A nightmare I couldn't wake from. That's what kept me out of the real life nightmare that walked in the front door last night. That chatted up my best friend. That could have killed her while I just... while I just stayed asleep. Until the screaming. The screaming. The goddamn screaming woke me up. It could have been too late. I don't even want to think about what he could have done to her had he wanted. That could have been Valerie's last breath - how the hell could I have just let that happen? Why couldn't I wake up? I was in a different nightmare this time around, but I couldn't wake up. I knew I was dreaming and yet... fucking hell, it doesn't even matter. I'm failing again. Goddammit, I can't keep failing. This is my job - this is my purpose to still be here wasting oxygen, I can't just...
Now there's a new decoration in the front yard. That, apparently, no one else can goddamn see. That's not unsettling at all. Even from inside the house... I can feel it out there. Valerie's been avoiding it like the plague... because it could very well be just that. She didn't want me near it either. At first, that wasn't going to be a problem because honestly every fibre of my being was telling me to stay the fuck away from it and kill any who try to force me even an inch closer... but.... well, it's fairly obvious, isn't it?
It was still in the pocket of that damn hoodie. I wanted it. So... I waited. I waited until Valerie was finally catching some sleep, then I slipped outside. I intended to be quick. No point in ceremony... but mother of Hell it was difficult to force each step forward. I slowly made my way up to it like I was approaching wired explosives... and I swear the air temperature dropped the closer I got to the damn thing. The tree was twisted around itself like some sort of plant from a Dr. Suiss nightmare. Not a single leaf... just that hoodie. Still hanging in tatters on the arms or branches or whatever the hell you want to call them. The breeze... sort of moved it... like some cheesey effect in some Hollywood film, but in real life I assure you it is a LOT more startling. Its presence was... god I don't even have a word for it.... crushing, maybe? Smothering. It felt like... like it was... clinging to me. Like it was in the air itself. I've never... felt that kind of fear before. Not even from Him. THAT is what twisted itself inside me as I came to stand in front of the once-human. It... has a face still. For a split second... I swear I saw what should have been a head twist around... its... its mouth agap in a voiceless scream that pierced through my ears and... and I swear I heard the bark creaked and groaned with the movement... but it was just for that second. I nearly had a heartattack. I scrambled/jumped back... and then it was just a tree trunk again. When my heart stopped threatening to break my ribs, I made my way forward againa and stared at the agonized face molded in the wood.
'Fire' was the first thing that popped into my head. I want to try to burn the damn thing.
But... I had another task at hand at that point. I really don't want to admit how much my hand was shaking as I reached in - passed the gnarled branches in the shape of arms and hands into that pocket - but goddammit I'm trying honesty here so... fuck it. Every goddamn second I was expecting those arms to come alive and tear into me... but nothing happened. I grabbed the envelope and immediately shot backwards. I watched the thing up and down for a minute or two... before slowly backing away towards the house. Then... I turned and bolted. Tried my best not to slam the goddamn door and wake Valerie. I locked it behind me like some kind of pathetic barrier and immediately checked the house over in a way that would make a paranoid schizophrenic proud. I checked on Valerie - still asleep on the couch - and that's when I took my first even breath again. My hands were still shaking... but nothing had happened. Nothing.
I... opened the envelope in the seat across from the one Redlight himself had sat in - a spot I could still see my friend from but was far enough away not to wake her. Glad I had that thought really... cause I didn't move from that spot until hours later, nearing noon today when Valerie woke up.
The envelope contained several photographs.
This one... was at the very bottom of the stack.
Redlight said he remembered me.... and he was carrying a picture of Steven in his pocket. He must have been sixteen in this picture. He... always went in the local canoe race...
He would be dead a month later.
Severe brain lesions.
goddammit it all to hell... it was supposed to have been severe brain lesions...