Tag Archives: nightmare

It’s Back

Sonya was out back gathering dead leaves when she saw it standing in the schoolyard watching her, hands clenched at its sides, still and silent as a tomb, staring.

Sonya went into the kitchen where Frances was washing dishes.
“It’s back,” she said.
“What? Really?” Frances dried his hands and went to the window. He knew exactly where to look. “Shit. What do we do?” Frances started pacing like he did last time. It was happening all over again as though someone pulled up the needle on a record and dropped it back to the beginning of the track.
“Fuck…fuck…fuck…” He muttered like a broken robot.

“They did say it was possible,” Sonya interjected.
Frances stopped and gave her a look that could dry paint. “I know what they said, okay?”
He walked over to the counter and picked up his phone.
Sonya planted her hands on her hips. “Who are you texting?”
“Ellis.” Frances thumbs were working overtime when a simple ‘It’s back’ would have sufficed, but that wasn’t Frances.

Sonya laughed, “yeah, cause he’s a big help.”
Frances finished up and gave her the look again. “Why do you have to be like that? Honestly, like…fucking why?”
It really didn’t take much time for things to fall back to the way they were the last time they had to deal with that…thing.

And sure enough, when Sonya went back to the window, it was still there, staring. The thing was that it was stuck. It couldn’t move right now. She didn’t know how it had made it that far into the field except through sheer will; it was probably that pissed off.

But tonight, once the sun set and the stars came out -then it would be free to go where it wanted. And guess where it was heading? They needed a plan. Fast. It was only a couple of hours before the standing silent figure in the schoolyard would become mobile and therefore a major fucking problem.

“Come on, Ellis. He’s not answering.” Frances seemed to say it more to himself than to her.
“I have an idea,” said Sonya, trying once again to be the problem-solver. She held this conviction that if she started to say something the rest would just come out, would fall in line organically all on its own -but this time there was nothing.

Sonya didn’t have an idea at all.

And the clock was ticking…

The Dark Beyond The Parking Lot

I grew up here.
All this time the dark has been watching me,
waiting until I could understand it.

Now, it was calling me out.
It was time to collect.
And that’s why I was back.

I was walking to my car
across the lot behind the apartment building when,
“Hey!” Came a slippery voice
from beyond the trees.

“Hey!” I said back.
After a moment’s pause it said, “you used to live here.”

I stopped. “How’d you know that?”
Instinctively, I opened my car door.

“Remember Jinny? She used to knock on your door
after the streetlights came on.
Your parents did not approve.”
A slight rustle through the trees sounded like quiet laughter as I thought, for the first time in ages, of what happened to Jinny. I thought that whatever was out there knew that and was using it, taunting me.

“Is that so?” I went to the center console. Found the old zippo lighter my father had given to me long ago. It still worked. Like very few things in life, it always worked.
“This is a special lighter, Son. Use it sparingly.”
“How will I know when, Dad?”
“You’ll know.”

That was one of the last times I ever saw him. That day, in the garage, when the afternoon light after the rain dressed the sky in an otherworldly hue.

“Remember the first day you moved in here when you were ten?” The voice moved to the other side of the lot now, just behind the thicket –a coaxing, melodic string of words. “Teddy and Carol wanted to be friends. Not with you though, with your older brother. You were in your new bedroom unpacking your Star Wars toys.”

“Yup, I was there.” I put the zippo in my pocket and closed the door. Teddy didn’t last too long after that, maybe a couple of years. Carol too. Nobody had seemed to make it out of here. Nobody except for me.

“And little Timmy. Oh, what a beautiful bastard! Made you wash his bike. Want to know what he’s doing now?” The voice actually did laugh this time, like it was a little inside joke between us. Timmy had probably long rotted away in the back out there somewhere beneath the gravel and thistle.

I stepped to the edge of the parking lot. “Why don’t you show yourself and we can talk?”

Everything stopped then: the buzzing of the caged light, the night birds, the insects, cars on the streets, my breath.

And then the dark beyond the parking lot groaned, shifted –even seemed to sway.

I could see the darkness stretch…
I could hear the darkness yawn…
I could feel the darkness move air and night and nightmares with its being,
as it awakened…
as it was now getting ready to finally swallow me too.

