Nightmares Never End Well
Cissy A. Conley
“There was another weird murder on the news this morning,” Mom mentioned, her tone somber.
Dad shot an unhappy look in her direction before letting out a sigh and shaking his head. “Mary, you shouldn’t bring that up now. It’s not good to talk about at the dinner table.”
After a few moments of gloomy silence, I glanced warily at my dad before taking a leap into dangerous territory. “What do you mean, another weird murder? That’s, like, the fifth one this month,” I said, staring down at my partially finished chicken and potatoes. I knew before I even mentioned it that Dad would be angry, but I needed to know what Mom meant. Weird how? Aren’t all slaughters weird?
She opened her mouth to speak, but before she was even able to make a peep, Dad forcefully slammed down his silverware, shaking the oak table slightly. “Melody! Didn’t you just hear what I said? Like I told your mother, that is not fit for dinner conversation. I thought you might take the hint and leave it be!”
“What’s so wrong with me wanting to know about it? I was just asking a simple question, Dad,” I retorted, oddly calm, considering that he was yelling at me. Usually, I would storm off to my room and stay there till they made me come out.
He shifted his gaze between me and Mom, his glare holding the same amount of anger for each of us. “You know what? Fine! All I wanted was some nice family time after a long day at work, but I guess you two don’t care about that, do you? Feel free to talk all you want about that horrible murder. I’ve lost my appetite because of you two. I’ll be in the family room when you’re done obsessing over it.” He snatched his plate off the table and stomped over to the sink. He threw the plate in, and it landed on the granite bottom with a dull thud.
Mom winced at the sound of the kitchen door slamming shut. She laid her head down on the table, making a soft groaning noise. We both sat in uncomfortable silence for a few long moments before she rose from her chair quietly and headed for the family room.
“Where are you going?” I asked, with a hint of upset in my voice.
“To apologize to your father. You should too. He was right. Some things should just not be talked about at the dinner table.”
“But we didn’t do anything wrong, Mom. Why should we apologize when he was the one who went crazy?”
“That doesn’t matter. It’s just… It’s much nicer here when everyone’s calm,” she said, more or less tired of the fighting. She just wanted everything and everyone to be okay.
“Will you at least tell me about the news before you go?” I knew it was a shot in the dark, but my curiosity was at an all-time high, and I had to know. I could have just looked it up myself, but I liked talking to my mom about things.
After another long sigh, as if she was deliberating whether or not she should fill me in, she finally complied. “Well, apparently, this one was the same as the others. There was no sign of a break-in, nothing stolen—just two people dead.”
“How did they die?” I asked. The other murders in our area had been just as weird. One had died from multiple spider bites, from a rare species of deadly spider that didn’t typically even reside in our part of the world, and the other person was killed from blood loss. When police discovered the body, it was covered with deep scratches, as if a dog had done it, but the person didn’t even own any pets. The most recent had died from drowning, except he was still lying in bed when they found him—and it wasn’t even a waterbed.
“Well, the police say they burned to death, but it is strange. Only their room burned, and the rest of the house wasn’t affected at all. Does that make any sense?” she asked, troubled.
I could tell by the look on her face that she was just as confused about the deaths as I was. “That’s the weirdest one yet!” I said, rolling a pea around on my plate with my fork. “How could that even happen?”
“I don’t know, honey,” she said, shaking her head.
“Who, Mom? Who is it this time?”
“That’s the bad part,” she said, looking straight at me and silencing for a moment, as if she was afraid to tell me. “It was, uh…the McGillans.”
“What?! The McGillans?! Why them? They were two of the nicest people in town!”
We both sat there in depressed silence, until Mom let out a sad sigh and got up to slip out the door, most likely to go try to calm down Dad.
My stomach turned at the thought of the McGillans being dead. They’d lived in our town as long as I could remember, even before we moved in, and they were an important part of our community, always a joy to be around. Who’d wanna hurt them? With a lick of depression and anger at the culprit, I quickly finished my dinner and got up from the table.
As I passed the family room, I glanced at my parents, who were calmly sitting on the couch. “I know it’s early, “but I think I’m gonna head to bed. I don’t feel very well. Goodnight,” I muttered. I could still feel the tension in the air, though it was easing a bit.
