who was anyone, loved her.

Yeah, right.

No wonder she only had one friend in school, as who would ever want someone boring like her. She sucked at sports, knew more about comics than anyone else in her class, hated doing dress up or playing the role of ‘Barbie’ and couldn’t tell anyone anything about how to farm even though their small town was surround by corn and wheat fields.  And hey, it wasn’t that farming was bad, she had just grown up in the city. It was thanks to her great ever-so-smug father who decided they needed to move from the city to smalltownsville.

Someone pounded on the door of the bathroom.

“Come on, get out of there, some of us have to go,” Suzy yelled.

“Coming out.” She called out keeping her eyes locked on her own. Her smile faltered as reality tried to peel back the layers of fiction she had crafted for herself.

“What are you doing in there?”

“Pondering the meaning of life.” She said. Her tone mocking as she pulled herself away from, well, herself.

“Yeah, well, when you get a life to ponder over, let me know. Until then hurry it up.”

She came out of the bathroom and before she could even sit on her bed, Suzy was in the bathroom.  Dang, she really did have to go.

“So, what’s the meaning?” She called back, through the door. Riley leaned back on the bed, looking up at a poster for some boy band on her friend’s ceiling.  It was nearly a match for all the other posters surrounding her.  She was being stared down and from every direction by a collection of different boys from bands she couldn’t stand.

“The meaning of life is to not be obsessed with some yucky crap music.”

“Hardy Har har.”

“Okay miss know-it-all, what is the meaning of life?”

Suzy didn’t have a chance to answer when her mother came whooshing into the room, her hands full with a clothes basket filled to the brim of folded clothes.

“Oh now what are you two on about?  Making your plans for world domination?” Ms. Rowling said as she set the load of laundry down near the dresser.  She looked up, looking at him through the mirror waiting for an answer.

“Oh, nothing much.  Just debating the meaning of life. Nothing too important.”

“Well now, didn’t you know.  The meaning of life is to eat as much good food as you can and to pass on your knowledge to others.” Suzy’s mom had an Irish accent that always sounded funny to Riley, sometimes getting both girls to laugh at the way something was said. Suzy said her mom came from the old country, whatever that meant, but that they’d lived in Somniville for as long as Suzy could remember.

“I agree with the food part.” Suzy said as she emerged from the bathroom.

“Oh I know.  Someday that’ll catch up with ya.” Ms. Rowling said, standing as she looked at the pair now sitting on the bed. “And you won’t have that teenage metabolism.”

“Na, I’ll stay like this forever.” Riley said, giving her a sheepish smile.  She always enjoyed being over there as it felt so homey. It was so much more welcoming than when she was home with her dad.  Ms. Rowling had been good to her since they moved to town and had become to feel like her second mom, though she hadn’t seen her first mom in years. She didn’t know if it was because Suzy and her were best friends or just her nature from being a kindergarten teacher.  Either way, being there was comfortable.

It was the rest of the town that made her feel like such an outsider.

The room had grown quiet and Ms. Rowling studied them wondering just what they were up too.  She had to know they had something planned.  There was that gaze that lingered just a tad too long on each of them.  Oh yeah, she knew, she was too smart not too. She could probably read it in their faces, or just read their minds. Mom’s were crazy that way, having an uncanny sense when trouble was lurking.

Riley let out a long breath when she left the room.  Then she turned to Suzy.

“She knows.”

“What, that you’re an idiot.  Yeah, we’ve known that for the last year.”

“You know what I mean.”

“She doesn’t know, but you’re still an idiot.  You’re going to get yourself killed.  Is it really worth it just to tray and impress Chad.”

“I’m not doing it for him.”

“Uh huh. See, you’re an idiot.”

“It’ll be okay.  We’ll do it once and then quit.  Hey, what else do we have to do today?  You’ll record it and then” Riley held up her arms as in a triumphant boxer, jumping after winning a fight, “I..Will.. Be.. A..Goddess…”

“No, you’re just going to be dead.”

