I want to set the record straight before I say anything else – I don’t know why I’ve dreamt the things I have. What you’re about to hear is not a complete story. It has a middle but no beginning or end. It’s not finished, it’s not complete – It’s just what I know so far. The point is, I can’t tell you what any of this means.
I don’t usually remember my dreams. My gut reaction is to tell you that I don’t usually dream, but everything I’ve read says that everyone dreams, every night – you just don’t remember them all. Assuming that’s true, there is only a handful of dreams I’ve remembered throughout my entire life. In the last year, there have been three. I’ve had each of these three dreams multiple times, and not always in the order I’m about to present them. I choose this order because I think it’s the order that makes them the easiest to digest. I always have these dreams in the early morning, a few hours before I have to wake up for work – sometime around 5am.
I’ll start with the rest stop dream. It begins in a public restroom. It’s filthy, but useable. There are multiple stalls, and you can tell by the thin smell of cleaning fluid that it gets cleaned every few weeks or so, but definitely not every day. I’m washing my hands when the dream starts. The water is cold, but I don’t have time to wait for it to warm up. I’m looking at my hands – I have a watch on my wrist. It's some cheap off-brand thing with a silver face and a dark blue band. I recognize it – it was the watch I used to wear in college, years ago. I look up from the sink into the mirror. I see my face.
I’m younger than I am now. Dream-me must be 20 or 21. My skin hasn’t cleared up, but I’m starting to grow facial hair and fill out a little bit more. I look tired – there are bags under my eyes. I’ve always had a pretty light complexion, but I look particularly pale in that bathroom mirror.
I walk out of the restroom and I’m at an old off-the-highway rest stop. The bathroom exits right into the parking lot. Although there’s space for twenty or thirty cars, there is only one in the lot. It’s a red Subaru Outback. The paint is peeling on the side and there’s a dent in the fender. I recognize the car too – I used to drive one just like it. It was a hand-me-down from my dad. When I get in the car, I can tell that it is my dad’s by the smell – a weird mixture of dirt and Altoids mints. The car has trouble starting, and that frustrates me, because I’m in a hurry. Except it’s not just that I’m in a hurry, it’s that I shouldn’t have stopped. It feels like I’m taking a huge risk. It’s like... I’m scared.
The car finally starts and the tension fades. I peel out of the rest stop and start hauling ass down the interstate. I recognize where I am because it’s somewhere I’ve been before. It’s the highway I drove between home and college – a stretch of I-70 out in western Kansas. I’m surrounded on either side by fields of wheat and corn. I pass a few farms and a field of windmills. This whole dream has to be when I was in college, as if it was a memory. I don’t remember this rest stop, I don’t remember this trip – but it’s like I should. It’s like the memory didn’t happen, but it could have.Here’s the other thing – I have never driven on I-70 when there wasn’t at least one other car on the road. Between the truckers and highway patrolmen, you usually can’t go a mile without seeing somebody else. But in this dream, the road is empty, there isn’t a car for miles. For some reason, I keep checking the rearview mirror, but there’s nothing on the road behind me. The sky behind me is full of pitch black storm clouds. I’m not sure, but I think I’m trying to stay ahead of the storm. I don’t know why, but I know it’s important.
As I’m driving, I eventually pass by a single house that’s off the road. I’m not sure if this house really exists, but it looks like something that would exist off I-70. It’s a dilapidated wooden shack with a covered porch and a homemade wire fence. There’s a man standing on the porch. He’s wearing grey overalls. He’s got a faded baseball cap on, but I can’t read what it says on it. He mouths words to me as I pass him.
The car is moving fast enough that I shouldn’t be able to tell what he’s saying, but everything slows down as I drive past him. He mouths the words “I miss it”.
Then I wake up. This first dream has always unsettled me, but I don’t know why. The worst part is that it’s so... familiar, but I don’t remember anything like that ever happening to me. I’ve had that dream five or six times and I’m still not sure where I’m driving to. But I know for sure that wherever it is, I need to get there right now.
I started having the second dream around the same time as the first. It starts kind of like the first one ended.
I’m behind the wheel of the red Outback. I’m on what I think is I-70, driving east. I can see in the rearview mirror that there are towering black storm clouds a couple miles behind me. They’re closer than they were in the rest stop dream.
Anyway, the biggest difference between this dream and the last one is that I’m not alone anymore. There’s a girl sitting in the passenger seat of the car. She’s young, definitely early 20’s. She has dark hair, but you can tell it’s not her natural hair color because it looks just a little too dark. She’s got a really fair complexion and she’s quite thin. The dark haired girl has black bags under her eyes, and her eyelids are half closed. She’s pretty, but not beauty-magazine-pretty. More like, girl-next-door kind of pretty. Her most striking feature is the bright red scar on her chin – it looks like it’s recent.
The strangest thing about her is that I’ve never seen this girl before. Someone once told me that all the faces you see of people in your dreams are people you’ve seen before in real life, because your brain doesn’t create new facial patterns. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I know that I haven’t seen this particular face before.
