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
It was a cloudy day at Stonehill college; there were rumours of rain and thunderstorms, but at the moment, nothing was happening, for the sky seemed to be waiting for something to happen. Perhaps it was the will of the heavens that the sky would be crying on that day...
It didn't seem to bother a student, which was lying against a wall, pondering the events that happened recently; perhaps his friends could help him understand, but for now, what could he do? Without them, he was powerless, a simple figure in the massive crowds.
His name was Daniel. He was a normal guy; one could assume he was a bit of a geek or a dork, but to tell the truth, he was just a regular student, one that blended in the masses without making any difference at all. It wasn't a trait that he was proud of, but it saved him several times, giving him a better appreciation of it. This could shape his destiny, one day.
Of a pale complexion, he was an average height, standing out of the crowd sometime with his jet black hair. A quiet fellow, he learned to respect the equilibrium of the environment that educated him, a force that surpassed him. There was no point in facing such odds for no purpose, for he wouldn't win anything out of it.
He learned with time that there was no point in disrupting the natural balance in college; if one would try to destroy it, it would be engulfed by the forces supporting it. But this wasn't an element he cared much about; he had friends and this was enough for him to forget about that sort of thing.
There was Gassan, the foreign exchange student from Lebanon; although he wasn't the most pleasant person all the time, he was still a pleasant friend. But sometime he was to follow and understand; Gassan blamed the cultural differences between, but Daniel had the impression that there was something else behind it. Perhaps a trip to Lebanon could help him understand his situation, but it wasn't an element he cared about, for there more important elements to care about.
To his surprise, he was also the friend of David, the popular kid. Him, the one that sought the peace and the tranquility that being unknown could provide, was on friendly terms with one that ran for the lights, that lived for the crowds. Perhaps it was the fact that they were antithesis that attracted each other, or perhaps it was something else, but for the moment, nobody could deny their relation.
With David came Pammy, the cool girl of the school; although they weren't hanging out together usually, popularity and coolness were elements that walked hand in hand, making their fate intertwined. He cared little about her passions, but she was still excellent company; that was all he needed, unless there was a reason for him to change his mind...
And there was Jake, the weirdo. He called himself a furry, but David had the impression that was simply a cover up for something else. But since he kept it to himself and was nice the rest of the time, he couldn't let him down; he was a great confidant, one that he could trust.
As different as they were, they formed a solid team, one that could face any difficulty and overcome it; all he needed to do was to find them and tell about what happened, to see if they would be able to help. That would be a gamble, though; they were friends, but that didn't mean that they wouldn't spread any rumors around or give him terrible advice.
But since nobody would believe him, he placed his trust in those that were close to him; perhaps they had a reasonable explanation concerning the events that took place last night, although there was a chance that they knew nothing about it.
He expected them to be hanging away from the college, near an arcade or a deli; to see them waiting in the back of the buildings, looking at the horizon without saying anything made him wonder if something happened. At least, they were quite easy to find; it was a blessing mixed with a potential curse, for he had the impression that there was an element troubling them, for they never had the tendency to stay in place, doing nothing else than look at nature, letting silence overwhelm them. Perhaps there were indeed something going on and he should retreat before it would be late...
But what kind of friend would he be, leaving them when they could need his help? What sort of despicable behavior could he be able to justify? He could pretend that this never happened, lie to himself and never aboard the subject again, but he had the impression that this would come back to haunt him later.
Written by zanian on 17 June 2014
He decided to approach them, to see what was troubling them; perhaps it wasn't the time to discuss the issue he was facing, for he had the feeling that their problem was bigger than a mere inconvenience. There always were other times to do it, if he would remember about it that is; as time would pass, he would probably forget about it, making him realize that this was just a minor problem...
As he advanced toward them, they stayed silent, a sign that made him nervous; it was the first time that they didn't greet him when he was in sight. Perhaps he could leave them to their plans, so he would be able to avoid a troublesome situation and an engagement that could place his situation into a troublesome situation. He would face guilt, but it was a small price to pay for a tranquility of mind, until it would be back to haunt him later in his life.
He wanted to talk, but revise his tentative when he saw that one of his friend was about to do the same; although he wasn't sure what was going on lately, he was sure that this announcement of sorts would casts some lights on the situation. He kept his hopes up; if he would indulge in gloom, then there would be no point in staying there and waiting for the situation to unfold, for he would be able to predict what would happen next anyway.
``Recently, there was some strange events that happened when I was asleep; I'm not sure how to describe them or why they are happening, but I know that what happened is real and cannot be blamed on a hallucination or a sleep deprivation'' said David, looking around, as if a hidden person was listening to him.
He wondered why his friend acted in such a way; it wasn't like him to be suspicious and nervous like that. But as the subject he mentioned was the same he wanted to discuss; was it a coincidence or fate that played a cruel trick on him, giving him the same destiny as his college?