“Just hit the record button, okay.”

“But you can’t serious and there is no reason for you to do this.”

“Chad Johnson did it.”

“He only said that he did it.”

“That is why we are going to record it. That way, I will have proof.”

“But like I said, what good will that do if your dead. They call it deadman’s curve for a reason.”

“That’s only to scare people from trying to skate down it.”

“And what are you going to do?”

“Skate down it.”

Suzy through a pillow at her smiling friend, and Riley grabbed it as she lunged off the bed as though the pillow had been a bullet and Riley had taken it to the chest. She rolled to the ground and turned to her friend laughing.

“What’s going on up there? You two aren’t wrestlin’ now are ya?” They heard Ms. Rawling call out from downstairs.

“No mom.” Suzy said, but she gave Riley a mischievous sideways glance that made Riley unsure if she was about to be tackled.

“Come one, grab your camera.” Riley said.

“I’m not taking my camera. She’d get suspicious. I’ll just use my phone.”

“That works. Come on, let’s go.”

Here There Be Dragons: Prologue

The nightmare was getting worse. Each night it was getting stronger and when he closed his eyes, could feel himself slipping farther into the cold dark depths. There were things there, and each time he slept, he feared they were going to come back with him. That when he would open his eyes upon waking, they would be waiting there waiting for him.

It was silly. He knew that. Everyone knew that nightmares weren’t real. That it was things that were trapped in your head. That if you watch a scary movie or play a game that had monsters, you would see them in your dreams. That’s how the monsters came, they worked they’re way into your nightmares.

But he hadn’t been watching any scary movies, and his mom had grounded him from his Xbox. He was stuck spending time with his younger sister when he got home and wasn’t allowed to even play with his friends. The last two weeks had been nothing but playing dolly’s with Emily, spelled with a ‘y’ as she would say so no one would accidentally misspell it with two ‘ee’s’.

Not that he cared enough to spell out her name. He didn’t want to be wasting his time with her. He should be off having fun doing boy things, not staying there with his spoiled brat of a sister.

So he was stuck with her, not watching anything that would cause these nightmares. Well, not unless the nightmares were of him being covered in dolls each crying for him to hold them. Or of him being chased by a really large one that wants to pick him up, cooing to “hold him and dress him and kiss him all over.” Now that was a disturbing thought and he hoped he never would have that dream.

No, the nightmares he had were filled with darkness and in he dark were creatures. He could always hear them scurrying around him, but he wasn’t afraid of these things. They weren’t the ones that terrified him and had him waking up with a wet bed. They were disgusting but he was a boy, he liked disgusting things. No, there was something else in the dark. It was large, and there were times when he knew he could feel its breath upon his neck. It breathe and then snort, and when it did that he would shiver as though an ice pick was wedged at the base of his spine. No matter how hot and warm that snort was and sometimes it felt like a wave of fire washing over him, he always got the chills from it, the unseen thing.

It was always behind him. No matter how much he turned and it didn’t matter that he couldn’t see, he could feel it there. It was either behind him, or hovering over him. He knew it was there.

He couldn’t stop it, and knew this shouldn’t be happening to him. Not him. He should have been able to resist it. He was a dream chaser, he knew how to control his dreams. He had to of, because to fight the nightmares in other children’s dreams, he had to know how to control his own. It was one of the first rules, one of the first things taught to new dream chasers and he wasn’t knew. He had been fighting nightmares since he was ten. He lived the decree, to fight a children’s nightmare, you had to be a child. This nightmare shouldn’t be getting into his own head, it shouldn’t be happening. He could control these things.

But still the nightmare came, and still it grew stronger.

He didn’t want to close his eyes anymore. He didn’t want to sleep, to slip into the dreamscape as he knew the nightmare was always waiting for him. Each night, feeling more real and pulling him farther down the rabbit hole. Was there a bottom, and could he reach it without losing himself?

