The Nightmare – Part Two

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The Nightmare Part One

Victoria and Brad met by accident. She had been working on his mother’s political campaign. Hyped up over the historical event, Victoria worked day and night. 

It was during a train ride through the Midwest when Brad came into the dining car. It was past midnight, and Victoria, relaxing after a long day with a nightcap, noticed him walking to the bar. The handsome, single, Harvard graduate, who majored in Economics, winked at her.

“Long day?” he asked.

“It was but so worth it. Did you hear your mother’s speech today in Tulsa?” Victoria asked.

“I caught a little of it on the plane. I hear the crowd went crazy.”

“They did. I feel confident your mom may win this.” Victoria was beaming.

“I’m Brad, her oldest,” he introduced himself.

“I’m Victoria, her campaign manager.”

Their eyes made contact and lasted a minute too long.

“Mind if I join you?” he asked.

Victoria didn’t need to say another word. Brad sat down next to her.

The rest is history, as they say. Brad and Victoria spent the rest of the campaign together and fell in love. Their romance was a whirlwind. In less than a year, they were engaged. Six months later, they were married. Six months after they were married, her new mother-in-law lost the election over a nasty rumor. It was shocking to everyone, especially Victoria. The somberness in the Slater household was unbearable. 

Brad and Victoria were an odd couple. It wasn’t clear to anyone what the commonalities were, but it seemed to work. Underestimating her worth, as many women in Victoria’s shoes, she was infatuated with her husband. Whatever he wanted, she provided, both in bed and out of bed. Once, during an argument, he told her she was easily replaceable. She believed it and from then on, avoided making him angry. If she didn’t agree with him, she kept her mouth shut, like a dutiful wife. 

When Victoria found out they were expecting a baby, she waited to tell Brad. They never really discussed starting a family, and she was fearful of how he would react to the news. When she told Brad, she was pleasantly surprised by his reaction. Overjoyed, Victoria hoped it would be a new beginning for them.

* * * *

As Victoria lay strapped to the four-poster bed with candle holding, hooded figures chanting around her, she suspected Brad’s happiness about the news wasn’t because he was to be a father. This new beginning wasn’t the one she had dreamed of or was it? Maybe Brad wasn’t a part of this. Was he also chained up somewhere in this God-forsaken house, unable to reach her? Had they killed him? Sent his parents a ransom note? Her mind was racing with all types of crazy thoughts.

One thing she knew for sure, she needed to keep a clear, level head if she were to escape these lunatics. The lull of the chants seemed to calm her, though she couldn’t make out what language they were speaking. She decided to play along with them. Let them think I’m with them like I do Brad whenever he’s in one of his rages. Breathing deep, she remembered her yoga instructor teaching her about breathing exercises. 

As quickly as the chanting had begun, it suddenly stopped. Victoria could hear the wood crackling in the fireplace. “Who are you, people? What do you want with me? Where’s my husband?” She cried out in the silent room.

A bright flash of light blinded her for a second. All she could see was the color green from the flash. Blinking furiously to regain her sight, she heard a thunderous roar. The ceiling lifted away. The wind was howling. Though it was raining, she remained dry. An air bubble was protecting her. Objects were swirling around as if looking up into a tornado, reminding her of the Wizard of Oz. The noise was unbearable. Every muscle in Victoria’s body contracted to cause her to let out a guttural scream.

* * * *

Victoria? Was someone calling her name?

Can she hear me? A female voice said, though not recognizable.

Victoria wasn’t sure how much time had passed. Her joints were stiff from being kept in one position. She heard the whispering again.

“Any change?”

“Not since your last visit.”

Who were these people? Why can’t I reach out to them? Am I dead? Why can’t I move? Victoria wondered.

She heard a beeping sound. 

“Does this mean she can hear us?” The unfamiliar female voice whispered.

“Possibly. But we really don’t know much about what humans hear or feel when they’re in this state,” said the male voice. 

