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
Daniel took a deep breath and figured his friends were just messing with him. The bit about the dream had certainly caught his attention, but he decided to play along for a while.
"Well then, I chose Truth." Said Daniel as he sat in the floor next to Jake and David.
"Tell us your name." Came Pam, almost mechanically.
"Really, Pam? You could have asked anything and y-"
"What is your name?" Barked David.
"Listen guys, I-"
"Your name." Said Jake, violently.
"Alright, fine! Fuck... Daniel, it´s Daniel, ok?"
They all sat in silence for a couple of seconds, eyes locked on Daniel as he started to wipe the expression of annoyance out of his face.
"You can´t lie to us." Said Pam without breaking eye contact.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"What is your name?" Barked David one more time.
"Guys, come on... This isn´t funny anymore".
"You chose Truth, so now you have to answer our question." Came Jake.
Daniel cursed under his voice and clumsily reached for his pockets, he then noticed he had left his wallet at home. Still, he took out a small leather journal and threw it to the middle of the circle.
"See? There it is, right on the top. My father gave me that journal and had my name engraved on the cover. Are we done yet?"
His friends leaned into the circle and carefully read the engraved letters. They then went back to Daniel while keeping their emotionless demeanor.
"Yes, the journal is right. So, what is your name?" Said Pam without flitching.
"For the love of god... are you guys high? Can´t you see? D-A-N--"
Daniel froze as he himself took a good look at the journal. The familiar binding he had seen a thousand times was still there, but the engraving showed something different. It used to read "Daniel", yet somehow a couple of characters had been added to his name. He never thought he would ever feel so eerily disturbed by two letters stitched on a piece of leather, but still, the fact that his beloved journal now read "Danielle" certainly sent a shiver down his spine.
"You guys are dicks." Said Daniel as he stood up and bolted towards the door.
"Don´t knock anything with your tail on your way out." Came Pam.
"My wha-? Just fuck off, Pam..."
Daniel was truly mad. At first, he thought his friends were just pulling an elaborate prank on him. However, after reading the engraving on that journal, something certainly felt amiss.
On his way back home, Daniel felt way hotter than usual. That was particularly strange considering it was really cold outside. Not only that, but he felt itchy all over. He thought about taking off his coat or his winter-globes, but then he figured he might just be coming down with a fever and decided to hurry and get in bed.
"Hi sweetie, I thought you were staying out late." Said Daniel´s father as soon as he opened the door.
"Erm... I felt a bit under the weather, I think I´m gonna take a nap".
"Alright, let me know if you need anything."
Daniel was a bit confused, his dad had always been nice to him, but that was probably the first time he called him "sweetie". Daniel did not think much of it and went upstairs to his room. Once in, he mindlessly took off his coat and globes and dove head first into his bed. He was actually feeling sort of sick, so he just dozed off for a while.
After a couple of hours, he was woken up by a loud knocking on the door.
"Honey, dinner´s ready. Your mom made lasagna!"
Daniel sat on his bed and rubbed his eyes. He was still pretty much asleep, so he just robotically walked towards the bathroom to take a leak. Once inside, he pulled down his pants and tried to go about his business as usual. That´s when it hit him.
Written by crimsonstar on 24 February 2016