A young boy troubled by nightmares begins to lose a grip on reality... Are these nightmares more deadly than they seem?
"So the dream usually starts off the same way. I'm in some sort of chair looking around a dark room. There's one light on the ceiling, but it isn't bright enough and I can't see much of my surroundings. I can't speak or move anything. I can't even control my eyes. The light flickers a few times. Six times actually, it never changes. I start to hear muffled screams, and it sounds like its coming from me, but I didn't make myself do it. After a my eyes move about really fast for a few seconds, and I hear another scream, I see him.""The man in the mask?""Yeah.""Now what does he look like?""Well the mask looks like the devil. Its red, with detailed black wrinkles, and a big smile with black lips and yellow teeth. And curved black horns. I can't see its eyes though. The eye holes are too shadowy. The guy isn't tall, or short, or skinny or fat. Other than the mask there isn't really anything special about him at all.""What's he wearing?""It's really hard to tell. My eyes never really concentrate on his clothes, and the red mask stands out too much.""Okay. So what happens next? Go on with the dream.""After I see him, I can't stop looking at him. The screams start again, and I'm sure I was making them. He tilts his head to the side, and slowly steps forward. Then my eyes start moving rapidly again, like I'm struggling. The man's head is still tilted to the side, and he keeps getting closer, and closer. Muffled screams are all I can hear. Suddenly the man stops in his tracks, and straightens his head. Slowly he reaches behind his back. He pulls out a knife. A butcher knife. The screams get louder. He raises the knife into the air, and starts walking closer again. The light flickers, and everything goes black and... and...""And what John?""I wake up. Usually screaming, and sweaty." John Kemp finished his story as he picked scum from under his nails, sitting in a psychiatrists office. His mother waited outside the room patiently. "Now John, have you seen this man anywhere else? Or even just the mask?" The shrink, Fred Goldman, sat back in his chair as he listened to John, twirling a blue pen thoughtfully."No. I've never seen anything like him.""Well if we're going to figure out what the reason behind this reoccurring nightmare is, we need to figure out what the man means. What he symbolizes." "What if he doesn't mean anything?" "Well, do you think he does?" Goldman flipped through his notes on the dream. Trying to make something of it was extremely difficult."I don't know." That was the truth. John did not have a clue as to what the dream meant, or anything about the strange masked man. He did however want it to mean something. For if it meant something, then it could be understood, and understanding is half of the fight. The dream had been going on almost every night for a few weeks, and it was truly making John's life a living hell. He thought perhaps seeing someone about it could help it go away. Goldman looked up from his notes and glanced at the clock on the wall. 6:29 p.m. One minute away from the half an hour session being over. "Well John, I thank you very much for coming in to see me. If you'll go tell your mom to come in real quick that'd be great." He got up from his one chair and moved back over behind his desk. John's mother, Helen, entered the room. She was a thin woman. Not quite frail and weak, but close to it. She had straight brown hair that went down to her shoulders, and a thin pretty face done up with make-up. "Hello again Dr. Goldman, did everything go alright?" She placed a hand on her teenage son's shoulder. "Yes Ms. Kemp, everything went fine. Unfortunately we ran out of time too quickly. Now I know we don't know much about the dream yet, but hopefully picking up a bottle of these will help him sleep through the night." Dr. Goldman handed Helen a prescription. "Will you be coming back?""What do you think dear?" Helen asked."Well, I'll try the pills. I guess we'll just see if they work or not." John replied. The two of them left the building in silence, and got in the car to go home. Neither of them talked the whole drive. Nobody was angry with anyone. Nobody had an issue with the other. John's mother simply did not know what to say whenever she worried for him. It was as though she thought anything she said or did to help the situation would somehow make it worse. John kept quiet because he knew his mother might not respond if he did say something. This was too usual, and he hated it. Finally, the car pulled up into the driveway and the silence broke. "I think the pharmacy is closed now hon, but I'll have the pills for you by tomorrow night before you go to bed.""Thanks mom." They both got out of the car and went into the house. John tried to hurry upstairs to his room, but was stopped by voice he was hoping to avoid."Hey John." John's father, Steven Kemp, stood in the doorway to the kitchen, right next to the stairs. He had long straight brown hair, and a short scruffy beard slightly peppered with grey. He leaned up against the doorway with a beer in his hand. "Hey Dad." John was not quite afraid of his father, but always had to worry about what kind of mood he might be in. "How was the shrink? Did you guys end up going?" His tone seemed calm, but John knew that could sometimes be misleading."Uh, yeah. It was fine, he was a nice guy.""Oh