When I dreamed last night, I was a passenger in the back of a car full of people I didn’t know. We were traveling at night; five of us; the man I just described, a female driver with white hair, another man, about seventeen with short red-hair, and another women next to him wearing a black coat. Fortunately, because I despise journeying anywhere for too long in the middle, I occupied the right hand back row window seat. I remember the car going uphill, and atop the knoll was a white lighthouse, it’s light circled through the darkness, but as we past back down the other side the glow could not be seen. the man in the front passenger seat. He was dictating a story about a troubled youth, and a young girl who saved him by taking the blame for a crime he had committed. Night was thick on the road; there were no stars and no moonlight, and I became very aware I wasn’t the one driving, but I listened to the story.
A boy was such trouble, somebody was going to come and lock him away. He lived in a tiny house outside a city, but he was guilty of many crimes, because he hated to be alone. One day, a girl came to the house and decided to live with the boy so he would have company, and stop the awful things he did. Sure enough, with a friend nearby, the boy had no need to go into the city to attract attention to himself, but his crimes were already so numerous they came for him anyway. The girl was at the table, teaching the boy to read when they arrived at his door, ready to draw his blood in vengeance. They knocked the door down, and the couple huddled in the corner. In order to protect the boy from harm, the girl stepped forward and confessed to having committed every wrong the boy had, even adding the lie that she’d framed him, in case they doubted her statement. Before the boy had a chance to announce himself as the true culprit, those that had come for his life, slew the girl instead, and were gone again into the night. The boy dipped his fingers in the girls blood and marked upon his heart a cross, a promise to honor her sacrifice.
Once his had concluded his tale the driver pulled off the long empty road we’d been journeying down to let him out of the car. For some reason he’d requested to be dropped off next to a crumbling shack, opposite a field. The building was in shambles, literally falling apart at the seams; already the roof had half-caved in, and a wall was missing. It was constructed only of wooden planks all of which were rotting from some fungus. I asked if he really wanted to stop at such a place, and he said yes, not to worry, this was where he needed to be. The remaining four of us returned to our seats and drove away. I watched from the back window as he disappeared from view becoming a shadow alongside the ominous shack. The women driving told me my drop-off was next. I didn’t know where I was to be taken, but after seeing the crumbling house, I wasn’t certain I would like it.
Turns out my departure point was a graveyard. No sooner had I stepped out the car, than the car sped off; no one stepped out to bid me farewell as we had done with the man before me. I hadn’t realised how much the car blended with the darkness around it, but it had gone from sight within just a few seconds of the engine restarting. So, I was alone outside the gates of a crowded graveyard, and an old one as well judging by the height and elaboration of the gravestones, an old one. Clichés hung in place; mist low on the ground, the sound of crows high above, Gothic crosses and elegantly carved Elizabethan script, like stepping into an Edger Allen Poe story. Either I remained on the empty road, or I entered the graveyard, and for some reason I chose the second option; I’m not certain my non-dream self would have been so brave, but I pushed the gate open on its rusted hinges, and I started to weave between the grave-sites. The grounds were so packed, some of the graves had been dug into the slant of the land presenting the illusion they’d been built practically on top of each other. Eventually I reached a second gateway on the opposite side of the graveyard, which existed at the bottom of a hill. Silhouettes of ancient houses stood atop the other side, and the mist had risen around them. I saw people meandering about from house to house with slouched backs and quick paces, and started to head up the path towards them with the ambition of asking where I was.
Just as I left the gate I heard the voice of the man from the passenger seat, the man who had recounted the story of the couple. He was standing behind me in the graveyard, but he looked different. A red-cross shimmered at the point of his heart, and his countenance portrayed anger, though he tried to hide it.
“You’re the boy, from the story,” I said. “But why are you here? This was where I was supposed to be dropped off, you were left at the shack.”
“When I realised,” he replied, “I couldn’t have stayed there.”
“You told me it was where you were supposed to be there.” I recounted.
“Run,” was all he said. “I’ll guide you; but you must run.”
A rumbling sound came up from behind him, and the graves in the distance began to crumble and fall apart. The earth started to creak and from the breaks in the dirt a light emitted tearing the stone asunder as soon as it touched them. Once again the man told me to run, but his voice remained close in my ear. As instructed, I started to sprint through the back gates away from the consuming force quickly making its way behind me. I couldn’t see the man any longer, and assumed the light had already taken him. I headed up into the cluster of houses, where I found the others, those who occupied them were already fleeing. Dream-me is apparently athletic, because as the light tore through the houses, breaking them up like clay pots, I remained with the strongest runners at the head of the group. The weaker subdued quickly.
I ran through a city. It was every man for himself, save me who had the voice of the man constantly enlightening me on which way to run so as to avoid dismemberment by the strange force. The concept was simple; if you fell behind or stumbled you got ripped up. I dipped through the alleyways and side streets I was told to; eventually I was one of only a few left standing, and I knew I was tiring. The man led me to the doors of a school and ordered me inside. Once through the doors, he told me to stop and stand behind a glass pillar a moment, I was scared of halting, but I did as he commanded, after all, I had no reason to doubt what he was saying. I was still alive. Still in the unusual race for survival. Someone had followed me, and came through into the school a moment later; he searched for me and saw me standing behind the glass next to a stairway. He stared at me, perhaps wondering why I was no longer running for my life like the others. More survivors came through the threshold.
“Climb the pillar! Hurry!”
In dreams I’m an apt climber also. I wrapped myself around the pillar and shuffled upwards. Per instruction, I jumped onto the stairs and headed upwards. They began to follow suit. The light was now close behind us. I figured the man who was aiding me was trying to save the others as well, but more of them fell on the lower stairs. Through the upper hallway and out of a window via a classroom on the upper level. I used a drain-pipe (the classic) to get back onto the street. I didn’t see how many others made it out the school, but I felt it collapsing behind me. Shards of brick from the wall I had shimmed down, and the glass from the window I had fled through clattered on the ground behind me, and I kept going rounding onto a main road, which led down another hill on a coastal path. The sun was starting to rise as I ran beside a cliff wall I assumed kept the sea from crashing onto the road, but when I finally reached the gap I was ordered by the man’s voice to find, I realised it wasn’t the ocean. A swamp lay beyond the wall.
About seven others had managed to make their way to the swamp edge, I could see a few nearby, but they were panicked. I continued a little further on, hopping from land mass to land mass across the water, but eventually the soggy land piles became too far apart for me to carry on. “Jump in!” the man said, “swim!”
Reluctantly I did so, switching to a back crawl to see if anyone else had joined me, but the remaining survivors remained on the banks muttering to each other. I swam a few strokes …
… and then I woke up.