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
Dan can’t decide so quickly between the two relatively simple options, “Truth or Dare?” so instead he hesitates instead. He sucked in a breath. He felt the wind of the breath wash over his bottom front teeth and gather in the back of your throat. He paused for a second, holding that air while he thought before it all puttered out from between his lips. That one breath already helped him feel calmer, more in control in this bizarre situation.
Then, he started to fidget where he sat. One hand jostled over his knee, bouncing and picking at the skin before he started to shift on his butt, trying to delay the decision by getting comfortable instead.
“After all, I just got here! I gotta get comfortable first!” he convinced himself, mentally conversing back and forth between his two halfs.
He looked around the room, trying to avoid responding just yet. He needed more time still to process why everyone was being so weird. He looked out past the circle of his friends, all seated in a uniform shape. He looked past their unnerving stare and instead into the setting itself. It was a living room, the classic size with windows on either side of the corner. Though, curtains hid them from the outside world and blocked out any remaining strands of light that may have otherwise snuck in and illuminated the dim space. The walls were plain, bearing almost no design on the darkened shade of wallpaper. The furniture too was oddly the same, nothing seems to stand out. Nothing was old enough to cause disgust, but nothing was new enough to impress. The colors were all the same dark, dull shades that seemed to meld back into the wall. It was as if everything was made with the same design plate.
“It’s all so drab...” he murmured, only to himself as he eyed the furniture closer, noting that it was at least a modern design and the room was clean, though all cast in a dim, somber shade that aged it.
Squinting a bit, he searched for anything that stood out in the otherwise were dull scene. Then, gaze falling, he spotted something that seemed to sparkle out from the otherwise matte flatness of the room. There, on the zipper of Pammy’s backpack, ignored against the back wall something caught his eye.
Focusing, he saw the tag on her keychain featured a glittering unicorn charm. It looked so delicate, almost as thought it could be made of glass the way it glistened suspended there. Dan couldn’t help but stare at it for a long second before he suddenly gave a shrug and met Patty’s eyes. “Dare.”
Pammy doesn’t seemed surprised by the response, instead, she smiles calmly like she knew what he’d pick. Then, she gestures to the center of the circle where a glass of a thick, glinting, pearlescent liquid sits.
“Was that there before?” His brows furrowed together. He couldn’t imagine that he’d missed it when scanning the room, but how else could it have gotten there all a sudden?
“Your dare is to drink” his friend said tonelessly. She showed none of the usual excitement when administering a dare, but just let the words fall, dull and monotone from her lips. Dan crinkled his brows further. He couldn’t puzzle out what the game was here, but instead, he leaned towards the glass.
Plucking it up from the carpet, he inspected this daring object. It seemed harmless enough. It was in a plain glass with a faint sweet tinge wafting up from the contents. The liquid inside seemed thicker than a typically beverage. Instead of sloshing inside the walls of the container, it instead seemed to ooze inside.
Tipping it towards himself, Dan’s eyes scanned the surface of the thick liquid. The smell hit his nostrils, which flared at the sweet though faintly fruity aroma. Breathing deeper, the undertones seemed to bring with florally smells. “That’s weird...” he thought, though nothing about the beverage screamed danger. So, tipping the glass, he allowed the contents to begin to slide down over his tongue.
Barely any flavor crossed his pallette with the first gulp and with the second, the glass emptied. Setting the glass down, his brows knit again. “Was that even a dare?” he asked allowed, waiting for some signal from his stomach that they’d hidden something gross inside a mask of pleasant sweetness, but nothing came. It was though he’d only had a sip of water.
But then, suddenly, the room seemed to shift. The objects all seemed to shrink before his eyes. Dan blinked, trying to clear through any effect of that drink. Suddenly thinking it may have been spiked, he turned to his friends, but they seemed so much shorter than him suddenly.
“Guys? What is happening?” he asked, confusion clouding his mind before suddenly, his balance seemed to shift. Everything seemed off. The room wasn’t balanced and a discomfort began to flood his body. His bones seemed to be cracking. His entire body seemed to be shifting, flooded with alien sensations, but then, everything went black.