good. Because I'd hate to have a total asshole making us a laughing stock. Helen!" He turned out of the doorway and shoved John aside to confront his wife."Yes dear?" She responded weakly."I told you he didn't need to go!" "But he did dear. The nightmare-""Thats all it is Helen! A nightmare! A bad dream! You're saying because my son can't suck it the hell up and be a man about it, he's a f***ing lunatic who needs a shrink?!" He started to get closer to her. Helen began to slowly back away, and felt tears begin to well up in her eyes. Unable to speak, she just stood there, trying not to break down crying as her husband lashed out at her."Dad, I-""John," His father cut him off quickly, "Just go up to your room. Your mom and I need some space to talk.""But-""Go up to your room!"John backed up and turned away from his parents to go up the stairs. He sat down onto the edge of his bed and listened to the faded sound of his father yelling downstairs. After a few minutes, he finally heard his mother yelling too, but not nearly as loud. Finally, John could not take anymore of it. He grabbed his mp3 player and large headphones, put on his music, and laid back to go to sleep.
That night, the nightmare visited John again. Everything was exactly the same as it always was. The light flickering. Eyes flashing about. Muffled screams, and the man in the red mask. Everything was the same. John sat up straight in his bed with a short scream. Cold sweat made his shirt stick to his body. His heart was still pounding from the sudden fright, and his breathing was fast and heavy. He patted himself down, feeling up his arms and chest as if there was the slight possibility the knife reached him. Reassuring himself that it was impossible, John rolled over and attempted to go back to sleep. Unfortunately, he could not.The following morning John sat down for a quick breakfast before school, completely exhausted. His mother quietly slid a bowl of oatmeal in front of him, and a glass of milk. She was still timid and nervous from the night before. "Thanks mom." John said."Welcome dear." His mother replied quickly, and left the room. For almost seventeen years John had lived with his parents, and never once did he feel like he had a normal, functional family. His father's mood was never the most stellar and warming, but it seemed to be getting worse as the years went on, as did his mother's meek timidity towards the both of them. She was never able to stand up for herself or even her own child. John did not let his discontent show however. He thought that breaking down and telling them how he felt could only lead to worse things. As soon as he was done his breakfast, John gathered up his things and got onto the school bus. Glancing about, he quickly picked his seat next to Tyler Madison. Tyler and John had been great friends since grade school, and never saw a gap in their friendship since. He prided himself in his rather 60's style attire and looks, and they actually managed to work when it came to finding dates. He had slicked down black hair, and usually wore a stereotypical leather jacket and jeans. His attitude was rather relaxed and anyone would guess that he never left detention, but he managed to have a perfect attendance record, and never received anything short of an A."Hey man! Way to barely make the bus." Tyler rubbed his friends hair, intentionally untidying it."Dude you gotta stop it with the hair, it never goes back down after you mess with it." John laughed as he patted down his short, once perfectly gelled brown hair. "And yeah, I woke up a bit late again this morning.""That dream thing still buggin ya?" Tyler knew about the reoccurring dream, but John could never bring himself to tell him exactly what happened in it. He frightened too easily."Yeah." He decided not to tell him about his meeting with the psychiatrist. Later that day in school, after Tyler left early for a doctor's appointment, John wandered the halls of school trying to figure out what to do with his free period. He put his hand on the wall of lockers, and listened to the rattling as he walked, and felt the vibration in his fingertips. Suddenly, a voice came from behind him."Sup porto-John!" Sam Kramer walked behind John with his hands in his pockets. "Hey Kramer." He tried to play it off casually, but knew that nothing casual ever came from his encounters with Kramer. He was smaller than Kramer, like most people were, and somehow managed to become his person of interest. "So I was thinking." Kramer quickly walked in front of John and stopped him in his tracks."Sure you were." John mumbled under his breath, subtly looking about for any possible help. "What you f***ing say?!" Kramer pushed John hard in the chest, and the weight of his backpack pulled him to the ground. "Nothing! I didn't say anything!" A flash of pain went through John's head, and for a split second all he could see was the flickering light in the dark room. He held his head, thinking he must've hit the ground too hard. "Like I was saying," Kramer stooped low over John, "I was thinking, I haven't borrowed money from you in awhile.""Borrowing means you pay me back!" He tried to stand, but Kramer wouldn't move from over top of him. "Excuse me!" A third voice came from down the hallway. A teacher stood with his arms crossed right outside the door to his classroom. He gave the two of them a deathly stare, but said nothing more. Kramer straightened himself out and walked