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´s been just a dream, just a dream…” Daniel muttered to himself, pacing around his small bedroom. His short hair was damp with sweat, his breathing coming out in small gasps.
“Just a dream…”
The problem was that Daniel didn´t even remember his dream. Only the unsettling presence of them, and that they wanted something from him. During the last few weeks, he had this dream again and again and he never remembered who they were or what they wanted from him.
Only that they wanted it badly.
Running his fingers through his hair, Daniel tried to calm down. It was just a dream, whatever it was about. It probably meant something in dreams theory too, something silly like internalized guilt for not studying hard enough for his tests. It was no big deal.
But he would be really glad if the dreams stopped finally.
Eventually, Daniel went back to bed. No point in loosing whole night worth of sleep over some stupid dream, he thought. He had chemistry test tomorrow, he should sleep a bit before it.
Written by lulu-illussions on 01 January 2018
Daniel had overslept a few minutes, no thanks to the dreams wearing him out, and had to cram down his egg-and-toast to make sure he'd make it to school on time. He was just finishing his breakfast when he heard the harsh signal of the doorbell.
Daniel bounced to his feet and rushed to the front door, brushing his chin to make sure he didn't have any toast crumbs stuck. On the front drive was a delivery-girl, a corrugated board box by her feet. She was short, hardly bigger than a child, and her uniform didn't have the logo of any delivery company he recognised. (But all those were things he would only think about later, after he'd opened the box.)
She asked for his name. “If you'd like to sign here, thank you very much.”
Daniel put a squiggle on her electronic clipboard, his glance resting on the package while he did. It wasn't particularly big, with no markings to hint at what was inside, only an address label with his name.
The woman flashed him a smile and turned back to the road. Daniel hefted the package. Whatever was inside didn't weigh much.
As he carried it up the stairs, he nearly bumped into Mom.
“What's that you got there, Dan?”
“The package.” He couldn't remember having ordered anything. A surprise from one of his friends? That seemed like the most plausible explanation. “It was for me.”
“Which package?” Mom said.
“You know, at the door right now.” He juggled the package to one hand so he could gesture toward the door.
Mom shook her head. “Huh? I didn't hear the bell.”
She shrugged and stood back to let him pass. Daniel stopped for a few moments in the sunlight falling into the upstairs hallway, out of steam, almost forgetting where he was going. Weird recurring dreams were one thing, but it wasn't possible that one person could miss a signal that he'd heard loud and clear.
He dumped the box on his bed. It was real, for sure, tangible enough to leave an impression in the quilt. He gave it a poke, just in case there was a bomb inside – as if that would make a difference after he'd moved it about and carried it. When he looked at his alarm clock, he had a couple minutes to spare, at least enough time to see what was inside.
He cut open the cardboard flaps and folded them back.
Written by on 02 April 2019
Inside was a swathe of white cloth and a subtle smell, like an exclusive fashion store.
Daniel pulled out the cloth. It was an outfit: a slim-lined white shirt and a pair of white slacks. When he held the pants dangling to the ground, they looked about his size. Who knew him well enough to know his measurements? He tried to chuckle at the thought, but the dreams came back, just as a flicker of shadow. He let them slink away to some corner of his mind.
He tried the pants. They fitted tighter than most stuff he wore, but not uncomfortably. The shirt fitted him well, the fabric felt clean and luxurious between his fingers. He half-turned to look at himself in the wardrobe mirror. Something slapped against his thigh, and he assumed it was a price tag, but it was a ball of white fluff sewn onto the back of his pants, like a rabbit tail on a Halloween outfit.
He looked in the box and found a headband with two white bunny ears lying in the bottom, on top of two white satiny running-shoes. He picked up the headband. It was higher quality than something you'd buy in a dollar-store, but still a set of fake rabbit ears. The shoes closed smoothly around his feet, too, like they'd been sewn for him.
At that moment:
“Daniel? Why are you still up there?”
He had to rush downstairs, and by luck, no-one was around to see him as he grabbed his coat and backpack. There was no time to change shoes, just a good thing these fitted so well. He could keep his coat on during breaks, at least that way no-one would see the tail. The chair would hide it when he was sitting down.
The street was deserted under a faint cover of clouds. Daniel had a go at trying to pull the rabbit-tail off, but it was sewn on hard; he had to stop or risk tearing his pants.
The time. He glanced at his watch and started jogging, then running. There was no chance of getting there on time now, but he could at least be as little late as possible.
He was running at about his top speed, arms pumping, soles slapping against the road, but his lungs were breathing in and out with no pain and his heart-rate had barely gone up. The shock almost made him stop. Daniel wasn't in noticeably bad shape, but he was no athlete, either. He was a few streets away from home. Any other day, sprinting this far would have wrecked him.
He could try picking up his speed a bit. It felt like his consciousness was looking out of his eyes, unsure what would happen, as if his body was a vehicle that might be pushed to breaking-point – but his body stretched out in longer steps, the brick houses and gardens almost blurring on either side, and he still couldn't feel any negative effects. It was as effortless as watching an Olympic runner on TV.