I can hear you, screamed Victoria but only in her head. 

“Look,” the female voice said, “The eye movement quickened. She must be able to hear us.” The beeping rapidly increased.

Frustrated, Victoria gave up trying to get their attention. Her last happy memory was driving down the road on a romantic getaway with her husband, celebrating their pregnancy. Pregnancy? I’m pregnant. My baby. What will happen to it if I can’t get out of here? They did this to me. The chanting. Oh, God, help me, please. Victoria pleaded in her mind. 

* * * *

Realizing the humming noise had halted, Victoria had no idea how much time had passed. Not bothering to open her eyes, she realized her wrists had been unstrapped. Her eyelids were stuck together. Once she was able to open her eyes, she looked around the room without lifting her head. She was disoriented and fumbled to sit up. 

How did I get here? She thought to herself. “Brad?” she yelled out. 

Looking down, she was naked. Shivering, she reached for the sheets to cover herself. Realizing she was back in their room, Victoria had no idea how long she had been there. She needed to find a phone. But who would she call? 

When Victoria swung her legs over the bed and tried to stand, she was unstable. Her head was pounding. Thankfully, the wet clothes, dry from the heat of the fireplace, were on the floor. Had she been dreaming again? Could it be this house? Maybe it wasn’t Brad who had planned this charade. Was she hallucinating? Hurriedly, Victoria dressed.

She tiptoed across the room toward the door, turning the doorknob. The door slowly opened. Peeking out into the dimly lit hallway, she looked down. Seeing the wall to wall carpeting splayed out down the long hall, Victoria could hear music playing and the low hum of conversation. The smell of food wafted upstairs mixed with fragrant flowers, invading her nostrils, making Victoria’s stomach growl. 

Making her way to the stairwell, she stopped at the first door on the left. The intensity of emotions flooded through her body as she reached for the doorknob. Victoria had to know what was behind this door. The door was locked. Breathing a sigh of relief, she slowly made her way down the stone staircase. When she reached the bottom step, she peered around the corner into the large living room. 

Spotting Brad at the bar, Victoria hesitated. She could break out or go over to where Brad was sitting at the bar. What if all this was a dream she made up in her head? Maybe, it was hormones? He’d say she was overreacting. Not wanting to see the cloaked people again, she headed toward the front door. The woman at the desk looked up from her paperwork.

“Ma’am, can I help you with something?”

“No, thank you, I just forgot something in the car. I’ll be right back.” Victoria opened the front door and walked out of the house. As she stood on the small landing, she took a deep breath. It had stopped raining, but it was windy outside. I’m free from the house, and no one tried to stop me. She raced down the steps looking for their car. Once she found their SUV, she pushed in the code, and the door opened. She still needed the key to get the car started and remembered they had a hidden one in the wheel well.

She raced around the car as the wind whipped through her hair, checking all four wheels. She heard someone call her name. It was Brad. It was dark in the parking lot, and she could only make out a shadowy figure approaching her.

“Stay back,” she yelled. 

* * * *

“Victoria, wake up. Wake up. You’re talking in your sleep again,” Brad whispered as he shook her shoulder.

Opening her eyes, she had to adjust to the darkness of the room. Where was she? Victoria’s body was clammy, and her heart was beating fast.

“Who were you yelling at in your dream?” he asked. Victoria could tell he had been sleeping from the rasp in his voice.

Propping herself up on one elbow, she saw the four silhouettes of her dogs lying on the floor around their bed. Breathing a sigh of relief, Victoria told Brad to go back to sleep. 

Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she glanced at the clock on her nightstand. 3:33 am. 

Tiptoeing past the dogs, Victoria headed downstairs. Approaching the refrigerator door, she hesitated before opening it. Victoria’s dream was still vivid in her head. So, all of these events never happened? It was all a nightmare? Was she pregnant, or was that just in her dream too?

