It is 6:00 A.M. and I am staring at the neon green glow of my clock that reminds me of this. I know that in twenty minutes that alarm will sound and I will have to peel myself from under this comforter and get ready for my day. My eyes pop open after trying to fall asleep. I hadn’t wanted to just lay here all night but I can’t keep this up anymore. I haven’t been able to sleep for the last four days. The lack of rest is beginning to take a toll on me. My vision is blurry even with my glasses on. I have constant headaches and I am not sure if that it is from how tired I am or how much caffeine I have ingested to try to stay awake. I feel weak and my muscles ache but I know I cannot sleep. Not as long as I might dream.
Even from an early age my dreams had always been vivid. If I had a nightmare I would run to my parent’s bed and dive under the covers with them. Then at the age of five my father put a stop to that. He would pick me up and put me back in my bed a hundred times if that was what it took. I finally stopped going, no matter how frightened I might be, for I knew it would be pointless. At least once a week I would be forced to return to my bed, shivering under my covers.
At age six I had a particularly realistic nightmare that lead me to believe that some kind of alien creature was outside my window waiting to abduct me. I knew I couldn’t stay in my room but I also knew that if I were to run for my parent’s bed that I would be sent back toward my demons. So, I did the only thing I could think of, I closed myself inside their bathroom that was right around the corner. I slept with my back to the door and made sure to leave the light on. My mother had to force her way in the next morning. No matter how much I pleaded it never seemed to change anything. I finally grew up and learned to deal with my fears. Those dreams had nothing on the ones I came to know in the last week.
Last Sunday night I laid out my clothes for the following day as I always had. I shut out the lights and slid myself under my comforter and removed my glasses before turning over to kiss my wife goodnight. She was scrolling through her social media, as usual. She turned to me and told me she loved me. I returned the affection, then turned back to my side of the bed. I set my alarm for the next morning for 6:20 A.M. and would be sound asleep within minutes, something my wife could never understand about me. About three hours later I leapt up from my back to gasp for air. This quick jerk startled my wife, who had just fell asleep. I sat there wide eyed, pouring sweat and trying to comprehend what I had just seen within my mind all while she was begging me to tell her what was wrong. “I had a nightmare,” I said quietly.
“About what?” she asked as I finally caught my breath.
I looked over at the clock to see it was now 1:15 A.M. “In my dream I woke up at 1:20 and William had climbed from his crib and got stuck under it. He was crying for us,” I said with a quiver in my tone.
“That’s not that scary. Kind of weird, but not scary,” her voice sounded annoy that I had awoken her.
“He was hurt when I got to him in the dream. He had a cut over his eye, it just kind of freaked me out. You know how I always have those really vivid dreams,” I almost snapped back at her tone.
“Just go back to--” her response was cut off as we heard our youngest son begin to scream.
I jumped up from the bed and rushed down the hall. My wife was right on my heels and I almost vaulted over the baby gate that separated him from the rest of the house. I flicked on the light and there under his crib was my one year old little boy begging for help. We pulled him from underneath and sure enough there was a scrape over his left eyebrow that oozed red viscous liquid. My wife gasped and dipped into the bathroom in the hallway. She wet a rag and brought it to me. We cleaned him up to see that the gash was long but not very deep. He wouldn’t need stitches.
It took about fifteen minutes to calm him down and get him back to sleep. We turned out his light and returned to our room. As I went to lay back down I noticed the clock read 1:35. It had been 1:20 when William fell. I felt a chill run up my spine at the thought of it but I knew if I brought it to my wife’s attention she would just say it was a coincidence and tell me to go to bed. So, I did just that and tried to put the thought to the back of my mind.
I shuffled through my work day as usual. Most of my time was spent in front of a computer, simply staring. I couldn’t concentrate on work with visions of last night on repeat in my head. Before I knew it, the day had come to an end and I was making my way back home. My wife and two sons sat down for dinner as always. They spoke about their respective days but their voices were simply murmurs in the back of my thoughts. I pushed my food around on my plate and tried to seem like I was paying attention.
We finished and as my wife cleaned the dishes I made sure the boys were ready for bed. James was the oldest son by five years. It had taken my wife that long to convince me to have another. She desperately wanted a daughter but I told her I must not make little girls and she always scoffed at that. James was good about getting himself cleaned up and dressed for bed and I would be left to wrestle with William during bath time. He loved to splash and play. We both needed a towel when he was done. I had almost forgotten about the previous night while playing with him and his little ducks, boats, and fish in the water. The mark on his head pulled me back to reality.
