A young man is haunted by nightmares that are leading him further and further into his babyhood.
Chapter Description: This is the first AR story I ever wrote, so it's probably not as good as others. But read and judge for yourself. ^.^
A Voice in the Darkness
Are you afraid of it?
Or are you afraid of what you will become?
I wake up in a cold sweat. Those words, the same words I’ve heard in my dreams before. What does it all mean? For the past few months I’ve had a recurring pattern of dreams. In each dream I am in a large, often empty, house. It’s the sort of house you see on those old haunted house movies. Always massive, the mansion-like house seems to go on forever. Each time I enter the house, everything seems more enormous than before. Feeling the urge to explore, sometimes I open doors or look in drawers. Some of the doors lead to bedrooms, some lead to other doors while others lead outside to a patch of dirt. In the drawers, I find seemingly random objects. Sometimes it will be something I’ve been looking for, sometimes just odds and ends. Just before the dreams end, I begin to fear something. Something deep within the house moans and I turn away to run. Then I hear the voice. It wasn’t clear at first, but after many dreams I could understand it clearly. It is the voice of a woman. For whatever reason, the voice is soothing to me. It’s a voice that sounds familiar, yet I know no one to whom it could possibly belong.
"I had the dream again." I told Susan, my friend of 20 years. She had been the only one I told about the dreams as she fancied herself a dream reader.
"Is that so? Anything different this time?" she said, always curious as to what happened next.
"Nothing much different this time. Everything was even more massive than the last time." I told her. The dreams always made me feel so small and helpless. I guess that’s why I get afraid and run towards the end.
"What about the voice John? Did it say anything different this time?" she asked while writing it down. I told her it was about the same as last time and she seemed a little disappointed. She was having trouble reading this dream. She had been my best friend ever since 5th grade when she moved here. We had a mutual understanding of each other, but it never lead to dating. Dating just felt too weird. We agreed to always be good friends. We could talk about anything with each other.
The first time I told her about my dreams was when my life started coming apart. The company I worked for was loosing money and try as I might, no one was hiring. I worked for a small business doing technical support for the staff. I had a degree in computer science, but that didn’t seem to matter. Most people want these 19 - 20 year olds, fresh out of college with degrees and certifications coming out of their ears. Here I am, 23, and my degree seems to count for absolutely nothing! I had often thought of moving to a bigger city, but this was my hometown, and I liked the small town feel. Besides, I don’t have enough money to move. I can barely cover my current expenses. My company had to cut off my benefits and reduce my pay. Now I depend on the meager wages just to pay off bills! I eventually had to borrow money from my parents just to buy food! I’ve had to go light on the food, and lost a lot of weight. Everyone could see that I was miserable. I began to have panic attacks and frequent headaches. I couldn’t go to the doctor since I had no money or insurance. I knew that everything was stress related. So, of course, Susan immediately said that the dreams were related to that. I guess maybe they are.
After an extremely long day at work, I came home and looked at the pathetic apartment that mirrored my life. Everything about it was poor and degraded. If the company eventually does go under, I’d have to move back home. I shuddered at the thought of that. My parents weren’t exactly the best people do deal with growing up. I threw myself onto my bed and eventually fell asleep.
I was in the house again. It was once again even larger than last time. The floors were wood but had plush yellowish-brown carpet layered on top. This time, something was off. I came to a long hallway with windows on the right side. It was mid afternoon and the sun shown through them onto the golden brown carpet. Suddenly, I had a toy, from my youth, in my hand. It was a clear, colored plastic robot. As I had done in my childhood, I held the toy up to the light and let it shine through so I could see the pretty colors. I was almost hypnotized by the sunlight dancing trough the toy’s frame as I moved it around. Then I sat down right in the middle of the floor with my legs crossed "indian style" and played with it and a number of other childhood toys for a while. I felt a peace that I had not felt in a long, long time. Suddenly I realized that something in the house was after me. I got up and ran as fast as I could when I once again heard that voice. “Are you afraid of it? Or are you afraid of what you will become?” I cried tears of fright as I turned to see if she was there. I woke up in a cold sweat, this time with tears in my eyes. I was crying in my sleep?! I hadn’t cried since I was a small boy! My father had told me that big boys don’t cry. I always tried not to disappoint him. Where did that come from?! What’s happening to me?!
It was all I could think about while at work. Why am I dreaming this? Why was I playing with toys this time? Why did I feel so at peace? I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I finally realized that I would do anything to feel that peace again. The bitter staff at work weren’t any help. They never are. All I ever hear is "My computer is broke again! Fix it!" or "What do you mean I lost everything?! I have reports that have to be sent out today! We need someone that can actually FIX our problems!" As usual, I shrugged it all off. "You can’t cry all your life Johnny. Be a man!" Yes sir, dad.