What could possibly have caused her to start having these horrible nightmares? 

As she opened the refrigerator door, she noticed a new carton of milk. Picking up the container, a small amount of residue was left on the glass shelf where it had been placed. Turning the carton upside down, she saw a small puncture the size of a pinprick on the bottom.

These nightmares all made sense now. Brad had been drugging her milk. They had never discussed starting a family. Brad thought she was to blame for the loss of his mother’s campaign.  

Finding his briefcase, she rummaged through it. In a side pocket, she found a needle and a vial. Searching further, she noticed the lining on the case was torn. Inside the lining was an envelope. Opening the envelope, there was the reason for Brad’s deception; a million-dollar life insurance policy.

The signs were there in the dream. Brad had been compassionate, reassuring Victoria is wasn’t her fault his mother lost the election. Brad had been pretending to be happy with the news of her pregnancy. 

Victoria stayed up to plan Brad’s demise. 

The following morning, Brad was surprised when he came downstairs to find breakfast on the table with coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

“I know I haven’t been myself lately, and I thought you’d enjoy a nice breakfast before meeting the guys for your golf game,” she said with a smile. Brad sat down at the table.

“Didn’t sleep well, I take it?” he asked her as he buttered his toast.

“No, I don’t understand why I’m having nightmares. The dreams are so vivid too. It’s as if I’m really experiencing them, a dream within a dream. Know what I mean?”

“I’m afraid not, I can never remember my dreams,” Brad said as he took a sip of his black coffee. Victoria could see Brad was enjoying every bite as he smothered his pancakes in maple syrup.

Taking another sip of orange juice, Brad faltered, trying to put the glass down on the table. The flute tumbled over. Dropping his fork, Brad looked over at Victoria. As he fell face-first into his plate, Victoria said, “RIP my love, Karma’s a bitch.” 

Picking up the phone, she dialed 911 to report her husband had a heart attack.

The Nightmare – Part One

Waking with a start, Victoria felt her heart pumping fast. Her skin, clammy to the touch, was sticking to the silk sheets. Sluggishly, she swung her legs over the side of the bed, cautiously standing up. Four dogs occupied the floor. It was dark, but she was able to make out their silhouettes. Tiptoeing over them, she headed downstairs for a glass of water, comforted by the familiarity of the room. Opening the refrigerator, she reached for the milk carton. She remembered her mother saying it helped with sleep. Pouring the milk into a coffee cup, she placed it into the microwave. She contemplated how a dream could disorient her state of mind so dynamically.

It was the same one every night. She and Brad, her husband of five years, would be strolling, in the warm sunlight, down a grassy path somewhere in the mountains. They would be laughing, talking, holding hands, and enjoying each other’s company. Brad would let go of her hand to pick up a heart-shaped rock and abruptly disappear. Victoria, panicked, would start looking for him, calling his name louder as the sun disappeared behind the dark clouds. The wind picks up, and it starts to rain. Thunder and lightning fill the sky. She still can’t find Brad. With blurring vision, she spots an ominous house in the distance. The closer she gets to this apparition, the more doomed she feels. She’s never able to get a clear view; everything blurry in her dream. By the time she reaches the front door, she’s soaked from the rain.

She knocks on the door, only to hear its echo from inside. The door squeaks open as she turns the doorknob. Stepping inside, she calls out to Brad, believing he has seen the house seeking shelter from the rain. The large foyer has a round, antique-looking table sitting in the middle of the floor. The large crystal cut vase with bunches of azaleas and white lilies adorn the center of the table. As Victoria looks beyond the jar, a large stone staircase comes into view. Inside of the house, ornately decorated with large mahogany tables, buffets, and red velvet-covered high back chairs, had thick cobwebs hanging vicariously along the beams. The gold brocaded drapes are closed, causing distinguished shadows playing tricks with Victoria’s limited sight.

