“Every night I die in my sleep.”
I’d be lying if I said that sentence didn’t immediately catch my eye as I pored over the countless papers from the storage unit – something it feels like I had bid on a lifetime ago. There’s a small stack of papers, but on top of them is a note addressed to Ron.
I looked into this one and there’s not much there. The vic was twenty-four year old Barbara Eden. She was single, only child, and her parents had died in a car accident somewhere around a year before her death. Of course, due to the nature of the case, there’s no definite date of death, but the body was found in her own bed on November first, eighty-six. Her apartment was locked from the inside, no signs of forced entry. Aside from how weird that is, the only thing noteworthy found at the scene was what you already have. The pages were stacked neatly beside her typewriter. Let me know if there’s anything else you want me to check on.
As I’m sure you will too, I feel it’s safe to assume this is from Detective Anderson. With the little context he provided in mind, I’ll go ahead and start reading what is apparently the only notable item found at the scene of Ms. Eden’s demise.
Every night I die in my sleep. At least, every night for the past year, roughly. I’ve decided to organize my notes because I don’t know when it’s going to happen. If anyone finds this…if anyone cares enough to read it…I’ll see if I can put this in a way that makes sense. I wrote down my first dream the day I had it. I’ll organize all my papers so they’re in chronological order. I don’t know what good it will do but I need to be able to see the words. I just need to. So, here’s the very first of the dreams.
I’ve never seen anything around me before, but I know right away that it’s all mine. I’m sitting on my couch in my apartment. Everything is vivid to my senses of sight and touch when I focus on them, but I can’t hear anything. Well, I can. But it’s all…muffled. Like someone left the radio on in another room at the other end of the house. I can feel a remote control for the TV in my hand. There’s carpet touching my feet. I’m not able to move my body but this makes sense. I’m a passenger. I know this just like I know everything I see is mine just like I know this isn’t me. I stop fighting for control and begin to focus on the sensations.
I have a slight buzz. I see three empty bottles of beer on the coffee table in front of me. I’m content. The TV is flickering and I focus to see that the channel eight news is on. George Bush has appointed a new Secretary of Transportation, according to the headline at the bottom of the screen. I think that’s strange. I don’t know much about politics, but I guess I just assumed that’s something only presidents do.
My head moves and at first I’m too distracted, trying to pick out everything in my line of sight one by one, to realize that the front door is open. There’s a man walking towards me. There are vibrations in my throat and I realize that I’m talking, but I can’t hear anything. The man’s mouth moves but I don’t know what he’s saying. Whatever he says causes cold fear to grip my chest.
I stand up and put my arms in front of me. He seems unconcerned by this and continues approaching me casually. I focus on my peripheral vision and see that he’s holding a blue translucent rubber-coated wire in his gloved hands. It looks like the type of cable you’d see on a cheap bike lock. My arms raise to push him away and I try to run.
I feel my throat caught, jerking me back. My hands raise to feel the cable wrapped around my neck. I feel intense pressure building up in my head as air is cut off from my lungs and blood cut off from my brain. My arms flail as I try to fight, but it’s useless. My eyes never close as I sink to the floor. I feel my heart slow from its rapid pace to an unnatural end. My body becomes dead weight; I am held up solely by this cable.
Finally, the pressure on my throat eases. My back flops to the ground. I’m staring straight up. There’s a cobweb on the ceiling, hanging stubbornly between the popcorn and the central light fixture. The man who killed me steps into my view, simply staring at me for a moment.
His blonde hair is buzzed. His emotionless blue eyes study me. He looks at me like I’m an object, not a person. He bends down and I feel his hand dive into the pocket of my pants, where he removes something that I can’t see. He stands up and looks around. He moves out of my field of view for a moment, then returns with a knife and a spoon. He gets right up in my face, working with his tools around my eyes. I feel no pain. Instead, just cold metal tearing away at my eyelids, then a spoon edges under my eyeball. My vision is distorted, looking at multiple images at once. I see the knife move and the two images become only half an image. I see him holding my eyeball over my head and studying it. Then he sets it aside before turning to look at my remaining eye.
Then I woke up. This really bothered me. I think it would have disturbed anyone, really. But it felt like a storm looming overhead throughout my day, despite my best efforts to ignore it, because Mondays are bad enough as it is. The storm broke when I was leaving work, though. I couldn’t wait to get home and start a new day fresh. That’s probably why I wasn’t paying enough attention as I exited the elevator to realize that my purse was going to knock over the plant next to the elevator doors until it was too late.