away, leaving an embarrassed and angry John lying on the ground next to the lockers. John just laid there on the ground, trying to hold back tears of anger and hate. Maybe the red masked-man in his dream was supposed to be Kramer? There was no way of telling for sure. How was he supposed to know who the man was if he never saw under the mask. Another flash of pain in his head. This time all he could see was the man. Head tilted to the side like a questioning owl, looking at him with black bottomless eyes and that demonic black smile. As soon as the pain was gone, John got to his feet. The visions frightened him. It became apparent that this dream was truly becoming a menace. God I hope mom gets my pills. This is all that he could think through the last two classes of the day. Along with trying to stay awake. That was extremely difficult to accomplish with less than three hours of sleep each night. God I hope mom gets my pills... god I hope mom... gets... mom... pills... gets my... pills... John felt his mind go strange as he drifted off to sleep in math class. There he was again. Johns vision was fixed in the dark room once again. Everything was black except for the light on the ceiling. It flickered six times. His vision began glancing around. Something seemed different this time though. There weren't any screams. Just the light, and no other sounds. There was something else missing from the scene as well... The man in the mask was nowhere to be seen. Johns vision glanced about in the way it always had, but there was no man to look at. Nothing to scream at. Where the hell was he? A sharp in his head jolted John awake. His heart pounded hard in his chest, and the pain in his head was getting worse by the second. The sounds of the class were drowned out in his ears and were replaced by the eery silence of the dark room. Then the sound of the flickering light, and then the sound of the man's footsteps, and then the sound of him taking out the knife, and then... the lights went out in the classroom. Nobody else around John seemed to notice what happened. The room was pitch black now. He couldn't even see his classmates, or the teacher, or desks or the blackboard. "Click". A light came on above John's head. But not one of the long fluorescent lights that normally adorned the top of the classrooms. It was the one from his dream. John's heart was now pounding faster than ever before and he felt his fear rising quickly. The light flickered six times. All of a sudden the lights came back on just as they were before. Students were doing their work, and the teacher... John let out a scream and jumped in his desk. The red masked man stood at the front of the classroom, only five feet from his desk, but within a second was gone. Everyone in the room stopped what they were doing and looked at John, who was still breathing heavily. What the hell just happened?
Somehow John managed to leave school fast enough to avoid questions about his outburst. He was still frightened by the events that transpired, but had no idea as to how to deal with it. John hoped that a good nights sleep would cure everything. Sleep deprivation seemed a viable thing to blame for everything.With Tyler gone from school for the remainder of the day, John did not have anyone to talk to while waiting alone for the bus to arrive, and struggled with his thoughts on everything that happened. Yes. He was sure everything came from two weeks worth of not sleeping more than three hours a night. At least that is what he hoped for. While on the bus home, John sat by himself staring out of the window. He wasn't really looking at anything though, for he found it hard to concentrate on anything. A flash of pain and the man stood by a passing telephone pole. Within a second he was gone. John held his head and looked around him. Perhaps someone else looking out a window saw the man too? No. Nobody reacted. He knew he needed sleep.Later that night, John sat in his room at his desk, with an open sketchbook sitting in front of him. On the open page he had drawn the mask from his nightmare. He was able to include much detail, from the exact dark wrinkles around the eyes and cheeks, to those black foreboding eyes. A cold shiver ran down his spine as John looked at his completed work. Drawing the mask made it feel even more real than it had before, which was not at all his intention. He quickly closed the book when footsteps could be heard from the hall. "John?" His mother knocked on his door softly. "Come in mom." John replied, sliding his sketchbook farther away and opening a textbook for math.Helen came into the room with a pill bottle. She walked over to the desk, put a hand on John's shoulder, and set the bottle down. "Take two twenty minutes before you go to bed. They should help you sleep through the night.""Thanks mom. I sure hope they'll help." She kissed John on the forehead and left the room, closing the door behind her. John looked at his watch. 7:56 p.m. He didn't usually enjoy going to bed earlier than 10, but John knew he should try to get as much sleep as possible. So, he took his new pills, and got ready for bed. Pajamas. Brushing teeth. Cleaning his face. Packing everything for school the next day. Then, around twenty minutes later, his head sank down into the pillow. Finally, for the first time in two weeks, John Kemp slept the entire night, and awoke the next morning without even recollection of any dreams or nightmares.
John woke up from the best night sleep he'd had in weeks, and ran downstairs feeling a wondrous and new sense of energy and excitement. His mother was very surprised by his sudden jovial attitude as she prepared his breakfast. She gave a relieved smile when she realized that the pills must have worked. "Glad to see you in such a good mood." She said, sliding an egg onto his plate. "And I'm glad to be in a good mood." He looked at his watch. 7:24 a.m. Boy was it nice to not be running late for the bus. John ate his breakfast with a steady pace and a smirk of accomplishment on his face. When he got onto the bus, Tyler was waiting for him like always. He took his spot, and almost immediately his friend could see through to the much needed rest he received. "You seem perky this morning man, whats goin on?""Took sleeping pills. I don't even remember any of my dreams from last night, and it feels great!" John glanced past Tyler out the window as the telephone poles past the bus by. Nothing stood next to them, and he didn't experience one sudden migraine. He felt like everything was over for him, and he could finally get back to his life before the dream."Well man, if you're really feelin better, it is friday and, well," Tyler reached into his jacket pocket and brandished two tickets, "Look what my uncle hooked me up with!""No way! Man they've been sold out for weeks!" John took the concert tickets in amazement, and read every single word that adorned them, like checking to see if they were real or not. He handed them back to Tyler, and a sudden realization hit him. His excitement went away. "But dude, I don't know if my parents want me to be out so late."Tyler patted John on the shoulder reassuringly. "Nah man, they're holding it early tonight because of weather. And it's right in the park, so no worries!" John wasn't entirely sure if it was a good idea, but Tyler always had a convincing way about him. His argument seemed to be a viable one anyway. Crossing his parents never was on Johns list of things not to avoid, but the situation seemed to check out fine. "Alright man." He said, with excitement for the concert flooding back to him. For the rest of the bus ride to school the two of them talked of what an amazing night they were going to have, and leaned over to other students seats to see if anyone else was going too. There was talk of smoking weed beforehand, and sneaking alcohol during, and many other activities John decided were best to avoid. He knew he was already getting in deep enough just going sober, and leaving sober.
John and Tyler managed skip the last period of the day so as to get to the park right on time for everything, as did several hundred other students. Cars and vans pulled into the lots surrounding the main field in vast numbers, and hundreds of teenagers cutting school ran there on foot. Tyler and John's group pulled up in an old rusty minivan with food and beverages ready. The two of them left the vehicle and started to the main field just before the bong was passed around. Tyler did not have an issue with the activity, and actually partook frequently, but he knew John was in no position to so he skipped out as well. The concert managed to go on two hours longer than initially expected.
10:31 p.m. Two hours past John's usual weekend curfew.
