I rouse to the sound of my name being spoken in the same manner as it has been for the last month, but I’m unsure if I’m really awake. The hallway is dark and the air feels cold and damp. My transitions between the waking world and this one are so blurred now I am unable to completely tell the difference. I find horrors in my sleep but they follow me into the waking world, giving me no real safe place to sort the jumble of thoughts, fears and concerns in my mind.
I slowly take to my feet and begin moving down the hallway. I have to find that ring which means I have to do the one thing I don’t want to do, which is confront the spirit of the black widow, Shelby. In my time suffering from this spectral affliction I’ve come to realize that when I’m moving in my dreams, I am also moving in the waking world. At least that’s the way I think it works. I also know things I do in my dreams have an effect on the real world, like the hole I dug in the wall in the basement. I also don’t have any control as to when I wake, so I have to act quickly in whatever plan of action I set myself to.
Right now, I’m pretty low on daring plans and clever ideas.
The hallway begins to break apart the further I walk down it, revealing a place I had been before. Disembodied hands of rotting flesh reach up from the mists surrounding me and pull away pieces of wall, floor and ceiling with cracking boards and crumbling plaster until I find myself standing on a patch of dead grass. I know this place by the bleeding red of the setting sun and the tangled, dead tree branches that reminded me of arteries. I’ve arrived at my grave again, but I still haven’t made the connection as to why I’m buried here. The pickaxe that I knew to be downstairs in the real world was sitting before me here and I begin to wonder if I haven’t been brought right back down there to finish the task this mind-breaking spirit is so intent on having me complete.
Instead of doing the thing that’s expected of me, I pick up the pickaxe and begin wandering the graveyard, studying the various tombstones situated here. I can’t make out any of the names because they’re blurred as mine was before, but I keep looking. Something here has to reveal the answer I’m looking for. The dead hands I saw tear apart the hallway are here too, lazily grasping at the sky but making no real headway to escape.
I pause in my stroll amongst the graves because I spot a mausoleum where I can make out the forms of a bride and groom facing away from me. They don’t see me and it looks like their heads are both lowered as they face each other. The dying light of the sun reveals the glint of a ring in the groom’s hands. I know that’s the ring I need, but I strive to understand what I’m seeing here, before I rush in and do something stupid. Am I looking at a past event, or am I looking at a haunting that’s doomed to repeat itself? Given the past history Helena had brought to my attention, I decide it’s the latter.
Just as I get it in my head to play wedding crasher with my pickaxe, I feel something snag my leg. One of the disembodied hands snared my ankle and while its singular grip wasn’t entirely difficult to shake, the other nearby hands grabbing at my feet and legs was proving to be something of a problem. With a wild howl that can only be produced by a man who has known no peace for a month, I begin hacking away at the grasping dead arms and now the heads of these unliving fiends as they emerge from the ground. I feel one of them sink its teeth into my calf, but rather than succumbing to the pain of it, I whirl my pickaxe around and land the spiked end squarely into the ear with a sickening sound of penetration. I am laughing and I know I shouldn’t be. There is an unsettling joy I am finding as bits of brain matter decorate the majority of my pant leg. I finally have something I can fight directly and its made me delirious with blood-lust.
After managing to hew a path through the restless dead, I begin to make my way towards the bride and groom at the mausoleum. There is no fear now, thanks to the invigoration I’ve felt from having an enemy I can fight. I need that ring to stop this torment I’ve been living through and to save the psychic I got tied up into this mess; I have to take it.
They don’t even see me coming or they simply do not care. As I close in upon them, I hear the very words written on the ring he’s sliding onto her finger and it only ignites my anger further. What has been bound cannot be unbound. What has been made cannot be unmade. So too it is with our love. I don’t hear the words aloud, but rather as an echo in my head that’s all ready filled with berserk fury. I don’t believe in those words and I don’t want to be part of this sick circle of perverse love anymore.
With a blood-curdling cry that would have made the vikings in my ancestry proud, I slammed the pickaxe squarely into the groom’s chest. I can feel the heavy iron point slow a bit as it bursts through his ribcage, but I don’t stop the swing until I see the point sticking out of his back. I release the farming tool and watch with no small measure of satisfaction as the groom hits the ground in a pool of his own spent life.
The bride’s face I cannot see behind the veil she wears, but she is silent, as if she were in shock to this turn of events. I really don’t ponder long at what I’m seeing because I know this is a dream and I know I need that ring. I see it where it has fallen in the dead grass; it seems strange to me that it could still shine and seem almost luminous amongst the drab backdrop of this graveyard and the mausoleum. I take the ring and then I hear the bride. She’s laughing and the world before me begins to fade.
* * * *
I wake up to the sound of my own laughter and I’m looking down at my own bloodied hands. My mind is racing to figure out what happened while I slept and why I’m hearing Helena screaming again. My eyes strain to focus and all I can see is blood and dirt. There’s an old man in front of me with the pickaxe buried in his chest. I feel myself start to hyperventilate as I begin to assemble the cruel truth to my dreaming. This is Carl Cartwright, the man who sold me the house. I must have either driven across town and brought him here, or lured him down here somehow. Helena can’t stop screaming. It’s echoing in my head between my own hysterical sobs. I can’t stop staring at the blood on my hands but Helena’s screaming is making it impossible for me to collect myself.
I see my own iPhone laying on the ground. I can see the numbers 911 gleaming in ocean blue on my screen. Did Helena call them or did Carl? Maybe I did. I don’t know but I hear voices behind me now and my hand is still resting on the handle of the pickaxe. I can’t understand the voices over Helena’s screaming. In a moment of clarity it all comes together like some sort of ghoulish jigsaw puzzle. The spectre of Shelby wanted her revenge for being buried alive down here and she got that revenge, through me. There was no way I could explain this to anybody in a way that would be considered remotely sane.
I also knew why I saw my gravestone before. It was an answer to a question that I wouldn’t ask until this very moment: How do I get out of this? I grasped the pickaxe with both hands and unleashed murderous cry onto the air. I saw pinpoints of light coming from the voices as I turned to face them with the pickaxe in my hand. I never completed the swing and for that, I was glad. Everything returned to a peaceful, soundless darkness.
I would now finally get the sleep I so desperately wanted.
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