We are told that dreams are merely electrical impulses that fire for short bursts in our deep sleep cycle. The average dream is said to last only 7 seconds even though, to the dreamer, time crawls by at a much slower pace. Psychologists say that dreams are the sub consciousness’s way of clearing out the waste of the waking mind. Problems that plague one while awake can be solved in dream land. You can see loved ones that have moved on, fly across fields, and float among the clouds on a magical, bouncing, orange couch. Sounds fabulous, right?
As we all know by now, there are many types of dreams. They range from mild to highly interactive and vividly detailed. Sometimes we awake with a smile on our face after a pleasant night. Other times, we awake with a feeling of dread and a need to check on loved ones. Finally, there are times we find ourselves in need of a shower after a romp through our alternative night world. Either way, each morning we do indeed wake up and find ourselves in the comfort of our own homes. Everything is as it should be, right?
I have one problem with the above fluff. It is all wrong. I have come to this conclusion after a long and painful truth was almost literally shoved down my throat. Dreams are not excess waste left over from a busy mind. Dreams are not mere electrical impulses. Both concepts sound lovely. I used to subscribe to those notions myself. After all, they were documented and back by scientific research. I now know that this is only the result of our limited ability to understand the world around us, whether we are awake or not.
My dreams have always been vivid. The textures and sounds, even smells hit me as hard as if I were really in the place that my mind created, instead of being a casual observer. I have awoken with the smell of ancient dust still tickling my nostrils. For the rest of the day, my allergies gave me a most troublesome day. Sounds like a coincidence, I know. I do live in an area that is surrounded by farmers. My neat subdivision is a hidden treasure trove that one would not know existed unless you have been here before. The only issue is that it was the dead of winter and we were having the coldest one on record since the 1800s. I can assure you, nothing was growing and I keep a very clean house.
You know the sensation you get when you realize that you are dreaming? I used to quite enjoy this feature, especially if I was trying to fly and failing miserably. Ok, that isn’t the complete truth. I really, really enjoy this feature after trying in vain to find a normal toilet without success for an hour in dream land. Running around to find only rooms filled with stadium style bleachers where everyone calmly does their business in the open is no picnic. I believe the worst one was the time that I searched for hours for a private bathroom only to find it overflowing with ick and unusable. The shock is enough to clue me in on my dream so that I can wake up and use the facilities. It’s rather handy as I am much too old and much too young to be soiling the bed in my sleep.
I began suspecting that my dreams were more than what the world at large said they were when I began dreaming of the same places over and over again. I know there is such a thing as a recurring dream in the psychological world. If you wish, you can Google the terms and find all of the literature your heart desires. There are numerous philosophies about this phenomenon ranging from a reoccurring trauma to other desires best not mentioned in polite company. Again, I shucked off these night time flights of fancy as just that. This is more difficult to do when the main star of one of my more frequent recurring dreams welcomed me back.
The first time this occurred was enough to shock me right out of sleep. I even heard his voice as the dream crumbled cussing himself for his actions. It was such an unnerving experience that I was done with sleep for the rest of the night. In daylight, I felt silly for being so easily spooked and began to become curious as to why I reacted with such dread and disquiet. My curiosity won because a few weeks later, I was able to jump into the same dream, prepared for a warm welcome back.
My mystery partner and I have completed countless missions together. We do not always look the same from dream to dream, but I know it is him, just as he recognizes me. As far as I can tell, we never appear in our waking world forms. At least, not completely. I think we appear more as an we do in that realm. Stay with me folks. I am not crazy. This is not the ramblings of an imaginative thinker who has nothing better to do on a Wednesday night than spout out fiction and wild theories to whomever will listen. The truth is, I need your help.
It has been raining here for weeks. Now we have the dreadfully good fortune of being slammed with a tropical depression that seems to have loved the area so much that it is hanging around for eternity. I have not seen the sun shine for so long that I am beginning to think that when it does break through the clouds again, that I will probably hiss and go momentarily blind. I am on vacation at the moment. Great weather for it, huh? It is for someone like me who has way too many outside chores to do and would love an extended break from them. In other words, I get to be a couch potato.
It sounds marvelous when you couple it with a few days of zero adult responsibilities. The only problem is that I am dreadfully boring. I can only spend so many hours reading and binge-watching horror movies before my brain melts and my bed starts to call my name. The rain does not help. I swear it sings me lullabies the same time right after lunch each day. Today it started in hard around three. That is usually way too late to contemplate a nap but I thought why not and gave in. For three and a half hours I slumbered. It was unsettling to say the least.