Written by Picklessauce69 on 23 April 2016
“Ugh... What happened?” Dan’s eyes fluttered open only to see his friends across the room. Everyone hunched close together, playing a game of cards. Trying to stand, Dan suddenly stumbled back onto the carpeting. Something felt off. Instantly, instinct told him that something wasn’t right with his body.
His eyes dropped, and suddenly, his breath caught in his throat. His eyes landed on something her certainly couldn’t explain away and he didn’t know how to take it all in. As he looked down at his body splayed across the carpet, he saw not the average lanky body of a youthful male human with his two legs stretched out towards one wall away from him and his arms resting lazily on his chest.
Instead though, he saw the body of a horse. Four legs, all tipped to the side and cast in a glimmering white fur splayed out from the wide mid section of the torso, of his torso? Dan couldn’t even process the sight, but when he twitched his leg, one silvery hoof moved in response. When he began to try to stand, the two back legs of the horse in his vision began to shift and grapple with the ground.
“What did that drink do to me?”
His eyes shifted across the room only to catch his reflection in a dusty mirror mounted beside him. He stared into his own eyes, the familiar hues of his own gaze, but set into the long face of a horse. He blinked, tipping his head as he realized, mounted atop his forehead sat a woven, glisten pearlescent horn.
“There’s no way this is even real!” he thought to himself, searching out his friends where they sat in the corner of the room, playing a game of cards with none of the usual fan fare or excitement, but only silent companionship. He stared at them, then back at the glistening brightness of the horn atop his head. Nothing added up. It wasn’t right.
He’s baffled, but realizes he has to do something with this. Should he confront his friends since they were here? They gave him the drink! But his friend were here, they let this happen. Maybe it’s not best to go to them again. This is freaky, he should just get out. Flee
Written by Picklessauce69 on 24 April 2016
“I gotta just get out of here!” He didn't hesitate another second. Instead, he just stumbled around in a circle and started towards the door. He stumbled, unsure how to wield this form. The legs felt like they were going to tangle together. But, slowly, he began to understand how they worked together.
Hitting the pavement, Dan looked one way and then the other, struggling to pick a direction when he had no goal in mind. But, before he truly decided, a group of children spotted him with a chorus of awed gasps. “A pony!”
“No! A unicorn!”
“Magical!” They all hurried towards him, laying gentle hands on his flank, petting curious and gentle. They swarmed all around Dan, the little girl’s eyes all huge on their small, heart-shaped faces.
“Wow! It’s a real unicorn!”
“T-their hah-horns are s-s-supuh-possed to be mah-magical!” One girl stammered, stuttering out the sounds with a slowing impediment. Dan bent, captivated with the wonder he saw on these girl’s faces. As the horn lowered, the shy, stuttering girl reached out, running a hand along it’s length over the woven cords of hard pearly, horn.
“Legend says they heal things.” Dan blinked, looking to check it was the same girl. It was, yet her voice held none of the same limitations.
“Did I do that?” he thought, suddenly amazed with this form he’d woken up in.
One girl, lingering back, rushed up to him at the sight of this miracle. “M-Mr. Corn! It’s true! You’re magic! You have to help me!” She requested shyly, but with hope ringing out in her voice. “My momma’s sick. You have to heal her too!”
Dan looked down, drinking in the sight of her huge, hopeful eyes peering up at him like he held all the world in his palm. His heart ached for her, the way so much hope rested solely on him, but what could it hurt to go try? Maybe the magic was real, but she’s just a girl and the first girl could have been some placebo or just happenstance. He has answers to go find!
Written by Picklessauce69 on 26 April 2016
As much as he’d love to help some little girl, he’d to get her hopes up just to see it all get dashed when it didn’t work. Plus, he had a mission to figure this out for himself already. He gave a slow shake of his long snout, side to side. For a moment, the girl just stared, but then she nodded. “I understand... Unicorns must have lots of people to save...” Then, she started off down the pavement, pausing only once to glance over her shoulder back at him before she carried on.
