November Challenge: Day 5

Well, it’s been 5 days and I’m still going strong. If I were still a teacher that would mean I’d have completed a whole school week by now. I think I like this better.

Today I have a little story for you about the knowing the difference between dreams and reality. I know it’s been done before, but that doesn’t make it cliche, just classic. Also, it’s kind of inspired by life. Am I the only one who wakes up in the middle of a dream and can close his eyes and suddenly be right back in the dream? I mean, consistently, like, I can close and open my eyes at will but still fall back into the dream with relative ease? Or is that just some crazy inomnia-haven’t-slept-for-three-days-hallucinations type thing? Well, regardless, I give you my story.

And if you read the story and like it, which I hope you will, can I ask you for a favor? Just tell me what you think of the ending. Obviously I could have continued this story forever, so when to end it was arbitrary, but HOW to end it was a conscious decision. Let me know if it’s too vague or if the tiny little cliff hanger was alright. Thanks in advance, and I hope you enjoy it.

Day 5 Challenge: Bad Dreams (Working Title)
By E. W. Morrow
Word Count: 2126 (I’m writing more each day, so maybe this is working)

Nigel closed his eyes and pressed his pillow down over his face, wrapping himself in darkness. The pale blue light of pre-dawn creeping through the gaps around the window shades was just enough to annoy him, to poke at his weary eyes with tiny needles of pain. Nigel hated the dawn, especially when he was seeing it after only three hours of fitful sleep.

He’d been dreaming all night. Strange, terrible dreams of dead men, of being trapped in mazes and hunted by hungry shadows, of men and monsters mating in furious orgies of lust and violence that ended in a tide of blood. Every dream was different, but they shifted constantly and melded together in his mind. The only way Nigel could keep them separate was by counting the deaths. At the end of each dream Nigel would die, and at the start of the next he would be horribly reborn and tormented anew.

Even now, behind his eyelids, visions twisted and swirled in the depths of whatever half sleep he was currently experiencing. His body was awake but his mind was still asleep, at least partially. Nigel sighed and rolled out of bed. He rubbed his temples and fought to keep his eyes open to stave off the semi-dreams. What he needed was some caffeine, get an early start to the day and leave sleep for later. He shuffled his way across the room and out into the kitchen. The light from the refrigerator was even more painful than the light from his bedroom window but the sensation, coupled with the chill from the fridge’s interior, perked him up a little. Making coffee was out of the question in his current mental state, but he grabbed a can of soda from the bottom shelf and shut the door.

The can gave an enticing hiss and crack when he popped the tab. Nigel held his mouth over the cool metal rim of the can and felt the bubbles fizz and tickle his upper lip and nose. Then he took a long, deep drink.

It wriggled in his mouth and squirmed down his throat like a worm. Desperately he tried to make him self spit or vomit the contents of his mouth out onto the linoleum flooring but whatever it was clung there, writhing inside of him. Around the edges of the refrigerator door Nigel saw the tips of tentacles pushing their way through the cracks. They thrashed wildly, dripping a fowl smelling goo down the sides of the fridge. Suddenly the door was forced from it’s hinges and a tangled mass of sticky, sucking tentacles exploded towards him. Nigel didn’t even have time to mount a token defense against the onslaught. He was enveloped and dragged into the fridge, his screams garbled by the slithering presence in his windpipe. Tiny, unseen mouths with razor sharp beaks began to shred him to bits and eat him alive.

Nigel jerked his eyes open and groaned. The dream had been so real, but throughout all of it he had been completely aware that it was a dream. He’d known that he could stop it at any time but at the same time he couldn’t bring himself to until the final terrible moment. He closed his eyes again and watched the dream end, watched the ropy greyish tentacles pick up the refrigerator door and set it gently back into place, sealing the dream Nigel in like it was a freezing coffin.

Once more Nigel forced his eyes open. Keeping them open was a struggle, the heavy woolen feeling of sleep still clung to their edges and letting them slide shut felt so natural, so inviting, that he might as well just give in. Just let it happen.

No! Nigel fought off the thoughts and rose from bed again, this time for real. He stumbled toward the bathroom this time and started running water in the tub for a nice, warm shower. While the water got hot he dropped his boxers and sat on the toilet. He didn’t really have to go, but it was such an ingrained ritual that he let habit take over and dictate his actions. After a few minutes he gave up and disrobed completely. The water was slightly too hot but he didn’t care. He stood there, under the cascade, letting the water sear his skin.

He stood in the shower for about fifteen minutes before he shut it off. That was all the time the water heater seemed to be able to give him for his showers. He hadn’t bothered to wash himself. The heat had been exactly the sort of cleansing he needed. He reached past the shower curtain to grab his towel, but his hand grasped only air. Then he pulled back the curtain entirely and stepped out of the shower.

The ground crunched under his weight and stung his bare feet slightly. A gray, featureless plain stretched out before him under a sky full of violent roiling clouds. Red lightning flickered in the gaseous heights and thunder boomed across the plain, always from a great distance. A hot, dry wind rushed past him, tearing the shower curtain from his hand. Nigel spun and saw that the tub was still behind him, but not the rest of the bathroom. The tub, now cracked and stained began to crumble before his eyes. When it had completely broken down another gust of wind howled past, scattering the dust in an instant.

