The Nightmare Time

Guest Post by: Lucille Moncrief

Inspired by Lovecraft’s Dagon and Fuseli’s The Nightmare

 

I am writing this under the sickly orange sky—the daylight fast fading, and my will along with it. My supply of The Dragon is exhausted, and I promised at its end I would drive this car into the nearest tree or telephone pole, abutment of a bridge, or even down a ravine—anything to end my life and the nightmare I’ve lived for months.

 

His name is Morpheus. He rides into my room on an anemic, ebony mare, her skin stretched over sharp ribs, maggots crawling in a stringy mane, eyes aglow with sinister intent. They smell like the dust of bones, the rot of corpses, the fear that swirls everlasting in Hell.

 

The first visit came with the last fall of the autumn leaves. I’d gone into my room in the garret that overlooked the cobblestone courtyard. I stretched out on the futon, the last smile of content against my lips, and began to drift into blessed sleep. I felt an immense weight on my chest at the base of my ribs and my heart exploded, my eyes flew open and were transfixed to the ceiling. I could not blink, I could not breathe, I could not clutch at my neck with futile panic—paralyzed, I heard the braying of death’s horse and the clomp of her determined hooves through the miasmal ether beyond the wall of unconsciousness.

 

My stomach flipped beneath hammering heart. I felt the demon straddle my frozen legs and he crawled up my prostrate form to the sit on my chest. He looked down into my terrorized face with eyes red as lava, skin the color of burlap. He inched, ever closer, until his visage eclipsed my limited sight of the room.

 

“Yes,” he said softly, like a hissing snake. His breath was a putrid sulfur that poured into my flaring nostrils. I heard the stomp of hooves on the floor as he withdrew his face, and caught the glimpse of the horse’s head in the corner of my frantic eye.

 

The pressure released with the braying of the mare and I dared not move. I began to cry softly. I didn’t sleep that afternoon or night, but after nearly two days without sleep, I gave in, and nodded off at my desk in that same garret room.

 

I don’t know how long I was out—three seconds, three hours or three days, but at last I heard the beat of hooves echoing and his putrid breath grazed the back of my neck. He hissed an eager “Yes,” and I sat upright and looked about me in the darkness. Nothing was there but my fear and confusion. I went to the futon and curled into the fetal position with my face to the wall and there I remained until the morning light awoke me.

 

Three days had passed since the demons’ last visit, and a vague sense of unease seemed to stalk me. I would put off sleeping until far too late into the night for it to be of any use. I began to take on that look of ribaldry and carousal. Little did anyone know at that time of my ordeal, I was too nervous to leave my house, instead opting for pot after pot of coffee in the tranquility of the garret room until my stomach turned to a roaring fire.

 

I can remember the still hours of the night when my desperation turned to a substance I’d been warned to abhor from my youth—the demon dragon, the red, the green and the black and furious dragon, forever chased by the gaunt-faced zombies of earthly ennui.

 

A month had passed into the week of Thanksgiving. I’d run out of coffee. The streets were noisy and crowded with the holiday revelry, and the swarm of it from my narrow window increased my anxiety. I’d waited an hour or two before venturing out. I pulled up a chair beneath the ledge and watched the crowd, eager for it to disperse. It did not. Time ticked on as my head swiveled, like I was drifting on a bobbing ocean wave. The spray of it kissed my face, clear as morning dew, and the salt of it seasoned the breath in my lungs as the gulls cried overhead. I stretched in the worn wooden skiff, sun warming my bare legs.

 

I closed my eyes and tilted my head back like the sunflower who worships Apollo. The waves of the sea gently knocked against the sides of the boat with no discernible rhythm, or…the knocking became louder, more percussive—more percussive like the clomp of hooves, and Apollo raced his chariot across the sky that soon blackened from his absence.

 

I opened my eyes and tried to stand, but the creature, hard and cold as steel, had me straddled at the knees. His face held no expression, but he jumped with webbed wings to sit on my stomach and the breath left my lungs while all about me the cimmerian ocean filled with pairs of glowing eyes. The demon pinned my hands to the side of the boat and bit at my quivering breast. A scream stuck in my throat as the boat capsized into icy depths and I awoke with the sound of the chair clattering to the floor as I gasped for breath. I lay prone, wracked with sobs—a pathetic creature. I only wished for air, precious air and sleep!