I tucked them both in with kisses and goodnights. One final, “I love you” came as I turned out the lights and pulled the door almost closed at each bedroom. Again, I prepared my clothes for the following day and found my way to bed where my wife was waiting. We said our goodnights, the only light remaining would be the dim glow of her cell phone. I would soon fall asleep, she still awake behind me.
I found myself sitting on a park bench of a non-descript park. The typical trees, grass, and various patrons. Some walked dogs and others played with children. It had that feeling of familiarity but I couldn’t seem to place it. I just sat there alone watching everyone go about their fun. Then the normalcy was broken by the sound of squealing tires and crunching metal. I stood up and turned around to notice a horrible vehicular accident on the street just behind me. A semi-truck had buried itself deep into the side of an ambulance.
The driver of the truck had obviously been very surprised by the incident. He sat shocked in the cab for a moment before putting it into reverse. People from the park ran to check on the passengers of the emergency vehicle. My body stood motionless during the whole spectacle. Three men pried at the side doors but they wouldn’t budge, so they ran for the back. The bay doors of the ambulance finally gave way and everyone stumbled back at the sight. My dream shifted and I was standing at the doors. You couldn’t make out that there had ever been people inside. It was a crimson stained painting depicting viscera as the main focal point. It hung from the roof and instruments inside like garland at Christmas. As I jolted from sleep, the overwhelming urge to regurgitate what little bit of the spaghetti I had consumed at dinner was unbearable. I ran for the bathroom and once my meal was all gone I sat there on the cold tile wondering what had gone on. The entire nightmare had been so real that the odor of warm flesh and blood still permeated my nostrils. It took a good hour for me to return to sleep that night, hoping that to be the last of my dreams.
Tuesday was much like the day before but this time my head was filled with the gore of the previous night. I could barely concentrate and my boss could tell. When he asked how I was doing, I simply told him I hadn’t slept well. He seemed to be concerned and sent me back home. I didn’t protest because I could always use a day off and I was still tired from the previous night. My wife was fairly surprised when I walked in at 3:00.
She looked at me with concern, “Everything alright?” “Boss let me off early,” I lied. She would dig deeper and I would have to confess my secret. I didn’t want to bring up last night’s dread. I just gave her a nod and found my way to the bathroom. She called from the kitchen to let me know that James was home from school. I could hear the two talking before my wife stood outside the door.
“Since you are home early James thought we might go out to the park,” she hummed. I turned to face her and tried to hide my shock. I resisted at first but her prodding continued. Soon I had no choice but to join and found myself sitting on a bench while my wife and two sons played. I would check over my shoulder, again and again. I had the strangest of feelings, the kind that fills you with dread. Those moments of uncertainty amidst a coming fate. Those ones that dig at you and leave you agonizing as you wait. Then out of nowhere I heard sirens begin to blare. To my left came a white bus adorned with red lines and letters. The lights flashed rapidly as it sped down the street. My whole body turned to look at the adjacent street. There rolled the dark blue semi, just like in my dreams. Jumping from my bench I started with a brisk walk that quickly turned into a sprint. I wasn’t sure what I would do when I reached the street but I had to do something.
I stopped at the sidewalk and waved my arms over my head. I hoped that the trucker could see me but his face was turned down instead. The scene slowed down to nothing as I saw it on repeat. The chrome grill of the truck buried deep in the side of the emergency vehicle and shoved it a good ten feet. People came running from all over, even my family. I quickly stopped them all and told them to just stand back. I knew what was to come and that’s something I couldn’t let them be a part of.
We rode home in silence. I didn’t even look at my wife. I could feel her putting daggers in me from the passenger seat. She had seen me run out there shortly before and I can only assume she wanted to know more. She let me retire to our room and put the boys to bed. When she came in after me she could tell I was shaken. I had sat on the bed and not moved an inch. My face had turned as white as a sheet and I didn’t even look up as she came closer.
She couldn’t help but ask, “What happened today?” I finally looked up and had fear in my eyes.
I wasn’t sure how to answer without sounding insane. The whole thing made no sense, it was completely impossible. How could one person’s dream become reality? The words came out without me truly thinking, “I knew that was going to happen today.” She seemed visibly shocked.