Image by Momentmal from Pixabay

She wanders the house calling out to Brad. She heads upstairs. There is a long hallway, with wooden floors and oriental area rugs the whole length of the hall. There are three closed doors in her sight. Approaching the first door, she opens it apprehensively. The room empty, except for a crib, changing table, and a large stone fireplace. A fire roars to life. Victoria walks over to the crib and peeks inside. A small baby swaddled in a blanket appears to be sleeping. Placing her fingers upon the baby’s cheek, she withdraws in horror. Stone cold. Shocked, she runs from the room.

The second door inside has a massive four-poster bed, several dressers, and a makeup armoire. Victoria sees the same type of fireplace as what was in the baby’s room. A fire roars to life. The place is frigid. Victoria, now chilled to the bone, walks over to the four-poster bed, where she notices Brad’s mother and father covered up to the neck. She tries to wake them, to no avail. They, too, are cold to the touch. Screaming, Victoria runs from the room.

Down the hallway is another closed door. Fearing what Victoria may find behind this one, she hesitantly opens it. Inside, Victoria finds another four-poster bed, a roaring fire in the stone fireplace. Like the others, the room is ice cold. Victoria, beside herself, wonders why she can’t find her husband. Why are all the people she loves lying dead in this house? Desperately wanting to wake up but can’t.

Hesitantly, she walks over to the bed, seeing an impression of a body under the covers. She leans over, it’s Brad. She screams and wakes to a wildly beating heart and clammy skin.

She never tells Brad about her dream; after all, it’s his parents as well as himself whom she finds dead. She confides to a friend about her nightmare. He tells her it just means they are going to live a long life. His explanation seems to alleviate Victoria’s concerns.

Several months pass. Her night terrors have faded. Victoria gets the news they are expecting their first child. Both are elated to learn they will be parents. To celebrate, Brad decides to take her on a romantic getaway. As a surprise, he tells her nothing about the mysterious bed and breakfast.

The weather is perfect as they drive up the windy, mountainous road. As the couple gets closer to the destination, dark storm clouds appear in the distance; thunder and occasional bolts of lightning crash down in front of them. The wipers, not able to keep up with the pelting rain, causes the view from the windshield to blur. Victoria begins to shake uncontrollably. Her skin becomes clammy from the humidity.

Brad turns off the road and heads down a muddy path filled with water-soaked potholes. The bouncing of the vehicle causes Victoria’s stomach to be queasy. Staring through the blurred windshield, she can’t seem to shake the ominous feeling in her gut. She can’t quite put her finger on it, but Victoria is experiencing Deja Vu. She’s been here before.

Putting the car in park, Brad reaches for his raincoat in the back seat.

“Please don’t leave me here,” Victoria says.

“I won’t be but a minute, I’m going to check us in, and I’ll be back to get you.” He kisses her on the cheek.

“I’m serious. DON’T leave me alone in the car. I’m afraid.”

“This pregnancy is playing tricks with your mind.” Brad tried to make light of it but saw she was distressed.

“Come with me then. Grab the umbrella.”

Together, they made their way up a long, stone walkway.

Large mahogany doors loomed in front of them. Brad’s knock echoed inside.

“No, no, no, I…I can’t do this.” Victoria was crying now.

“Come on, honey, why are you so frightened?”

“I never told you about my nightmare. This is the house in my dream,” she yelled over the howling wind as it blew her umbrella inside out.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I want us to get out of this rain,” he yelled back.

Victoria held her breath as Brad reached for the doorknob. The door screeched open. As they stepped inside, a large round table in the middle of the large foyer with a cut-glass vase sat in the middle with azaleas and white lilies. Soft jazz music played in the background. The lights dimmed low, and people mingled with champagne flutes in their hands.

“How may I help you?” A young woman comes up beside them.

“We have reservations, Mr. & Mrs. Slater.”

