Title: The material of nightmares
Thoughts: I have really vivid dreams. This is the product of one that woke me up at 1am and kept me up for hours. The dream featured people I knew, all of them, and in a place I know. I changed characters, setting and the voice, but the general idea is there.
You know how you sometimes have nightmares about someone trying to kill you? It’s a pretty good indication you’re watching too many crime tv shows. But what about when it really happens? What do you tell people afterwards? It’s not like there’s a support group for people like me; most of them are dead because their serial killer did their job.
I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of a class reunion. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that I never left town then I probably wouldn’t have gone. Instead, not only was I going, I had to help plan it too. Why I was putting together a social mixer for people I never talked to in high school just to get together and not talk to again was beyond me. But there I was, taking off work early to get the latest plans to Kelly, who had left long enough to go to school and now taught science.
Why I took the swing by the history hall even though the new coach was clearly not at school, I’m not sure. Wistful thinking perhaps. Muscular and good looking, he wasn’t the kind of guy I dated. Those kind were a little overweight, quiet, and ‘safe’. I was daydreaming, sad as it maybe while walking towards Kelly’s classroom. That’s probably why I didn’t hear it. I simply wasn’t listening. I had to pass the history hall; it’s just sad to me that we still have halls for each subject.
It was late enough most of the lights were off except for a few evenly spaced down each hallway. It looked like a few of the teachers were still there, Mr. Amis who had been teaching so long he’d taught my younger brother and me, and a second year teacher that creeped me out. The guy was nice and all, but he gave me the heebie-jeebies. A person just can’t be that nice. Every time he saw someone he might know he said hello in a falsetto voice. He always smiled. He only ever said nice things. There’s only so much niceness you can take before you get a cavity or something, so I avoided the history hall.
Kelly’s light was on, but she wasn’t in the classroom. Annoyed, I told myself she was probably getting something to eat or going to the bathroom. Of course she could also be off gossiping with the Spanish teacher and leave me sitting for hours. I pulled out my phone, just in case an imaginary friend decided to text me, but mostly because it gave me something to do with my hands. Kelly’s classroom is actually two in one; the first one was set up with desks, the second was the lab room and they connected through a wide door.
I heard something in the lab room. It would be like Kelly to be in there and me in here, both of us waiting on each other. The door was ajar so I just slid between it, relishing one of the moments I could remind myself of all the weight I’d been losing in preparation for the reunion. I stopped in the doorway. One of those 24-hour lights, the only one in the lab that would never turn off, illuminated Kelly. It looked like a scene out of Dexter or CSI. One leg was out straight and the other bent unnaturally under her, the plum colored pencil skirt hiked up to her thighs. Her jacket was tossed on one of the tables and she just wore a silk tanktop. It had little patterns of pink, purple and white interlocking rectangles; why I picked up that detail I will never know, but I’ll never forget that shirt.
It was stained in the abdomen, and a redline across her throat. It looked almost fake, except who would shoot a tv show here? That’s why I knew the pool of blood around her was real.
Watching all those crime shows I thought seeing a dead body wouldn’t be a big deal. I mean, it’s just like they’re sleeping, right? What’s so bad about that? Well it’s different. I’m not sure how to describe it. Maybe like you saw that container of yogurt in the fridge and you’re all ready to dip apple slices in it, you aren’t even going to bother with a bowl. Open it up, and the fragrance of rancid dairy and curdled yogurt slams you in the face. A dead body is worse than that.
I froze in the door. The sickly sweet history teacher stood with his back to me and a knife in his hand like the ones hunters use in movies like The Hunted and Rambo. He was covered with blood. He ran his free hand through his hair and got all fidgety. You know how people talk about fear clenching their hearts? That’s not even near the truth. It was like fear was a bodybag come to take me home. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t even edge out of the door; I was stuck with my ball and chain holding me in place. I could see me dying, joining Kelly on the floor. Then the reunion plans would really be screwed.
I wondered if they would do a benefit for us at the reunion. Maybe they’d even cancel school tomorrow. Heck, they might do an episode of CSI based on us! That wasn’t exactly comforting, but it took my thoughts off of my impending death.
But death had not come for me. Death came for Kelly and promptly left.
After a few moments, like a cat who can’t keep away I edged into the room. That’s when it hit me, that vacant look on her face, the way her throat sort of poked out around the gash that pushed it home. Kelly was dead. Panic took over then and my cell phone which before had been superfluous was now actually useful. I retreated to a corner and covered my mouth – and got the police station’s answering machine.
