The Noise Under Denny’s Bed

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He heard the noise again.

Something was under his bed scratching the wooden floor. In the dark silence of his bedroom, seven-year-old Denny shivered in fear. He wanted to pull the covers over his head, but then whatever was underneath his bed might jump out when he couldn’t see.

His terrified brown eyes held back tears. He couldn’t go wake Mom and Dad again another night. Three times was their limit apparently, because they told him to be a big boy, and there was nothing under his bed. They both looked numerous times in the last week and declared the area safe from monsters.

Then they explained to him that there was no such thing as monsters. It was his active imagination, his mother said. “There was nothing to be afraid of,” his father reassured him with a hug, and a pat on his curly brown hair.

Despite all of his parents reassurances, the thing was scratching the floor underneath his bed again the next night. He held his breath so it wouldn’t hear him. The scratching stopped and he heard strange grunting sounds. He exhaled dramatically and jumped off the bed.

He could see underneath his bed by the light cast from the nightlight plugged in on the other side. Nothing! There wasn’t anything there. No monster. He turned on the room light and got down on his knees and peered under the bed expecting to see some scratch marks. There weren’t any.

Reluctantly, he got up and turned off the room light. The nightlight cast a shadow across the floor when he went back to his bed. He laid down on top of the covers…listening. Finally, he fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion in the early morning hours.

The next morning Denny’s parents asked him how he slept?

“Good,” he yawned, as he sat down at the breakfast table.

“No noise under the bed?” his father asked between bites of French toast.

“Yeah, there was a noise…” his voiced trailed off.

“But you stayed in bed like a big boy,” his mother jumped in with her cheerful voice that she always used to compliment him in.

He smiled weakly, took his fork and speared a chunk of French toast that she had already cut up for him. It was a Saturday. No school. No work. Everyone went their separate way most of the day.

Denny played in the yard with his friend Alec who brought over a baseball to play catch. They threw the ball back and forth for hours while talking about sports. His mother worked in the front yard garden, pruning the rose bushes. His father was in the garage working on one of his wood projects.

After lunch the boys went back to playing catch when Denny miss-handled the ball and it hit a screened opening that led to a crawl space beneath the house. The screen was barely on when Denny peered into the blackness after picking the baseball up.

Alec ran over to him and got down on his knees.

“See anything?” he asked.

“Too dark.”

“Ever go underneath a house?” Alec asked.

“No.”

“I have. Our house. There were spiders all over the place.”

“Was that all? Was there anything else?” Denny prodded him.

“My mom’s cat. She needed me to go in and help get him out,” Alec replied.

“Nothing scary?”

“No…but it was hard to move around,” Alec said.

A scratching noise suddenly got both of the boys attention. It was coming from the opening. They both heard the rustling of a big body moving around and sensed movement in the darkness.

When grunting sounds broke the silence, both boys got up and ran screaming to the front yard. Denny’s mother calmed them down while his dad went to investigate.

“What’s the matter?” she asked, concern dripping from each word.

“There’s a monster under your house,” Alec claimed.

“We heard it!” an excited Denny backed him up.

“Nonsense! Come. Let’s have a look.

She led the boys back around the house to the opening and got down on all fours. Dad came crawling out with dirt on his shirt and a shred of cobweb clinging to his hair.

“Was anyone in there?” she asked him.

“No, but we could use some more insulation in there,” he said.

“Okay boys.. are you playing a prank on me?” she asked.

“No!” they cried out in unison.

She looked closely at each boy and shook her head. “I’m going back to my gardening. You boys find something else to do.”

The boys watched her leave.

“I’m going home,” Alec said.

“I heard something.

“I know,” Alec replied as he picked up his mitt and baseball. “See ya later.”

That night when Denny’s parents were sure he was asleep they went to the guest bedroom and opened a hidden trap door that led underneath the house. Denny’s dad lowered himself down and turned on his flashlight.

He could see the body was partly unbound and one arm was free. He would have to find something stronger to knock them out with – yet not kill them. Lately there’d been some mishaps. The duct tape around their mouths was working, but some victims managed to get an arm or leg loose from the rope tied around them while waiting to be transported.

No one stayed under the house for more than 48-hours. When the lab technicians came to collect their human guinea pigs it was always in the early morning when most people were sleeping.

The arrangement worked out well for the clandestine company, and Denny’s parents pocketbook. They planned to retire early. The extra money would mean they could do so in style.