``Before you ask questions; yes, I did call the authorities and inspected my house. There was a chance that the incident was nothing more than the wind, or an animal or even a burglar, trying its luck at my place, but it wasn't the case. Nothing was stolen and the report from the police was negative; I want to add that they were unhelpful with the case, as if this was more of a nuisance than anything else. Perhaps there is something there too'' David told them, as he looked around once again, as if unknown forces were spying on them at the moment.
But he agreed that the description of the situation, as vague as it was, was close to what he lived recently; of course, David could have made the story up, to play a joke on them, but the fact that he was acting in such a way was mining the credibility of such a theory. Or perhaps it was an elaborate ploy, one that was beyond his capacities; either way, he would stick around...
``You know David, I didn't want to talk about this, but it seems like I lived the same experience not so long ago. I don't remember much of it, for it was late in the deep of the night, but I remember a presence in my room, one that I couldn't explain. At first, I thought it was one of my parents that went into my room, to check if I was asleep or something like that; not that it was reassuring, but at least, I could have explained the sensation. As creepy as it could have been, it wasn't the case; they are protective, but not to that extreme, for they were sleeping that night. I decided then to look around, determined on finding the tracks of a potential home invader or burglar, but it was pointless; there was nothing to be found, no items were missing and no prints were left. Perhaps it was just the work of my fevered imagination, but I could swear that there was something in the room, looking at me...'' said Gassam, taking a moment of silence as he finished his sentence.
Again, the coincidence where strange, almost planned, as if someone wanted to send a particular message; but that would be indulging in some low level conspiracies and paranoia thought Daniel, as he tried to remember what happened that night. Perhaps if he focused on the events enough, he would be able to remember a crucial element, one that could change the entire scenario.
But would he be capable of such a feat, while the rest of his friends were trying to remember the events that took place during the night, creating an impressive tapestry. If he would have paid attention to it, he would have realized that all the stories were similar, as if an entity was pulling the string behind it, creating the perfect illusion to lure them in; but that wasn't his priority, for the moment.
Written by zanian on 24 June 2014
There was a strange memory that seemed to be floating in his mind; could it be a remain of his night, a dream that never saw an end? Or was it something else, an element that could have an importance in understanding the situation?
It was blurry, imprecise at best; a remnant of a dream or nightmare, it was still vivid, too alive to be a simple creation of his mind. He had the memory of a strange being roaming his bedroom, looking everywhere, as if it was searching for something.
It was a beast, one that defied his imagination; perhaps it was just his subconscious trying to pass him a message, but he wasn't a fan of these interpretations. It would be too easy to deny what happened, or maybe he was just scared to admit that life was just bland, a passage before he would grow up and go search a job, entering the market like the rest of his colleagues. It was a reasonable fear, but it wouldn't make sense that it was the reason to cause such an interpretation. There was another reason, one that made more sense...
One that could explain why his friends were also affected by this situation; perhaps he should stop trying to figure out extreme explanations on a situation that didn't need them in the first place. Life was not always a path of thorns, made to destroy those that crossed it; a black and white vision that wasn't productive in this situation.
He wanted to think beyond this limitation, to see the world for what it was; sometime, there were elements that escaped one's logic, even though there was an urge for it to triumph over such odds. Perhaps he shouldn't indulge in nonsense, but what he saw was real...
He wasn't sure if his friends saw the same thing as he did, but when he heard that they wanted to go to a specific area, to clear the story up, he became suspicious; if this was a simple dream or a hallucination, then why did they have that common goal? Perhaps it was a way to cope, or way to change their mind, but there was something odd with it.
``In the event, I remember hearing about a strange area, in a forest, one that could solve this dilemma; perhaps it is just an illusion, just a figment of my imagination, but there was something troubling about it, as if it was calling me. One could believe that it was a sign of a greater event to happen, but I have the conviction that it is a clue, one that we should follow. But to do so, we will name a volunteer, for we cannot all go there together; perhaps we could vote on that matter, letting the group decide. Or we could let the abilities choose for us, so we would have a best chance of achieving success'' said Gassam, looking around, and then stopping his gaze on him. What could this mean? Was this a ploy to make him think that there would be a chance that he wouldn't be picked? Cursed be his foolhardiness; people always believed that he was prone to foolish acts, uncaring about the possible consequences of his actions. A false perception that would lead him to his demise one day, but for now it was a painful reminder of his past behavior.
Written by zanian on 01 July 2014
``Why do I have the feeling that I would be the one picked for this task? Maybe I would like to do other actions than to risk my life running around, picking up the shattered remains of gambles and dreams that were scattered about, stories that were never meant to be in the first place'' he told the group, wondering if this would be enough to deter them from any intention they had toward him in the first place.