I would be the one person in the world that would get an answering machine on a 911 call. The second attempt went better.
“Hello 911. What’s your emergency?”
“I want to report a murder. I’m at the Marcus High School on Cherry Street. The science teacher, Kelly, oh god – “ this would of course be when I start crying, verbalizing something gives it some strange, otherworldly power and sends you into an uncontrollable mess. It’s a universal law. “The new history teacher killed her. I saw him standing over her holding a Rambo knife! Oh my god.”
“Calm down ma’am. Is he still there?”
“I don’t know.” Why this told me to cross to the door and stick my head out into the hallway, practically announcing – hey, I’ve seen the dead body! – I don’t know. “I don’t see anyone,” I mutter on the phone – as I hear a door swing open. Wheeling around, coming out of the boys bathroom, is the history teacher, Mr. Potas. I’m pretty sure I squeaked, or yelled because he jumped and looked at me like I was going to attack him.
And then I did what any sane woman would do. I turned around and ran. I might have yelled. And I probably screamed. I ran back to my car and got in – without being followed. Panting in my car I cried and talked to the 911 operator until the police arrived. And of course it was a day when I wasn’t even dressed nice; I was wearing an old sweater with coffee stains and black slacks. Whenever someone has to call the cops in the movies they’re always hot.
The cops asked me questions and had me sitting around for a long time. One of them ate onion rings while he talked to me; onion rings! The whole time I just wanted to gag and tell him to finish eating and then talk to me, but I didn’t want to be left alone. Eventually they told me to go home and lock my door and don’t think about it. I’ve never heard such crap advice in my life.
I spent the whole night on my parents couch, eating ice cream. The next day was a repeat, and the next night I moved onto fried chicken. Why? Because Mr. Potas – Raul I think his name is – disappeared. The cops couldn’t find him. No one has seen him. The address on file for his house is a PO box – and no one knows where he lives. It’s not like there are that many options in a small town; most people have lived in their homes since their grandpappy built it during the great depression. You either live in the new rented houses, the ghetto apartments, or in the country. With the first two ruled out, there are now hundreds of thousands of acres of country property to go over.
After five days living on my parents couch, I smell and they’re annoyed and I go home. At first I have all the lights on and I double check both of the doors. Heck, I even make sure the windows are locked. I go over everything twice. I haven’t mentioned the nightmares because they’re terrible and talking about them makes them worse.
My mom gave me sleeping pills, the kind that knock out an elephant, but I can’t take them. I have this nightmare that Raul would come after me when I’m asleep. Then I wouldn’t even get the dignity of a sprawling floor pose, I’d be flopped in bed, no struggle.
Day three in my apartment and I’m popping the pills. I haven’t been to work in a week and I haven’t slept in four days. I’m delirious and talking to my picture frames. They don’t talk back, which is a good sign I think. If they did – then I’d have something else to think about.
On the brink of actual sleep, where you’re sort of awake and sort of dreaming, I’m laying on my back and staring up at the patterns of light that the nightlight casts on the ceiling. Its calming for some drugged up reason. I trace them with my eyes and think about rainbows and kittens. But the shadow on the ceiling doesn’t look like a rainbow or a kitten. Blinking, I glance towards the door; the light from the hall is blotted out by the shape of a person. A very large person.
I’ve been practicing my screaming in my mind. Even drugged into repose I manage an impressive near-death scream that shatters the night. I don’t know if I’ve screamed, like really screamed in years; the sound tears at my throat, it hurts!
Raul stumbles backwards. He’s blocking the only way out in the bedroom and all I can think about it putting something between us. Snatching the cell phone, in the moment of confusion created by my screaming, I jump into the closet. It doesn’t lock from the inside, but it’s something solid between me and something sharp, pointy and potentially dangerous that’s in his hand.
911 is on speed dial. I’m screaming into the phone before I realize it.
Someone on the other side snatches at the door and I drop the phone to keep hold of the door. It’s Raul. In the dim light I can see his face twisted into a grotesque mask. He’s pulling it open a few inches and then losing his grip. The face I glimpse on the other side isn’t saying hello. He’s not the person I remember chatting with in the grocery store. I don’t think I even recognize that face.
Somehow it was over with in an instant.
There was yelling and he wasn’t pulling on the door anymore. There was a crash and something hit the door, but I wasn’t about to open it. The yelling got louder and then stopped as people started talking. Straining to hear what was going on, when someone knocked on the door it made me jump, and let go of the doorknob. The door disappeared and a police officer shone a light in my face.