They decided to solve Denny’s problem by moving into a new home, with it’s own basement. Denny loved his new room – the view out of the second story window was great – and he quit hearing the noises under his bed at night.

As It Stands, this tale is a social comment on what people will do to get rich these days.

A Timely Revenge

It was Skip Barger’s dream to be a forest ranger.

He had always enjoyed hiking, fishing, and camping. When he finally did became a forest ranger at Glacier National Park in Montana, it was the highlight of his young life.

He loved working alone and not having a regular routine. Most of the time his interactions with the public were positive. He loved the rugged peaks, clear waters, and glacial-carved valleys of the park and felt honored to work there.

He spent his free time reading about the park’s history. There was evidence that human’s lived in the park as far back as 10,000 years. Long before the white man came there several different tribes occupied the area.

It was home to the Blackfeet Indians who controlled the vast prairies east of the mountains. It was also the hunting grounds for the Salish and Kootenai Indians who lived in the western valleys.

Skip loved hiking through the vast park looking for new sights and trails to document. One day he came into an area he wasn’t familiar with. He lost track of time and realized he wasn’t going to get back to his cabin before darkness settled in.

It was late spring and the weather was mild, so sleeping outside without a tent wasn’t a problem. Nevertheless, he looked around for a shelter and discovered what he first thought was a cave. It turned out to be a gold mining operation that he estimated (based upon reading the areas history) was over a 170 years-old.

Curious, Skip stepped inside and inspected the walls laced with gold-bearing crystal quartz. He could see where the workers followed the veins. He took the flashlight off his web belt and pointed it down the tunnel. It seemed to go on for quit a ways.

Back outside he found a long-fallen log and sat on it. Pulling out his notebook he made some observations. Taking his field compass from it’s pouch, he took his bearings and recorded them.

It was nearly dark when he decided to go to sleep on a patch of grass by the fallen log. He didn’t bother with a fire. It was a warm night.

Skip almost immediately fell into a sound sleep. He didn’t usually dream. And if he did, he seldom remembered what it was about.

That night.

“Another white eyes looking for gold.  What should we do?” Askuwheteau (Blackfoot for He Keeps Watch) asked the elder beside him.

The old man looked down at Skip, curled into a fetal position on his side. “His presence here is an affront,” Eluwilussit (Blackfoot for Holy One) said with disgust in his voice.

“No wait! Before you judge me let me explain…” Skip cut into the conversation.

The two old men stared at Skip – who was standing now – with thinly veiled contempt.

“White men have tongues like serpents,” Askuwheteau accused.

Startled, Skip looked down and saw his body below him on the ground, asleep. Trying to concentrate, he told them he wasn’t a miner. He was a park ranger.

The hate in their eyes told him they didn’t believe him. They both moved menacingly towards Skip who staggered backward in terror!

The next morning.

When Skip woke up his heart was beating so fast he felt like he’d ran for miles. It took him a few moments to remember where he was. He shivered in the chill morning air and at the memory of a terrible nightmare. He’d never had one so vivid before.

It haunted him all the way back to his cabin.

By the time he ate, and did all of his chores it was time to conduct a short hiking tour for a group of tourists. He forgot about the nightmare as he talked about the beauty of the area and it’s wildlife inhabitants.

That night he was exhausted, and feel into a deep sleep after eating dinner.

In the dream he was watching a group of white men carrying out bags of jagged native ore laced with gold from the tunnel. Two Indians suddenly appeared and tried to make the group of five miners leave their heavy bags and go. The armed miners pulled their guns out and shot the two Indian men to death.

He watched in horror as the white men scalped them and mutilated their bodies. Afterwards they left their bodies out in the elements, and returned to civilization.

“Let us see for ourselves,” Askuwheteau said, “if this man can resist the yellow rock.”

“Yes. The gods will look into his heart and tell us why he came, Eluwilussit agreed.

The next morning.

Skip woke up with vague memories of a nightmare, but shook them off by the time he finished eating breakfast. He checked his list for the days activities. Good. He was going to be busy with three tourist tours. No time for silly thoughts.

Skip’s biggest weakness in life was his insatiable curiosity.

Two weeks after discovering the crude mine he found himself in the general vicinity. He checked his compass and confidently set out towards the mine. This time he brought some supplies with him in a rucksack.

When he entered the mine he took out his flashlight and a small pick hammer. He carefully watched where he stepped as he went deeper into the mine’s interior. When he came to a dead end he turned around and started walking back when he saw the dull gleam on the wall.