I turned to catch it instinctively, but someone had already caught it and untangled my purse from it. I smiled at the gesture and looked up to thank them, when the words caught in my throat. I may not have recognized the person – I assume they worked on a different floor than me – but I’d recognize those eyes anywhere. I’d been thinking about them all day. This man was a killer.
I shook my head as I walked away without so much as thanking the man. I’d read in a magazine once that you can’t imagine new faces in your sleep, that at most you take bits and pieces of people’s faces that you’ve seen. We worked in the same building. I’m sure I had just run into him before in the elevator or the front lobby on my way into or out of work. Then…had some sort of nightmare. I heard laying off dairy for the last few hours before bed can help with nightmares. I guess I’ll skip the cheese on tonight’s dinner.
I can’t move my arms or legs. That’s the first thing I know. I can feel my heart beating quickly. I am sitting in a chair. I can’t see anything though; everything is black. And then I can. A woman is standing in front of me now, holding a blindfold. She must have just taken it off. She’s talking and I try to make out what she said, but I can’t. My eyes don’t move from her, but I focus on my peripheral vision.
There’s newspapers laid out, filling up the entirety of the living room floor. I think I’ve seen these ones before. I see one about Mayor Hedgecock. But that’s not the most notable thing. There’s a large black circle in black spray paint going across all the newspapers. The image in the middle of the circle takes me a minute to recognize because it doesn’t look right. It’s a hand with seven digits. There’s a football-shaped hole in the palm of the hand.
I refocus on the woman in front of me. I know I want to say something, but there’s something in my mouth stopping me. I must be gagged. But I still talk. Not with my voice, though. There are no vibrations or muffled sounds. I don’t know how, but she heard me. She shakes her head no, and pulls out a knife. My heart beats harder, but now irregularly. I again speak without words, telling her that my heart hurts. She ignores me now and does something behind my back.
I feel myself being shoved forwards. My hands and feet are still bound, but I am no longer tied to a chair. I struggle to move, but it’s useless. I feel something being wrapped around my throat and I can no longer breathe. I’m dragged to the center of the circle. The pressure on my throat eases, but does not let up entirely.
I’m on my back. I look up at the woman, who is standing where the middle finger extends. Her brown eyes turn black as she begins to talk. I don’t know how or when it happened, but there are now three dark figures on either side of her. Each figure is standing at the point of a digit. I try to focus on them, but find that I can’t. I can only focus on her.
Another minute of this and then I am flipped onto my stomach. She pulls my shirt up and I feel incisions being made on my lower back. Things are inserting themselves into me. They’re under my skin, moving around, feeling me. Muscle is shoved aside with no effort and my insides begin to shift. I want to scream but as soon as the thought enters my mind, my throat constricts.
As suddenly as they had started, they stop. I am flipped back over. In one hand the woman is holding a clear plastic bag that contains three metal objects smeared in blood. In the other hand, she holds an open vial of blood. She begins walking the rim of the circle, stopping every other pace to pour out some of the blood. She completes the circle and faces me.
I can see the figures moving but I can’t tell exactly how they are moving. It’s like I can register motion but nothing beyond that. They become still again and it’s then that I realize my heart is once again beating – hard and irregular. I feel pain in my chest. She stares at me until the pain subsides. I am no longer trying to breathe.
I watch the woman step forward as my eyes begin to slowly unfocus. She is holding an open, green duffel bag. She begins to shove my body inside the bag and everything is filtered through its material. The bag tightens around me as it’s closed and picked up. I’m no longer inside my home. The bag is shoved into another, smaller space, and then I hear a loud thump of a car trunk being shut. All I see is black.
So obviously cutting out dairy didn’t help. One bad dream is terrible, but two in a row put me on the verge of a meltdown for most of the morning. It was some time before I was able to bury myself into routine, bouncing between actual work and workplace gossip. I deliberately waited an extra five minutes after I got off work before taking the elevator. I had no desire to run into that man again – actual killer or no. I thought about how I should call my doctor. I’m sure there’s a pill or something I could take to fix this. He’d know best.
I got in my car and began the drive home. I turned on the radio, looking forward to something that could take my mind far away from my troubles. I thought that might do the trick, at least until I could get home and make a call to the doctor. It wasn’t until I was stopped at a light on Market that I found my gaze wandering around. That’s when my eyes met the driver’s at the other end of the intersection. Her cold brown eyes seemed to rip into my soul.