My dream started out strange but they always do. My mother’s front yard looked like fifteen garage sales had exploded upon the grass. There was so much crap everywhere that she had hired a group of construction workers (because that makes sense) to help man the sale. My mother was out riding her bike through the neighborhood in hopes that her neighbors would stop adding their crap to her sale. This left me and my neighbors (who are just so darn helpful) to rummage through the ever-ending piles.
I will stop here to note that my neighbors really are the best. They will pitch in on a project in a jiffy. Anywho, my car is loaded down with weird junk that I must have and other junk that I am supposed to deliver to some mystery person at some mystery location. Dream logic, right? Because dreams cannot be bothered with mundane details such as driving to a location, I magically appear at my destination in another vehicle and without the junk. This bothers no one at all because we are on a more dire mission and the delivery was a smoke screen to hide this other agenda. I have come to find out who killed my little brother and where his body was buried.
Enter my dream partner. I locate him easily by the unspoken recognition in his eyes and the knowing nod he gives as he joins me at my side. We are at an overgrown lot that serves as a small mom-n-pop grocery store. How we found this place is beyond me as the vegetation has taken over this spec of land long ago. The proprietor of the store is older than the dirt the weeds are growing in but his eyes are sharp. We see motorcycles cruising up and down a dirt road leading through the thicket behind the store. A rowdy gang of teens are having themselves a wonderful time speeding back and forth.
I ask the old timer where the road leads. The air grows cold as she locks her eyes firmly with mine. Her gaze is so intense that my partner steps slightly in front of me, alert for any danger, my solemn protector. Her voice is like hot lead as she tells us of the condemned building at the end of the road. She warns us away from that place of death. A certain knowledge spreads across my mind as I realize that my brother had died there. I voice my thoughts and see a deep sadness briefly flicker over those too sharp eyes. She warns us away again, this time only halfheartedly as her grandson helps her from her rocker on the broken-down porch and heads back inside the store. I do not need to consult my partner for he already knows our destination. Like a well-oiled machine, we gather ourselves and make our way down the dirt road.
Two worn ruts cut through more of the growth of this neglected property. Suddenly, the way opens before us. Here, nothing grows. Barren dirt, hard packed by time and use encircles the boarded up square building. The teens, led by a crazed-haired blonde, are trying to break into the front door. So much for sneaking into the place, I think to myself as my partner nods in agreement. We are a little taken by surprise when the door opens and two geeky dressed gentlemen in orange prison jumpsuits welcome the rowdy teens inside. They tell everyone to grab a jumpsuit in case the police show up so that we all looked official. (Yes, even we joined them even though it was bound to end badly).
The inside was deceptively larger than it appeared from the dirt yard. The first rooms we found resembled a military bases filing room. The teens had dropped their act and became focused. They too were on a mission. The blonde began filling me in on what they were methodically searching for in the cleared-out files, what tragedy took place here twenty years before. The group was in conflict about the various experiments that occurred on the grounds. I searched a few of the drawers myself. Most had been cleaned out but appeared to be way too clean for a place that was supposedly abandoned for two decades. The hairs on my neck stood out on their ends as if the very air had an electric charge.
With shaking hands, I open the middle drawer in the remaining row of filing cabinets. These are full of paperwork, covered in dust. I find receipts written in a strange language, notebooks, and bags of unusually shaped pills. Some look like white teddy bears. Others like pink unicorns. There are some prescription drugs in blister packets too. A few are missing. I drop it all back into the cabinet as if it were contaminated. Something bothers me intensely about finding this stash. I turn to find the room empty and muffled voices whispering harshly from another room.
I sneak towards the sounds to find the way we had come in had changed. Instead of a row of lockers, indicating a changing room for personnel, I find myself in a retro kitchen/dining room combination. I’ve been in this place before. I have only a second to register this thought when I hear the blonde crying. The police have found our little party. The teens are hiding as she tries to talk her way out of going to jail. I crouch behind an old wicker kitchen chair. The room is filthy and dark. I can barely make out my surroundings. It looks like several people are sitting in the rest of the chairs. One holds a finger up to his mouth to silence me before blending back into the darkness.