It got brighter as he trained the flashlight on it…an exposed vein of gold! Someone had started to chip around it and stopped for some reason. The raw gold transfixed Skip. He suddenly had a bad case of cotton mouth, and licked his dry lips.

He loved being a park ranger, but if this vein went any distance he could suddenly become wealthy! Then he remembered it was a national park and getting a mining permit would be a problem.

He would have to work it himself and transport the raw gold to a refinery somewhere. With modern equipment, like a jackhammer, he should be able to do the job. He picked at the vein and chipped off a piece of gold encased in crystal quartz. It was beautiful!

A small voice was warning him about something. He ignored it, and chipped off another piece. That’s when he heard the mountain rumble and the tunnel began collapsing! He made it about halfway to the entrance before a boulder pinned him down!

His screams went unnoticed in the wilderness.

As It Stands, gold has always corrupted mankind.

A Family Thing In The Attic

Listen to this story as master story-teller Otis Jury narrates.

Danny was born in the same sturdy brick house his great-great grandfather built. He learned at an early age not to go into the attic.

He was 10 years-old before he got the guts to check the attic out. It was a rare day. Everyone was gone. His mother let him stay home while the family went into town.

He climbed the narrow stairs leading to the attic until they stopped at a doorway. He turned the old brass knob slowly, barely opening it up. Sweat had started to slip down his forehead and he wiped it nervously away. Looking up he saw light pouring in from the skylights overhead.

The attic was huge. He wondered if it went the length of the house? There was old furniture and numerous old trunks lining two of the walls. A group of human like shapes, covered by white sheets, were clustered in one corner of the room.

Danny’s fevered young mind instantly jumped to the conclusion that dead people were under those sheets. He stumbled twice in his panic to get out of the attic! He didn’t attempt to go in again, until he was seventy-four.

His parents died in a tragic automobile accident. His sisters, Doris and Bella, were married and lived with their husbands in Sedona, Arizona. The house was his.

Danny decided he needed a hobby one day. So he got into his family’s genealogy. He was able to do a lot of online research. It was slow going contacting family members who were willing to provide him with information. But he stuck to it for a year.

He found it odd that there was practically no information on his great-great-grandfather, Bradford Niles Stormer, the man purported to have built the large house. He found paperwork in his father’s safe in the library that showed the year his great-great- grandfather paid to have the house built – in cash.

It was one of the first brick houses built-in Portland Maine in 1830. Bradford was a man with money. His family was from England. None of them went with him when he immigrated to America. There were rumors, in letters, that suggested he was the black sheep in the family.

As for Bradford’s time in America, there was hardly a trace of him. Yet, he had a family that started in 1833 – when Portland became incorporated as a city – according to a birth certificate he filed for his first son, Jeremy Kincaid Stormer.

Danny was able to find out a lot of things about his grandfather Jeremy Kincaid. He became a state senator and was a well-respected man in Maine. He had six children. Danny’s father, Percy Irwin Stormer, was the youngest of the group.

While pondering about his great-great grandfather one day and idea came to him. He should go to the attic and see what was up there. He was no boy now. Sheets covering objects didn’t scare him.

As he walked up the stairs they seemed narrower than the last time. He knew it was because he was older and larger, but somehow it made him a little uncomfortable. The door creaked loudly when he opened it.

It was still light outside but shadows were forming in the niches and corners of the attic. Danny went to a row of old steamer chests and opened one. It was full off oddities like shrunken heads and voodoo dolls.

He went to another one. It was harder to open but he finally pried it apart. It was full of books. They all appeared to be in foreign languages like Greek and Arabic. It was obvious they were old. The ornate gold gilded jackets were bound in leather.

Danny stood up and looked around the room and spotted the sheets. He hesitated for a moment and then laughed at himself for doing so. “I’m a big boy now,” he said out loud.

He pulled off the nearest sheet with a dramatic flare and froze! The thing he uncovered was something from H.P. Lovecraft’s nightmares! It’s misshapen body was half man and half monster. The white marble monstrosity gleamed in the fading light from above.

Danny had never seen anything like it. Still stunned, he pulled the sheet off another statue. It was part bull, and part man, carved out of brown granite. As he uncovered the rest of the statues his mind had a hard time accepting what he was seeing.

They were all grotesque and unique. He never saw anything like them in books or movies. When he got to the last sheet he uncovered a large oval mirror set in a mahogany frame. It’s glass was smoky at the edges, but the center was still in good shape.

“Don’t just stand there man! There’s work to be done!” the man in the mirror said.

Danny fell backward and knocked over the marble monstrosity. “What the hell?” he gasped, sprawled out on the floor.

“Oh get up! I need out of here!” the man groused.

Danny stood up, eyes bulging in terror, and stammered…”Who are you?”

The man crossed his arms thoughtfully. “I’m Bradford Niles Stormer. I believe you’re one of my descendents.”

“I believe I’m going crazy,” Danny said, and ran out of the attic, not even bothering to close the door behind him. He was breathless with horror and confusion when he got to his library.

His mind was trying to accept what he saw and heard, but there was a fog around the process. It wasn’t logical. It couldn’t be real. Yet, he saw and heard something. His curiosity about his great ancestor was peaked. He had to find out more about him.

He spent the rest of the day going through the books stacked neatly in the shelves surrounding the room. He was looking for anything to do with his mysterious relative. His search was unsuccessful, as he sat down at the massive cherry wood desk that was as old as the house.

Not willing to give up, he opened the center drawer and went through it carefully. Nothing of interest. He tried the upper right-hand drawer and the lower one. Nothing. The left hand door was locked. Curious now, he examined the keyhole. There must be a key somewhere he thought.

He went back to the center drawer and find a little tin box that he failed to open. A gold key was inside. It fit the drawer perfectly. Sliding it open he saw a small book titled “Diary of Jeremy Kincaid Stormer.” His grandfather.

He realized that he was hungry and hadn’t eaten all day. Taking the diary with him he went to the kitchen and put together a sandwich consisting of peanut butter and peach jam. He sat down at the table and munched on it as he read the diary.

His grandfather’s words chilled him to the bone. Bradford was a warlock. He hid the fact from his son for years. But an incident happened when Jeremy was only eleven years-old, that changed his life forever.

The newly formed township of Portland had a mayor and city council. A concerned citizen appeared before the august leaders one day and claimed Bradford had put a spell on him and his livestock!

The city leaders consisted of Puritans who believed that the devil, warlocks, and witches wandered the land victimizing unwary humans. When one of Bradford’s servants reported that she heard him talking to the devil, the city fathers decided action had to be taken.

So they came and took Bradford. His trial lasted one day (actually less than an hour) and he was declared guilty of conspiring with the devil to do harm to the local townspeople. The days of witch-burning had mostly passed, but there were still cases reported in the New England area.

On a chilly morning the town father’s dragged Bradford out of the jail before most of the town was awake. They bound him tightly with a hemp rope attached to bags of heavy rocks.

Jeremy was in the small group that witnessed his father taken out to the center of the river and tossed overboard without so much as a word. The four men rowed back to shore and left without talking to anyone.

Jeremy, whose mother had died from consumption, a year before, was raised by his Uncle Harold, Bradford’s brother. It turned out that Harold was a warlock too. The night before Bradford was executed Harold visited him in the prison. The two men chanted throughout the night.

When young Jeremy and his uncle Harold returned to the house after Bradford’s death they went up to the attic. Harold explained that the mirror in the center of the room was magical and he must not ever talk about it. It had to be kept secret.

He explained that his father’s soul was in the mirror waiting to be released into another body. He made sure to impress Jeremy with importance of the secret and how it could cost him his life if he did.

Harold assured him that he would find the right spell to release his father. The magic that the two conjured up that last night, was ancient and was a last-ditch attempt to save Bradford. Now it was up to Harold to find the right spell to free him. The rare books in the steamer trunk were collected by Harold in his search to help his brother.

But Harold was in poor health and one day fell of his horse. He was dead before he hit the ground with a heart attack.

Danny put the diary down after finishing it. The last entry was made on the day Harold died, and simply said…”I’m trying brother.

So there it was. His great-great grandfather was more than just a dark sheep in the family. He was a warlock. His son Jeremy didn’t want anything to do with black magic and covered the mirror up, along with the strange statues he collected while traveling abroad.

Danny had trouble going to sleep that night. When he did fall asleep he had terrible nightmares that covered him in sweat. There was a lurking evil in the house. It lived in the attic.

When he woke in the morning he skipped his normal routine of showering and shaving and went right to the attic. As he went up the stairs he could only think about destroying the mirror and the thing inside of it.

Just before he reached the landing a rush of wind came out of the open door and caught him off guard! He lost his balance and tumbled backwards and down the stairs. He suffered massive trauma to his head and bled out on the floor where his crumpled body lay.