I actually jumped, which meant I let go of the brake and started to roll into the intersection before I realized it. Already committed, I slammed onto the gas and got out of there. I couldn’t tear my eyes from the rear view mirror the whole way home. I was just waiting for her to follow me. I don’t know what I’d do, I was just scared.
I made it home without getting into an accident and I don’t think I was followed at all. I sat in the parking lot, trying to catch my breath and stop my hands from shaking. It was all in my head. It had to be. I had to have seen her somewhere before or something. That’s all.
I was finally getting myself under control when I realized the radio was still on. You know how you can be at work, talking to someone, and then you hear someone on the other side of the room say your name and it catches your attention, even though they weren’t trying to get your attention and you hadn’t even been listening if they were? Well, that’s what happened when I heard the guy on the radio say, “The body was found in a green duffel bag, locked in the victim’s trunk. Nothing was stolen and the police are requesting any information that may help catch the perpetrator.”
I realized I was holding my breath while I waited for more information that never came. That was the end of that news story. I shut off the car and ran inside my apartment.
I need to get an appointment in for the doctor. I can’t deal with this.
I feel thirsty. No, that’s not right. Hungry? No, that’s not it. Ah, it’s…it’s a metaphor. I want to know. That’s what it is. There’s someone in front of me, lying on a hospital bed in my mind’s eye. But this isn’t a hospital. I look around me without turning my head. It’s some kind of warehouse. No. It’s an abandoned home. I’m standing in the middle of it, next to this bed. There’s all kinds of wires hooked up to the person who’s lying on the bed. Some are sensors, maybe. There’s a heartbeat monitor going so that’s probably one of them. Others look like they’re going under the skin, though. I don’t know what those would be. There’s something vibrating in my pocket. I look down as I pull a black rectangle from my jeans. It’s lighting up with the letter H. I touch a red circle and it stops vibrating. I put it back in my pocket and refocus on the bed. The wires. The person.
It’s all there so I can understand. That’s what keeps coming back to me. My hands come into view again and I roughly open the person’s left eye. It doesn’t appear to focus at all, but I know from the monitors he’s alive. The monitors aren’t real, though. They’re a representation of what’s happening from my mind. As I stare into the eye I feel something.
I don’t know how to describe it. It doesn’t make sense at all. I feel like I’m going crazy just focusing on it. It’s like an entire universe enters my mind, exploding in a series of colors that don’t exist. Worlds are formed and disappear, taking unrecognizable creatures with them as they go. A feeling not unlike electricity runs through each light, each color, each creature, each world, and circles back to me. I absorb it all. It is now me. It always was. This feels like it makes sense, although I don’t understand it.
The universe rushes behind me as something tries to pull me away. I turn and see an older, gray-haired man approach. He has a gun in one hand and some sort of needle, like a shot, in the other. He stands there, cautious but sure. Like he’s done this dozens of times before.
I feel the universe burn at my back. He hasn’t done this before. Not to me. He’s just another in a long line of killers. Killers that I can stop. I focus and feel an energy only comparable to the sun build and I begin to focus on him. His heart. If I concentrate, I can hear it. I can-
That’s my last coherent thought. I’m on the ground. He shot me. I’m still alive. I try to breathe, but find I’m choking on blood. He draws closer and hovers over me for a moment. He looks at me, squinting briefly. Before I realize he’s moved his gun again, he’s shot me in the head.
I woke up screaming last night. I don’t think I can keep writing these murders down. The doctor gave me some medicine today and said it’ll help with the night terrors. In the meantime, he told me to get some fresh air, so I took a walk downtown. I think he was probably right about that sort of thing…normally. I think most of the time, that helps people. Just a change of scenery and some time with nature. I stopped at a bench for a smoke and decided to enjoy the fall air.
I found my eyes drawn to a man walking on the opposite sidewalk. I couldn’t figure it out at first, then I realized he bore a marked resemblance to the killer I’d dreamt about last night. I froze, then took a drag to help with my indecision. I hurried across the street and stopped him.
“Hi…have we met?” I asked him.
He looked at me thoughtfully for a moment, then shook his head. “No, I don’t believe so, but it’s possible. I meet a lot of people.”
I bit my lip, and then pushed on with my next question. “I know this’ll sound strange but…is your father a good man?”
He furrowed his brow. “Well, he’s not a bad man, if that’s what you’re after. Why?” he asked.
I knew I couldn’t answer that question without getting committed to an institution, so I dodged it for as long as I could. “And you…you’ve never killed anyone, have you?”