“Of course.” Walking over to the desk, she pulls out several sheets of paper. “Our computers are down at the moment due to the storm. Luckily, I printed out our guest log this morning before it hit. Let me show you to your room. Do you have any luggage?”

“We do, but we left it in the car. I wanted to make sure we had the right place. I can get it later once I get my wife settled. She isn’t feeling well,” Brad told her.

“I understand, sir, follow me.”

As they all walked through what appeared to be a large sitting room, with ornate gold drapery, they came upon a stone staircase. Victoria eyed it suspiciously. She grabbed Brad’s arm and held on tight.

Climbing the stairs, Victoria was sure the oriental rugs would be in the hallway. To her surprise, it was wall to wall carpeting. Rather than just three doors, there were ten doors, five on each side of the hallway.

Her fears may be unjustified.

The young woman walked to the end of the hallway and opened the last door on the left. She stepped aside so Brad and Victoria could enter the room. A four-poster bed was sprawled out on one wall.  A stone fireplace centered opposite the bed sat cold and dark. From where the woman was standing, she flicked a switch, and a fire started in the fireplace. The warmth of the flames heated the room quickly.

fireplace

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

“If you need anything, just dial zero on the phone. Dinner starts in an hour. Enjoy your stay.” She backed out of the room slowly, closing the door behind her.

“Are you going to explain yourself, or should I chalk it up to hormones?” Brad asked.

Victoria told him about her nightmare, in detail. He chuckled and pulled her into his arms. “Dreams, honey, nothing to worry about.” Kissing her head, “I’m going to get our luggage. Lie down and relax. I’ll be right back, promise.”

Victoria pulled the heavy comforter back from the bed and removed her wet clothing. Walking into the bathroom, she decided to take a bath before dressing for dinner. Lying back in the water, closing her eyes, Victoria couldn’t believe how silly she had been. Brad must think I’m nuts. 

When she awoke, the water in the tub was cold. How long had she been out? Why didn’t Brad wake me when he came back with the luggage?

Climbing out of the cold water, Victoria called out, “Brad, honey?” No answer. Grabbing a towel, she wrapped it around her shivering body. “Did you get the luggage, honey?” Still no response. She walked out into the bedroom, everything was just as she had left it. Grabbing her cellphone to check the time, she was shocked to see she had been asleep for an hour. Where was Brad, and why had he not come back with their luggage? It wasn’t like him to sit at the bar, knowing I was up here waiting for him. She picked up the phone on the nightstand and dialed zero. The ringing on the other end continued. No one answered. Gathering up her wet clothes from the floor, she decided she had no choice but to put them back on to go look for Brad.

Opening the door to their room, she stepped out into the hallway. Something was different. The room was the last one on the left, but the carpet was now the oriental rug in her dreams. Impossible. The lights were so dim, Victoria, unable to see clearly, felt her way to the wall. Using the wall as her guide, finding the stone staircase, the music that was once playing downstairs, could not be heard. All was silent. The adrenaline coursed through her body. This can’t be happening. 

Slowly descending the stairs, she began shivering. Tears filled her eyes, blurring her vision. Calling out, “Hello? Is anyone down here?” No music, no smell of food, no champagne flutes, no other people. Her nightmare. The cold was unbearable. Panic set in. Fight or flight syndrome echoed in her brain. If I’m not dreaming, I need to get the hell out of here. Heading towards the door, someone grabbed her arm.

“Not so fast, honey. We have some unfinished business to attend to.”

Victoria turned toward the unfamiliar voice. A black hooded cape was pulled over their face. Unable to make out who it could be, she tried to tear away, but they were too strong for her. She froze with fright. The figure hauled Victoria back up the stairs, pulling her into the first room. Just inside the door, she saw the crib and dressing table from her dream. But something was different.

Other black-cloaked figures were circling the four-poster bed, each holding a lighted candle, chanting. It was then she knew what they wanted: her unborn child, and Brad had delivered her to them.

distorted image of a person

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay