Shortly after her father’s death, the nightmares began. These were not your everyday nightmares. Not the usual falling, finding yourself in school in your underwear, no.
These were much more vivid, more terrifying and disturbingly real than your average bad dream.
Willow seemed to be completely paralyzed. She couldn’t move or try to touch anything. The whole time she was dreaming everything was disturbingly silent for the most part, except for the occasional blood curdling scream.
Horrifying images of the disfigured flashed before her. Among the slideshow were children with missing or mangled limbs or torn abdomens; adults killed in gruesome ways, such as hanging. Every time she had this dream, it ended with her, strangely enough, hearing these words: I love you.
She had no clue as to who most of these people were, but some of them seemed vaguely familiar. She recognized one boy, for example, who was consistently in the dreams. He was around eight years old, and she frequently saw him with his mother on the train she took to her high school.
She had picked up that his name was Jonathan. Willow knew it was him due to one distinguishing feature: the noticeable half circle scar that ran from right under his left eyebrow to his jawbone.
When she saw him in the nightmares, it always seemed like he was among the worst of the disfigured; sometimes looking like he was run over by a train or murdered with a chainsaw; but she could always see that scar.
She also would see some of her acquaintances that Willow ran into from time to time, the checkout girl at the local convenience store, an elderly man she saw at church, a handful of her classmates, but no one she knew particularly well.
This had all started almost a year ago, on her sixteenth birthday. This dream haunted her almost every single night, with slight variations. She hasn’t told anyone about these dreams, and she isn’t planning on it. Although this goes without saying, she dreads the night more than anyone could imagine.
The worst part, she couldn’t force herself awake from these dreams. Willow had no choice but to endure the duration of these plaguing nightmares until she heard those words. When she did, she would wake instantly. She woke up every day with a headache.
Then she turned seventeen. The night before that particular birthday, the nightmares were particularly horrifying, the images even more vivid. She emerged from sleep with a jolt, tears streaming down her face. Willow lifted the covers off of her with trembling hands, almost losing her balance as she stepped on the ground.
One hour later, the high school girl boarded the train that she took every day. Taking a seat, she noticed that Jonathan wasn’t there. She saw only his mother, who seemed to be sobbing to herself. Concerned, she walked up to her.
“Miss, I know I don’t know you too well but I’ve seen you around. May I ask what’s wrong?”
“Oh, of course dear,” the woman said in a raspy voice, enhanced with the German accent Willow never realized she had “My boy, Jonathan, he’s missing. Me and my husband, we have searched for three days now. We called the police, but they have no idea either.”
The young girl was shocked. Jonathan had been in her nightmares that night, more so then usual. The images were as vivid as ever.
Willow snapped her eyes shut and brought her hands to her face, a sad attempt to push the images out of her mind with no success.
Even though it was about eight o’clock in morning, she saw the boy like she did in the dreams. Behind her eyes, the video flashed before her like it had so many nights in the past.
The Voice of the mother surrounded her, as this poor woman was frantically asking if she was okay. It’s not every day some high school girl has a mental break down on a train. Willow snaps out of her panic attack, and faces the woman.
“Sweet heart, are you okay?” She said.
“Um… yeah, head rush…” Willow stuttered.
Luckily, the train came to her stop. Willow went through her day at school in a daze. The “flashback” type episodes like the one on the train occurred in spurts throughout the day, even though this had never happened when the sun was still up. Needless to say, she was terrified with the sudden escalation.
That night was like any other horrific night. This time, however, she saw one person in particular- Her Geometry teacher, Mr. Han. He appeared to have been hung in this dream, and by the looks of it he had been stoned or savagely beaten beforehand. The next morning while Willow was going from home room to English, the intercom system blared: “Attention juniors and seniors, Geometry class has been cancelled until further notice. Mr. Han is absent for unknown reasons. Please report to study hall in the library instead.”
Willow nearly dropped her textbook right in the middle of the hallway. She was understandably beginning to panic. This was getting too weird to be a simple coincidence. It was clear that there was some correlation between her dreams and the chain of events that were occurring before her very eyes. She knew one thing: Today was going to be a sick day. She walked to the office, shaking.
The nurse turned to face her. “What’s wrong, Willow?” She said, concerned. She was one of those people in the school that knew everyone’s name.
