Midnight. They always came at midnight. The chimes from the old grandfather clock in the den jolted Daniel out of his restless dreams. It wasn't the chimes that woke him so much as the knowledge that They were coming. It was the same horrifying ritual, every single night.
The room was illuminated by an eerie pale green glow. Three figures in haz-mat suits stood around his bed. One of them held a large briefcase, another held a gun, and the third--the apparent leader, from the way he acted--was making entries into a large handheld computer. Daniel tried to escape, to run, to even move, but some unseen force held him in place, as immobile as the bed itself. The leader looked up from his computer and signaled to the one holding the briefcase, who set the case down and began to open it. Daniel strained to see its contents, but couldn't from his position. If only he could move...
The leader reached forward, grabbed the bedcovers and--
The shrill blast of Daniel's alarm clock filled the room. He'd had that dream again, the same one he'd been having every night for nearly a month. Except that it didn't feel like a normal dream. It felt more like a memory, but one that had been partially forgotten. Anyway, Dan had more important things to worry about, so he pushed whatever it was aside for the moment. Today was the last day of school, finally. All he had to do was survive his last few final exams, and he'd be home free. He wasn't about to let a creepy dream get him down.
Dr. DiCaoz glanced over his biology classroom. "Is anybody still working on the final?" he asked tiredly. He paused for a moment, then said, "If everybody is finished, you may talk quietly amongst yourselves for the remainder of the period." As the class erupted in chatter, he went back to nursing his hangover.
Daniel loved his biology class. It wasn't just that he was good at it, or that it was the last class of the day. By some bit of luck or fate, he happened to be in the same class as his four closest friends, Gassan, David, Pammy, and Jake. Gassan, David, and Pammy had become absurdly popular since coming to high school. Gassan was Lebanese and therefore "exotic," David was a star swimmer, and Pammy was a cheerleader. In retrospect, popularity was an inevitability. To the other popular kids, Jake an avid follower of the Furry subculture (he called it a craze, but nobody else did) and Daniel, the introspective writer, were social liabilities. Still, Gassan, David, and Pam never let their newfound "friends" keep them away from Jake and Dan. Privately, Daniel was grateful that he had managed to befriend the four people who appeared to be immune to high school drama.
"So, what'd you guys think?" Pammy whispered.
"I'm pretty sure Dr. Di is a nutcase," Gassan answered quickly. He was met with a chorus of approval from his companions.
"Anyway," Pam continued, "are we having our annual Thank-God-The-Schoolyear's-Over party tonight?"
"I can't go," Jake said, "I've got a convention."
"I can't go either," said David, "My dad's taking me camping. He's on a back-to-nature kick."
"I'm visiting my grandma," Gassan said. Pammy rolled her eyes.
"Alright," she sighed, "when do you guys get back?"
"Sunday, but it'll be late."
"So," Pammy continued, "is Monday night alright with everyone?"
The days passed quickly. By the time Monday arrived, he had gone an entire weekend without his mysterious dreams. He was mostly relieved, but part of him wished the visitors would come back so he could find out what they were up to.
The streets were charged with an eerie calm. A summer storm was coming. As Daniel reached Pam's door, he couldn't help but feel a strange foreboding. Something was decidedly wrong. He rang the bell.
"Come in," called Pammy. Dan opened the door and found friend sitting on the floor in a tidy circle. They were all staring at him, an unsettling hunger in their eyes. "We are playing Truth or Dare," Pammy intoned mechanically. "Please, join us. Truth or Dare?"
"Please choose Dare," Gassan said, in the same unearthly voice.
"The Truth is never any fun," agreed David, still in the same tone. Throughout the exchange, none of the four took their eyes off of Daniel.
"Is everything alright?" he asked. "You all seem...different."
Pammy answered in the same monotone as before: "We are collectively unnerved at a series of recurring dreams we have been having. Perhaps you too are experiencing these visions?"
"Yeah," Dan said, "but I'm not acting that weird about it."
"Perhaps," Pammy said, "All will be made more clear if you answer this simple question: Truth...or Dare?"
Written by Zodiac on 31 May 2008
“Dare,” Daniel said as he stepped into the living room, looking around Pammy’s house. Things seemed off. The circle of his friends sat, all eyes on him. He eyed around the house, the others so very, very still. There was silence. It was almost tangible in the air, as Daniel walked around the group of them, Pammy, Jake, Gassan, and David, he felt their eyes on him.
The game of Truth or Dare seemed innocent enough, but the events leading to it, the empty streets, the blank stares that met him from his friends, made him almost regret having said it.
“You have to go outside and bark like a dog.” Gassan said, blinking those soulful brown eyes of his, a false smile crept across his face. “You have to do this for a minute.”