After work, I went in search of that toy, thinking that it would help unlock this mystery. Unfortunately, it was lost a long time ago. Even after going through my old things, I couldn’t find it. I became obsessed with finding it. I even searched my parent’s house. I had to go there to borrow more money from them again anyway. Once again lowing my head in shame as I had to be in the same room as my father. I couldn’t stand his look of disappointment. I searched high and low, but couldn’t find it.
“Why do you want an old toy anyway?" my father grumbled. "You’re not a baby or anything. Be a man! Go get a job instead of moping about the house begging us for money!" Familiar words. Words that I could certainly do without. I decided that the next best thing would be to consult Susan. This new part of the dream might shed some light on things.
It was about dusk when I got to Susan’s place. She had me lie on a couch in a dimly lit room this time like a psychiatrist. I don’t like being treated this way, but if she says it’ll help...
"How long did you play on the floor?" she quizzed me while I lie on the couch.
"I can’t say exactly. It was a dream so it’s all kinda fuzzy now. Maybe a few minutes, but I was in seventh heaven." She seemed very excited now.
"Well, things are beginning to take on a more definite shape now." she said positively. "I think I know what your dreams are trying to tell you. In simple terms, you need to relax. The whole wondering around in a place that’s too big for you and playing with toys points to regression. Regressing to the simplest things in childhood is a sign that you are under way too much stress." Somehow I knew she would say that. That wasn’t good enough for me! I got up off the couch.
"Well, I could have told me that!" I yelled, burning with misplaced anger. "So that’s it? I need to relax? I know I need to relax, but I can’t! I just can’t! You know that!" I was getting upset, I was hoping for more of a meaning than that.
"Look, just calm down. You’re getting all stressed out." The world seemed red to me.
"Calm down?! You’re telling me to calm down?! How can I calm down when my life is falling apart?! How can I?! How...can...I...?" The last thing I remember was Susan saying, "John? John?! Are you okay?! Can you hear me?!" Then I blacked out, and became aware that I was in the house again.
I immediately looked to see if the toy was in my hands. My hands! They were so short and chubby! I looked up to see that I was standing in another hallway with doors on both sides. This time the doorknobs were much higher than I remember, but they wouldn’t open anyway. I padded down the hallway and noticed a mirror. Usually if I saw a mirror in a dream, my image was distorted, but this time it was clear. What reflected back was me, only I looked more like my kindergarten photo! I was wearing a Mork and Mindy T-Shirt, blue jeans, and small, Velcro, tennis shoes. I immediately noticed how healthy I looked compared to what I was used to seeing in the mirror. I had a fatter tummy and rosy cheeks. "Someone is getting fed right." I thought to myself. This dream was more vivid than the others. Perhaps it was because my brain finally reached a breaking point. Suddenly a room opened. I turned to see who could have opened it, but no one was there. I slowly started walking toward the open door and looked at the light coming from inside to see if any shadows passed by. I stopped at the edge and leaned my head over side ways to see inside. It was a toy room! A grand toy room! All my favorite toys from childhood were there. My little face must have showed the broadest grin ever seen by anyone as I ran into that room. I squealed with delight at seeing all the toys around the room. All at arms length too! I sat in that room and played for what seemed like hours. I felt even more peace and serenity than the last time.
Then, the light flickered in the room. Everything seemed to be getting bigger. Something dark appeared at the opening of the room and slowly creeped in. It was as if it was sucking all the light out of the room. I heard the voice again. “Are you afraid of it? Or are you afraid of what you will become?” The darkness came closer and closer as I backed up against the wall of toys. It’s dark void was enveloping the room. I kept wanting to wake up but couldn’t. The tears in my eyes flowed effortlessly as I cowered in fright. There was no where to run. I could feel a spreading warmth in my jeans. I was wetting my pants! Just like a little baby!
"Big boys don’t wet themselves Johnny! Big boys don’t cry! Stop that crying you little baby!" I could hear my father’s words echo into the room. Only the voice that spoke them was deep and monstrous. I began to scream when I suddenly woke up in a hospital bed screaming at the top of my lungs. In my mind the terror was still there. It took me a while to calm down enough to see that Susan had stayed by my side. My screaming brought the nurse in. I was still shaking when I felt something cold squish under me. I had wet the bed!
"We’ll just get you some dry sheets" the nurse said calmly. The fact that I had wet the bed freaked me out even more. Susan tried to comfort me, but I just shook violently. The nurse came in to change the sheets and another came in to clean me up. After I was back in clean sheets, I calmed down enough to talk. The nurse wanted me to take some medication to help me sleep. I didn’t want to go back to sleep. No, I insisted that I stay awake.