“Wake up!”

That’s what she says to me as I flail and scream in my bed, still completely asleep. I awake in a panic, drenched in sweat and hyperventilating as though I am out of breath. She had just gotten home from work. She was a police officer, so she still had her uniform on.

As my mother wipes the sweat from my face with a dampened cloth, I begin to calm down. She feels my head to check if I have a fever, but then uses her hand to stroke my hair, trying to make me relax. She was always very supportive… that’s what I miss.

“It was just a bad dream. Try to get some sleep. You’re okay now,"

She calmly exclaimed to me, her voice, as soft as a spring breeze. My heart was instantly at ease… for the time being.

“You’re okay now…” Those words echoed in my head all night. Those words of sanctuary, of false hope. If only it were that simple now. The next day at school, I tried to tell my friends of the dream I had…

I am standing in nothing. It was like a room with no light and no walls. I am standing in the shadows. I run on and on with no door, no walls, no windows, no nothing. It’s just endless space. I run until I can’t run anymore, and I collapse on my hands and knees.

I hear whispering. I look up and see a figure walking closer to me from out of the shadow. He was tall, too tall to be human (at least 8 feet). His hair was long and laid flat, Thousands of brown threads covering his forehead that cast a shadow over his eyes. His smile intimidated me.

It was just a gaping curve across his face that continued from ear to ear. He wore a suit, like a businessman, but it was red, not black. The only thing I could compare the color to was blood.

I heard whispering, but his mouth didn’t move. I heard it in the back of my head. He whispered directly into my brain. It was in a language I didn’t understand, but I knew what he was saying. “You’re mine now!" What does that even mean? “You’re mine now.” It almost drove me insane.

Next thing I know, an arm reaches out holding an ax and plunges it into the chest of the businessman. He fell back and his body evaporated into the air. The arm, attached to another being then sped past me in a blur. The silhouette of the creature stopped in the darkness and turned around, but came no closer. Then I heard, “You think you’re safe, but you’re wrong. I didn’t do that to save you. I did that cause you’re not his…” a head then stretched out of the darkness and continued.

“You’re mine!” I was speechless.

Two inhuman creatures were hunting me. This new creature was different than the other. A clown. It was a clown with a smiling theater mask on. I asked it what they wanted from me. He spoke, “the other is hungry, and he wants you as his meal. I am a clown. I wasted my life performing for others. Now I go after others to entertain me. That is why I am after you. To ruin your life and watch you struggle. It makes me laugh.” As he spoke, his head twisted in circles. The face on the mask switched between smile and frown.

That was the moment I woke up. And I was shocked to find that as I talked to my friends, I couldn’t tell them of my dream. When I tried, I saw a figure over their shoulders. In the distance, I saw the clown. He was in the picture of a poster hard to notice, but unmistakable. He was watching me. He wanted me to know he was watching. I froze. I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t move. I was in a daze until the bell rang. My attention averted for a split second and when my sight returned to the poster, he was gone. He didn’t want me to tell of him.

I ignored it all until I was on the bus home. I looked out the window at a crowd of people walking down the street and noticed him. The businessman. He stuck out in the crowd, being taller than them all. Then as my bus passed by, he turned his gaze on me. My heart nearly stopped. They were both watching me. I knew I would be safe at home, or so I thought.

Every turn, I thought I saw one of them. They were driving me insane. My mother knew something bothered me, but she didn’t know of them. She sat me down and asked me to tell her what was wrong. I looked around to see them watching me, but they were nowhere. They were going to let me tell of them? What game are they playing?

I told my mother of what was going on, but she thought it was due to the dream I had the night before. She thought I was exhausted and told me to go to bed early. They didn’t bother me the rest of the night. During dinner, it came up in conversation how the previous night, before she got home, she witnessed a man shoot himself after a speech he gave to the police officers. She said he was insane. Right after dinner, I did as she told me and went to bed. It was a pleasant dream that night. I woke up the next morning feeling great. They never bothered me again.

I am all grown now, and my mother is now gone, all but her memory. The memory of that dream has vanished from my thoughts.

It’s a month after her passing. I have been working double shifts at work recently, and I fear I’m not getting enough sleep. My actions get slower everyday and I’m getting distracted more easily. My boss notices and gives me a day off. I use it to get my sleep back.

That night it happened again. It was the dream from years ago. I am a kid again. I’m in the black room. I am running just as before. But it’s different this time. I’m being chased. The businessman and the clown are neck and neck. They are racing to catch me. I finally hit a wall! Now? Not now! They are getting closer, slowly. The clown is laughing as hard as he can.

Then I know. They aren’t after me alone. They’re a team. One gets to eat and the other gets a laugh out of it all. I’m crying against the wall. The clown stops but the businessman keeps walking closer. I hear whispering in my head. It’s the businessman. “You got away from us for this long, but with that woman gone, we found you again.”

“That woman?” My mother! What did they mean by that? He then continued, “Her love protected you from us, but no more. Your nothing without her.” His mouth opens wide and sucks me in like a vacuum.

As my life is slipping away from me, I hear the clown laughing even harder. The sound echoes and fades in my head as I lose consciousness. That was the last night...

I wake up in my bed as soon as I can’t hear the laughing any more. I’m alive. I slowly start laughing in joy. As joy fades, the laughing doesn’t, it just gets louder. I am laughing out of control. I suddenly get up without controlling my actions. I move to the closet.

I reach for my only black suit, but it has been replaced with a blood stained, red suit. I put it on and comb my hair over my face, still laughing. I go to the draw and stop laughing, pulling a pistol out and slipping it into the suit. No longer laughing, I walk out the door, still unable to control my movements.

I drive across town to the mall. As I walk through the mall, I see everyone smiling and talking to each other. I have to look down at them because I have grown an extra height in the previous night. I stand in the center of the mall and pull out the gun and start firing into the crowd. That was when I started laughing uncontrollably again. I do not know how many people I hit or even killed. But I counted the shots.

I counted enough to know that there was one bullet left. By the time the police stormed in and surrounded me, I was laughing so hard, my throat was straining. As the police yelled at me to drop the gun, I didn’t listen. Still laughing, words escape from my mouth.

“You can’t stop our reign of terror. We are the beings your kids tell you about in their nightmare. The only way to stop us is to kill your kids before we get to them, or this will happen again and again and again…” I repeat until my voice fades down. I look around. All the police look confused. They didn’t know what I was talking about.

I caught their attention again as I start laughing again. “Let the nightmares go on!” I yelled, laughing even harder. I bring the gun up to my face and put the barrel in my mouth, still laughing. Before the police can respond, I pull the trigger and send a bullet into my brain and drop on the floor.

That night, all the officers went home to find their children having the same dream as I had before.

The cycle started again…