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.

Moonshine Mayhem in McKinleyville

Moonshining

Circa 1950, The Arcata Union Newspaper

Mystery Murders in McKinleyville Continue

“Locals say the horrific murders are happening during full moons and claim it’s an ancient Yurok curse.

This reporter was unable to get anyone in town to go on the record about the supposed curse.

All that’s known for sure is the victims were all horribly mutilated. County coroner reports have been consistent in the analysis that it was probably a wild animal attacking people.”

McKinleyville is a small town that proudly harkens back to its early pioneer days and independent citizens. A sign posted, as you come into town over the hill, says, “McKinleyville – Where Horses Have The Right of Way.”

It was a quiet unincorporated town without its own police force. The city fathers contracted with the County of Humboldt for protection.

As can be imagined, response times were often slow when an emergency happened in Mack Town (what the locals called it) because it was located 21 miles north. Residents of McKinleyville did their best to solve their own problems.

Grandpa Zeke was a moonshiner. His whiskey took the paint off metal, but was popular throughout the county. His still, set up east of the populated area of Mack Town, was a hand-me-down from his father.

The old man came into town every Sunday to sell his Hooch to the church-going husbands who bought his whiskey after church services were over, in a back alley. Children loved him because he was always telling tall tales.

Four months after the brutal murders began Zeke started showing up in town every night at the local bar. It became the talk of the small community. Old Zeke was buying commercial whiskey instead of drinking his own product.

Even more puzzling, Zeke wasn’t talking with anyone. He sat at a small table alone. After drinking steadily for an hour, or more, Zeke would start babbling gibberish about werewolves and moonshine not mixing very well.

The town fathers became concerned when the owner/bartender, Bob Goldswaith, told them about Zeke’s recent drinking habit during a town meeting. It was decided that two of them would have a talk with old Zeke the next time he came to town.

They found Zeke the next night drinking at Bob Goldswaith’s bar. The old man was well into his cups when they greeted him.

Zeke…how are you doing old friend?” one man asked.

“Are you okay? I never saw you come to this bar in my life,” the second man asked, with a touch of concern in his voice.

Zeke looked at the two town fathers. He knew them well. They were among some of his best customers. “You boys will think I’m crazy if I tell you what’s happening,” he drunkenly replied.

“No! Not, at all!” they protested.

Zeke poured some whisky from the bottle in the middle of the table and invited them to pull up a chair.

“About four months ago some fella showed up at my still. Said he was looking for a safe place to stay in the woods. I said, safe from what? Myself, he said. Well, I can tell you right now, I thought that sounded odd.

“Said his name was Walt. No last name. I told him there were plenty of places to stay. I showed him a redwood that a natural hidey hole at the base. He thanked me and I went back to my still.

“The next day, I was sampling my latest batch of moonshine when Walt showed up. He asked if he could have a snort and I handed him a cup. Then another. Pretty soon he was getting lit up and telling me stories about his life.

“I was getting tired when the moon came out and Walt jumped to his feet and howled like a wolf! For a brief moment I thought that was the damnist reaction I’d ever seen from my Hooch!

“When he started getting hairy and dropped to all fours, I got up and ran like a buck chasing a doe in heat! 

“Ran all the way to my cabin and sat there in the dark shaking like a leaf.”

Both men had skepticism edged on their faces, but one still asked, “So, what happened next?” 

Zeke picked up the bottle and took a healthy swig.

“Nothing. Nothing else happened that night. About a month later Walt showed up as I was tending my still. We stared at each other a long time before he apologized for scaring me. Said he was a werewolf, but did his best not to kill folks, just animals.

“I wasn’t sure what to do, so I offered him a drink. He gladly accepted. We talked until the full moon came out and he ran off howling again.

“It wasn’t until the third time that I saw Walt, that I suspected he was killing people. By then it had become routine. He’d come by on full moons to swig my moonshine and murder my neighbors.

“So, I did the only thing I could, and destroyed my still and my whole stash of moonshine. It was apparent Walt could’nt hold his liquor and got murderous when he drank it. That was three weeks ago.

“The next full moon is coming up tomorrow night. Recon we’ll see if my plan worked out and Walt went back to catching animals instead of humans.”

As It Stands, what could be worse than a drunk werewolf?