 

The thought of anymore coffee repulsed me and sent my stomach into protesting flips. I must calm my nerves and my overactive brain filled with enmity for the body that housed it. I put on my coat and my scarf—how I wished for it to be a noose, and plodded down the stairs to the back alley in bleary-eyed fury. There was a woman, an old hag, really, who stood at the corner from the setting sun to the wee hours of morning. She had a rambling shack near the waterfront that the dogs would visit for scraps she’d throw in the gutter. I hastened my steps to the edge of the dim alley and, sure enough, she was there, a new gap in her smile this time.

 

“The Dragon?” I was breathless and my muscles screamed for rest. Every move felt like rubbing salt into the wound of my shattered existence. She smiled, took my hand, and led me to the water’s edge and into the smoky and dark interior of the shack. I sat on a tattered loveseat as she handed me the hose of a hookah and I inhaled. The cushions felt like cotton and a candied haze filled my mind as I sunk into the seat. Sweet sleep and blessed, euphoric warmth!

I awoke hours later to a gnarled hand on my shoulder, stringy, dank hair brushed my cheek. I was thirsty, so very thirsty, but well rested. I handed her the money from my pocket and went back to the garret.

 

This method by which I have staved off the demon has lasted through the hard winter. But, in my infirmity I have been unable to work, and so with the freshly melted snow of spring have lost any hope of gainful employment.

 

Now redundant, I cannot pay the old woman, and yesterday and all night I was reduced to drinking pots of coffee until my insides could not take it anymore. I sat in that same chair when I drifted off again to that black ocean filled with glowing eyes that reflected the stars above, chest crushed by the demon and his putrid mare. This time, he placed his hands on either side of my frozen face and bit my lip, every beat of my heart drowned in his squalid kiss. By some unknown mercy, he released me and I clattered to the floor.

 

Is this all there is? I do not wish to find out, and have chosen instead to end my life. I write to you now in the setting sun, in the reclined seat of my sedan. I swear I put the keys in my pocket before I left my room . . . oh god, the window! Those eyes!

 

 

Someone Dies at the End

It was the Ultimate Box: 152 crayons in a dazzling array of every color you could imagine; even the glittery and metallic ones. Stacy was thrilled, it was just what she had asked for. When she opened the mega coloring book wrapped beside it, her birthday was complete. Coloring was Stacy’s favorite.

She even ate a piece of the gluten free, dye free, birthday cake her mother had made with all the quickness and smiles her five-year-old self could manage. Saying thank you, she grabbed her presents and ran to her room. She leapt onto her unmade bed, cuddled into the rufflely purple covers, and opened her box of new, shiny crayons.

Picking a picture in the middle of her new coloring book, Stacy grabbed the metallic green from her box and furiously colored in a kitten. She followed it with red, for the kitten’s eyes; the kitten sat on a blue chair, in a pink room, with yellow carpets. There was also a fireplace in the room, and Stacy colored that with purple, with an orange fire. When she was done, Stacy colored five more pictures in the same fashion, and then it was time for bed.

That night, the Neutral colors started to get, only a little, upset at not being used much. Stacy mostly liked the Vibrants. As the week progressed, and Stacy colored more and more pictures in her imaginative way, the Neutrals became more noticeably upset during the night, they found their lack of use disturbing, they feared getting thrown out.

The Vibrants couldn’t understand what the others went on about; they felt so over used, with their papers peeled back while they were worn away to nubs. Some colors had even been used all the way up. Instead of trying to understand the Neutrals, the Vibrants were mad at being so put upon.

Neither side could understand the other. Each was angry. Stacy just kept coloring.

One day, Mauve, not being quite purple enough for Stacy’s taste, and having never been used, had enough of the bickering. Neutrals may not be used much, but they did still get used, when Stacy was more realistic. But Not Mauve. And Vibrants should feel so lucky to be colored with, they were crayons, that was their purpose!

In the night, Mauve, knowing she wouldn’t be listened to, jumped from the box and landed on the wood floor of Stacy’s room right as Mom checked on the girl. Mauve was stepped on, and all the colors were shocked to see the color broken into pieces. Mom looked down, noticed the broken crayon and threw Mauve into Stacy’s waste basket.

And so, united by horror and sadness, the Crayon box mourned their lost friend and felt the hole where Mauve was missing. The crayons around the hole couldn’t stand like before, and missed Mauve even more.

Until Saturday morning, when Stacy woke up to color a giant poster, all-day-long. And again, the box was divided.

A Blue Happily Ever After

Once upon a time, there was a world in which everyone was very, very sad. All the people in this world were terribly unhappy, and it seemed like there was nothing much of anything to be done for it. A general sense of moroseness pervaded all society.

It was a blue world. Everything everyone saw was blue. The houses were blue, the windows of the houses were blue. The trees, and the leaves on the trees were also blue. Songs were written to commiserate the blueness of this world. It was a very sad, very blue world.

And then, one day, an astronaut journeyed away from his miserable, blue planet, with his blue love interest, and their Blue Tick Coonhound (that ironically was an odd shade of gray with dark colored ears and spots—but it matched the blue world and everyone was too depressed to mention it).

The astronaut finally landed on a new world—it was, predictably, not blue; not that the dog knew any different. Also, as predictable as it was to find a world that wasn’t blue (it was the astronaut’s mission to find such a place) the astronaut was still mostly shocked. His love interest was not shocked; they were mildly awed by the colors, but not shocked.

Yellow sun filled the air, and a light breeze blew the scent of wild flowers through their blue hair. Suddenly, the astronaut and his love interest, even the dog, felt less—blue. Not so very sad. Maybe even a little happy.

The love interest laughed.

The astronaut laughed in response to the love interest’s laughter.

The dog couldn’t laugh, but his tail wagged, and that was cute.

So, knowing this world was happier, the astronaut and his love interest, and their gray dog, returned to the depressing, morose, far too blue world. They talked to Blue World NASA (which was properly funded at the time) and a transplant mission was born.

The blue world wasn’t a very big world, or a very populous world, so it only took about ten moderately sized space craft to move everyone to the new, happier, sun shiny, Not Blue World.

The astronaut, his love interest, their (not blue) dog, and the rest of the blue civilization made it to the Not Blue World, and everyone was happy. The dog was mostly confused, but happy nonetheless.

The End.

This story first appeared in response to a writing prompt on reddit.com and can be found at the following link: 

https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/64vj44/wp_tired_of_all_gloom_and_doom_in_this_world_tell/dg5hnn5/

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Dead Rising

Zane watched as the woman bathed in the frigid river beneath him. The tree he perched in giving him a full visual of her as she splashed the icy liquid against her skin, while the night breeze enveloped her. For a moment, he was thankful that the utilities of the neighboring town had been cut off when healthy humans sought permanent shelter from the diseased, rather than working to keep such civilized accoutrements going.

Her skin seemed to glow in the moonlight. Zane was particularly mesmerized by the water drops that clung to her body as the rest ran in rivulets down her curving hips, and could easily read the tension that racked her by how tight she held her shoulders. She never relaxed, even under his coven’s protection. None of them did, really. He couldn’t blame them, not as he swallowed against the burning in his throat. Scant months ago, he’d be stalking her for a one-time meal, enjoying the sensuality of her bathing in the night, only for a moment, before he made his deadly attack.

A twig broke in the surrounding forest. In unison, they snapped their necks toward the sound, only Zane could hear the soft shuffling of the leaves that followed.

“Damn!” The sanctuary of the river, and his quiet revelry, were abandoned as he leapt from the tree and swooped up his charge. “Thank God you weigh so little, Maria.” He sprinted her back to the safety of the community high school, only yards from the river. He carried her, farther still, into the building’s basement for a fresh supply of clothes from the storage locker.

Maria shook from the cold and fear, and had trouble with the buttons on a yellow blouse he’d grabbed for her. He reached out to assist. She didn’t push his hands away, instead she let her arms fall to her sides in defeat as tears of stress pooled in her eyes.

“Thank you for saving me, Zane.”

“It’s not a favor, Maria.” He reminded her, as he folded down the shirt’s collar, pausing to caress her neck and feel her still racing pulse beneath, lightly gripping her throat, his dark eyes baring down into hers as they widened again in terror.

Her shaking abruptly stopped and she froze in place, her tears drying instantly as the fresh fear gripped her body. He could feel all her primitive impulses rushing to keep her safe. He reveled in it, and couldn’t contain a whisper of a smile as he felt her pulse race faster still. In the school, she faced a danger of a different kind than what she found down at the river, as did all her companions resting fitfully above them behind locked doors and barricaded windows.

The waves of fear that emanated from her served as reminders, to them both, that the alliance between humans and vampires was fragile and born only of necessity. Humans needed protection from a disease born of their precious science and thirst for war, while vampires needed to protect their food source.

“There’s a strict no biting rule in the compound,” she choked out. Her voice trembled in time with the beat of her heart. The whisper of a smile that danced across his lips before grew to a menacing, fang filled, barking laugh.

“The rules exist for our sake, Human Girl, not for yours.” He dropped his hand from her neck and left her standing there wide eyed and alone. He knew she was safe, even in a den of his own kind. Eventually she’d run back to the relative peace of her family’s room and lock the door; a joke in itself, any vampire could break through such meager defenses.

He stalked down a dark corridor, annoyance cloying at him, as he made his way to the pantry refers. The survival of humans ensured the survival of vampires, and as such the coven couldn’t risk succumbing to their own blood lust by drinking from the warm and supple source of their food. Reaching his destination, he walked into the bitter cold of the deep stand up refrigerator and reached for a bag of blood lovingly donated by one of the humans in the herd sleeping above his head.

Zane grimaced against the first sip of the liquid, it tasted vile, cold and stored so far away from its host. But it tasted better than inevitable starvation if the zombies outside infected every human. There were already precious few healthy humans left in this dystopian world.

So, the herd of humans, locked behind the barricaded doors of the high school, were safe; at least from the vampires that needed them alive.

Above is the beginning of a project I’ll  be continuing in the future and you should see more during the coming months. To those of you who’ve encouraged me to continue, you’ve gotten your wish, but the rest isn’t ready yet ;). Like my last piece, it began as a humble answer to a writing prompt on reddit. It’s grown past that for me. 

Remember to like and share. Leave a comment if you have any feedback! I love hearing from you. 

The Convention

Chloe Michaels had spent nearly two hours getting ready for what she’d thought was a local Comic Con. Her friends had bought her the ultimate Harley Quinn costume, it was the perfect blend of comic styles and it fit her exactly how she’d dreamt of looking since she’d learned of the convention. As perfect as her costume was, the day started to shift almost upon leaving her house. In the parking lot of her apartment complex she had found Trent Howard, an odd college classmate, dressed as the Joker, with flowers and a smile that almost surely meant he thought they were going on a date. Her friends had set her up. She sighed to herself. Awkward as spending the day with Trent would be, she didn’t have the heart to hurt his feelings.

She could tell he was as shocked as she when they arrived, not at a Comic Con, but what could only be the largest Clown Convention a small midwestern town had ever seen.

“This could still be fun…” Trent offered, trailing off.  He’d been sweet the whole drive to the convention center, sweeter than she was used to, by a wide margin. He’d let her pick the music, even when he grimaced at her Top Hits selection. He’d turned off the air conditioner when she’d gotten cold, even though he wore a purple suit, in June.  He’d tried his damnedest to make conversation, even though it was painfully stilted when it became clear he’d never actually read a comic before; he’d just really wanted a chance to get to know her. So, she pulled her black lipstick coated mouth into a genuine smile and said,

“Sure! Let’s give it a try.” Taking in the candy-striped fabric wrapped around the front pillars of the convention center, she added, “It looks like a carnival, maybe they have funnel cake.”

After some time walking through throngs of joking clowns, finding a hundred things to laugh about with Trent, Chloe realized just how much fun she was having. But no enjoyment could delay the inevitable for long. Excusing herself, disappointed to be gone for even a moment, she went to find a bathroom. Dazed by her attraction to a man she’d tried to gently avoid for months, she wandered through the convention center, following the signs the best her distracted mind could, and nearly entered the wrong toilet. Pushing a strand of black hair from her made up face, she giggled nervously at an imposing male clown as he scowled down at her from the door frame of the men’s room. Quickly, she turned to the correct door and yanked it open. Her embarrassment lasted only seconds as it was blasted away at the force of the gruesome scene before her.

Frozen with terror, she could only stare at the sight of fresh blood spreading across the tiled floor. The sprawling body of a female clown lay at the center with brightly painted open eyes locked onto the door Chloe stood in, staring passed everything and nothing in view; her long, curly, teal wig soaking up the blood, creating a ghastly ombre.