Harsh light fills the room as the police search for the others. An officer enters the kitchen and turns on the overhead light. I am in plain sight, yet he only sees the others sitting at the table and orders them out. I feel so alone. I have no idea where my partner is and if I will be able to get out of this nightmarish place without being caught. I wait for what feels like two eternities. Finally, the cops leave. I continue to wait, giving them time to leave before making my exit. Unfortunately, the cops were not too thorough with their search. One of the wayward youths was not caught and rather loudly proclaimed that as he tried to exit through the front door. Busted. The cops had never left.
As the police made their way through the building, something grabbed my foot and began to pull me under a side board. The overhead light came on again. I could barely see it for whatever had a hold of me was draining my life force as if feeding on it. I was helpless. I barely heard a crash as the sideboard collapsed on top of me, alerting the police to my location. I was near death by the time they dug me out. Strangely, once they freed my foot, the life surged back into my body. The building shook as something was none too happy to have lost its meal.
My partner was at my side at once. I glared at him, wondering where the hell he had gone. He was the one who alerted the cops so that the teens could be removed from the scene. We needed their help if we were to battle the entity that resided in this place of evil. The entity had a name, Agatha. One of the cops had called her a witch. It was as good a term as any as we knew it did not apply but at least it put a name that we knew we could defeat to an entity that we were not certain could be vanquished.
I showed the head officer the file drawer with the drugs. He and a partner set in the dust covered living room to try to figure out what each pill was and what it did. This seemed extremely important to discover. I left them to it as I searched through the main bedroom off of the kitchen.
The room was cramped. Piles of plastic bins ran from the ceiling to the floor, jammed up against the dresser that was covered with boxes upon boxes made of metal. The bed was in disrepair as if someone had recently awoken from a terrible nightmare. This bothered me. It was too clean and the smell of sour sweat too fresh for an unused space. Again, I found myself doubting whether the place had really been abandoned all of these years. It didn’t take long to find the answer.
Tripping over an overturned bin in the corner of the room, I knocked over a stack of old brown boxes. Video tapes and picture albums scattered across the floor in a heap. There were snap shots of different children playing happily in a lush back yard. A lump formed in my throat as I knew my brother was among one of the lost ones in these photos. Frantically, I began digging through the pile, hoping for answers. My partner rushes into the room just as I uncover a ghastly smell. At the bottom of the box is nothing but used paper towels, covered in excrement. The smell gags me, it is so fresh and pungent.
He pulls me from the room before I can vomit. The police grab a few of the video tapes. When I have gathered my senses once again, I join them in the kitchen where they have set up a tv. The sounds of youthful laughter fill my ears. The old timer and her grandson have joined us. Silent tears trace rivers down her cheeks as she watches the wee ones play across the screen. Anger chases them away as a dreadful voice, speaking a language not for the ears of man, booms out of the television speakers. It gives way to a laugh that nearly stops the heart. My partner shuts the television off before the scene can unfold before our eyes. I am grateful for him. My blood tells me that we would have witnessed a soul shattering event befall that precious little one.
Before the old woman can speak, the cackling we heard from the monitor, cuts through the air. It is Agatha. She has returned, yet she has not. Before us stands a fragile old woman with wiry white hair. Her eyes are clouded and she is drooling on herself. Her nightgown is worn and shows much more than we wish to see of her withered physique. I am not fooled by this guise. Neither is anyone else. We decide to drug her with everything we had found in the house.
I led her back to the bedroom and set her up on the bed. Here I proceeded to coddle her into eating the pills, lying by saying they were candy. She liked some of them. Others she spat back out onto her gown saying that they tasted like medicine. We wanted her docile before the entity had a chance to fully gain control of itself. It seemed to be working though it was a struggle to get her to eat many more. I started giving her real candy in between mouthfuls of drugs. It should have killed her a thousand times over. It did not. She merely sat there with a foolish grin on her face singing to herself.
For hours, we tried to get information out of her. I know how that sounds. She was doped out of her mind. How could we possibly get anything useful? Entity remember, as in not human. Eventually, our efforts paid off. Her eyes cleared and a smugness came across her face. She wiped the drool off her chin with her forearm as she proceeded to tell us of how she lured the children to their fates after sending her twin and her cat to their deaths.
Her twin she condemned to wander the Realm of the Shadows for eternity. Her cat she loathed even more. It would spend each of its nine lives in horrible agony unless she, herself, was terminated. If that were to happen, then her cat would be freed. Since Agatha had zero fear of death, she was quite sure that her feline would suffer greatly before being snuffed out. That’s what the treacherous creature deserved, as far as she was concerned, for trying to kill her off. Her twin she just despised for existing. She couldn’t kill her without killing herself which just pissed Agatha off even more.