For a while we just drive on in silence. She’s mad at me, but I can’t remember why. Eventually she speaks. She’s quiet.
“How are we on gas?”
I look at the gauge and it’s almost on E. This makes my heart sink.
“We need to stop and fill up.”
“Yeah. I’m sorry.”
I don’t know why I say that, but it feels like my fault. There’s an exit off the highway up ahead. I flip the turn signal on and get off the highway. The dark haired girl looks at me funny.
“Why bother with the signal?”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s no one around to see it. Why bother?”
I don’t say anything. I pulled the Subaru into the parking lot of an fancy Shell station. All the pumps are empty and the building itself is dark and silent. I look through the windows to see if the pumps are still on. The screen on the pump reads: “Please insert your credit card”.
I open my door to get out of the car. The girl with the scar on her chin grabs my arm. “Be careful. Don’t let him get close.”
I agree with her and start filling my car with gas. This entire time, I’m shaking a little. I keep feeling the need to look over my shoulder. Minute after agonizing minute ticks by. Eventually the pump stops with an audible clunk. I turn around to walk back to my door and I see a man standing at the pump next to us. It’s the man from the first dream. The one I could see mouth words from the car.
His overalls are stained with what looks like oil or dirt. I can see now that his skin is near white. His eyes are bright red.
I move towards the driver’s side car door. He’s walking towards me, but he moves at an unnervingly slow rate. I pull the handle of my door but it doesn’t budge. I must have locked it by reflex when I got out. I take my keys out of my pocket. My whole body is shaking now. When I try to turn the key to unlock my door, I drop the keys. The man in the baseball cap is only a few feet away from me. I look at his face. His mouth is open and he starts to speak. His voice is dry and scratches: “I miss it. I miss it so much.”
The dark haired girl pushes open the driver’s side door. I grab my keys off the ground and slam the door shut, just as the man reaches out towards me. The car starts on the first try, and I floor it out of the gas station, back towards the highway. When I look in the rearview mirror, I don’t see the man at the gas station. One second he was there, the next he’s gone.
I’m still shaking as I pull the car back onto I-70. The girl puts her hand on mine. Her eyes are wide. Tears are welling in her eyes. “He didn’t touch you, did he?”
“No. You saved me.”
Above us, the sky is growing dark. The clouds are closer than ever.
That’s where the second dream ends. Just like the first, it feels very real, but it definitely never happened to me. This dream seems to come after the first dream, but I can’t say for sure. The biggest mystery about it is the dark-haired girl. I don’t know anything about her, but in the dream she’s so... familiar.
I almost don’t want to talk about the third dream. I’ve said this much, so I suppose I should. But the third dream is different than the rest. The third dream is the worst.
There is no red Subaru in the third dream. There is also no I-70. But I know it’s part of the same set of dreams because I’m wearing my watch from the first dream, and because the dark-haired girl is there.
We’re in a cement room, piled high with boxes. We’ve been carrying the boxes in, and we’re tired. The boxes are overflowing with food and various survival supplies. I can tell we’re planning on staying in this room for a while. There’s a clean mattress on the floor, and a few pillows still in their plastic wrapping. The dark-haired girl is yelling. “I can’t believe you lost it!” Her face is wet from tears.
I’m yelling too. “I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry. I’ll go to the car and see if it's there.”
“You can’t do that. You won’t come back.”
“You need your medicine!”
I’m not sure what medicine I’m referring to, but I know that it was my responsibility to bring it. I feel guilty. The dark-haired girl is pacing back-and-forth. The room we’re in is tiny, and there’s only one door. I’m not even sure I would call it a door. More like an airlock. It's made of metal and must be three times my size.
Suddenly, the girl stops pacing. “Can you check the pharmacy for it?”
I tell her that it isn’t safe, but she just keeps crying. I’m scared to open the door, but I know somehow if I don’t, something bad might happen. Whatever this girl needs the medicine for, it's worse than whatever’s outside.
I turn a huge wheel and the airlock opens. I step outside of the cement room into an unnaturally bright, fluorescent light.
All of a sudden, I’m in a grocery store. It's of those huge chain grocery stores that has a department store section and a pharmacy, like a Super-Target or a Sam’s Club. I can’t tell what grocery store it is, because they all look essentially the same: White tile floors, bright fluorescent lights.
I start walking through the store. I’m moving quickly. There are other people in the store, but something’s wrong with them. I pass by two women who are standing next to a rack of refrigerated hamburger and steak. The floor is littered with unwrapped packages and smeared in blood from the meat. They themselves are wearing long, floral dresses, which are covered in smeared, raw meat and blood. They’re stuffing their faces full of the meat. One of the women is crying hysterically, but she just keeps shoving the food in her mouth. The other woman is silent. She stares at me. They both have red eyes and light skin, like the man from the gas station.
I move quickly past them, farther into the store. My heart is beating quickly. It makes a soft, solid noise. Thump-Thump. Thump-Thump. I’m afraid all at once that someone will hear it. I turn past an aisle full of cereal into the produce section. There’s a man standing there, not moving. It's not the man from the gas station, but a different man. He’s morbidly obese. He has one of those plastic bags you put produce in dangling from one hand. It’s full of yellow apples.