His oldest sister Bella found him two days later when she came by to visit. After the funeral Bella and Doris found the diary, but thought nothing of it, putting it in a box containing the rest of the contents of the desk in the library.

They went into the attic and found the mirror and statues still uncovered. As Bella prepared to cover the mirror with a nearby sheet, a voice caught her off guard, “Don’t be alarmed ladies! I just need a little help!”

Their screams echoed through the whole house!

As It Stands, it was a family thing.

Half Way Through A Nightmare

Listen to this story as told by master story teller Otis Jiry.

They were coming. Redd Hart jumped up from the soft desert sand and ran towards a parked truck fifty yards away. He had to get away. To warn the others.

Letting out a sigh of relief when he reached the truck, he turned the key that was still in the ignition to the right. The three-quarter ton Army surplus truck coughed and came to life. Slipping it into gear, he let out the clutch, and the truck lurched forward.

Hart found a paved road and fought to keep the truck on the narrow two-lane highway. The shifting sands sounded sinister as they slashed the truck’s rear canvas top. Strips of canvas flapped and snapped as the truck struggled along in the growing darkness.

Suddenly he was blinded by a bright light that filled the sky!

“Time to get up Mr. Hart. You’ll sleep your day away,” the male nurse said with a cheery smile.

Redd Hart’s mouth was dry. It happened again. He got half way through the nightmare and was woke up by one of the staff. At first, he was relieved when someone woke him up during his nightmare about being stranded in a strange desert.

But as the nights came, so did more chapters for the nightmare. The same nightmare. Alone in a hostile desert with enemies everywhere. He had to keep running. If he didn’t run something bad was going to happen.

He spent his days trying to get as much exercise as possible. He walked around in big circles because they wouldn’t let him run in this place. Once a day, he visited with the doctor.

The doctor meant well. Hart knew this, and took it into account when answering his questions. Lately though, the doctor seemed to be getting a little impatient with his continuous nightmare revelations.

“How did you sleep last night Redd?

“I was running for my life! The truck broke down…”

“Hold on! Take it easy….take a deep breath.” In a soothing voice he said, “So, you were having the same nightmare again. What happened next?”

“Before abandoning the truck, I searched it and found a bolt-action rifle and ammunition. I know all about rifles. Did I tell you that I use to be…?

“Please try to stay focused Redd.”

“Yeah…okay.  I took off running with the rifle. At one point I looked back and saw two men in full space suits pursuing me! I stopped, sighted the rifle in at 300 yards, and fired! One of the space suits fell down. The other stopped and raised a clenched fist…

“That’ll be all for today Redd. See you tomorrow at the same time,” the doctor said.

An hour later at the doctor’s lounge.

“So how was Mr. Hart today Douglas?”

“The same. It’s been two weeks, and he keeps having that same nightmare about being in a desert. He runs, and as of today, he is also a crack shot that shot a guy in a space suit. The nightmare keeps evolving,” Dr. Douglas Harding replied.

“Does Mr. Hart know where he’s at?”

“No. Like the rest of the PTSD patients, he only sees what we want him too. The yard with grass in the back has a 15-foot wall around it like the rest of this compound. None of these men know they’re living in Death Valley, California, in climate controlled rooms.” 

“Time to go Douglas. Keep me appraised on Mr. Hart. His nightmares fascinate me.”

Major Douglas Harding’s Office

“I trust you had a good night’s sleep with that new medication I gave you?” the doctor asked.

“I’ll get right to the point doc…remember the guys in space suits I told you about?”

“Yes, of course,” the doctor replied while sifting through his notes.

“They aren’t humans! They’re aliens! After I shot the second one, I went over and checked them out. When I finally got the helmet off one of them, I was greeted by the ugliest mug I’ve ever seen! It looked like a slug with saucer eyes and a narrow slit for a mouth!”

“Was everything okay after that?” the doctor asked.

“Hell no! I saw a ship land and….someone woke me up.

“You’re going to have to forgive me Redd,” the doctor said when his phone rang.

“I just got an important call. We’ll meet again tomorrow at the same time.”

The doctor closed the door after Hart left.

“Say again, general?”

“This is not a drill! You need to get your staff and patients out of the compound ASAP! Your unit will meet up with the 113th Light Armor at 18:30 hours at the national guard armory in Reno, Nevada”

“Please general! Tell me what’s going on!”