The front door to the house creaked open as slowly and quietly as it ever had before when John finally arrived home. Still, to him it sounded louder than an elephant in peril. When he stepped in, the hallway was dark. The stairs to his room looked farther away than it was that morning. Taking a deep breath of confidence, his foot passed over the threshold and into the building. Slowly beginning his decent. For a second he stopped and listened to the sounds in the house, trying to pick out signs of parental life. When he heard nothing, his feet advanced farther down the hall. Silent step after silent step after silent step. Until "creak" one of his steps broke the silence. He then heard the sound of breathing coming from the living room. How could he have missed the faint light coming from the muted tv? Slowly he turned to face the doorway into the living room, hoping every last hope he could muster that nobody heard him."John!" There was no misleading tone in his fathers voice this time. Fearing the worst, John turned from his journey to the stairs and shuffled over towards the sound of his fathers voice.There he was. Sitting in his old armchair staring blankly at the muted tv screen in front of him. An empty beer bottle dangled in his hand and a cigarette hung from his lips. A glassy coating was over his eyes as they stared, boring holes into the screen. John hated seeing him in this state not because it saddened him, but because it scared the hell out of him. "John, what time is it?" His tone was now eerily calm, and the only part of him that moved was his mouth (which still retained the cigarette). "10:30." John's voice shook as he answered the question. He longed to just run away and go to sleep, after taking his pills of course. He brushed the crumbs and bits of old grass from his coat."Naw." His father took an empty sip from the beer bottle, unaware of its lack of contents. "That can't be right. 'Cause that would mean you're home TWO DAMN HOURS LATE!" He leaned over and put the worn down cigarette out in a tray at his feet, and slowly got up to face his now terrified son. Without breaking eye contact the beer bottle dropped from his hand and clattered on the floor. John had never seen his father so angry before. "You know son? I work for twelve hours a f***ing day! Breaking my back to earn the money that we need." He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out John's pill bottle. "And what do I have to come home to after that long day?! A wife and son who use all that damn money on f***ing pills!" The pill bottle sailed across the room. "And all for what? A F***ING NIGHTMARE! A DREAM!" John didn't know how to react to any of it. It didn't seem right just to take it, but what else could he do? Withholding tears, John looked over at the pill bottle, realizing that it was completely empty. "What did you do with my pills?" "I flushed the damn things." Now briefly exhausted from his outburst, he sank down into his chair. "Dad! I needed those!""Shut the hell up! You need 'em so badly go fish them out of the pipes!" "But Dad I-" An empty beer bottle smashed into the wall next to John, silencing him. His father sat with his body twisted towards him, staring with bloodshot and aggravated eyes. Pain shot through John's head and the image of the masked man filled the room once more. When it flashed away and the pain ceased, his father's angry form took the man's place. Scared, upset and confused, John quickly left his father and ran upstairs to his room, flung himself onto his bed, and buried his head in his pillow. Was the man supposed to be his father? John was unwillingly pulled into slumber by his own exhaustion. Without the pills to help, the nightmare returned.
John sat twirling his pointer finger around the center of his palm, creating a tickling sensation. He hated being back at the psychiatrist, but without his pills he didn't have a choice. Hopefully his father completely bought the excuse his mother told. Something about a meeting after school. He might have had a terrible temper, but in the end he was far off from applying to Mensa. Dr. Goldman smiled at John as he flipped back through his notes from the previous session. Did this man really give a crap about helping me? This was the thought that floated through John's mind. The man makes it seem like he does. Tell me more about the dream John? What do you think it means John? You two coming back for another session John? Its not too expensive to make it a full hour. Thats all he gives a crap about. The money that I spend on him. These thoughts made John angry. "So John, how did the pills do?" Johns mother didn't tell the psychiatrist about his father's outburst, but instead explained John could not take any more of them for religious purposes. Something about a relative pointing to a bible verse that spoke against using them. How the guy actually bought into it was beyond anyone. "Well they worked fine the one time I used them. I slept the whole night." Saying this out loud made John even angrier. The thought that he could have been rid of the dream and sleepless nights forever if it weren't for his father. He knew his mother didn't do anything about it, and that angered him as well. John clenched his fists. "So did you have the dream again last night?" "Yes." He wasn't sure if he should mention the flashing images and headaches. If they turned out to be nothing, he could make people think he was going insane for no reason. "Now, John, are you struggling with anything in your life? Because you see, a reoccurring dream could be related to some sort of situation that you yourself are facing in reality."Suddenly he could hear everything pounding in his ears. His fathers drunken shouts and the beer bottle smashing on the wall. His mother's cries and cowering. Kramer's remarks and insults. Everything that he refused to confront. Everything. Everything. Another flash of pain coursed through his head. This one was different, and much stronger