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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

John J. Dillon: Nightmares of Nightmares

103_ym_nightmaresofnightmares_dblanch.jpg
Art by Darren Blanch 2024

Nightmares of Nightmares

by

John J. Dillon

 

          Dan jolted awake, breathing hard, shaking the bed. Cathy sat up in the dim light of early dawn and saw him, half covered, yank his arms to his chest, as if protecting himself from a violent attack. She put a hand on his knotted face, felt the heat on his skin, the tension in his muscles. Again.

          “Hon,” she said. “You’re okay.”

          Dan kept his eyes averted from her. “Cath?” he said.

          “It’s me. Don’t worry. It was just another one of those nightmares. It can’t hurt you.”

          Gradually he turned, saw it was her, then slumped back down, reassured. He grabbed her hand. “Yes, a nightmare,” he rasped. “But a vision too. Crocodiles are everywhere. I’m telling you, almost everyone’s a crocodile hiding beneath their human skin. We’re surrounded by crocodiles.”

          Cathy felt the familiar dread surge through every cell in her bloodstream but managed to stay calm. “Dan, no. There’re no crocodiles, lizards, whatever, hiding inside anyone.” She attempted a patient, comforting smile. “You’re safe.”

          “You’ve got to believe me. They want to kill us and take over.” His hand clenched tighter. “We don’t have much time. They’re fearless. We have to kill them first. All of them—”     

          “Please, stop. What you’re saying isn’t real. You’ve been working way too hard, under terrible pressure at the firm. That’s what’s causing these nightmares. You know it’s true.”

          “Oh, they’re real, Cath,” he said quietly. “So keep your voice down too. You never know where they’re lurking.”

          Cathy felt her chest become ice. “Honey, they’re not real. Just think for a minute. You haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in years. You come home at dawn, sack out for a few hours then drag yourself back to work. No one could take the endless deadlines, the crazy clients, the shot nerves. We’ve got to change the cycle.”

          “I’ve seen what we’re up against, what’s hiding beneath the surface of everyday life. We, the human race, have got to fight back before it’s too late.”

          Cathy shifted, drew close with a warm embrace. The clock on the night table read 6:47, only two hours since Dan had crawled into bed. Fatigue felt like a rusty nail through her skull.  “I’m begging, let’s go far away, to the Mediterranean or somewhere. We could recharge, get well. We’ve never had a real vacation, you and me.”

          “Vacation?” Dan recoiled as if she’d plunged a knife in him. “We’re in mortal danger. No vacation’s going to help us. Crocodiles will be there too. They’ll be watching, plotting to kill us, then jump out and tear us apart, eat us. We’ve got to band together. We can’t run away to some beach and drink wine all day.”

          “...And when we get back,” she said, doing her best to continue with an even voice, “you can take a leave. My job at the college will carry us until you’re better.”

          He looked at her with an inhuman doubt distorting his face. “Better? You think I’m crazy, don’t you? You want me to go back to seeing that crackpot shrink.”

          “Dan, no, you’re not crazy. It’s that damn stress factory that’s doing this.” She pressed her face into his chest, lowered her voice to a whisper. “Let’s end this starting today. It’s Saturday morning, you don’t have to drag yourself back to that office. Call in sick later. Sleep all day if you want. Then we’ll talk, plan together for a healthy life. I want to see the old Dan back, the happy-go-lucky guy I married. We’ll get you there. Okay?”

          Dan gazed with brutal exhaustion. Eventually the pill he’d taken earlier reasserted its narco-authority over him and his eyes dulled, trance-like, then closed. He seemed a thousand planets away.

          Taking his hand, Cathy watched the morning sunlight grow stronger through the curtains, knowing this couldn’t go on. They had to get away from the evil boiler room the company had become. Soon, one, or both, of them would snap for good. She dozed off, but after a while roused herself, too worried to sleep soundly. She dressed, slipped downstairs into the kitchen. She sat at the table and watched the swaying trees, the birds, the secluded neighborhood outside the windows, tried to lose herself in the serene beauty. Should she call Dr. Ector? But what could he really do? Dan despised him.

          She rested her head on the table in a daze of anxiety.

          Around noon the doorbell rang, jarring her from the fog.

          She trudged to the front door, checked through the security peek and saw a tall man in khaki standing on the front porch holding a large package. For Dan? She opened the door a crack.

          Grinning, the delivery man held the box out. “Smokey’s Wings.”

          “I didn’t order any wings. You have the wrong house.”

          The delivery man looked confused, began to fumble in his pocket for the receipt, balancing the big box in one hand.

          In that moment, while the man was digging, Cathy caught the strong intoxicating fumes of roasted chicken, barbeque sauce, and hot garlicky bread, felt how deeply hungry she was, a craving from the abyss of her stomach like a chain saw from hell, chewing a path up her esophagus to hit the back of her throat where her tongue seemed to explode. She lunged out the door in a fury at the box, grabbed it in her mouth and ground down through the cardboard, tasting the mash of rich food. The man released the box, stumbled backward as Cathy hooked it with both hands and tore with her teeth, ripped it open, splattering wings onto the porch concrete. She dropped to her hands and knees, scooped the slopped food into her snapping jaws.

          She looked up at the man standing away from her, staring. “What the hell are you looking at, you moron,” she said. “Screw off. I said you’ve got the wrong address.”

          The man fell to his belly, pushed forward with all fours, slithered toward her with a powerful back and forth swaying lope, sucked up a stray wing from the concrete. Cathy realized he was an impressive male. A large, impressive male.

          “We’ll work together,” he said. “Wings aren’t much of a meal. Is there more food in the house?”

          She looked back at the open door, the hallway, the stairs beyond leading up, considered new priorities. “Yeah, there is.”

          “Excellent,” he said, dragged himself forward a few feet then stopped abruptly. He turned an odd queasy gaze to her. “Truthfully,” he said, “my nerves are in shreds. I’d rather you go first. I’ve been having terrible nightmares about enraged hippos hiding among us...”

John J. Dillon’s worked for many years in the computer industry, and his favorite job was on an atom smasher project. During that time, he’s published non-fiction and fiction—book reviews, mystery/crime short stories, edited textbooks on the reign of Joseph Stalin, and co-authored a spy novel from Cliffhanger Press.  He finds Italian cooking worth robbing gas stations for.  So his favorite party topics are cybersecurity, crimewaves and despots, and meatballs.

Darren Blanch, Aussie creator of visions which tell you a tale long after first glimpses have teased your peepers. With early influence from America's Norman Rockwell to show life as life, Blanch has branched out mere art form to impact multi-dimensions of color and connotation. People as people, emotions speaking their greater glory. Visual illusions expanding the ways and means of any story.

Digital arts mastery provides what Darren wishes a reader or viewer to take away in how their own minds are moved. His evocative stylistics are an ongoing process which sync intrinsically to the expression of the nearby written or implied word he has been called upon to render.

View the vivid energy of IVSMA (Darren Blanch) works at: www.facebook.com/ivsma3Dart, YELLOW MAMA, Sympatico Studio - www.facebook.com/SympaticoStudio, DeviantArt - www.deviantart.com/ivsma and launching in 2019, as Art Director for suspense author / intrigue promoter Kate Pilarcik's line of books and publishing promotion - SeaHaven Intrigue Publishing-Promotion.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2024