He almost laughed at that, before pulling something out of his jacket pocket. “I try not to,” he said with a half smirk. “I’m a detective with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Now, is there something I can help you with, ma’am? Are you in some kind of trouble?”
My face turned red. Of course this was ridiculous. It had all just been dreams. Except…the news had confirmed that they weren’t.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said, “Detective…”
He folded his badge back up as he introduced himself. “Hammond. Detective Hammond.”
“No,” I answered. “No trouble. Sorry to bother you.”
I felt so foolish approaching him. This had to stop, though. Somehow. Every night I was dying in my sleep. Every day, the very next day, I saw the person who killed me. Three nights and three days in a row. If the pills didn’t help, I wasn’t going to be able to ever leave my apartment without meeting a killer.
The pills haven’t helped me. Right away I dreamt of some teenager slicing into my skull. It’s been weeks now and I haven’t left my apartment. I made a few calls and set up an arrangement with my friend, Nancy. Her nephew is bringing me groceries until I find some medicine that works. Hopefully I can stop this. Or they’ll just go away as magically as they came in the first place.
I made a mistake today. I ordered some Chinese food. Delivery, of course. It took me a minute, but as I dropped the tip into his hand, our eyes met and I remembered. He was the fourth person who killed me: the teenager from my dream. I slammed the door in his face.
I had dreamt of him months ago now. At least I think it had been months…truthfully, I stopped looking at the calendar. Or clocks. Or anything that had to do with time. It all made me feel hopeless, like I was going to die in this apartment, trapped by my nightmares.
This was the first time since I’d stayed at home that I’d seen another killer, and it was the very next dream I’d had. Did that mean every dream I’d had…probably a hundred by now…I was still going to see those killers? Was it inevitable? I don’t want to sleep anymore.
I think that’s all of the ones I wrote down before today. So here’s the dream I had last night. Here’s why I’m getting ready.
I slowly open my eyes. My head hurts. I look up from the ground and see a man in a charcoal gray suit sitting across from me. He says something, but I can’t distinguish his words. He seems very relaxed. His mouth doesn’t move, but I finally hear his voice echo in my mind.
“You’ve been hiding for quite some time now.”
I try to think what he means. He continues as he casually steps towards me.
“You were harder to track down than most. I could just catch whiffs of you inside the others.”
I tried to talk but found my body unresponsive. He noticed my efforts and chuckled. “Nah ah ah, don’t you know that you’re dreaming? You’re not the one in control here.”
Tears streamed from my eyes as I pleaded wordlessly that this was a mistake. He tilted his head to the side as if listening, then responded in my mind. “I’m sorry, you don’t even know, do you? Maybe that’s for the better. Still… there’s something inside that I need. I have to understand.”
My eyes widen and I again plead for my life. He ignores me this time, having a singular focus. I feel my heart pounding. I’ve never been more scared. My heart begins to beat to an irregular rhythm, skipping some beats while slowing down others. I feel a burning in my chest. It begins to radiate outwards and I know this is the end of it all. I jerk my head around, trying to wake myself up. Then I notice where I am. It’s my own apartment. I look back at him, eyes wide, chest on fire. I plead for my life. I wake up. I’m alone in my apartment.
Then I woke up… again. For real, this time. I pinched myself to make sure. I don’t know how long I’ve been trapped in my home now. I don’t know how many people have killed me. I don’t know how many killers I have yet to meet. I just know that one day, I’m going to meet one and he’s going to kill me in my sleep.
There’s a lot to unpack in this one, but at the forefront of my mind as I read this the first time is that Ms. Eden went through a mental hell. Part of me wonders if she would have been an asset to police investigations with her seemingly psychic knowledge of murders, but as someone who has faced and occasionally still deals with malevolent figures at night, I know that wouldn’t make the terror worth it.
If not most importantly, then certainly most urgently, is the fact that one of those killers she faced was Ron Hammond. She described something she wouldn’t recognize at that time – a smartphone. Given that, I believe the Ron she met was far too young to have committed the murder she witnessed. But I don’t know if that’s still true of the Ron that I know.
Sometimes I can’t help but feel frustrated as I get more questions than answers while reading these papers. Who called the person that Ron killed? Maybe I could track them down before it’s too late. Or maybe he had a good reason to kill them. Then again, from the descriptions, it sounds like these may have been organized killings. A symbol described as being spray painted on the newspapers is one I’m familiar with. It’s one I’ve run across in several documents related to Hydra.