than before. It took everything in John's power to keep from crying out in pain and smashing his head into the wall in anguish. The sound of the flickering light penetrated deep into his mind, and all of a sudden he was back in the dark room. The man loomed in front of him once more, and the big black lips and yellow teeth smiled at him. John watched powerless from his chair as the man in the mask cocked his head to the side and walked forward. Without the muffled screams he could almost make out heavy breathing from behind the mask, but nothing else. Closer. Closer. The knife came from behind and was raised into the air. He could feel sweat dripping down his neck as his body began to shake with fright. John couldn't move. He looked around the room for Dr. Goldman but saw no one. Closer. The breathing was clear now. The breathing was menacing. John gripped the arms on the chair till his knuckles turned white. Closer. "NOOOO!" John screamed, breaking the image. All at once everything vanished, leaving him in the psychiatrist office. He could still feel the sweat dripping, and both hands still gripped the seat. Dr. Goldman stood up from his own chair. "Is everything alright?" "I'm sorry, I just... I need to go. I just remembered something." John said with a shaky voice. He got up from his seat and left the room in a hurry. Dr. Goldman tried to say something to stop him, but was so stunned nothing came out. John went up to his mother in the waiting room. "Mom I don't feel very good, we should go.""Oh honey, whats wrong?" She placed a warm hand on his forehead, and noticed the beads of sweat on his neck. "You look really pale. Ok lets go home."The two of them left without even talking to Dr. Goldman. John noticed that his headache was still there. Not nearly as strong as before, but still lingering. What was he supposed to do now? His father destroyed his medication, and he just walked out on the one man who was at least trying to help the situation. Even if he was willing to do so just for the money, help was help. When they arrived home, John's father was not there yet. The two of them went inside, and his mother proceeded scrounge up as many bottles of medicinal syrup she could find, and then went through to see what best fit John's symptoms. She couldn't quite pinpoint exactly what was wrong with him though, so eventually the search ended, and John found himself lying in bed with a damp wash cloth over his forehead. This did nothing to help his headache go away. For a split second, the light on his ceiling became the one from his dream. John didn't want to deal with the headache any longer, but also didn't want to dream again. He had to make a decision, either to deal with the pain through the entire night, or go to sleep and risk ending up in the dark room again. Which was worse? Finally, he told himself that at least the dream wasn't a reality like the pain, and went to sleep. The nightmare returned.
The sun pierced through the windows in the bedroom, sending blinding rays of light onto Johns red, terribly exhausted eyes. He had slept even less than ever before. It seemed as though the nightmare crept into his sleeping mind less than an hour after drifting off. He hadn't a clue as to how he was supposed to function all that day with less than an hour of decent rest. The alarm next to his bed buzzed, trying to wake him up when he was already so. Buzzzz. Buzzzzzzz. Buzzzzzzzzz. It became louder with every resounding, annoying chime, and it rang through Johns head bouncing off the walls of his skull sending echoes through his mind. Buzzz- the buzz was cut short when a tired arm slapped the clock to the ground. John couldn't remember the last time he was in such a horrific mood. Everything in the surrounding area annoyed him without end. Every sound came to him at least 50 times louder than it actually was, eventually giving him another splitting headache. Thankfully his mother and father had to leave earlier than usual that morning, so they weren't around to add to his annoyance as John progressed through his daily routine. Everything became much more difficult than it was before. The spoon had a difficult time finding his mouth, along with his toothbrush and floss. He let out a small moan of pain and dismay as the dark room flashed before his eyes again. It didn't last for more than half a second. Then came sound of the flickering light. Again not lasting for more than half a second. Then.. to his sheer horror... came the breathing. This sound was the worst of them all. Gusts of hot breath rasping against that mask. The breathing made the man far more real. It made him a living "breathing" organism with malicious intent. But who was it? Was there even anything under the mask? Was anything even breathing that air in and out into it? Just as fast as the sound started, it was over, replaced by the blasting of the school bus horn. John held his hurting head as he stumbled across the green grass of his front lawn. Since when was it this hard to walk to the bus? His head was now swirling and he couldn't tell if it was lack of sleep of the awful pain. "You ok kid?" The bus driver noticed his odd behavior and the hand on his head. "Yeah I'm fine. Just a headache." But he wasn't fine in the least. The pain was so terrible his vision was becoming slightly blurred. Nearly falling onto Tyler's lap, John took his seat. His friend managed to avoid getting in trouble after the concert. "Hey man, you don't look so good.""Yeah I uh... Didn't sleep so well." The thought of falling asleep on the bus terrified him. Confronting his nightmare in the midst of all these people was by far the last thing he wanted to happen. That seemed to be a near impossible task though, with eyelids feeling heavier than the weight he could bench press. He hoped the constant jostle of the bus would keep him awake like it always did on long field trips. Not even thinking of watching eyes, John slapped himself in the face, making his headache