All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
A few minutes before midnight, as Patrick lay sleeping, it happened again, for the third time that month. The first time he had the nightmare, a few months ago, he dismissed it as something peculiar he ate, or a persistent memory of the horror film he watched the week before. But he hadn’t eaten anything odd, and the acting in the movie was so terrible that it probably wouldn’t have frightened a child. There was another unusual thing about the dream as well, which was, of course, that he’d had it almost a dozen times throughout the last three months, and the dates were getting closer together, as well. Soon, he feared, he would be having the nightmare almost every night.
This time was no different from any other. By now, Patrick thought, it should have become dull, like a joke that’s been told one too many times. Instead, the fear remained fresh, and paralyzing. Now, as the clock neared its twelfth ring, he could hear it coming in, sliding through the unused dog door. It stood up and crept through the house, claws clicking against the tile floor of the kitchen. The sinister noise was mercifully quieted by the carpet as the thing walked down the hall, and toward Patrick’s bedroom. Upon approaching his door, it knocked five times, as it always seemed to, and pushed open the door. In the glow of the nightlight in the hallway (the one Patrick put up after the dream made him frightened of the dark) the thing cast no shadow, causing Patrick to wonder if it had a reflection. This was ridiculous, he knew, as dreams exist only in the mind, but the little man, the thing, that inhabited his nightmare seemed almost as though it were truly standing there in his entryway.
It remained still for a moment, gazing around the room, then began to walk toward his bed. Drawing closer to him, It leapt up onto the foot of the bed, as his dog had, until its death a few months earlier. Making itself comfortable, it crossed its legs and simply sat there, staring at him. For how long the thing watched him, Patrick didn’t know, however, when he woke, he was still screaming.
It was Saturday, which was fortunate, because Patrick had no intention of going to work. He wanted only rest, but not sleep, in case he might be visited again by the unwelcome guest in his mind. After eating breakfast, he lie on his couch, with the radio playing loudly in the next room to ensure that he would not be able fall asleep. Although it was doubtful that he would have the dream twice within such a short period of time, it was, he thought, better to be cautious.
The next few days passed without the nightmare returning. Patrick should have been relieved, but he was not. Instead, he became steadily more paranoid with each, seemingly peaceful night. This sort of break in the apparently endless cycle of terrifying nights had happened before. The dream did not come for a week or so, until he finally felt safe, and thought that maybe it had gone away entirely. It had not.
The moment Patrick was able to sleep soundly, without fear, the dog door squeaked open, and he heard the scrape of claws on the floor. He was sure that the same thing was happening now. It was not the end of the assault upon his subconscious, merely the quiet before the storm. On the fifth night that passed without incident, his suspicions were confirmed. Patrick had begun sleeping on the couch, as the bedroom seemed unsafe. In addition to this, he thought that possibly, if he broke out of his routine, the dream would do the same. This was not the case, as he saw that night.
The creature seemed confused, after it crawled through the dog door and entered his bedroom, and for a moment Patrick truly believed that the dream would change, the thing would simply leave, and his troubles would end. Then, after wandering through the house, the thing turned, and walked through the living room door. It leapt onto the other end of the couch with ease, and presumed its usual position. This time, however, the dream was different, and not in the way Patrick had hoped. In all the times the dream had happened before, it was in incredible detail, his bedroom matched reality almost perfectly. But this was astounding, not only was he in his living room in the dream, but everything was the same as it was in reality.
Moonlight streamed through the living room window, and in its silvery glow, he could see the thing clearly. Its body was like that of a human child, but its head was that of a goat, with eyes that flickered like dying flames. As Patrick stared into its burning eyes, it spoke.