“How could you have possibly known that would happen?” she quizzed. I detailed my entire dream of the night before. I told her that once I reached the park I realized that it was the same one from my nightmare. Her eyes became wide once I started drawing out details and when she asked what I saw when I went to the doors I simply said, “You don’t want to know.” We both laid in the dark unable to shut our eyes. She, out of worry and myself, from what I would see once I did. I watched my clock for a few hours and the last time I remember read 11:48. I found myself waking up every thirty to forty minutes. I would look at the clock and adjust myself in bed. I couldn’t get comfortable and I was afraid of what I might dream.
I saw the neon numbers read 6:00 A.M. and I slid from my bed quietly amidst the dim light of dawn. My feet carried me down the hall and into the garage. I took a step down into it and over to my safe. I put in the combination and pulled down the latch. The door opened with a creak and rested to the side. Within was important paperwork, spare money, family heirlooms, and a .22 caliber rifle that had been passed down in my family for generations. I reached in grabbing hold of the stock with one hand and a box of ammunition in the other. One round became chambered quickly, the bolt dropping in place. I dropped the rest to the floor before returning to the house.
I left doors open as I crept across the floor. I stopped at James’ bedroom door. Pushing it open with the barrel of that small hunting rifle, the sunlight passed through his curtains and landed gently on his sleeping face. In seconds I was standing over his bed. The muzzle pressed gently against the temple of his head. I released the safety, which caused him to wake up. “Daddy,” James said with a tear in his eye. A click could be heard as my finger applied pressure to the trigger and at that very moment my clocked reached 6:20.
My alarm wailed and jolted me awake. My heart wanted to run from my chest. Sweat welled up from each pore and puddled on the bed. I ran from my room, knocking over a chair as I found my way to his room. I forced open the door and the sound woke up James. He screamed, not knowing what was happening. My wife came running after me to make sure everything was ok, she noticed the look in my eyes and started to back away. I swore to my son that everything was alright. I told him to lay back down and I pulled the door closed. I couldn’t escape the tirade of questions that would follow. My wife could not understand why I would startle our child like that.
“What in the hell were you thinking?” she scolded. Her hands were on her hips and her brow furrowed deep. I could tell she was two seconds from laying a palm across my face. I am sure the only reason she hadn’t was because of what I had endured at the park. My head hung low and I was unable to explain. How could I tell her I dreamt of killing our little boy? I simply shook my head and apologized. I did my best to prepare for work but I had no idea how I was supposed to be productive with all of this weighing on my mind.
On Wednesday I had been sitting at my desk, barely doing any work for three hours, when my boss tapped me on the shoulder. When I turned around he was accompanied by two uniformed police officers. They informed me that they had a couple of questions for me. I always thought they had you come downtown for things like this but they simply had me sit down in a conference room at the end of the hall.
“Mr. Thompson, we have reports that you were the first person to approach the scene of the accident yesterday afternoon,” the larger of the two prodded. I reaffirmed this as he continued, “What exactly where you doing at the park?”
“I had left work early that day and my family wanted to spend some time together at the park,” I answered hesitantly. The smaller one made notes on a pad at the corner of the table.
“An eye witness said they noticed you trying to flag down the trucker right before the accident. I am guessing the driver didn’t see you?” the question came as I thought of my dream.
I responded in a matter-of-fact tone, “That asshole wasn’t paying attention. He was looking down at something in the floorboard.” The two cops looked at each other and nodded.
“That’s what we thought. We just wanted to see if your side of the story matched up with the other reports we had. We are sorry for taking up your time. You have a nice day Mr. Thompson,” he said quickly before they both stood up and exited the room. I sighed and rested my head on the conference room table.
This was becoming more than I could stand. Why was this happening? What made my dreams come true? Then I realized that they didn’t come true. I hadn’t shot my son at all. Maybe it all was just a coincidence and I was making this a bigger deal than it really had to be. I just sat there with my head on the table. I was so tired and soon I was snoring in the conference room.
My eyes were focused on the room height window of my office building. We operated out of the eighth floor of a ten floor building. I was standing between my cubicle and a co-worker’s when I noticed an accountant that had been auditing us the past month come running by me. He had an office chair out in front of his body and he moved at full speed right at the window. Before I could blink, the chair forced through the pane and his body fell over top of it and out into the open air. I stepped to the edge and looked down at the mangled mass of what use to be a slightly balding, over weight, forty-five year old man in a cheap suit.
