What follows is a dark recollection of a nightmare I had recently before waking in a cold sweat. Hope you enjoy, and by “enjoy” I mean feel creepy tingles and get creeped out. Part 2 will be in front of your eyes next Friday.
I awoke with a start after hearing her scream. Her voice was piercing, scratching at my eardrums, and all I could think was Shut up! I’m trying to sleep here! But one look at the window, seeing the daylight peek through the blinds, told me I should just get up and start my day.
Let her scream, I’m awake and the sun is out. Screw it. I’m not a day-sleeper, not like my father was.
I pulled up the blinds and glanced outside at the street street, across at neighbors’ houses with unkempt lawns. At the top of the Mizz’s driveway was a group of kids, a “gang” you could call them, and I could hear Hayley’s laughter. Her laugh was infectious, and when she howled at her friend’s joke I realized it wasn’t a scream that woke me, but her laugh. I saw her in her plain white t-shirt, jean shorts. The very outfit I looked forward to seeing every summer. I watched her wrestling with one of her friends, the way she pushed under his arms as though trying to tickle her way out of his grasp. I imagined the way she would tickle me if she’d only accept my offer to take her out…
I held off getting out of bed a little longer, concentrating on my imaginary memory of the two of us together, alone, watching Hayley take off her shirt and reach for my waist, pulling me closer to her naked body…and the silence.
The glorious silence… but that wasn’t right. There should be music, a slow jazz instrumental, something off of a cd her mother had stashed away in her closet. But why the silence now?
I sat up again, noticed what was missing: Hayley’s laughter. There wasn’t any laughter, any screaming. Even the noise of neighbors’ cars leaving for work was missing. Nothing, just a quiet, still, unsettling air about the neighborhood. I leaned towards the window, my breathing grew deeper and louder, clouding the glass under my nose as I looked out, up the street, and to the Mizz’s driveway —
The six “friends” of Hayley were all turned towards me, staring and grinning horrid grins full of teeth.
100 yards away, I could see their smiles and teeth with crisp detail, saliva pink and red glistening in the morning light. They stepped towards me in unison like a line of robots, and two of them raised their legs high to step forward because they were walking over a body. Hayley’s body. I then noticed the red stream trickling down the Mizz’s driveway.
It hadn’t been laughter, earlier. It had been screaming.
The gang stalked down Hayley’s driveway and onto the street, their smiling faces had changed, teeth no longer showing, corners of their mouths straightened into blank expressions. It appeared they wanted to frown or sneer, muscles contorting in their cheeks and above their necks, but they remained blank. They looked away as a car turned the corner and approached. When I looked back to them, the gang stood in a circle, smoking, tossing up a hackey-sack, one of them holding a basketball he must’ve been concealing earlier.
The kid with the basketball casually tossed it into the street, in the path of the oncoming car, and then he collapsed. The other kids backed away, watching the car as it squealed around the ball and to a halt at the fallen kid’s feet. The driver, a middle-aged woman, portly, and holding a can of soda she sipped every few seconds, quickly stepped to the fallen kid, who was now bleeding mysteriously.
“What happened? Is he alright?” She shouted, sipping on her soda.
One of the other kids, a tall, lanky, pale guy with a pony tail, said, “I think he’s hurt, you should take a closer look. Maybe put him in your car.”
“My car? Why would I?”
“He’s probably injured, should see a doctor. I mean, you hit him, so it’s kind of on you.”
The portly woman dropped her can of soda, shocked. “I didn’t hit him, he just fell over. You saw it. You all saw it.” She pointed at the group, didn’t notice that one of them had been scooting past her, behind her. This one, a short girl wearing a leather jacket and black skirt over whitewash jeans, glanced over at me and winked before stepping up to the portly woman’s back.
I tried to shout a warning, but no words escaped my lips. Helpless, I watched as the girl reached up and pulled back the portly woman’s head. With a quick swipe of her other hand, the woman’s neck burst open and blood poured forth, along with a chunk of her throat. The girl pulled the woman back to the car, throat and tongue oozing out of her open neck. The girl tossed her into the passenger seat, then guided the car to the curb and plopped it into park.
While this happened, I dressed in last night’s clothes — jeans, sweatshirt — with my eyes glued on the grisly scene unfolding before me. The kid on the ground stood up, and I saw a gash along the side of his head wash away as he ran his hand over it, as though he simply had an itch. The rest of the kids smiled, and when the girl rejoined them, she smiled, too.
They walked down the street, away from me, and when I felt they were a good distance away I grabbed my jacket and ran outside. No hesitation.
I’m proud of that moment because in the past, or under any normal circumstance where I’d feel threatened, I would not just run right into the danger zone. But this felt different; it felt necessary.
Outside, there was no sign of the gang of kids, no laughter, chatter, or footsteps. No cars. No sirens. No birds…it was bizarre, quiet. Frightening.
I walked over to the top of the Mizz’s driveway. The incline wasn’t steep, but the effort it took to climb their driveway was a lot more than I’d remembered. Each step was like slogging through muck, a rising wading pool where the water grew thick with slime and sludge. By the time I reached the top of the driveway, my legs were burning with acid and I could hardly stand, so I collapsed to the ground, right beside Hayley’s body.
Her face was peaceful, a sharp contrast to her screaming moments ago. Her face held drying trickles of blood, and the dark streak through her hair was a deep red-black, a burning brand on her otherwise golden blond strands. I considered entering the Mizz’s house, but no one was home and I wanted to avoid any implications. Maybe I watch too many cop shows. Maybe I’m paranoid.
Either way, I started back towards my parents’ house to call the cops. I don’t own a cell phone, by choice, and this was one of those instances I wished I’d chosen differently.
Back on the street, I suddenly had to turn and head the other direction when I saw the gang of kids headed my way, coming from MY OWN HOUSE. How they’d managed to walk there while I was by Hayley is beyond my knowledge, I suppose my climb up her hill took much longer than I’d originally thought, but the stillness in the air should’ve been broken by their footsteps, which now grew louder with each passing second.
So I ran.
I ran through the Mizz’s yard and the neighbor’s yard, hopped their fence and crossed the next street over to the Pages’ residence. Theirs was the largest house on the street, with the outward appearance of a castle. Their front yard was at a sharp incline, stairs back and forth threaded through their tall grass leading, eventually, to their front door. I had done handywork for the Page’s from time to time, and knew they had a second entrance along the side of the house, up a flight of stairs. The entrance was to the third floor, where Mr. Page did most of his work rehabilitating dogs, and Mrs. Page juiced all of her meals.
As I ran up the steps and reached the corner of the first floor, I turned and looked for the Gang of Kids. Nowhere, no footsteps and no sight. In the distance I thought I could hear a siren, but my mind couldn’t focus and the noise faded to a quiet ringing that pulsed with my racing heart.
I continued up the flight of stairs to the side entrance, didn’t bother knocking, and slammed the door shut behind me, locking it in the same movement. There was a soft bark from one of Mr. Page’s Newfoundlands, but otherwise the only noise was the soft tingle of the bells above the door, and the meditation chimes which dangled in the breeze under the roof.
I went over to Ledo, the dog. I let him lick my hand without a second thought, feeling the warmth of his breath and comfort of his fur. It was soothing, his giant mass becoming a barrier to the complicated horrors outside. I walked to the front window, Ledo at my heels. “Hello? Mrs. Page?” No answer, but I could hear footsteps through the ceiling, movement, so she was likely on her way down to greet me.
Before that could happen, however, there was a sight outside I didn’t think could exist outside of your average bloody creature feature…