Mom glanced at me and smiled. Even in the midst of all that depressing, stressful conversation and our minor family argument, she managed a peppy tone as she nodded and said, “Goodnight, dear. I’ll see you in the morning.”
All Dad did was grunt.
How rude, I thought, glaring at him.
I plopped down on my blue and white comforter and stared up at the ceiling. How can he be so mean? I know he works hard, but he should treat us better. Mom works hard, too, and she’s still nice. As my thoughts shifted to the McGillans, I felt queasy again. Who’d wanna hurt two old people? They were so nice to everyone. Harry always volunteered at the soup kitchen, and Mrs. McGillan helped at the youth center in town. She was just a nice old school teacher. Who could do such a thing?
One thought in particular made my skin crawl: Wait! Their house is only a street over! I wanted to puke. If it’s some psycho on a killing spree, who’s to say he won’t come here? As soon as that terrifying thought bubbled to the surface of my mind, I scrambled to brush it away with something else: my midterms, band practice, that stupid science project due the following Tuesday—anything but that gloomy thought!
After a moment of panicked worries, I began to feel sleepy. Why? I wondered, considering that it was only seven o’clock. Why am I so tired out of the blue? As hard as I struggled to stay awake, my eyes slowly drifted shut. I felt perfectly comfortable, not too hot or cold, and my rattled, uneasy mind just melted into an odd sense of calm.
As I slowly meandered off into a restful sleep, something brushed my ear.
Uh…should I be worried? I tried to lift my arm to check, but the effort was met with some resistance. The thought of the strange sensation soon flitted away, and I dozed off.
I woke up with a jerk, in a cold sweat, heaving in deep, ragged breaths. That was the weirdest, most terrifying dream I’ve ever had. I sat still and tried to calm my breathing and my heart. I’d never been startled awake by a nightmare before, so it was quite shocking. After I was able to get my breathing under control, I realized that I was dreadfully thirsty. I slid my legs off my bed. It was then that I noticed how freezing cold I was, even though I was sweating profusely. I walked cautiously, making sure to dodge the clothes, journals, and videogames strewn about the floor as I clumsily made my way to my light switch. I flicked it on and shielded my eyes from the overly bright light now radiating throughout my room.
Before I opened my door, I happened to glance down and noticed something odd: a blue substance seemingly dripping from the side of my head. I instinctively reached up to touch my ear; sure enough, the same blue fluid that was puddling into a stain on my carpet below me now covered my fingers, as if an ink pen had exploded in my hand.
“Wh-what is this?” I spoke loudly, but my question was only met with eerie silence. I couldn’t stop staring at it. Where did it come from? Why is it in my ear? How in the heck did it get there? I tore my eyes away from the sickish deep blue that still stuck to my fingers and decided to go have a look in the mirror.
As I opened the door, another unsettling sight caught my eye, just a glimpse of a shadow or some sort of hologram. It was the clear outline of something, yet I couldn’t make out what it was. As the whatever-it-was brushed past my legs, it felt slimy, like Jell-O. I stared at it as it went on its way, and I watched it ooze into my parents’ room.
“Am I still dreaming?” I asked myself. “This can’t be real! Wake up, Melody!” I uttered in a terrified tone, pinching myself.
Before I could think of what to do or figure out what was going on, a shriek radiated throughout the house, breaking the eerie silence. The scream came from my parents’ room, so without a second thought, I forcefully shoved their door open and darted in, only to be met by a pair of large eyes.
The eyes were deep red, outlined by a darker shade of crimson, the color of blood. I stood there, frozen by the sight of the horrific creature before me. Before my mind was able to snap back to reality, the thing hissed and fiercely swung its tail in my direction, throwing me across the room like a ragdoll. My back hit the wall with a dull crack. The wind was knocked out of me, and I worried for a moment that my spine had snapped in two. The thing was terrifying, but what was even more petrifying was that I had seen it before, very recently. There, standing right across the room from me, was a living nightmare—my nightmare. The monstrosity had a long black body. Its scales were a deep, greenish black, and its fang-like teeth were pure white. I knew it had crawled right out of my bad dreams, because its serpentine tongue was split in three places instead of just two, like any normal snake’s would have been.