He wouldn't have been able to do this yesterday – he looked down at the clothes.
No point in questioning your blessings. He was already racing along the fence outside the football fields. Moments later, he clattered up the staircase and slowed down in the hallway when he saw the door to the English classroom. He unhitched his backpack and went inside. The teacher had arrived, but she was still sorting out her notes. Most of the other students were still getting in their seats or chatting. Daniel was able to slip into his seat in front of Jake unnoticed. His pulse hadn't gone up.
Written by on 06 April 2019
Daniel sat through the English class. He wouldn't be able to test this new body until the class was over – the school-day, rather; there would be too many people around during the break. He wasn't afraid of anyone finding out. It was a more irrational fear, as if the suit would stop working the moment he had witnesses.
While the teacher's voice droned, he gazed out the window where he could only see a snippet of cloudy sky, and tried to focus on the sensations from his body. It didn't look different at all, under the unusual clothes, but even at rest it felt more agile, more alert. Perhaps this was his body if he'd spent an hour jogging every day from age twelve. Even his senses felt sharper: the crispness of the cloth against his skin, the slick chill of the varnished desk surface, the mingled smells of sweat and perfume and fresh pencil-wood and a thread of summer air seeping in.
The clock ground its way to 10. The class bustled out of their seats and milled toward the door. Daniel made his way through the tightest of the press, hoping that his coat was hiding the tail.
Jake touched his shoulder and grinned. Daniel was certain he would make some sort of furry reference – it wasn't actually that bad, at least Jake would be sympathetic, unlike some brats who would just make fun of him. But all Jake said was:
“Pretty slick shirt. New?”
“Mm-hm.” Could it be Jake who had mailed the suit to him, and this was his way of testing the waters? It didn't seem like his style, but it was random enough not to feel like anyone's style. “I got it for a present. I like it.”
If Jake knew more about the suit, nothing showed on his face. He grinned again and started talking about other things.
The day went by, and Daniel had started to get the sensation that nobody was going to notice the tail.
The test at least took his mind off the suit, or as much as it could when he was still wearing it. He came away not remembering many questions and not knowing how well he'd done. Perhaps he could have done better if he'd been more focused – but did that matter now, in a world that contained things like this?
P.E. was next. That meant he didn't have to worry about the tail for fifty minutes, but the moment he changed into his gym tee and shorts in the locker room, it felt like his body had slumped into a thicker, heavier state. Of course, there was no visible difference.
Today's class was basketball. Daniel stayed at the back, didn't flub it the few times he got the ball, and then it was over. His classmates split up toward the locker room doors, and the teacher, Mr. Peterson, headed off, leaving the hall unlocked for the next class.
Daniel gazed down the long, varnish-shiny floor. If he'd been able to wear the suit in here, everyone would have been able to tell that something was not ordinary, but he could have outplayed everyone else.
As soon as he'd thought that, there was a disorientation that blinded him for a second. Daniel tottered, one arm stretched out for support. The air had gone out of his lungs. He blinked and the hall returned, but his body still felt odd. He looked down and saw that he was wearing the white suit, even the shoes. His gym clothes and sneakers had vanished.
Daniel ran down the end of the hall, feeling the air filling his lungs, building up more speed than he ever had before. The basketball hoop was ahead. He pushed off with one foot and felt himself fly through the air. His eyes flinched shut, but then he was sitting crouched on the hoop, clutching the backplate. The hoop held his weight. He must have leapt several times higher than his old constitution would have managed, even higher than the world record.
As he adjusted his feet, a voice came from below:
Written by on 08 April 2019
It was just Mr. Peterson, leaning out of his door.
“Stop monkeying around up there! The next class'll be here in a second.”
He shut the door. He hadn't said anything about the suit. The fellow did seem a bit nearsighted, maybe that had saved Daniel.
Daniel shifted again and looked down through the hoop at the floor, a good few feet away. What was he worried about? He jumped and landed softly. As he did, something tickled his cheek.
He was wearing the rabbit ears, he could feel the headband itching. Daniel yanked it off as if it might have grown onto his scalp, and stared at it. Now this was impossible, he'd left it in the box on his bed, half a mile away. As if the rest of his suit teleporting onto him was any more realistic.
He looked around, but he was alone. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to focus on his gym clothes: the T-shirt with its faded UCLA print, the shorts, the darkened sneakers. For a panicky moment he was certain it wasn't going to work, then the disorientation came, with an impact that knocked the wind of him. When he could see clearly, the gym clothes were back on him.
“Nice trick if you can do it,” he said out loud. All he could think of was anime magical girls whose outfits teleported onto them when they transformed. Was that what he was, now? Not a superhero, a magical boy?
He remembered the time and rushed to the locker room to grab a shower. His friends had already left, but the white suit lay on the bench, as neatly as he'd folded it before class. The headband lay on it.
He waved his friends off when they parted: Pammy and Jake to David's place, Gassan was being dragged off to watch his brother in some sporting event. Now, with no-one nearby, would have been a good time to tell them, maybe even show them – he could feel the clean fabric close around his chest, almost actively pushing his body into something lighter and straighter. Again he didn't, out of that fleeting feeling that the power might only persist as long as he didn't acknowledge it. The moment had passed.