peak."Dude! What was that for?" Tyler looked worryingly at his exhausted friend, wondering why he didn't just go to sleep.John couldn't even bring himself to respond, and sat staring into the back of the seat in front of him for the remainder of the ride to school. Tyler and John got off of the bus, and made their was together into the school. Neither talked. Tyler was worried for John and didn't know what to say, and John was in too much of a dizzied state he couldn't speak. He was afraid anything that may come from his mouth would be incoherent. The two of them walked down one of the many halls, and John realized they were being followed. He recognized those heavy and determined footsteps anywhere, and turned to confront them. "Listen Kramer-" John nearly collapsed to the floor. Standing before him, breathing heavily and wielding a large knife was the man. There he stood. As clear as the oblivious children who walked around him. He didn't move. There was no head turning to the side, or raising of the knife into the air. He just stood there, staring. John felt an intense chill run through his body. Tyler grabbed his arm."Hey man, lets go we're gonna be late!" John looked at Tyler's hand around his arm and the chill melted away. He looked back down the hallway. Nothing was there. "Hey man, lets go we're gonna be late!" John looked at Tyler's hand around his arm and the chill melted away. He looked back down the hallway. Nothing was there. "Are you gonna make it John?" "Yeah I'll be fine. I just need more sleep." John decided to sit down for a minute, trying to allow his head to clear. Tyler looked down at him once more with that worried look, and went on his way to class. The bell rang. John still sat against the lockers and stared, wishing he could fall asleep. Just before his eyelids sealed shut, John felt two strong hands grip the straps on his backpack.Kramer pulled John up from the ground with ease and slammed him into the lockers. John felt pain shoot through his head as it swung back and struck the metal. Anger flooded in. "Guess what Porta-John?" John knew better than to answer. Kramer's putrid breath swelled under his nose. Everyone had cleared the halls and the two of them were alone. "That teacher who saw us the other day reported me! Thanks to you I have to stay after school all week!""My faul-" John was stopped short and felt the wind quickly fly out of him as Kramer's fist landed in the middle of his stomach. Everything was blurry once more. Finally in the midst of all the pain and extreme exhaustion, John slumped powerlessly to the floor and felt his consciousness leave him. Just before all completely faded away before him, John saw the masked man standing behind Kramer. Then everything was gone. The light flickered six times. No screams. Just the dark, silent room and the overhanging single lightbulb. A bright beam of light shone through John's eyelids as he slowly opened them to the world. There was still a slight soreness in his gut where Kramer hit him, but his headache had completely subsided. There was no longer dizziness, but the exhaustion had all but left him. He looked up and down the now crowded hallway, and slowly got to his feet while avoiding rushing students. Then he realized something. The passers-by were not turning into any of the classrooms that lined the walls, or exchanging books from there lockers for the next part of the school day. No. Everyone was journeying to the doors, or going to the locker rooms to change for sports practice. "Hey John!" Tyler called from the crowd of students and pushed his way over. "I'm sorry bud, I didn't wanna wake you up, but schools over." "What?" Had Kramer really hit him that hard? Or was he just so exhausted that he naturally slept through eight periods of the day? He then remembered seeing the man in the mask standing behind Kramer as he slowly drifted off. It was his first time seeing the man coexist with another person in reality. What did it mean? The thought that it might not even mean anything angered John. It all had to mean something! He knew he was in no appropriate place to be pondering over the matter, so as quick as he could John left the building and took a seat on a bench, and waited for the bus. He then remembered Kramer. What should he do if he saw him again? Kramer took a different bus than he did, but still. What about the next day? Should he confront him? Punch "him" in "his" stomach or simply tell a teacher what he did so he wouldn't be bothered ever again. No. That wouldn't stop Kramer. Even if they expelled him from school, which they wouldn't, Kramer would still track John down and beat him senseless. John sat in silence alone on the bench as these thoughts floated through his mind. The rest he had against the lockers must have been just what he needed, because this was the clearest he ever thought in days. Suddenly, there came a few shrill screams from somewhere behind, and students and teachers began flooding towards them. This was followed by a few large gasps, and even the unsettling sound of someone vomiting. John turned around on the bench to see what was happening, but couldn't make it out. There appeared to be a small group of people gathered on the side of the school, huddled underneath of a great oak tree. He could see teachers trying to shoo students away without any success, and a few on there phones. A few of the girls who most likely screamed first, attracting the others, were crying. John got up from the bench ran over to the commotion ignoring the adults telling him to stay away. Pushing his way through, he made it to the front of the crown and looked up. The color immediately ran from his face. John felt a few parts of his body go cold and numb, and he viciously fought the urge to throw up. He was hanging by a rope tied around his waist. Blood still dripped from his lips and the large gash across his throat. Blank, dead, staring eyes gazed out over the group of his observers. It was Kramer.