After a few breathless seconds that seemed like an eternity, the thing hissed and attacked. It was aiming for my parents but seemed to be focused on my dad. It lunged, both my mom and I screamed as it hit its mark. I can’t really describe what happened next, since my eyes were covered with my trembling hands, but the ghastly noises coming from just a few feet in front of me were a nightmare all their own. A few minutes later, the cries and hisses died down, and the room was quiet, except for the sobbing coming from the corner opposite where I was sitting.
Wh-what’s going on? I thought, though I was not sure I wanted to know. Is Dad… Oh my gosh! Is he…dead?! What is that thing? The monster from my nightmare? Why is it here? Within those few silent seconds, which I assumed were just happening because the thing was deciding what to do next, thoughts of all kinds passed through my head. My brain felt like a busy highway at rush hour.
When I finally opened my eyes, I was met with the demonic red eyes again, this time focused solely on me. They seemed to smile devilishly, as if to say, “Look what you caused. This is all your fault.” I peered at the sinister serpent as it flicked its tongue at me and sprang forward.
On the outskirts of my peripheral vision, I noticed my mom inching toward me in a wobbly crawl. “Melody, run!” she shouted before throwing herself in front of it to protect me.
Paralyzed by fear and confusion, my muddled mind seemed to take forever to register what she was asking me to do.
“Melody, please! GO!”
Before I could protest, I was on my feet. I fought through the pain of what felt like a broken rib, a souvenir from being slammed into the wall. The last thing I heard before I left their bedroom was a loud crack, followed by a shrill scream. I still had some shred of hope that both my parents were okay, but somewhere deep down, I knew they weren’t.
As I turned the corner, I felt something hit my back, something sticky and warm. I was pretty sure I knew what it was, but I couldn’t bear the thought of it. I bolted out the front door as fast as my legs could carry me. Through the window near the door, I heard it hissing and watched it slither out, side-winding in my direction.
I knew I had to get help, so I sprinted next door. I pounded on Mr. Thomason’s door, screaming and shouting for him. My cries of bloody murder caught the attention of a few other neighbors, and lights began to turn on in houses all around me. Screaming and crying, overcome with fear, sadness, anger, and grief, I collapsed right there on Mr. Thomason’s front stoop.
I roused a bit some indeterminable amount of time later, but I wasn’t fully conscious, because I couldn’t make out much of what was going on. I saw blurry silhouettes of several people standing around, some shouting but most too stunned to do anything. I faintly heard Mr. Thomason talking to someone on the phone, and I assumed he’d called 911. The last thing I remember is glancing back at the porch step of our house, where the foul thing hissed at me once and then vanished. After that, everything went dark.
* * *
“What an interesting story, Melody,” Mrs. Jeffen said in a disinterested, displeased tone. “Have you ever considered a career as a writer? With that imagination of yours—”
“A story?! You mean you still don’t believe me? I swear, it happened exactly like I said.”
“Sweetie, the police—”
“No! I don’t care what the police think. They weren’t there.”
“Melody, there was a string of homicides at that time, all of them very…odd.” She looked at me with disappointment, as if she pitied me and my so-called delusions.
“Homicides? No way! It was that monster, that giant snake thing from my dreams. I know what I saw. I can’t just pretend it didn’t happen!”
“Melody, hon’, you’re twenty-five now. You must let go of this childish story. It has been twelve years. I realize your mind has conjured up this story as a defense mechanism, to shut out the brutal truth, but you will never move on until you accept that your parents were murdered by a maniac who was never found.” She glanced at the blue-rimmed clock on the wall and sighed. “This session is over. I’ll see you next week.”
“Fine.” As I watched my therapist walk out the door, I wondered for the hundredth time if my eyes had betrayed me, if my mind had really made all of it up. I knew, though, without a doubt, that the vile thing that took my family from me was real, as real as that therapist herself. Somehow, my nightmare had manifested into a real, living, breathing horror, and I was convinced that mine was not the only nightmare to take such a form. I wonder where it went after that. I could wonder all I wanted, but I never really wanted to find out.