“Do you really…” The voice came out differently now that it knew we weren’t going to be friends. It was Carol’s.

“…think that…” Timmy’s voice now.
The lights flickered.
The air grew colder and the cracks
in the pavement widened.

“…that lighter is going to help you…” Now Teddy’s, ending his sentence with a laugh just like always.

“…out here?” All of them now – whispers falling into whispers surrounding me, invading me invisibly.

I held out the zippo to the wall of blackness and flicked the flame alive. The landscape before me could be heard more than seen, but could be seen enough to know that it was moving in different places as though it were one living, breathing entity.

“This is all I need. This is all I ever needed,” I said.

And with that
I stepped down the embankment from the lot
into the trees and
into the darkness,

if only because I was so tired of hiding away from it
and from myself.

Now it wants to know what I’m going to do about it…

and so do I.

Dream Phone

“I know it’s been a couple years since lockdown…but I heard and I’m so sorry about Beth, Man. I really am.”
“Yeah, so am I.”
“You still think about her?”
“Every single minute, Martin. Things like that don’t just go away.”
“Fuck cancer.”
“Yeah, fuck cancer,” I said without conviction, staring down at the table. Still the same Martin then. I never quite understood how someone as empathetic could be so socially tone-deaf. And why was I here? What did he want?

But really, what was I doing other than sitting in a room with the drapes drawn staring at a television that wasn’t turned on?

Someone at the other end of the coffee shop coughed. I looked over to see an old man in a checkered shirt frowning at me.
“Oh, check this out.” Martin reached inside his jacket. “Got this phone on Amazon. It lets you take pictures of your dreams.”
“Bullshit.”
“No, seriously. All you have to do is make a clicking motion with your finger –like this, and it’ll take a photo of what you’re doing right inside your dream. But you have to remember while you’re dreaming to do this. Harder than it sounds. Took me a while to get the hang of it.”

I drummed my fingers on the table.
“Bullshit,” I said again. I mean, believe this guy?

Martin laughed, “Okay, I get it. But tech these days? And this phone? I got it a week ago and you should see some of the shit that it can do. Unreal. I don’t know who made it, and I even looked.” Martin then leaned forward and whispered as though what he was telling me was a grave secret: “Listen, this is so much more than just a phone. It’s like a line to the other side of the universe; a bridge to beyond and back. Something happened soon after I got it…so…I had to show you it.”

“Okay, Martin,” I clasped my hands together and looked over at the old man again. He was still frowning at me. “First off, what the fuck? Why me? And what do you mean ‘other side?’” This was when I started to feel something begin to crawl around the inside of my stomach, something cold and unfriendly.

“Alright, alright…” Martin smiled. He has always been a decent enough guy, but this conversation made a quick right turn and went a little too far down the yellow brick road. Maybe Martin was a few gumdrops short of a gingerbread house. Who knows? Either way, I didn’t like where this was going.

“Don’t freak out. Okay? Promise?” Martin didn’t wait for an answer. He slid the phone over and I found myself staring at a pic.

It was me and Martin leaning back against a beach bar with Chinese lanterns filling the sky behind us. Somewhere tropical. Sailboats and gulls. Even though I was never there, it did look like an actual photo. But the only thing that I really saw was Beth, my dearly beloved and departed, standing on the other side of me in a white flowing dress with her arm around my waist.

“What?” Was all I could muster to say, and I could hear my own voice begin to choke. I didn’t know what I was looking at, at first. But it hit me, hard. My vision began to blur. I wasn’t expecting to see her today. It changed things. Memories came flooding back: watching her live, watching her die.

“You fucking photoshop this?” My hand started to shake, so did the phone. I felt tears begin. Fuck, I thought that I was getting better for a while, but obviously I wasn’t.

“Whoa, Man.” Martin looked around. “Let’s just chill for a sec. You’re not seeing the whole picture.”

I actually began to laugh, “I’m not…whew!” I wiped my eyes with my sleeve and looked at the pic again; brought it closer to my face.