Daniel nodded as he walked outside and rolled his eyes. This was ridiculous, he had just agreed to it almost on instinct. The street he and his friends all lived on was still so very barren, no people in cars, no one outside, nothing.
“Guys, this is stupid, I’m not going to play,” was what Daniel meant to say. However, upon exiting the house, and breathing in the faint mist and fog that clung to the neighborhood like a glove, sent a shivering sensation down his throat. It was cold like menthol, and burned ever so slightly, like diluted mouthwash. When Daniel opened his mouth to speak, only canine growls and barks emerged from his lips and throat. His hands shot to his throat and he screamed, or rather, howled. The words just were not coming, and no matter how he tried to manipulate his speech, all the came out was barking.
Daniel blinked and looked at the closed door, hearing someone lock it from inside. “You have to go outside and bark like a dog. You have to do it for a minute.” echoed in his mind. He growled, still worrisome, but as he counted and reached near a minute, he felt that cooling stinging sensation go over his throat again, and in mid growl he felt his vocal chords stretch in his throat and his human speech was returned to him.
Daniel ran towards the door and as he went to pound on it, it swung open, Gassan’s face visible behind it. Daniel stopped himself short before heading back in, Gassan following behind him. The rest were still seated as they had been, staring blankly forward, Gassan joining them shortly thereafter. Pammy moved slightly to the right, giving Daniel some space to sit with them.
“Truth or Dare has been a significant bit of fun today, Daniel.” Jake said, staring forward before turning his head to meet his gaze. “It’s your turn, buddy.”
Written by Jack Ripper on 26 November 2015
Daniel looked around the group of friends, “Ok, I want to ask Truth or Dare of all of you, all at once.” His mind was racing, taking in the events of the last few moments. The mist outside, the strange fugue state his friends were in, it was making an odd sort of sense. He looked down and then across at all of them, “Afterwords, I’ll do the same for you.”
They all looked at one another, and then nodded in unison. “Very well,” they said, speaking as one, “Dare.”
Daniel stood up and opened the windows to the living room, letting the fog roll in, the light mist from outside chilling the already well air conditioned parlor.
“I dare you all, to snap out of it, and to stay snapped out of whatever’s got your minds muddled.”
Pammy, Jake, David and Gassan turned their heads to the left, as they breathed in the mist, and then began to yell and clutch their hands to their temples. Daniel shook, his friends in obvious pain, but soon they leaned forward only to throw their heads back and yell before going limp on the floor.
Pammy was the first to awaken, sitting up and holding her head. “What happened..? How’d you all get in here?”
Daniel ran to her and helped her to her feet as the others began to stir. “All I know is know is, I woke up and my house was empty, the streets were silent and I came here to see if you all were alright. You were like drones and wanted me to play Truth or Dare with you. Gassan dared me to bark like a dog, and,” he paused, grabbing her by the shoulders and looking her in the eye, “I swear to you, my voice CHANGED into a dog’s voice. It happened when I was outside, and there’s this crazy mist. I think it has something to do with it.”
Pammy moaned, her temples aching. “What about us?”
“I dared you all to snap out of it, it seemed to work, although I don’t think it was supposed to do that. It’s probably why it stings. I bent the rules of whatever it was.”
“You were always good at finding the plotholes in things.”
Daniel smiled, “I’m a writer, it’s sorta what I do.”
“Well, you’ll have a hell of a story to tell with this one.”
Written by Jack Ripper on 30 November 2015
Jake soon sat up, listening in on the conversation. He’d been an avid fan of the “furry fandom” for some time, it giving him a slight social stigma, but his friends stuck with him, not caring about it. Hell, it was becoming a bit mainstream anymore these days. He stood up, his shoulder length black hair fell in front of his face. Wiping it back with the back of his left hand, he let out a grunt from the pounding in his mind.
“What. The. Hell.” Jake murmured, blinking rapidly until light and shadow stopped doing their best to impersonate a kaleidoscope in his vision. Gravity was the next obstacle to conquer, along with the control of his limbs but soon he was standing and looking at Pammy and Daniel.
It was Daniel who ran over to steady Jake as he had a moment of vertigo, guiding him to a chair. “Whoa, there man. I’ve got ya.” Daniel looked to Pammy, gesturing to David and Gassan, who were still in the throes of headache and coming to. “Go get them some water, I’ll try my best to make sure they’re doing ok.”
Pammy nodded, running off towards the kitchen, her voice calling out from the other room, “Wait a second, where are my parents?!” She stormed back in, putting a pitcher of water, chilled from the refrigerator and a handful of red plastic cups on the coffee table, looking imploringly at Daniel.