“I…think I have the flu.” She choked on these words. The nurse put her hand on her forehead to check the temperature.
“You don’t feel warm…” She said, skeptical “but I can see you need to go home”
Before she knew it, the night rolled around. This time the dream was about that guy from her church; seventy-something William, the next night, her neighbor, fourteen-year old Joel. Then, out of nowhere, something terrifying happened on the third night.
The third night, the dream seemed to more of that “lucid” type dream that everyone seems to be talking about. Willow saw herself in this dream, but the weird thing was that this time it didn’t seem like one. She wasn’t unable to move or feel like usual, but it almost seemed she could see what was happening to her even though she felt she was in her own body. This time, it seems like the images were actually not as vivid, although they felt more real. She felt unbearable waves of pain in her breathing during this time, right before she heard those same words. “I love you”. She begged her mom to let her stay home from school, complaining about “stress” and a headache. Her mother would have none of it, and refused to let her stay.
Walking to the train station that morning, the inevitable happened. As she was passing a darkened alleyway, a man that she didn’t have time to get a description of jumped out, put a rag over her mouth with one hand and grabbed her neck with a vice-like grip in the other. She uttered muffled shrieks while she flailed; terrified about what she knew was going to happen. Her will to kick and scream slowly deteriorated. Her head began to swim, and eventually she slipped off into unconsciousness. She had accepted her fate.
She woke up on a cold metal floor. The back of her head was pounding and hurt like she had simply been dropped while she was unconscious. The room was almost completely pitch black, except for a handful of dimly lit, dying candles that were scattered about. Her vision was doubled and blurred for the most part, as she was still dealing with the after affects of whatever was on that rag, maybe chloroform. After what seemed like a few minutes, she gained the strength to sit up and take in her surroundings a bit more. What sat before her eyes came as a shock.
The dead bodies of the people who had been disappearing over the past few days were sitting, decaying against one the walls. The corpses had been mangled and destroyed in ways shockingly similar to what she had been seeing. Her eyes automatically started to search for Jonathan. What she had feared became an undeniable reality. The little boy seemed to have been tortured to an unfathomable extent. She turned away, eyes brimming with tears.
Now it was time for the terror to set it. Willow came to the abrupt realization that she had no idea where she was, and she was sitting in a room full of dead bodies. Her breath began to quicken as she cried harder then she was before. She broke out in a cold sweat, her vision began to blur. Even though deep down she knew that this wasn’t going to help, the young girl called out:
“Where am I? Please, someone help me, please!”
Much to her surprise, she was answered.
“My, my. Sleeping beauty is awake!” The voice was raspy and thick, and sounded as though the man had just gotten finished swallowing shards of glass. Willow watched in horror as a horribly disfigured man walked out of the shadows. He appeared to be a burn victim, his face was raw and red in some places, while glossy and freakishly white in others. One eye was nearly forced close due to scar tissue. He wore a ripped, stained t-shirt and pants that were so destroyed they barely seemed to stay on. He was emaciated, and his ribs were clearly visible through the shirt.
“Who are you?” She shrieked, “Where am I? Please, let me go!”
“My dear Willow” he came over to her, and graced the bottom of her chin with his ice-cold, bony fingers. “Now I can’t let you go so soon. I haven’t even gotten to fix you yet.” The disturbing thing about his words was the warmth in them, despite the dark, morbid meaning. He spoke like a loving father, comforting his child. “You must have seen this coming, I have been warning you for more than a year now.”
He chuckled. “You really did think those were dreams, didn’t you?”
“See here young Willow, it’s not too hard to drug someone. I would simply give you enough of the drug to paralyze and confuse you, take you with me, and put you back. I did this with a few other people too; I think you may recognize a few of them. But then there were the times I got a bit… carried away.” He chuckled again and motioned towards the bodies.
“But some of those people, they were murdered! And then they were fine, I saw them again later!"
“Well I didn’t take you here every night dear. I wouldn’t doubt that you did actually dream about it sometimes. The mind is a funny thing.”
“But… but…” Her head was swimming. She did notice that these “dreams” were pretty different sometimes, maybe less vivid. “I saw myself in that dream… or… something yesterday. And there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with me.”
He grinned in the most disturbing fashion Willow has ever seen. “You haven’t taken off your tank top in awhile, have you?” He said.