“A space ship has landed northeast of Death Valley! There’s already been skirmishes between state troopers and aliens. It doesn’t look good. There’s reports coming in from all over the world of alien invasions. Now get your ass in gear Major!”

When the entire medical staff and patients were loaded up on old Army surplus trucks, the convoy moved out in the growing darkness towards Reno.

The convoy arrived at dawn. As staff and patients unloaded, Doctor Harding searched around for Redd Hart. He found him rubbing his eyes in the sunlight. In spite of himself, he took Hart to one side and asked, with a touch of tension, “Did your nightmare continue last night?”

Hart looked like a beaten man as he pulled his jacket around himself tighter against the morning chill. “You don’t want to know doc…”

As It Stands, prophets can be found in the most unlikely places.

Nightmares

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He woke up screaming!

Ever since Jake Jones returned from combat duty in Afghanistan he was plagued by nightmares.

They were so real that he woke screaming every morning, bathed in sweat, with bruises and even scratches on his body.

The Army psychiatrists said he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and put him in counseling, and fed him pills that were supposed to help.

While he was patient at the White City VA, in White City Oregon, the doctors observed his bruises, cuts and scratches on him every morning. The consensus was they were self-inflicted, despite Jake’s denials.

He refused to speak during group counseling so they had to resort to one-on-one counseling. His doctor experimented with every anti-psychotic medication available but none of them helped.

All the doctor knew about Jake was that he was wounded twice in 2009. He was among 3000 U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division that moved into the provinces of Logar and Wardak to push out the Taliban.

A group of Afghan Federal Guards fought alongside the Americans. They were the first wave of an expected surge of reinforcements originally ordered by President Bush and increased by President Obama.

One day Jake and his squad were exploring caves looking for enemy insurgents. They came upon a group of old men and some young Taliban fighters and a deadly firestorm erupted.

When it was over half of Jake’s squad was dead or wounded. Jake suffered a bullet wound through his left shoulder. All of their enemies lay dead except one old man. He had been hit several times and was sitting with his back to the wall.

When Jake approached him blood was running out of the corner of his mouth and he was muttering something. Scott, the team translator came over and listened to the old man’s fading words. When they stopped, Scott turned to Jake and said “This guy has cursed us 1000 times over. Too bad that I don’t believe in that crap.”

Jake was medevaced to safety and returned to combat duty three months later. All of his remaining team members were gone, dead, or returned to the United States.

Three days after returning to his new unit his platoon was ambushed. Jake was the only one wounded. This time in the chest, just missing his heart. That’s when the really bad nightmares began.

While recuperating in the hospital the first one happened. One moment he was sipping water through a straw and sitting up in a hospital bed, and the next he was in an unfamiliar place that looked a lot like the province of Wardak.

Three old men approached him with long canes. He stood there, powerless to move while they beat him and chanted ancient curses. He could feel every blow. When he couldn’t stand the pain anymore, he screamed…and woke up with a nosebleed.

A nurse ran into the room and comforted him as she washed the blood off his face and beard. In her report she noted that the patient had somehow inflicted injury upon himself while sleeping.

The same thing happened for three nights in a row before he was transformed to a mental ward and strapped onto a bed for his own safety. When the nurse checked on him the next morning he had a black eye and more bruises on his chest.

The stunned staff immediately launched an investigation to see who had attacked him. The night nurse said no one had entered the ward, and the security guards verified her story.

The nightmares continued, but the beatings stopped. He was released back into the general population and assigned a new doctor two weeks later. Jake was a pale shadow of himself having lost fifty pounds since his second wound.

The nightmares morphed from beatings to ghosts of dead Afghani children, women, and old men surrounding him with sad eyes. They were the same old men in the cave that he helped kill.

He continued to wake up screaming until one day he decided that he’d had enough. He tied his sheets together, firmly securing one end to the ceiling fan and wrapping the other around his neck. Then he kicked the chair away from beneath his feet.

As It Stands, this tale was an exercise in mixing a real mental problem with the supernatural.

Days of Discovery, Nights of Terror

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Alternate Earth, Andromeda

Plex was an adventurer, amateur archeologist, assassin, and lone wolf.

Since being abandoned at six-years old, Plex had always been on his own. His remarkable survival skills were legendary.

His adventures over the course of two decades, were chronicled in every planet in the solar system. His very name became synonymous with fantastic discoveries and daring deeds.

The mountains of Moibus, Ceres IV

Plex could barely see through his goggles. The snow storm was turning into a full-on blizzard when he spotted the building. A round granite tower with one door and no windows.

When he drew near, he saw an old man open the door and gesture for him to enter. Once inside, they descended down a flight of stone stairs and emerged into a great cavern. Candles were burning in little alcoves cut into the native stone.

Shadows danced along the rugged rock walls and the lava stalagmites that rose as high as a hundred feet in the air. The light from the candles reflected off the eyes of little creatures peering out from jagged rock formations.

They walked for a while in silence as the guide led Plex into a network of twisting tunnels. Finally they came to a large room where a throne sat. It’s inhabitant was a tall gangly man with white hair and beard. He wore an ornate helmet.

His guide backed out of the room, bowing with respect.

Are you the one they call Plex?” the man on the throne asked in a shrill voice.

“I am, lord,” he replied.

“It’s said that you accept any challenge, as long as it makes for a good adventure and pays well.” 

“That’s true.”

“Well then, I have a challenge for you that should be irresistible.”

 “I’m listening, lord of Moibus.”

“I want you to go to Hell and get my wife who should not be there. It’s me, Satan has a problem with. He cannot hurt me in my kingdom, but he had his minions capture her when she was taking a nap in the courtyard one day.

How can I enter hell? I’m still alive, and the devil hasn’t come for me yet?”

“My necromancer has a spell that will allow you to enter hell, and return with my wife.”

“I’m intrigued, but I’m still curious what kind of bounty  you’re offering? The rumors I heard suggested a person’s weight in the rarest gems in the galaxy.”

“It’s true. Look behind me at the open chests with gems spilling out onto the ground,” the Lord of Moibus assured him.

Plex walked over to them and studied the glittering mass, buying time before giving an answer.

“Where’s your necromancer?”

Hell.

To Plex’s surprise, Hell was darker than a coal mine during a full eclipse of the two suns that surrounded Ceres IV. The spell transported him instantly.

If not for the occasional fire accompanied with screams, he was blind. The thought of finding anyone seemed like a dark joke. He didn’t know which way to go. He steadied himself from panicking and tried to remember everything the necromancer told him.

He counted one hundred steps and stopped. Turning to his right he knocked on the obsidian wall and it swung inward, exposing a dimly lit, sparely decorated room. A woman sat on a small bed and watched him with curiosity as he entered.

“Have you come to free me from eternal nightmares?” she asked with tears in her eyes.

Yes. Come here, and let me hold your hands.”

As she approached the necromancer’s words came to him;

“Hand-in-hand. Hand-in-hand. Let go, to save a soul.”

As they grasped hands he realized the mistake he made, after repeating the chant. Save a soul. One soul. Not two souls!

He didn’t have time to blink his eye before she disappeared, and the lights went out!

As It Stands, a price is often paid for those bold adventurers who go where no one else has gone before.

Dreams for Sale

Employee-reaching-for-dreams

The piece of paper on the bulletin board in Woolworth’s said, “Dreams For Sale – 212-2641-0977.”

Alfred Oates blinked through his thick glasses and took his new Reynolds Rocket ballpoint pen out of his jacket pocket.

He carefully wrote the phone number down in a little notepad he kept in his other jacket pocket.

The year was 1947, and America was bursting with opportunities for clever men and women. Good jobs were available all over the country. Everyone was making money, one way, or the other.

Alfred made a lot of money, but had a peculiar problem. He couldn’t dream. He abruptly stopped dreaming when he became a teenager. Since then, he read everything he could find about his problem. There was precious little on the subject.

He wasn’t sure why he bothered writing the phone number down. It was probably some con man. But he had to admit, it was a clever way to get someone’s attention. He lit a Cuban cigar and leisurely strolled down the street until he came to the brownstone he was living in.

A black doorman in a tuxedo greeted him with a smile and opened the door. He walked into the luxurious lobby and headed straight for the front desk to get his mail. There were two letters. He took them with him, and went up the elevator to his room.

When he got to his room he put his ear on the door for a moment then inserted the key. He could never be too cautious in his line of work. The elegantly appointed room had a small desk and chair near the large picture window.

The first letter was from his brother who stayed in the Army after the war and was stationed in Germany. The second letter was business.

He memorized a street address in Manhattan, and carried a small black-and-white photo of a well-dressed young man in his shirt pocket. His hat was tilted slightly forward in the photo and made him look dashing.

Alfred went to his hotel’s parking lot and got the keys to his brand new 1947 Blue Hudson from the attendant. There was always someone on duty 24-hours a day to watch over the expensive cars.