The obese man turns to look at me. He holds up the bag and screams at me. “Why me? Why me?! WHY ME!?”
I don’t know what to tell him, but he won’t stop yelling. His face is bright red and I can see bulging veins standing out on his neck. I run past him. I can see the pharmacy just past the last stand of fruit. The obese man is still yelling but I don’t turn around. The pharmacy’s shelves are almost empty when I get there. Frantically, I scan through all of them. All I can find on the shelves is empty boxes and label-less pill bottles. My heart is beating faster every second that ticks past.
At last, I turn a corner around the last aisle and I see a single, green cardboard box sitting on the bottom shelf. I breathe a sigh of relief because I know this has to be her medicine. I know it in my heart. The box has a red bow on it and no noticeable identification of what it is. But for whatever reason, I’m 100% sure it's her medicine.
I reach down to grab the box and I hear a voice behind me.
“I miss it.”
I stand up hastily, turning my body and clutching the box against my chest. Standing in front of me is the man from the gas station. He doesn’t have his baseball cap anymore, and I can see there are only a few tufts of hair on his head. His scalp is blistered and it looks like there is a stitched up cut running the length of his forehead.
“I miss it."
As he says this he’s walking towards me. I start backing up, towards the produce section. I bump into a pyramid of cans and many crash to the ground. I wince at the noise. The thump-thumping of my heart no longer concerns me. The pale man starts walking faster. He just keeps repeating the same thing over and over.
“I miss it.”
I break into a full on sprint. Behind me, the man starts running too. I’m trying to lose him at this point – I dart into an aisle of pet supplies and he stays right behind me. His breath touches the back of my neck.
All at once, I realize that I can’t outrun him. He looks old and weak, and I think I might be able to take him. When I reach the end of the aisle, I turn around and push my arms out in front of me, trying to knock him down. My hands strike his body.
When I push, it’s like I’m pushing a brick wall. He doesn’t budge at all.
He slows down to match my pace. I keep backing up until I run into a wall. I’m cornered. I realize that when I pushed him I dropped the box of medicine. It lays broken on the floor, a pink liquid leaking out of it. It's all over.
But it doesn’t matter now because he’s only a few feet from me. I do the only thing I can think to do – I swing my fist at his head, trying to knock him down. It’s the only option I have left.
It doesn’t work. He doesn’t even flinch. He grabs my arm with both his hands. They’re like vice grips.
His face is only inches from mine. He looks me dead in the eyes and speaks.
“I miss the way they taste.”
His mouth starts to open. His jaw creaks, and then snaps. It dislocates. His lips part. There’s a sound of bones snapping, rearranging. The open hole on his face extends and gets wider and wider until it's a more than foot wide. There are rows of small, sharp teeth lining every corner of his mouth. His head has become gaping, inhuman. A giant, dripping mouth replaces where his face had one been. The mouth surrounds my face. As its teeth close around me, I scream.
That’s when I wake up. I’m usually so scared that I flail my arms around in front of me to try and push the man off of me. Of course, no one is there. My room is empty. I can never go back to sleep afterward though. I just lie in bed and wait until I have to get up for work.
I’ve had that last dream the most –probably seven or eight times. Despite how much it upsets me, I hadn’t ever planned to talk about it. I don’t dream very often, and I don’t put much stock in my dreams. This isn’t the kind of thing I would normally tell someone.
But the other day, something happened that changed my mind. I was riding the bus to work. I work at Giliman University, a small liberal arts college in urban Giliman County. I live pretty far away from the University, out in the sticks. Anyway, I was riding the bus early in the morning, around 7am, and I was starting to doze off a little. The bus came to a stop, and a woman got on and sat across from me. She was pretty, but not beauty-magazine pretty. She had a faded scar on her chin, and dirty blond hair. She looked to be in her mid-thirties, my age.
I didn’t know who she was. But she was familiar. She looked like the girl in the dream, but older. At first, I figured that meant it wasn’t her. But then I remembered, I was younger in the dream than I am now. So it would make sense that the girl was too. Her hair was the wrong color, but then again, the girl in the dream’s hair looked like it was dyed.
I sat straight up and stared at the girl. She was reading a little hardcover book. All of a sudden, her eyes moved up to meet mine. They were bloodshot - like she hadn’t been sleeping well.
“I’ve seen you before.”
“In... my dreams.”
“I know. I’ve been having the dreams too.”
Her voice was soft. We continued staring at one another as the bus came to a sudden halt. It was her stop. She stood to leave, and started down the aisle towards the exit. She turned to look at me, and spoke one more time. Her hands were tracing the scar on her chin.
I tried to tell her to wait, to explain it all to me, but she was gone almost as soon as she was done speaking. What she said… Well it's the reason I decided to talk about my dreams after all.
“He’s coming. And when he gets here, please - don’t let him touch you.”