He was actually right. Willow had worn the tank top to bed the last night and was so distraught that she simply left it on while she was getting dressed. Confused, she lifted it to her ribcage, and gasped. There was a large, hastily stitched wound sitting right under her ribs.
“What did you do?!” She screamed
“I knew it was time to fix you this morning… but I couldn’t help myself. I got a head start.” He said this with almost a growl and a disturbing amount of pleasure. Willow didn’t feel the need to press for details at that point in time. It wouldn’t do her any good.
“But I love you, Willow.” He said, “I wanted you to be aware of what was going on for once. Too bad this is all about your father.”
“See here, when we were in our twenties, we worked together at a factory. You were a newborn then, and you were the most beautiful girl. It was a very modest job, but he did what he could to provide for you. We weren’t the best of friends, but we were friends. No problems.” He paused, turned away and grimaced. “Then one day, oh that one day, there was a massive fire in that factory.
Some idiot let a machine overheat, and with all the chemicals and spills everyone was far too lazy to clean, the fire spread quickly. Your father and I were next to each other near the back of the factory, and in those days nobody gave a second thought to put in a couple of emergency exits. He started to run, and so did I, but I tripped and sprained my ankle. He looked back at me, and I remember looking up at him, so pathetically and helplessly. And you want to know what he did? He just kept going. I managed to somehow hobble out…”
He went up to the nearest wall and kicked it. “But now I look like this. Do you have any idea what it’s like to have dozens of cosmetic surgeons tell you there’s no hope; to go out in the public and see children crying at the sight of you? Their parents try not to look shocked, to look through me instead of stare, but I know what they think. I know what they all think. So I came here, to hide myself in this abandoned storage building. After awhile, I finally had what I needed to kill him. But I wasn’t satisfied. All of those people you have been seeing, they knew your father in some way. They had his blood. Remember Jonathan? His mother was a close “friend” of your dad, and Jonathan was his son.”
Willow’s mouth fell open. She was never too close with her dad, but how could she not have known? Willow had barely known her dad. He was a very hard-working man, and was always at work.
He was tearing up now. “But I had to save you Willow. I had to wait until you were seventeen; you can handle it now. I love you. I always have. I’m trying to help you. Those people out there are demons. Aren’t you happy, Willow? I got rid of them, or at least I warned them. They can’t hurt you. But there are still so many out there. That’s why I decided to bring you here. You’re going to be in a better place.” He smiled now, another disturbing mood swing. “But first, we have to fix you.”
Willow closed her eyes as the man laid her on the wooden plank and strap down her limbs in a fashion similar to the old medieval torture method known as “the rack”.
“I’m sorry we have to spend our last moments like this, Willow. But it must be done. The only reason is that you have impurities caused by him. You have too much of your father in you. I know you’re scared, but I know what’s best.”
He reached into the pocket of his hardly-intact jeans and pulled out a sharp, surprisingly clean scalpel. “Now keep in mind, he’s leaving you. You’re going to be better soon.” Without saying another word, he stuck the scalpel into the young girl’s arm. She cried into the empty air in agonizing pain, tears streaming down her face. He put a hand gently over her mouth.
“Let him leave you.”
He repeated the process with the other arm. He ran his fingers through her hair; to sooth her in some twisted way.
“I had to do that, you have his blood running though you. But you don’t have to feel it any more, Willow. The pain is over” He said through tears. He took a needle from his pocket and plunged in into her abdomen. Within seconds, she was numb from the neck down. She tried not to watch as he used the scalpel to open her midsection, removing so called “impurities”. Willow had realized awhile ago that it was all over and it was no use fighting. She was already weak from the blood loss and could hardly keep her head up. All of the “dreams”, they were warnings. This was her fate.
“You’re pure now. He’s gone, he’s gone…” The man was rambling on to himself, and even though she was light headed and dizzy, she could make out him saying “angel” and “I love you” over and over. He turned back to the dying girl.
“You’re so beautiful now, Willow. He’s gone now.” He took her hand in his, the other holding the blade, and drew it across her neck. She looked up at him and said this is a pathetic, weak voice. “Why…” but before she could finish whatever she was going to say, her eyes drifted shut. The man resigned, laying her hand gently next to her. He walked off, and retrieved an old shotgun, loaded with only one bullet.
“I can be with you now, Willow, forever…”