Feeling terrible, Dan pauses, standing on the pavement. He know he needs to go someplace else, but where? Where does one go when they are suddenly a unicorn? His mind ran through the list of local businesses he usually frequented, none of them seemed to hold an answer.
Usually, when in trouble, he turned to his friends but they were all back in the house. He’d already left there, and didn’t intend to go back. But, he realized, who else is always there when someone is in trouble? Mom and Dad! He could go home!
Though, just as he pictured his familiar, suburban home, he realized another popular place for finding the right information! The library! With it’s comforting brick walls and age old librarians, there’s sure to be information there, at least something, about unicorn transformation.
Written by Picklessauce69 on 28 April 2016
Head to the Library
The library holds all the answers! No matter the comfort home might offer, he realized that true answers had to come from study. Heading off at an awkward, unsure trot, Dan started towards the familiar, brick building.
Passing through the front doors, it only took a moment before a librarian approached though instead of up and away from her face, her wild black hair spilled over her shoulders. “You have come” she said, eyes wide, yet somehow listless.
Confused, but captivated, Dan followed her into a backroom at the direction of a beckoning hand. “I am knowing” she stated, revealing she was some version of a wizardess or prophet, though Dan still felt a vague sense of confusion overlaying his entire brain with each additional moment on this strange day.
“You are confused, child.”
His head bobbed.
“I understand.” She pulled out a heavy book, its yellowed pages covered in a strange script. “You have not been told. It began long before the world was the world as we know. Back, back far ago there became a dark force. The dark force was born of the hate and cruelty of humans, those who would abuse a child or burn a woman for belief. The dark force birthed from our humanity and in return, will feast upon it. It has a hunger, that unsated, would eat the world once more. But, if kept at bay, it will allow humanity to live on.”
“To sate its hunger, few are chosen out of the many. Those chosen must be swallowed by the dark force to keep the world safe. But, legend has said that the sacrifice of one such child of the few, willingly taken on, will change them into an enchanted. That being can protect the chosen, letting the dark force feed on the power instead of the chosen. But, if left unprotected, the children will be taken.”
“Wait? Taken? Killed? Eaten? W-were my friends the chosen?” Dan’s thoughts all clashed together, but the woman seemed to simply know. Her hands moved slowly over to a shelf where she unveiled a glossy, glass globe. A crystal ball. “Show me, glass. Show me the chosen.”
As the crystal suddenly began to depict a cloudy scene, Dan recognized the same dim room he’d left. His friends all sat, once again playing cards, though no one laid any hands. Instead, they all just stared at the shapes, mindlessly. Then, all of a sudden, an invisible force tore through the room. The motion of the curtains fluttered like mad while the lights crashed on and off, bursting a light bulb across the room.
Then, one by one, the limbs of each child was torn away from their bodies. The spray of blood showed in the flashes of the pulsating lights. No sound escaped the ball, but Dan could see how their mouths silently howled out as something, something unseen, tore them apart and then, right in front of his gaze, finished them down to bare bones.
“Oh my God! W-what was that? That was the dark force? I’m the thing? I’m the thing! What can I do!? How do I use this? What do I do?”
The woman, suddenly somber, merely shook her head. “I’m sorry, chosen. It’s too late. They were... already devoured.” She placed one wrinkled hand upon his shoulder, and he felt it’s weight there gently patting. “Poor soul. Your friends... cannot be, but many are in need of help. Perhaps, it will ease your pain to seek out those.”
Following her words that day, Dan fell silently into a path to the Children’s Hospital. Joyous cries welcomed him, but he heard only the imagined screams of his friends as their flesh was ripped straight from the bone beneath. Tears streamed down smiling faces as broken bones were knitted and cancer withered away, but Dan saw only Patty clinging to her own leg, trying to hold the stretching ligaments together. Bed after bed, he healed the sickest children in each hospital, but his mind only replayed what he saw in that globe that day.
And all his life, no matter how much joy he saw, nothing erased that single day when he left his friends to die.
Written by Picklessauce69 on 30 April 2016
The end (for now)