Last night he had swore to himself that he wouldn’t sleep and had made it until the middle of the night. Then, even with all the energy drinks could no longer hold back the veil he had slipped into sleep.

It started with him falling. Most dreams do, especially when one is fighting it. It’s that slipping into the dream realm sensation and if your not ready for it, you’ll jerk awake with that sense of slipping away. It’s disorientating and is the hardest element for new dream chasers to overcome. He had taken nearly two months before it had not affected him, and hadn’t felt it since… Until last night.

There had been a few false starts. He was sitting at his desk, the desk lamp on and facing him as he had heard that intense light can cause someone sleep deprivation. In movies they used it as a way to torture, as it wouldn’t allow someone to sleep.

His desk lamp must not have been strong enough as he still dream slipped. First time he had knocked his homework to the floor which had woke up his dog sleeping at his feet. The second time, his forehead had slammed into the desk waking him. Third time he guessed his head had hit the desk again, but that time it hadn’t been enough and he was lost to the nightmare.

It had been dark around him, and wet. Not too far away he could hear dripping and he smelled something like old socks. It wasn’t though, it was more, earthy, like dirt, but damp. He thought maybe he was in a cave, a deep one and around him was large creatures that scampered. Large, but not the largest one. He could hear that one in the distance, feel the ground shake as it moved told him it was larger than what he felt around him. The large ones around him he guessed were large, man shaped rats. He didn’t know how he knew it, but he could see them in his head as they moved around him, gnawing on whatever food they had found and brought back to this cavern.

He knew what the food was and if he looked, he wouldn’t see it with his eyes but somehow would see it with his mind. He refused to look. He refused to confirm what he already knew.

The cavern shook, this time hard enough that he nearly fell to the ground. The big thing was close. It wasn’t in the cavern with him, but he knew it wasn’t far away. He could feel the air around him getting hot and hard to breathe. This time the nightmare felt like it could burn him, and knew that it was real. This time, whatever happened in the dreamscape would happen to him.

Of course it would, your not wearing your protective gear. Your in your own nightmare, not fighting in someone else’s.

Which was true, he wasn’t off on some mission protecting some child from their dreams, this was his own nightmare. So why wasn’t this one getting detected? He was as close to home base as you could get but no one was coming to help him. Why?

Did they know and think he could handle it on his own? Or had they abandoned him to his fate? He still went into the office everyday, but had seen how they looked at him lately. Maybe they had turned on him, and left him to fight, to lost his own battles to this thing.

He wished he could believe this wasn’t true, but was unsure of anything except for that hot air growing more intense. He was having to take shallow breaths as anything deep burned his lungs.

What could he do. He was a fighter. He had to do something. He couldn’t let this continue. He was a fighter, a dream chaser sworn to fighting the nightmares. How could he allow himself to be afraid by it. How could he do that and still call himself worthy.

He had told himself that and knew he had to find a way to manifest his sword. Every dream chaser had their signature weapon and it didn’t matter the shape or what it was as in dreams, it was more about what was projected and the confidence it inspired in him.

His weapon of choice was a large, monstrous sword that he has seen in one of his favorite video games. It was easily as long as him with ornate silver that stretch down around his hands. There were carvings along the center of the blade but as he could never make out the fine details in the game, his own blade blurred this part of the weapon.

There was a loud snort from the other chamber and the air grew hotter yet. He knew it was now or never. He closed his eyes, and concentrated, tuning out everything around him. He could see his sword in his mind and he put in the effort to focus on it, to pull it from inside of himself. He had to do this and he knew he could. It was there, he had found it and could see it, now he just needed to bring it forth into the dream.

He felt it’s solid mass in his hands and knew he had done it. A smile touched his lips as he opened his eyes to see it held in front of him. The tip of the blade rose up in a ready position and he knew he was prepared for whatever was coming. The blade hummed with energy and it glowed in the darkness. The creatures that had all been scurrying around him scurried away, the light too much for their dark adjusted eyes.