It took nearly a pack of cigarettes and six hours before the man in the photo showed up. As the man approached the front door of his hotel Alfred got out of his car, screwed the silencer on his pistol, pulled up a handkerchief to cover the lower part of his face, and walked up to him as the doorman was greeting him.

Two quick shots to the head instantly killed the man. The doorman was spared. He shrieked with horror, as Alfred calmly walked away. Contract filled. He walked for a few blocks then turned around and took a different route to his car.

When he got back to his place he used the phone in the lobby to call the mysterious phone number.

Hello,” the deep baritone voice said.

“Hi. I’m interested in buying dreams. I saw your ad.”

“My room is located in Harlem. It’s in the Historic Harlem Duplex down the street from Columbia University. When would you like an appointment?”

“Yeah…sure.”

“Are you busy tomorrow?”

“I could work a time out,” Alfred said.

“Go to Room 13, at 1:00 o’clock.”

Alfred got a dial tone before he could agree with the time. As he left the ornate phone booth he felt silly. How could he logically think someone could sell dreams? If nothing else he’d whack the quack for trying to fool him.

The door opened after the third knock. A tall skeletal looking black man in a three-piece suit greeted him, “Good Day, Mr. Oates! Please come in.”

“Odd,” Alfred thought when he looked around the room. There was only a large desk and two heavily padded chairs. One behind the desk, and the other in front of it. Where was the bed he wondered?

“Please…have a seat,” the tall man urged him. Alfred sunk into the padded chair while studying the man as he went over to the other chair.

My name is Moses Gardener. I sell dreams. Been doing it for a long time. You are probably thinking I’m a fake trying to take advantage of you. Don’t worry, I deliver the goods.”

Moses opened a drawer and took out a small bottle made out of purple glass. He sat it down on the desk between them. Alfred’s eyes were riveted to the little flashes of light it emitted.

Carefully, Moses pulled the stopper out and tilted the bottle until a single round yellow pill came out. He laid it down in front of Alfred and closed the bottle.

“Because you’re a new customer, I’ll only charge you half of what I normally charge; one hundred dollars.”

“What guarantee do I have this pill will work? Your asking for a lot of money.”

“You know where to find me Mr. Oates. Take it, or leave it.”

Alfred paid him.

“Make sure to take it when your tired and ready to go to sleep. This is not a sleeping pill,” Moses advised.

Alfred sat on the edge of his bed and looked at the pill. Once again he wondered if this was worth it? What if the pill was poison? Then Moses wouldn’t have to worry about getting a visit from him.

Suddenly he didn’t care. He had no family. No friends. He really wanted to dream again. Closing his eyes he popped the pill into his mouth and chased it down with a shot of expensive bourbon.

When the dreams came they were convoluted. Faces flashed by. He was a boy again playing baseball in a dirty sand lot. Swimming in a pool. Playing stick ball in the streets. Falling in love with his 5th grade teacher.

The next morning Alfred woke up with a sense of sadness. He wanted the dream to continue. After getting dressed for the day and eating breakfast he called Moses.

“That’ll be two hundred dollars,” Moses said as he pulled the purple bottle out of the desk drawer.

“How do you do it? Where do you get these pills? I sure wouldn’t mind in investing in them,” Alfred said, as he peeled two one-hundred dollar bills out of his wallet.

“It’s a family recipe,” Moses answered.

Alfred hurried back to his place, eager for the night to fall. This time he didn’t hesitate to pop the pill.

His dream started out with his first kill. The owner of a restaurant who owed money to the mob. He saw the man’s shocked look as he shot him. But instead of falling down, the man grinned at him. His sharp white teeth gleamed with an unnatural light!

Then a crying woman appeared. Pleading for her life as he leveled his gun at her. Children were crying for their murdered parents. Blood ran down the walls in his bedroom.

He couldn’t wake up. He knew he was asleep. That knowledge terrified him. Two men suddenly attacked him with billy clubs! He felt the blows and the pain shocked him. Then he was stumbling around in a graveyard, and saw a headstone with his name on it.

When he mercifully woke up the next morning he was trembling, sweaty, and angry. Moses didn’t say anything about nightmares. He wanted his money back.

But Moses wasn’t there. The hotel staff said there was no room number 13. It was an unlucky number. Didn’t he know that?

That night, to his utter horror, the dreams came back and most of them were bad.

As It Stands, there’s a fine line between dreams and nightmares.