Martin shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “You need to listen to me, I…”

“You Sick Fuck, you think this is funny?” I said it softly, my voice quivering. I could barely make out Martin sitting across from me. My face felt hot. Holding the phone anymore was no good so I lay it down on the table, gently.

Martin’s eyes widened. “Easy, Man, just give me one second to explain.” He seemed just as unnerved as I was. Maybe he wasn’t a complete asshole, just hopelessly misguided. But by now he had certainly realized that this was a mistake.

That’s when the phone lit up with an incoming call and I stared at it in disbelief.

Back in college, when we were starting off, Beth and I had made a pact. We made it because deep down inside we knew that we were meant to be together. We would always be in love; there was no question. And we would always find each other no matter what. That was the pact. There was a song that was part of that pact. It was playing when we made it. It was forever, just like us. We adopted it. Sang it to each other. Stupid shit. It was a silly, young romantic gesture. One that I had almost forgotten until now.

It was a collection of flat eight-bit tones, but the ringtone the phone was playing –it was mine and Beth’s song.

Nobody else knew that. When the song then began to play over the radio in the coffee shop it felt like somebody had just tapped me on the back in an empty, locked room. It brought back the nights I lay alone in our bed after she was gone, having conversations with her in my head, wishing to God that I could have went as well and not be left here, like this, grown-ass man crying in the dark like a lost little child. What I would have gave to speak to her again, if only for a minute.

What I would have gave.

Martin put both his hands up like he was under arrest –only to show me that he was non-threatening. He then slowly reached over and answered the phone.

“Hey. Yeah. Thank you. Here he is.” Martin handed it over across the table. As though in slow motion and like in a dream itself, I slowly reached out, grabbed the phone, and brought it to my ear.

“Hello?” I said.

Can You See Them Yet?

Sometimes I hear people
right behind me,
and I don’t know who they are.
All that I know is that
they’re not really there.

It all started with Alice.
That wasn’t her name.
It was what she was after…or who.
She wouldn’t shut up about it.

I take long walks, you see.
One day her voice caught up to me
and out of thin air came:
“Alice wasn’t home today.
I want to show you where she lives but
I follow you. You don’t follow me.
You can’t. That’s not the way it works.”

“What? Hello?” I turned around and saw no one.
“Is anybody there?”

“Don’t be a lunkhead. I was fucking telling you about Alice.”

From there it didn’t stop.
Next came James,
“Alice always wears green, but don’t tell her I told you that.”
Then Marcy,
“Alice isn’t as nice as she comes across. Her kindness is a charade.”
And Sean,
“Alice pretends that she doesn’t want me. But that’s all it is, pretend.”

I don’t know what they look like
because I can’t see them
but they are right there
and nowhere at the same time.

I started walking faster, but it didn’t help
because the voices were always
just behind me:

“Alice is being a real bitch.”
“Oooh, I just love your skin.”

It wasn’t just one place, one walk, one road.
It was at the mall, at the bank, the bakery,
on the street or in my shitty apartment
as I sat on the recliner watching TV.

“What’s he doing?”
“He’s just sitting there staring at that talking screen.”
“Does Alice know?”

I don’t know who they are
(who the fuck is Alice?)
or what they are or where or
how they can see me or if they only see me
or a million other things.

The only thing scarier than this being all in my head and that
I was going batshit crazy
was the possibility that this wasn’t
-that this was real and
what that implied.

Two weeks later I got my answer
from once again, the unlikeliest of places
because our expectations of life
and all that it entails
are meant to be smashed, obliterated,
run over and then set on fire
every single step of the way.

So, there I was on a Monday
at the shop when
Marcus (the mechanic)
nodded me over, wrench in hand.

He wasn’t working on my vehicle just yet
and I didn’t really know him so
I approached with caution
because humans were dangerous.

As Marcus went back to changing a tire he said,
“Alice’s friends have been telling me about you…”
in a happy, sing-song voice.

“Alice?” That sounded so familiar that it was painful.
It still took me a second to process because,
“you mean the voices in my head?”

I wanted to grab Marcus and shake him
and scream and cackle madly
but I just stood there staring at him…stunned,
because none of this seemed real.
I could smell the oil, the exhaust, the lubricants, the cold air outside.
The lighting was harsh and glaring as usual. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
But yet, everything had changed forever
in one casual conversation.