He was a warrior and he was ready to fight. His stance, his breathing was all that of one who has seen many karate movies. In the real world he might not be much of a problem against someone as he could never pull off what he could in the dreamscape, but in here, his muscles didn’t need to know kung fu as much as his mind did. In there, all those cheesy movies helped make him a better fighter.

The room around him shook again and everything grew bright. Then the heat surrounded him as a blast of fire cascaded down the cave coming straight towards him.

He held his sword high and put forth the energy as a shield formed around him, the sword billowing out in protection. It was something the sword from the game could never do but he had found that dream modifications were sometimes the best way to survive.

The flame surrounded him, but he was not burned. The shield held though he felt it wobble a few times against the constant roar of heat that pushed against it.

Then the fire faded, the light dimming and his sword sensing the danger had passed, reforming into its original shape. Around him, little fires had continued to burn keeping the cavern flickering with their ominous glow. The fire was green and unnatural. He looked at them, trying to determine how they stayed lit, but didn’t see a source to keep them burning. They burned from the rock beneath them, nothing else.

That was when he heard the growl. It filled the room with its presence and he felt that cold shiver again run its icy fingers down his back.

He looked up and there it was. He didn’t know how it had gotten so close to him, but now he saw it’s large extended nose hovering just a few feet over him. Those large orange reptilian eyes squinted at him and watched him. They were angry eyes, hungry eyes and he knew it was ready to devour him. It wanted him, yearned to taste him, to take him and … do what with him?

This was a dream, a nightmare. This monster wanted something from him but it wasn’t like creatures in the real world was it? Would it eat him like a bear would or a crocodile?

It wanted something else… It was teasing him because it needed him. Why? And what did it matter?

He was not going to allow it to get him. He was a dream chaser, a fighter of nightmares. He had conquered scarier beasts than this one and it was time to put this nightmare down.

He had raised his sword high and jumped, attacking, aiming for the soft spot on a dragon right under their mouth as it merged with their neck. He could see as it rose and fell with each dragon breath. It looked like a loose fabric with how it ripples with the hot air beneath it. It was so thin he could almost see the fire building up beneath it in the dragon’s throat.

His blade struck right where he aimed. The dragon didn’t even try to dodge, it stayed there probably too shocked by his bold move to counter it. It didn’t matter. This stupid dream creature would be another for his wall, like the many before he had taken down many.

But his blade didn’t pierce the creatures skin like it should. Instead it shattered. Pieces of it started falling around him. It was like glitter and he was floating again in the darkness of the dream, not on ground and not falling but just there. There was nothing but black, no dragon to see or even the little creatures that had infested the cavern. He wasn’t even sure he was still in the cavern. Everything had changed, and he no longer knew what to fight.

He tried to look around but there was nothing and he felt nothing. There was silence and there was dark, that was it. He was lost in a void, unsure where his next breath even came from.

He took short gasps unsure if he was really breathing. It didn’t feel real, none of it felt real which made it worse than the nightmare that had been. For the first time felt true terror as he didn’t know if he was stuck there in the nothingness. Time faded and stretched at the same time. How long would he be trapped there as it already felt too long.

Would he ever wake up, return to his home and see his annoying sister. He had never want to play with her so bad in his life. He actually longed to have a tea party and play with her dollys. How messed up was that?

Then in the distance he heard the growl of the beast, and his body went still, every part of him shaking.

He had woken up in a sweat. That had been last night and he knew it was only going to be worse the next time he allowed himself to sleep. He knew it had to happen soon. He knew he would be called in and sent on a dream chase, and didn’t know how to tell his friends, his family that he couldn’t because he was too afraid of his own nightmares. How would he ever be able to face them.

He sat in his room, staring at the clock and realizing for the first time that there were something’s in the dark that couldn’t be beaten like his trainers had taught him. For the first time he realized that sometimes the nightmares win…

****

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