Whenever he was sure he was out of sight, he ran. He reached home and got to his room where the box was still lying on his bed, opened his bag and sat down to study for the English exam. His heart wasn't in it now. There were plenty of people who were smarter than him, better at cracking the symbolism in Milton's dramatical works or whatever. Someone had given him the suit. They must have wanted him to use it for something.
He could hear Mom and Dad downstairs, Dad saying something over the sound of the TV. There was no point in worrying them. He locked the door, then wedged the window open on the early evening air. He took the headband too, as if it were a good-luck charm.
He scrambled out the window, clung to the eave for a moment, then pulled himself onto the roof. His body still obeyed.
Written by on 11 April 2019
Magical Boy Daniel
Daniel was scurrying across the roof of an apartment building when he heard voices, rising clear in the dusk. He approached the edge. Even now, a fall from this high would probably kill him, but his body was too alert, too much under his control, for him to distrust it.
Someone arguing. He hated fights; unless you'd watched the start it was impossible to know who was guilty, if anyone. This time, perhaps it wasn't. One was smaller and more slender: a girl, barely in her teens, while the other was a man older than Daniel. She was black, he wasn't, so they weren't related. And she wasn't yelling back, she was turning her head away and replying with the quick glances of a hunted creature.
The man grabbed a big handful of her coat and half-shoved her into an alley, and then there was no doubt. Daniel ran across the roof to where he could get a better vantage-point.
The alley was a tunnel of gloom, but his eyesight had got sharper as well. There was nothing horrible to see, they were still only talking, but the man was blocking her way out and the rest of the alley was cut off by a tall fence. The girl was clutching an object through her coat pocket.
“So your kind can play proper instruments?” the man said. “Give it here.”
When the girl hesitated, he went for her pocket. The girl backed away, and he laughed at her reaction, but now she so close up against the wall, Daniel could barely see her.
Then she straightened up, in some final desperation where she was too tired to feel fear.
“Get it yourself, asshole,” she said and tossed an oblong case over the fence.
When the man turned, she tried to bolt, but he got hold of her coat. The girl just clammed up, pressing her chin to her chest as if to leave as little as possible to hurt.
Daniel'd barely have time to get to them. He exhaled in a long breath. There was a fire-ladder gleaming just below. He jumped off and landed on the top ledge, feeling it judder under him. There wasn't time to climb down. He dropped over the side and clung to the bottom landing for a moment, feeling the impact yanking at his shoulder. He swung, calculated his target and let go.
There was a moment of whirling darkness, then he struck the assailant with both his feet. He felt the air go out of the man's lungs as he crumpled on the asphalt. The girl had got knocked over as well from the force of his impact, but with luck she wasn't harmed. She was already starting to get up off the ground.
Panic. Daniel didn't have much idea of how to check if someone was alive, but he tried touching the assailant's wrists and felt a faint pulse. And if he hadn't?
The girl was back up, but didn't run. She was staring at him – well, in her situation he'd be staring too.
“Did he harm you at all?” he asked and was comforted by how adult his voice sounded.
She checked herself for a moment, then shook her head.
“Good,” he said. “Do you have a home to go to?”
“Of course I do.”
Her voice sounded annoyed. That was good, it meant she was getting over the shock.
“You should probably go home,” Daniel said. “I'll make sure you get home safely. I'm gonna call the cops on that guy, and... if that doesn't work, I doubt he'll dare to try anything again.”
The girl still lingered. Daniel saw the fence in the corner of his eye.
“Please wait a moment,” he said.
He jumped from standing and sailed over the fence, so easily it felt like slow motion. Now he was leaving her with the attacker, but surely you wouldn't wake that quickly from being knocked out? He'd be able to be back the moment he heard anything.
Darkness had fallen completely, without his better eyesight he would have been screwed. She couldn't have tossed the case far from that angle, so he searched near the fence, but it still took long enough before he found it, almost hidden between two garbage bags. It was battered, but whole. When he opened it, the silvery flute looked undamaged.
He zipped back across the fence. The man was still out cold. Daniel reached out the case to the girl.
“Stay safe,” he said.
She took it. He shot into the air and his fingers found the fire-ladder rung.
Fifteen minutes later, Daniel watched the girl vanish into an apartment block.
This was the first actual crime he'd stopped. The adrenaline was still making him unsteady. Previously, he'd stopped some bullying attempts – it felt disproportionate to use his superpowers for that, but he guessed the victims were happy he had. There'd been times when he'd come across things that might have been crimes, but how could he know? The person loading a TV screen into a car might be moving house, or they might be a burglar. How would he know if he was justified in punching someone out over a plasma TV?
He'd taken to looking in the newspaper for crimes, without finding much. He wasn't going to be able to search in other towns, not while he was living at home.
He went another round, but didn't find anything. His body still relished the suit, but the adrenaline had faded.
Written by on 12 April 2019
An Enigmatic Message