Marcus shook his head and laughed.
He slowly turned to me,
set his wrench down on the cart
and with excited eyes said,

“Can you see them yet?”

The Dealer’s Apartment

The text read: 122 Hamilton Street. Apt 42. Bring a flashlight. Get the stash and go home. Easy.

I arrived at a six-story apartment building that was completely dark. All windows were black squares. No lights in the parking lot. No cars.

Was this place completely empty?
It looked like a utilitarian tomb, but that was under closer scrutiny than I would have given any apartment building on any of these streets. Hidden in plain sight, there was something definitely wrong here. I could smell it.

Bring a flashlight. So, the dealer knew about this. Of course he did.

I opened the front door to silence. No dogs barking. No babies crying. No life. I pulled the flashlight app on in my phone and held it in front of me as I went up the stairwell to the fourth floor. All was still. Eerie. A night museum.

I shone my light upon each door until I came to the right one and knocked.

“Get your light off my door.” I heard someone say from behind it.
“What?”
“Put your fucking light down. Do you understand English?” The voice sounded gruff, tired, angry.

“Okay.” I complied. The door opened to an apartment I couldn’t see as it was pitch black except for the echoes of light my phone reflected off the linoleum floor.
“Keep your light down. Don’t shine it in my face, so help me God.”
“No problem.” My hand was shaking slightly, causing the light to bounce around. I steadied it, but everything about this situation made me extremely nervous.

“Wait here,” he went into the bedroom and slammed the door behind him.
I heard the distinct sound of somebody sucking up a rail of cocaine (or whatever) up their nose. I heard a female’s voice.
“Shut the fuck up,” he said, almost at a shout. “Nobody fucking asked you.”

The man came back out and put something on the table. I shone my light on it. Pills in a Ziploc bag. I could see his stained white shirt momentarily before pulling my phone back down. I thought that he was going to berate me for shining my light on the table but, “go on, take it.”

I stepped forward and shoved the bag into my inside pocket.

“Get the fuck out. Keep your light down. Don’t shine it on anyone. You’ll be sorry that you did. You Shitbags never fucking learn. Scram.”

I gladly got out. In the hallway, from the opposite end towards where I was going, I heard a door close and footsteps start to come my way –heavy, awkward ones. I did what my immediate instincts told me to, shut the light off and plastered myself back against the wall until they passed.

Once I was outside, I could really feel the cold in the air. I punched in an Uber and waited, thinking that my problem –my whole new fucking situation– might have been a little understated.

And I wasn’t sure about these pills anymore.

I SAW GOD IN HER LAUGHTER ON A GODLESS NIGHT

Standing outside the warehouse
3:30 a.m.
on a Monday night
buzzed as fuck because
my life was
completely out of
control but
the world was always ending
anyway.

I was waiting for the
whatever man:
the Space man
the Big man
Blast man
–fucking Spider-man.

And I was there to pick up
whatever it was called
this time:
Blue God, Ice
Cloud Dream
Dark Light
-Elvis’s Last Shit.

We label things and
name ourselves
to make it all seem
so much more than
it really is and
have been doing this
since we swam up
on shore
and started walking.

It’s just drugs, man.
Just fucking drugs.
It makes people so crazy
but so does booze
romance
religion
children’s birthday parties
being around other people
and being alone.

A silhouette approached
almost melding with the dark
and I almost didn’t see it,

but her voice was
both exhilarating
and frightening and
alien.

“You’re here for Magic Man?”

“Either that or I’m really fucking lost,”
I said.

She laughed like
wind chimes
breaking a long silence

like glass shattering
every fragile illusion

like the rarest escape of
perfect harmony
in a world full
of mediocrity
of spiritual poverty
of holes under carpets
of monsters under beds
of floating garbage
and drowning people
of empty spaces
between empty spaces
of broken bottles in
endless alleys
of fools and ghosts
and miles of pain.

I knew that she was
beautiful
and I couldn’t even
see her face.

And just like that
I had to know
everything about her
but I just quietly followed
her
from darkness
into light
towards magic
man.