Agatha kept staring at the old woman. Something about her did not seem right. She kept her distance but said nothing one way or the other. My partner and I noticed her odd behavior and noted it. It seemed there was a past between these two that merited closer scrutiny. For now, we had to let it go as Agatha seemed hell bent on finding Captain Clip.
He was her lover, long ago. He went off on a mission and never returned. He promised that when they reunited, they would never part ways again. Hearing such tender affection from a monster that destroys innocence was unnerving. Who could love such a monster such as she? In turn, what kind of monster was her lover? Captain Clip, as it turned out, had been with her all along.
His name was actually Chip. Fate had it that on his mission, he had died and being a man of his word, returned to his beloved in whatever form he could. Currently, he was haunting a magnetic refrigerator magnet. Don’t ask. Things work strangely in the other realms. You learn to just roll with it and cease to be shocked by the weirdness of it all. It is easier if you forget the logic of our realm. The universe doesn’t work like that over there. It follows its own rules, at its own pace. What is, just is. That’s why facing a so-called witch was easier to say than whatever the hell Agatha really was. Different rules. Different logic. Different nightmare creatures. So, a dead man haunting a fridge magnet is not a stretch if you keep all of that in mind.
The drugs were wearing off. Agatha was gaining control of herself. She would not take any more pills from any of us. To demonstrate her returning abilities, she decided to show me how my brother died. Grabbing the sides of my head, she started chanting in that strange language of hers. My partner was desperately trying to get her to release her iron grip. He succeeded but not before I saw the truth. My brother died a painful death, choking on a green, reflective powder that slowly ate his face away.
Enraged, I grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed the cackling bitch in the heart until the muscles failed in my arm. I had seen that green powder just before I stumbled over that bin. I picked Agatha up and threw her onto the bed. Before she could pounce upon me again, I forced her mouth open and poured the green powder down her gurgling throat. As her face began to dissolve, she began laughing. Choking on her own blood and filth, she uttered a final laugh before saying that we would never find her children. Not all had met my brother’s fate and we…..would….never……find…..them. Laughing once more, the body of Agatha, remained nothing but a puddle of malformed tissue. Her laughter still rings in my ears.
I walked out of the room and out of the back door. Day and night had come and went. It was early morning once again. The back of the house from hell was a stark contrast the inside. Out here, the grass was lush and well kept. Pathways made of stone cut through the yard that seemed to grow larger and smaller before my eyes. Two structures broke the serene picture. One looked like an overgrown sand burrow. Even that did not feel like the right description for it. It seemed to be manmade yet it also looked as if animals had built it for their own furry purposes. Either way, the place bothered me, but not as much as the dilapidated stone structure to its right. Pipes led out of the ground at odd angles. Stones were stacked with chaotic disregard for functionality, even for this realm.
I was broken out of my observations by the screams of children. They seemed both close and far away at the same time. I started to run towards the stone structure when my partner grabbed my shoulders, pulling me back from a sudden drop. The ground was no longer in front of me. If he had not stopped me, I would have fallen to my death. This back yard was not what it appeared to be. Something strange was enchanting it. Until we figured out what, there was no way to reach the trapped children. I had a feeling that time was running out for us all. The sudden dread that I felt was mirrored in my partner’s eyes. As our eyes locked and the dread neared its crescendo, I felt myself being pulled from that nightmarish realm. I awoke, safe in my bed, but the images still linger.
Seven seconds. That is the maximum amount of time we are supposed to spend actually dreaming. I find that to be utter bullshit. I have come to believe that what science registers as our complete dream cycle is only our passage in and out of our realm and into another. We live in both places. One we access while we are awake, the others, while we sleep. I do not know whether they are actually called realms. I do know that if you die in one of them, you are dead there forever unless you come back at an earlier point in time. I told you. They have different rules. Recurring dreams occur when you arrive in that realm in the exact same moment, at the exact same time as the last time you visited.
I believe this is why you see people you know in real life and why they act differently in your dreams. It is because they are different people. It is also because they do not realize that they are in fact, in another place. Ignorance is bliss. As for my partner? Well, he is usually more hands on in those other realms. I think in this one, he knows that this mission is one that I have to complete on my own but he is too protective of me to let me go solo. Bless him for that. I don’t know where you are in the waking realm, but I am damn glad you came along this time. As for those of you who are reading this, I need your help. The next time you find yourself in that boarded up house, look for me and bring some climbing gear. Time is running out on that side. The children need us. See you in dream land.