“You thought you could get rid of me, didn’t you?” Patrick’s eyes snapped open. The first rays of daylight filtered through the curtains, reflecting blindingly off of the fresh snow. Upon further examination of the room, Patrick realized that he had rolled off the couch in his sleep, and was now sitting on the carpet. He reached up and grasped the edge of the couch, pulling himself up. When he did, he saw that his hand and arm were covered in scratches, as was much of his torso. What had happened? He wondered, did he cut himself on something the previous day and not notice? Was he sleepwalking? In any case, the cuts were deep, and rather painful. Patrick decided to go to his doctor later and have them looked at.
He called to make an appointment after eating breakfast, and that evening, Patrick drove out to the hospital. As he drove along the winding road, Patrick kept imagining that he saw the creature in the road in front of him. Most of the time it simply sat in the snow beside the road, occasionally holding out a clawed thumb, like a hitchhiker, and grinning as he drove past. Sometimes, however, it would leap from a bush, landing on his hood or the roof of his car, and remaining there for long periods of time before hopping away, like a frightened toad. When he entered the waiting room, Patrick was relieved to be around other people again, and to not be forced to confront the thing alone. But when he looked into the curved, half spherical mirror, mounted on the ceiling, he saw the thing again. It sat in a chair a few rows behind him, reading a magazine. Jumping up from his seat, Patrick almost ran toward the bathroom.
He had to get away from it, to somehow remove the grotesque, goat-like image of its face from his mind, but he could not. For even as he stood trembling in the bathroom stall, hoping that it could not somehow open the lock on the door, he read what was written on the wall. The ink (if it was ink) was a dark red, the color of blood. More horrible than the color though, were the words: “You thought you could get rid of me, didn’t you” Stifling a scream, Patrick walked back to the waiting room. Fortunately, his name was called before the creature was able to appear again, and Patrick was so glad that he almost ran as he moved down the hallway.
The feeling did not last long, however, for the doctor had not arrived yet when Patrick entered his office, and he realized that he would have to wait for some time, alone in the place. Attempting to distract himself from any thought of the nightmare, Patrick began to read through the titles of the medical textbooks lining the shelves. It’s not going to go away, the first one read. An odd title, Patrick thought, maybe he simply misread. He moved on to the next one. It’s not just a dream. His eyes widening in fear, he kept going. It is something to worry about. Patrick began to shiver. Frightened? You should be. Turning away, Patrick looked at the floor, then back to the shelf. This time, all of the books seemed to have very ordinary titles, Basic Anatomy, Infectious Diseases, and so on. What just happened? Patrick wondered. Am I going insane? Book titles don’t simply change. The door creaked open, and the doctor came in.
“Patrick?” The man asked. He nodded. “Why have you come to see me today?”
“When I woke up this morning,” Patrick explained, “I had all of these odd cuts and scratches.” He rolled up one of his sleeves to reveal an arm covered in long, straight lines of red. “I came to make sure they weren’t infected or anything, and to see if you can tell me what caused them.” The doctor gazed at the incisions, perplexed.
“They look clean. Keep them bandaged, though.” He said, “Do you have any pets? A cat or rodent might have done this, in which case you’d want a veterinarian.”
“No. I had a dog, but it vanished a few months ago.”
“I see. I’m very sorry.”
“I found her a few days afterward.” Patrick continued. “She was hanging from a bridge. Someone had snapped her neck, tied a rope around her feet, and left her dangling there, as food for the flies and maggots.”
“Good Lord. Did you call the police?” Patrick nodded. He remembered that day well, because only a week afterward, the nightmares began.
“It didn’t do any good. They never figured out who did it. Bunch of crazy kids, I guess.”
“It could be sleepwalking, as well.” The doctor said, in an awkward attempt to change the subject.
“What?” Patrick asked.
“Your injuries,” The doctor said, “They might have been caused by sleepwalking. Maybe a rose bush, or barbed wire could have inflicted the cuts. I suggest that you set up a video camera in your bedroom, or nearby, and leave it there for a while to see if you can catch yourself doing anything in your sleep that might have led to this.”