``Oh Daniel, why do you think that I was talking about you? You know, you should stop thinking the world revolves around you; there are other people that have stories and lives going on, you know. It would be a service for us all if you would stop with this paranoia of yours; there is no plot against you'' said David, pausing for a moment, as if he was searching for a particular idea.
``But you know, you have the talent to pass through this situation without any harm, one that we don't have. We must think about the greater good, although it could seem a bit cold hearted. You see, we must maximize the potential of success of this operation, for we can't risk failure. You wouldn't want it to fail, now would you?'' David added, smiling had him, destroying any possible arguments he could have come up with in the first place.
Guilt, the ultimate weapon in any debate; he could have tried to counter it, but it could have stained his image, a consequence he wouldn't have desired. Anyway, he knew that it wasn't an adventure he wouldn't be able to face; with a little courage and skills, he would face the adversity and triumph, thus bringing back the answers to his friends... or keeping it to himself.
As he left them alone, he focused on his thoughts, wondering on his next destination; they didn't tell him where to go nor give him any clues at all. Perhaps he could go back and ask a question or two, but he had an impression of where it was located; with the visions came a fuzzy background, one that could be the area he would need to reach.
``Eh Daniel, don't forget; you need to investigate a strange building located in the forest in the north. I know, we didn't talk about it, but we assumed you already knew about it, just like we did. But sometimes, you know, we need to repeat the information, to make sure that you will not get lost in this quest or that you share the same info as we do, for it is possible that we didn't share that same vision'' yelled Pammy, making him wonder if this was voluntary or not.
Either way, since he had a destination now, all he had to do was now to find it, before the sun would set, leaving him vulnerable to anything that would thrive in the darkness. He could always run, but what would be the point of such an action, when he could take the bus to get closer without any problem? But funds were running low and the wind was inviting him; perhaps he could put that idea to rest, for now, and embrace the action until he would reach his destination. He could always use that transport to go back…
Written by zanian on 08 July 2014
Giving in the invitation, he ran until his lungs were on fire, forcing him to stop and rest for a moment, watching the world continue to exist around him. He could see trees not so far away as the forest entrance was getting closer; he could take a break before entering it, so it would be easier for him to find his way into it, but he had the impression that time was against him, so he decided to hurry, forgetting about his aching lungs and muscles.
The faster he would get rid of this, the fastest he could go back to his regular life, pretending that this never happened in the first place; as much he wouldn't enjoy denial, he knew that with time, it would happen, for his mind would place barriers to protect himself from anything that would seem out of the common. It was a practical skill, one that could save his mind from being broken.
But for the moment, he had a riddle to solve and a forest to explore, before the moon would greet him with its pale glow. It would be a beautiful sight, one that could soothe his troubled spirit, but until he would find the cause of this entire situation, nothing could help him find peace of mind, even if it was pure beauty.
As he looked at the entrance of the forest, a question assaulted him; what was the right path, the one that would lead him toward the destination he was seeking? There were so many roads possible in this area, which could lead him toward either fate or despair; the futures that were unfolding in front of him were limitless, but he couldn't be stopped by such a thing, for he would continue advancing, until he would reach his objective, the one that would deliver the key to his puzzle.
He would make a choice, one that would alter his destiny; he could always try to find a way to let a little path, so he could go back on his steps and explore another possibility, until he would reach the object of his desire. If he was unlucky, he would be unable to do such a thing in a day, but that would always leave him with knowledge of the area, something that would be quite practical for future explorations.
Written by zanian on 15 July 2014
Not caring about the consequences, he decided to take a path at random, knowing that the chances to reach what he was seeking were low. But he wanted to believe in fate and luck, to give a small chance to some unknown and obscure force that could have been guiding his steps until this moment.
At least the forest wasn't too dense in the area, giving him an edge, as temporary as it could be; he had no clue where he was, but he knew that somewhere in the middle of that sea of trees, there was his target. If only he had brought a map and a compass with him, this wouldn't have happened...
It was at this moment that he felt something sting him at the base of his neck; perhaps it was just a simple hornet, or a mosquito that wanted to add him to the menu. But as he tried to advance further ahead, he started to feel dizzy, as if his strength was being sapped away; it couldn't be a reaction to a mere insect, for he wasn't allergic to them, as far as his knowledge went.
Perhaps it was something else, an element that was beyond his control, a force that wanted to stop his control; these were the last thoughts that wandered in his mind as darkness clouded his eyes, his body scrambling trying to get him awake so he would be able to escape before it would be too late.
But as his legs flinched under his weight, giving under the influence of the poison running in his veins, he knew that it was too late for him to run away; was this fate punishing him for tempting it, or what it just his destiny? If only he would be able to know...
Written by zanian on 22 July 2014