“Chloe?” She heard Trent call from farther down the corridor. Had she been gone for so long? She couldn’t make herself reply, still spellbound by the mangled body so casually left in the women’s restroom.

“Chlo—“ Trent came up beside her, but stopped short as carnage came into view, she could feel the horror emanate from him and compound her own. As the two stood processing the violence, the body jerked. Chloe leapt to the woman’s side on instinct, realizing the woman must be alive somehow. She looked back to see Trent reaching for her. Had he called her name again? She looked back down at the woman. Had she imagined the dead stare from before? The bloodied clown’s eyes had closed.

Chloe heard a garbled scream and turned in time to see Trent slump away from a clown dressed in a garish red pin stripped suit, its face painted with theater masks on either cheek. A crimson silk cloak dragged behind him, giving him the imposing figure of a villain from her comic books. He wielded a knife forged from her every nightmare, dripping in the blood of her almost lover.

The shocked terror that kept her frozen before turned to a mobilizing panic that had her scrambling backwards, slipping in the blood of the monster’s first victim. Screams roiled in her chest, clawing their way as far up her throat as they could.

She swung her arm at the nearest toilet stall, praying for a way out of her trap, but finding, instead, another mutilated clown corpse hanging from the industrial piping in the ceiling. Now screams did come.

The red clown seemed to float slowly across the floor, stalking her, taking one step for every six thrumming beats of her racing heart. Still she screamed. As the clown neared, with his laughing, crying mouth, twisted by gray paint and prosthetic makeup, he raised his bloodied weapon, ready to strike.

Still, she screamed.

She felt her back push against the cold tiled wall at the edge of her prison. The clown’s knife poised high above her, ready to fall and quell her scream, when the loud bang of a gun fired out, filling the space and drowning out Chloe’s screaming voice.

The clown, face unreadable behind his illusionary grimace, fell onto her, his knife scrapping at the tile next her ear.

Voices and chaos filled the small bathroom as the convention center’s security personnel moved in to take stock of the violence. Voices asked her questions. The clown was lifted off her. She was carried out of the room.

Still she screamed.

This story idea was submitted by R.J. Castiglione, a fellow writer. Check out his author website at https://rjcastiglione.com/ ! 

Sorry the post made it up just a –tiny– bit late tonight. However, I maintain that I did get it up before the final midnight of April 26, 2017. Hawaii is three hours behind Seattle. 

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Sydney, The Elf

Once upon a time, there was an elf named, Sydney. Sydney wasn’t really an elf, but she thought she was an elf; and this concerned her mother greatly.

So, one day, Sydney’s mother took her to see a therapist. The therapist asked her,

“Sydney, why is it that you think you’re an elf?” To which Sydney replied,

“Sir, my mother is on drugs. I know that I’m a fully functioning, adult human. I brought her here to see you.”

And then Sydney’s mother went to rehab.

The End.

Once Upon a Winter’s Storm

An introduction so that the below makes just the (tiniest) bit more sense; a prompt inspired this. “Tell Me a story, but include blatant and overbearing product placement.”

 

The earth outside Ron’s window stood as a stark example of why people flock to Walmart before a bad storm. He had braved the early moments of the storm, but he’d made it to the Super Store too late, all the staple items were long gone when he finally made the drive. Thankfully, he’d made it in time to snag the last four cans of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. They were all that stood between him and starvation in the coming 24 hours of blizzard.

Well, he was a rotund man, and had ample food stores, but none of it seemed appetizing at four o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday. So, he’d braved the storm just the same.

He’d made it home just in time for the winds to really get going and the power to go out. But Ron was resourceful, nothing would keep him from his meal. He had fired up his woodstove, grabbed a couple bottles of water from the pantry, and got to the work of cooking up a little bowl of heavenly noodle goodness, right in the copper pot he kept on hand for such occasions.

That’s right, possibilities, right in his living room. He had prepared himself the kind of soup that was so homey it could melt a snowman and leave a small child sitting at your kitchen table. Mmmm Mmmm goodness had abounded in that small copper pot. Ron almost couldn’t contain himself in his bulging red cardigan; the excitement had been that palpable.

And now, watching the snow swirl outside his grand picture window, he ate that wondrous bowl of goodness. It warmed his bones so well it almost felt like a giant snowman was melting off him. Across his yard, Ron could almost see the Campbell’s Soup logo come into focus as the blizzard faded into a deep black screen.