“That’s a good idea.” Patrick said, “Thank you.” After paying the bill, Patrick left, and headed toward an electronics store. Almost half an hour later, he parked his car in front of a window filled with various gadgets and appliances, whose screens cast an eerie, bluish glow over the icy sidewalk. For a split second, the screens flickered with static, then, as Patrick watched, a face appeared. Patrick knew what it was the moment he saw its rotting smile, and burning eyes. He tried to run, but he slipped on the ice and fell, his head striking the concrete with a sickening noise, and his teeth clamping down on his tongue, as he attempted to scream. Blood dripping from his open mouth, he grasped the edge of the window and pulled himself up, until he was kneeling before the image of the repulsive little goat-man that haunted him both in his dreams and thoughts, wearing away at his mind. It giggled. The screens returned to normal, and Patrick entered the store.
He bought the least expensive video camera and tripod he could find, knowing that he would be using them for only one purpose. Despite the equipment’s almost unbearably poor quality, the combined price of the two items still totaled more than Patrick had wished to pay. Although, he thought, as he put them in the trunk of his car, it was not too high a price for sleep, and peace of mind. It was late when he got home, and after positioning the camera so that it faced his bed, he pushed the record button, and lay down.
It was difficult, Patrick found, to sleep with that soulless mechanical eye pointing at him. Yet somehow, he managed to shut his eyes, and rest. At midnight, it arrived. The dream had changed again, and now the creature sat on his chest, its face inches from his own, its weight making it hard to breathe. It began to speak once more, its voice scratchy and harsh, its breath like the stale air of a tomb.
“I’m hungry.” It said, “But soon, I will feast.” When Patrick woke, he found that there was some sort of coarse powder on his face, like sand, or finely ground glass. Brushing it off, he opened his eyes, and saw the source of the dust. On the ceiling, two words had been carved into the plaster. “Don’t go to sleep.” Patrick read. How did this happen? He wondered. Could I have written this in my sleep? He walked over to the tripod, opened the tiny screen on the side of the camera, and watched the recording.
The first hour showed nothing but Patrick lying in his bed, staring at the ceiling. He fast-forwarded through this until he saw movement at the edge of the screen. The bedroom door was opening. Something crept along the bottom of the frame, only a dark shape visible. Then it moved, and Patrick saw what it was. Two long goat’s horns appeared, barely within view of the camera, followed by a pair of hideous, dark red eyes, and finally, as it leapt onto his bed, a jagged, decaying grin.
Patrick watched, remembering what he had thought was a dream, as it climbed onto his chest, and stared at his terrified face. He could hear it speaking, its voice was barely a whisper in the recording, but he was still able to make out the phrase, which was scrawled into his ceiling. He saw his eyes close on the screen, as the thing jumped off of him and clung, spider-like to the wall. It scaled the wall with unnatural ease. Patrick could see nothing holding it up, yet still it climbed, until it reached the ceiling, and, hanging upside-down above his slumbering form, it began to write, dragging a single claw along the plaster surface, forming the words that Patrick had seen only a few minutes ago.
Patrick turned off the video camera. Film did not lie, nor did the words carved into the ceiling, or the scratches that covered his body. The thing was real, and the next night, it would devour him as he slept. He could not run, or hide from it. He had seen the way in which it had followed him to the hospital, and the electronics store. Patrick had made up his mind. He would have to kill it.
After work, Patrick went to a hardware store nearby. He would need weapons, and, with the exception of a few kitchen knives, lacked anything that he thought might destroy the beast. He could have bought a gun, but firearms were expensive, and he had no experience using one. He wasn’t sure if a bullet would kill the thing anyway. Patrick wandered through the aisles for most of an hour, selecting an axe, several long knives, and an assortment of insecticides and weed killers, those that had large warning labels on the side of the bottle, describing what might happen if such toxic substances were misused.
The cashier gave Patrick an odd look as she put the collection of dangerous items into a bag.
“What’re you planning to do with all of this?” she asked.