When I sat up in the conference room I barely blinked. These visions had become so common now it was starting to seem normal. I stood up from my chair to watch across the office. I waited and waited but no man ran for the window. I decided to return to my desk and try to finish my day. I had only thirty minutes left before I could head back home to my family when a ruckus came from the back door of our floor. Papers flung down to the carpet as a mail cart was overturned in the fray. Within seconds I was standing just outside my cubicle and I was passed by the accountant again. The shattering glass made me flinch and I just stood across the room, staring at the open window. I didn’t need to look down, because I knew what would be waiting for me if I did. I picked up my things and left the office without saying a word.
I didn’t go straight home. I pulled into a small pub down the street from work. I sat on the stool and the bartender noticed the look on my face. He attempted to be social and asked if I wanted to talk about it. I shook my head and simply said, “Scotch on the rocks; make it a double.” The clinking of those frozen cubes was heard and then the gurgle of that amber liquid filling the glass. It slid to me and I finished it quickly. “Keep ‘em coming,” I said. He refilled my glass and I sat there tossing them back and trying to find some kind of answer.
Why had everything else come true but the gunshot? This question kept rolling through my head. And five drinks in, it finally hit me. I woke up before I shot James, because I would never actually do that! I quickly paid my tab with a fifty dollar bill and left the rest as a tip. The bar stool almost toppled, I left in such a hurry. I scrambled, shoving my hand down in my pocket for my phone.
I stepped out of the door, to look down at the screen. It had been on silent but I had ten missed calls from my wife. I knew I was in trouble and would be in even more when I came in smelling like a brewery. I called her back and let her know I was ok. I also told her that I needed a ride because I had been drinking. She would be quite happy to see me I am sure.
She had to take the boys to her mother’s house before driving thirty minutes to pick me up and the annoyance was easy to read. I apologized again and again before telling her what I had realized about my dreams. She didn’t believe a word of my drunk rambling and pretty much just told me to keep my mouth shut or she would leave me to stumble my way home on foot.
When I got home I made a pot of coffee and drank almost the entire thing. My wife was so upset with me she didn’t even ask if I was coming to bed. She just left me in the kitchen sipping from my mug. I had to keep myself awake. That was the only solution. It would be harder now that I had taken down so much scotch but I was determined. I tried to not sit still for too long and found little projects I hadn’t finished to keep me busy.
I replaced a couple of wall outlets I had intended to change months ago. The car needed a new oil filter and I knew that would keep me going for a bit. I reorganized my tools in the garage but as I passed my safe I kept my distance. I didn’t even want to think about opening that anytime soon. The guest bath commode was clogged, so I got that draining. I worked through a month’s worth of those ‘honey-do’ lists that the wife had made in one night. I was proud of myself when I turned off my alarm clock before it even sounded. I actually felt somewhat revitalize and got ready for work and gone in record time.
The next night would not be so easy. The new found energy I had was from my body catching a second wind and being boosted from the caffeine. When I crashed the following afternoon, I crashed hard. I could barely crack my eyes open but I kept typing away at my computer. I had to keep my body moving or I would go to sleep. Come five o’clock my boss stopped by my cubicle and looked down at my fingers just typing away. He stopped me and said, “John are you sure you are ok?” I looked down at my fingers as he held his hand over my palm to stop me. Then I looked up at my screen.
“I must stay awake,” repeated over and over again for the first thousand words before it turned into a garble of nonsense. I had filled pages and pages of a word processor document with absolute garbage. He helped me stand up and shut down my computer. He handed me my coat and told me it was time for me to go home. I was even escorted to my car, they must have been very worried.
I barely spoke to my family when I got home. I know they said things to me but it reminded me of the teacher from Charlie Brown. I just walked passed them and went to my bedroom to change clothes. I stared at myself in the mirror and I could tell just how tired I was. My eyes had started to sink in and they were getting a purple hue. The white was almost covered in red crackled lines of veins and they burned. My skin even seemed more wrinkled than normal. My fingers traced the lines across my forehead and along my mouth. I almost didn’t recognize myself and I knew that I still had to find a way to stay awake tonight.