He put his hands up, in a half-self defeating way, “I just got here, I literally have 3 minutes more experience than the rest of you lot. Hell, go check the rooms. Jake, you stay here and make sure David and Gassan are OK. I’m going to head to my place and see if my folks are there or not.”
Jake nodded, his trembling hands spilling a bit of the water on his khaki cargo shorts. “You got it man, you can count on me.”
Written by Jack Ripper on 02 December 2015
Jake nodded, his trembling hands spilling a bit of the water on his khaki cargo shorts. “You got it man, you can count on me.”
Daniel grinned and opened the door, seeing the fog rolling in thicker down the street. Down the neighborhood was his house, if there was something dangerous about the fog, he could probably beat it to his place, but getting back was going to be a problem. It seemed fairly innocuous, if it’s abilities to warp reality weren’t triggered. He looked both ways down the street and made a dash for home. His years of getting picked on, regardless of his friendship with two of the most popular kids in school had given him a one hundred meter dash that could have placed him on the Track and Field team in High School. He ran, the wind and light fog whipping past him and cutting through his hair, moistening it with its dew. The fog was rolling in, tangible in the air, drifting and tumbling over itself as it spilled down the road when he reached his front door, twisting the knob and finding it still unlocked. He slipped in and slammed it shut, locking and deadbolting it, then systematically slamming every window closed, trying to prevent any of the fog from reaching the inside of the house.
“Mom?! Dad?! You home?!” He called out as he ran from room to room, securing the windows and checking for any signs of his parents. Bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, basement, everything turned up empty. Daniel screamed, tears welling up as he ran around, checking the garage, seeing the family car still there. If anything he knew a way of getting around town, or out of it. He hung his head, wherever his family was, moping around and not doing anything wasn’t going to help them come back. He strode to his room and grabbed his cell phone, calling Pammy, glad that whatever the fog was, it wasn’t hindering reception.
Written by Jack Ripper on 06 December 2015
“Hello?” Pammy’s voice quivered, the sounds of the others heard muffled in the background.
“Hey, my parents aren’t here. The fog is pretty thick, but I’ve got the car, I can come over there in it.”
“My parents are gone, too. The others have tried calling their families and nothing. IT’s like we’re the only ones How? If that stuff can change people, I don’t wanna let it in the house.”
“Listen to me, do you have a box fan anywhere?” Daniel said, a plan forming in his mind’s eye.
“Yeah, how come?”
“Ok, plug it in in your garage, have it blowing air OUT. I’m going to drive over, open the door for me, and close it behind me. I’ll wait about 10 minutes for the fan to blow any fog back out the window before I come in. It’s the best bet we have.”
“OK. Will do.”
“Listen, I can bring over supplies if need be, anything you all need?”
“I think we’re good on food, but extra won’t hurt especially if we’re going to be in here for the time being.”
“Ask everyone else what they want. I’ll see what I can get. Got a bunch of stuff in our basement.”
There was the telltale shuffling of ear and cheek against the microphone of the cellphone, as Pammy called out to David, Gassan, and Jake. A traditional rumble of late teenage unsure desperation was echoed back, as after a few moments David suggested that Daniel bring as much food as he could, in the event that they were stuck at Pammy’s for an indefinite period of time. Gassan had suggested candles, and anything that might help for camping, should they need to leave the neighborhood, finding a place where the fog hadn’t reached yet. Money was something none of them had much of, but Daniel made a point of grabbing the emergency credit cards, in the event things got out of hand. Finally, it came to Jake, who chuckled.
“Hell, the others got all the good ideas, if you find the girl of my dreams, bring her here?” Jake asked nervously, if facetiously.
Daniel laughed and shook his head as he prepared to descend into the basement. He hung up the phone, put it on its charger and and located a few reusable shopping bags. His plan of action was food first, near the entryway of the basement, then the camping gear and emergency supplies near the back, and a final run through of the house before getting back. He took a final look through the window, the fog obscuring the outside world, not even able to see halfway across his front yard now. Back through the kitchen and down into the basement he went, an odd almost licorice taste in the air. He shook his head as he gathered up canned goods, making sure to pack the can opener as well. Three full bags of canned goods and non perishables made their way into the trunk of the car. With each trip, and venturing further in, that odd anise taste thickened. Bittersweet, it hung cloy on the tongue as Daniel smacked his lips. Concentrating on filling the car with as many items as he could, knowing Pammy was prepping her garage for his arrival. Soon he was gathering up the camping gear, tents and single use alcohol burners, things they might need if the power went out. Candles, sleeping bags, and various sundries soon filled the trunk of the car.
Written by Jack Ripper on 07 December 2015