Students and faculty of the high school were quickly ushered away from the tree when the police arrived, and it was officially given the title "crime zone". Frightened teenagers quickly shuffled to their appropriate busses to go home and tell their parents what had happened. Teachers and coaches were forced to cancel after school activities and any sports games. Everything entered total chaos.John, who was one of the teenagers who ended up missing their busses in all commotion, walked silently home by himself, still pale as a ghost and shaking. He couldn't get Kramer's swinging body out of his mind. The creaking of the tree branch under the weight of his slashed corpse. "Slashed corpse". The slash mark across his throat and the dripping blood that stained his shirt and the ground below. John knew what question would be on every single persons mind who knew about the incident, or would come to find out. Who did it? What animalistic fiend could have committed such a horrific crime? And to a child not even 18 years old? Of course, when the same question came into John's mind, only one image followed after. It wasn't some old psychotic pedophile who scoured the high school's campus when nobody was looking. It wasn't an escaped convict who needed to satisfy his pent up blood lust that had been building within the walls of a penitentiary. The only image that came to his mind was the one of the masked man. How he'd seen him clear as day standing behind Kramer before John fainted into nothingness. But that's impossible. No. The masked man is nothing more than a plague in my dreams- John thought. He couldn't have physically harmed anyone. There is not difference between the man in the mask and a shadow on a wall, they're harmless. Then these thoughts of denial subsided. There seemed to be no other explanation. NO! THERE HAS TO BE! It makes no sense! John arrived home to be greeted by an extremely worried mother who heard the news on tv. As soon as his homework was finished, and dinner was eaten, he was sent straight to bed.
The overhanging light swung slightly over the poorly lit room. Johns father woke with a start and glanced around, frightened and confused. He felt tight coils of rope and tape around his wrists and ankles as he tried to move. A gag covered his mouth making his cries for help futile and muffled. He continued to glance around the room in search of someone to help, or at least to figure out where he was. With his heart pounding hard against his chest, and nerves rising to dangerous levels, he began violently thrashing in place. It was a large and old chair that he was strapped to, and it didn't even budge with his violent movements. When no help came from his outburst, he attempted to calm down and think the situation through. After all, as far as he could see, there was no real threat in the room. The light hanging above flickered six times. He looked about the room, trying as hard as he could to recognize his surroundings. And he did. It was the basement of their house. Just then, a figure loomed in the shadows, and slowly made itself visible. It was someone wearing a haunting red devil mask. It has two black soulless eyes, and a large menacing black lipped grin with yellowed teeth. Two black horns adorned its head. John's father began thrashing again, trying to break from his bonds. The man tilted his head to the side and looked at him, piercing deep with those black eyes. The man began slowly walking towards the chair. Closer. John's father let out more muffled screams and tugged at the rope and tape. Closer. Closer. More screams. Blood began running from his wrists as they were cut into by the bonds. Closer. Closer. Then, he could hear the breathing. Deep menacing breathing that echoed through the mask. The man stopped in his tracks and straightened his head. He reached behind his back and brandished a gleaming knife. The screams were even louder now. Closer. Louder. Closer. The breathing was so close. Closer. More blood ran to the ground. Closer- the man lunged at the chair and swiped the knife cleanly across the father's throat. Blood ran down from the open wound quickly, and the screams slowly silenced. The man wiped the knife of blood with one of his black gloves and dropped it. Slowly, he reached up and removed the mask, revealing John's pale and exhausted face. Eyes wide and hollow as they guided his sleeping trance. Smoothly, he set the mask down onto the ground, took off the bloodstained gloves, and turned to walk upstairs. Without even glancing back, he switched off the light, and went back up into his bed, never to be troubled by his reoccurring nightmares again.