After four twenty-ounce cans of Red Bull I was wired again. I started organizing and cleaning the whole house. When I ran out of things I could actively do at home I grabbed my keys and drove down to a 24 hour convenience store. I bought three five gallon gas jugs and filled them up before heading back home. I placed them neatly by the back door of the garage. I would have plenty for yard work this weekend.
I pushed the lawn mower out of the shed and began dismantling the carburetor. It had needed rebuilding anyway. Once I had finished I pushed it over by the gas jugs. I went ahead and filled the tank. Then mixed the gas and oil mixture for my hedge trimmer. So many little things I had put off that I now had plenty of time to do. I even rolled out the barbecue grill and prepped it for Friday night. I could cook up some burgers to try and make up for how strange I had been acting the last few days. I came back inside just in time to turn off my alarm before it woke anyone up.
I finished my work quickly the next day and sat tapping a pen against my desk while I watched the clock. As soon as it changed over to five o’clock I was heading out the door. I am fairly certain I even sped the whole way home, trying to think of as many things I could do to keep me awake. I rushed to the front door, with keys in hand but the door swung open before I could even unlock it.
My wife stopped me at the front door and wore a look on her face I don’t think I have ever seen before. Everyone knows that when a woman says, “We need to talk” it can’t be about anything good. She began telling me how unhappy she had become with our situation. She detailed how much worse it had been this week. She kept telling me I was becoming more and more distant. I could tell where this was headed, I quickly apologized and explained I just hadn’t been sleeping very well. I promised that I would make up for it this weekend. I told her I had planned to grill burgers tonight. She forced a half smile and gave me the benefit of the doubt, allowing me inside.
We all sat outside and ate burgers. We joked and the boys played in the back yard. I tossed the football back and forth with James. For a while my world felt normal again, just the way it should be. I kept myself busy with the boys as long as possible, trying to hold onto the fantasy I had created with my family over the last few hours. I hoped that this could be an end to my nightmare.
I knew I couldn’t just tinker with projects all night after promising my wife to do better. I also knew that I couldn’t go to sleep. I couldn’t risk what kind of nightmares might lay in store, so to appease my wife I laid in bed next to her. I sat there watching the clock with my eyes wide until she fell asleep then I got up and kept myself busy. As soon as the sun started to rise I went out to the yard to work on cleaning up trash, cutting the grass, and trimming the hedges. That kept me busy for most of the day and that afternoon I played with my sons all the way until bed time. I would repeat this process of keeping my hands busy during the day with any minor fix I could find around the home and then spend as much time as possible with the boys at night. I even coaxed my wife into letting them stay up later so that I could stay up later but eventually she put her foot down and I had to put them to bed.
I slid under the comforter and pulled it up to my ears. I turned toward the clock and waited. I watched as nine o’clock became midnight. She was still playing on her phone and I knew I couldn’t get up until she fell asleep. I was cursing her in my head because all I wanted to do was get up and move. Even after she finally went to sleep she kept moving and made me believe she would wake up while I was up working. Before I knew it my eyes were drooping. They felt so heavy and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep them awake. It is 6:00 A.M. and I am staring at the neon green glow of my clock that reminds me of this. I know that in twenty minutes that alarm will sound and I will have to peel myself from under this comforter and get ready for my day. I feel my eyes close for a moment, fluttering in-and-out of sleep.
When I couldn’t take it anymore I got up from under the blanket but my wife didn’t say a word. I crept down the hall and toward the back door of the kitchen. I would at least head out into the night air for some fresh air. I almost felt like I was going to suffocate laying in bed and maybe the chill of late hour would snap me back awake. I quickly pulled open the door and smiled slightly as the cool air brushed against my cheek
As soon as I exited the back door my smile faded, the aroma of smoke breaking my concentration. My eyes quickly darted to the back of the garage, where light flickered upon the ground. A stray ember from the grill had somehow ignited dry grass clippings I had yet to tidy up. The grass was ablaze and headed for the canisters of gasoline. I rushed toward them, but before I could manage a rescue they both had been consumed by fire. An explosion echoed throughout my neighborhood as my body was flung back almost twenty feet. The Masonite siding lit up like the Fourth of July before I could even scramble to my feet. The embers lapped at the walls and rolled in through breaking windows. Screaming of those I love most is heard for a short time before the sound is snuffed out by the smoke and flame.
My eyes open wide and it is 6:00 A.M. and I am staring at the neon green glow of my clock.
Narration by SpiritVoices
Written by L0CKED334