Nigel knew that he was dreaming, but started walking down across the plain anyway. He didn’t choose to. It was simply what had to be done. Time and distance compressed in the manner of dreams, and within moments he came to a huge stone edifice surrounded by throngs of human figures. A few had simple adornments, a sash here, a tattered vest there, but most of the supplicants were entirely naked. As Nigel made his way through the crowd he noticed that the figures were missing several parts of themselves. They were headless, for a start, necks all terminating in bloody stumps that pointed toward the stone structure as though in prayer or fealty. While the figure’s figures suggested varying genders, all of the sexual organs were missing, replaced by bare sections of skin that clumped like melted wax. They almost looked like a child’s doll that had been decapitated and then melted slightly.

Suddenly Nigel realized that he was standing at the foot of a stone altar. Above the altar, on a massive throne carved out of granite and set with rubies, sat the largest dog Nigel had ever seen. It was clearly a dog, not a wolf or a fox, but a great hound nearly twenty feet tall. It barked a sentence that Nigel did not understand, though if he had to guess he would say it was Russian. Strong hands grabbed Nigel’s naked body and threw him face first on the stone altar. Chains appeared from nowhere and bound him to the altar, limbs splayed wide. Another sentence boomed from the throne above and Nigel felt a searing heat dripping across his lower back and buttocks. It dripped down like thick, viscous lava until it reached his groin. At that point Nigel howled in pain, almost drowning out the third command as it was delivered from on high. Nigel saw the glint of a blade as it arced downwards and then his world was sent spinning. His head rolled down the steps of the edifice, down more steps than he remembered climbing to reach the altar in the first place, and came to a rest at the foot of the temple. As darkness closed in his dying brain registered what it was seeing and hearing for the last time: the gigantic hell-hound, lord of the broken people, throwing it’s head back to howl. Then he closed his eyes.

When he opened them again, he was sitting on the toilet. He listened to the sound of running water for a moment. He reached over and felt the water as it tumbled from the faucet. It felt as cold as the grave. Already new visions were swarming in the back of his mind. Half formed impressions that transcended actual sight and sound and touch and smell.

Without realizing that he’d moved Nigel found himself sitting in the old brown rocking chair in the living room, remote in hand, television blaring the morning news. Fire had consumed a house on the edge of town and the brief warm spell was coming to an end. Local polling stations were finding themselves short staffed due to a shortage of volunteers. At the bottom of the screen the ticker tape scrolled out the day’s predicted temperatures and precipitation levels.

A young, blonde reporter doing a piece on a local homeless shelter was interrupted mid interview by the morning anchor. The television shifted to the anchor briefly as he explained the situation to the viewers. Breaking news had just been reported to the station and news choppers were inbound to get a bird’s eye view of the event. The camera shifted again to a sweeping view of a row of apartment buildings.

It took Nigel a few moments to understand what it was he was seeing. In the pale blue light of dawn it was hard to make it out at first. Surrounding one of the apartment buildings were—things. White, shimmering things that stood rigidly still in a series of concentric circles with the apartment building in the center. The helicopter made a pass over the building and on the other side it was possible to see the front of the things. They looked like people. That is to say that they had the general outline of people. Two legs, two arms, one bulbous white portion on top that looked like a head. The only things that made them unmistakably not human was the pale white skin and the fact that they had gaping holes down what Nigel could only call their fronts. It was as though a zipper had been pulled, starting at the things heads and proceeding down to the groin so that the creatures gaped open at the front but were connected in the back. The camera zoomed in on one of the figures and Nigel could see a row of gigantic teeth lining the edges of the opening. Inside the opening was—nothing. Total and complete darkness. As the camera zoomed out again Nigel noticed one more important thing.

The apartment building that the creatures were surrounding, was his.

There was a knock at the door. Nigel glanced at it almost languidly. He knew what was coming, what would happen when he opened the door. If it weren’t so horrifying he would have grown bored with this a long time ago. Whatever nightmare he was living through couldn’t go on forever. He would just wait it out like all the others.

The door knob jiggled slightly. Nigel realized that the door was unlocked. The knob turned. It opened just a crack.

Outside Nigel could clearly see one of the hideous creatures. It had no eyes, but the gaping black hole peered through the crack. Nigel closed his eyes rather than dare to gaze into that abyss.

When he opened them again, the door was wide open. A horde of the creatures stood stock still, leering at him with their body-mouths. This time Nigel kept his eyes open. The creatures didn’t move. Nigel kept staring, and the creatures kept still. The pressure to blink was building but still Nigel fought and still the creatures did not move. Finally, it was too much.

He blinked. The creatures were half way to him by the time he opened his eyes. He blinked again, too shocked to stop himself. They were within arm’s reach now. Nigel noticed how their skin throbbed with blue veins that radiated outwards from the horrible gaping mouths. Nigel stared until his eyes watered. The veins throbbed at regular intervals, like the ticking of a clock. Time was running out. He blinked.

The last thing he saw was one of the creatures standing over him, it’s body-mouth inches from his face. The teeth were nearly as large as his hand and serrated like a shark’s. He gazed into the creature’s body, and even in the dim light he could make out rows and rows of teeth stretching back into the abyss forever and ever. It was an endless tunnel of serrated pain and death.

Nigel screwed his eyes up one final time. The end would come like it always did, and he knew he would wake up. He hoped that this would be his last bad dream.

And in a way, it was.

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