“I’ve got some bushes and shrubs growing in my yard that I want to get rid of.”
“Must be some pretty big shrubs if you need an axe.”
“Yes.” Patrick said, taking his receipt. “They are rather large.”
The sun was setting as he walked out into the parking lot, and snow had begun to fall again. Patrick walked quickly through the white blanket, toward his car. He needed to be home, to prepare before the beast came. As he neared his vehicle, however, he glanced through the back window of the car next to his and, over the back of the driver’s seat, saw the tips of a pair of horns. Shivering, not with cold but apprehension, he went around to the back of his car, took a can of herbicide and one of the knives from the bag, before hiding it beneath the vehicle. Taking the cap off the weed killer, he crouched beside the car where the beast was sitting, hoping that it couldn’t see him. His footfalls muffled by the snow, Patrick crept along the side of the blue car, then stopped, and waited below the driver’s side window.
Taking the knife from his pocket, he began to remove the packaging from the blade, tearing it away with the same excitement that a child rips the paper from a gift. As soon as he had pulled off the last of the plastic, Patrick jumped up, and slammed an elbow into the window. The tempered glass shattered easily, pieces of it pouring from the window frame like a glittering waterfall. As the thing turned its head, Patrick whipped the aerosol can from his pocket and emptied it into its grotesque goat’s face.
“I’ll kill you!” It roared, a mixture of tears and blood streaming from its swollen eyes. “Leave you carcass hanging from a bridge, just like your dog!” It opened the car door and sprang at him.
“Shut up!” Patrick screamed, and plunged the knife into one of its bulging red eyes. It toppled from the car, and its head struck the bottom of the doorframe, only the seatbelt preventing its head from striking the pavement. Shutting his eyes tightly, Patrick slammed the car door shut on the thing’s head. There was a shriek and a crunch, and when Patrick opened his eyes, the snow at his feet was quickly turning red. Putting on a pair of gloves, he moved the corpse beneath the car, and piled snow on top of it. As he was getting up, a voice came from behind him.
“You thought you could get rid of me didn’t you?” He whirled around, and saw it standing in the snow behind him, grinning. How is it alive? He thought, Are there more than one? Reaching under his car, he found the handle of the axe. He fumbled with the protective packaging at first, then tore it away, exposing the blade. Looking up, he saw that the creature was running away. Lifting the axe, he ran after it. Slipping on the icy ground, it fell on its side. It tried to get up, and he was upon it, swinging the axe again and again, blood spattering on his face as he reduced it to a mass of crimson debris.
When Patrick had finished, his arms aching his clothes stained with scarlet, he looked up. He was surrounded. Everywhere he looked, the thing was there, with that horrible smile on its face. He could not fight this many of them. Dropping the axe, he ran toward his car and jumped in, stabbing the key into the ignition, and backing up over his bag of weapons, he drove.
Patrick sped through traffic, ignoring the signs, the lights, paying no attention to anything but the demons following him. He could hear their claws scraping the asphalt, he could smell the odor of death upon their flesh, see their blood-red eyes. Suddenly, Patrick swerved and his car struck another vehicle. There was the terrible sound of rending metal, not loud enough to drown out the malicious whispers filling his head. A miniature fireworks display of sparks and glass as his headlights exploded. Then pain consumed him, as his head struck the dashboard and the remains of his windshield showered over him.
When Patrick woke, he could not move. He tried to lift his arms, but something was holding them down. He could hear a man’s voice speaking.
“…Careful with this one.” It said, “Killed two people in a parking lot.” Patrick opened his eyes and saw that he was strapped to a stretcher, being put into the back of an ambulance. The doors closed, and he heard another voice, this one ragged and harsh, and not quite human.
“Hello.” It said, “Miss me?” When the doors were opened again, at the hospital, all that remained on the stretcher was blood, scraps of fabric, and a pile of bones. Scrawled in crimson on the wall, was a note: Wake up.