C.O.M. – Season 3 Episode 6

See Content Warnings
General horror, corpse, gun wound, crime scene, gore, suicide, and language.

If you, or someone you know needs help, call 800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Detective Mark Anderson pulls Jeremy out of work to review crime scene photos from Season 1 Episode 2, A Conspicuous Suspect. The photos depict a corpse, dead by shotgun, with writing on the wall in blood: “They’re already here.”
The corpse has writing on his wrist: the letters C.O.M. which is something Jeremy is familiar with as an in-joke from his high school days. It stood for Campaign of Misinformation and was an invite to partake in a lie with his friends. There also appears to be a barcode on the wrist.
Detective Anderson stated that the fingerprints of the corpse belong to Joseph Foye, Malcom’s grandfather. However, two weeks ago there was a break in at a facility for a high tech government contractor, SCIC. The fingerprints identified at the crime scene were also for Joseph Foye.
Later that night, Jeremy wakes up to the realization that the gun was on the corpse’s left side, while his wallet was in his right pocket, indicating that the corpse was right handed and had been killed by someone else, ruling out suicide.

Today was interesting to say the least. It started as any other day would, but by now, three little letters will be etched into my mind forever.  I woke up, did the morning shower and breakfast routine, then headed out to work.  It was early afternoon when my boss, Judy, knocked on my partially cracked door.  I waved her in and noticed a look of concern on her face.  She stepped aside and let a tall man in a suit, carrying a laptop bag enter my office.  It was Mark Anderson.  Judy hovered by the door as we shook hands and I invited him to sit.  Before making much conversation, Anderson turned to look at Judy and said, “Do you mind if we have a few minutes?”

She nodded and looked at the laptop bag before reluctantly walking away.  Once she was gone, Anderson got up quickly to close the door all the way, and sat back down.  

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” I asked. 

He asked if I had heard from Ron recently, and I let him know that I hadn’t… not since the funeral.  He paused as if wondering which funeral I was referring to, so I reminded him: “Ben’s funeral.”

He nodded, and when I asked why he was inquiring, he initially just said that Ron wasn’t returning his phone calls and he was a bit worried about him.  It didn’t take him long to start asking me questions.  Did he actually believe Ron would interact with me without telling him about it?  I reassured him that I hadn’t spoken to him at all, and then he pulled his laptop out of the bag and powered it up on my desk.  Before it even booted up, we noticed a couple of my nosy coworkers peering through my window as they walked by.

He asked if we could go somewhere more private to speak, and unfortunately my office didn’t offer that kind of seclusion, so I suggested we go to his office.  I took a moment to speak to Judy and asked for the afternoon off, and she agreed.  Anderson was cordial, and before we left, he popped his head into Judy’s office and thanked her for allowing me to leave, mentioning that my statement was going to be a big help.  She seemed relieved somehow.  Was she worried that I was being arrested or something?  Whatever she thought, I was grateful that Anderson said what he did so there wouldn’t be any rumors of me being implicated in something criminal floating around the office.

I followed him to the San Diego County Sheriff’s station and met him in front of the building.  I asked him what we were doing, and he said he wanted me to take a look at a few things to see if I could recall anything from the papers that would correlate and/or lead to additional information.  His intention for the last couple of weeks had been to ask Ron, but he tried going down to Tijuana on his day off, and nobody had seen Ron there at his usual hangouts.  He said, “I know it’s a long shot, but if you could just look through a few items I have and see what you think, I’d be in your debt.”

So I said, “Sure, no problem. Hope I can be some help.”

He said, “Great!” and then got up out of his chair, asking if I wanted some coffee. 

How long was I going to be here?  I took him up on his offer.

Anderson returned to the room with his laptop underneath his armpit and carrying two Styrofoam cups of coffee.  He placed my cup down on the table and opened the laptop in front of him on the table with his hand on it while he sat. 

He said, “I have to warn you, some of these pictures could be… disturbing.”

He then pulled the laptop closer to him as if he wasn’t sure he wanted to show them to me yet.  I was quite nervous to see the photos.  Before he turned the laptop toward me, he said, “Let me tell you what the crime scene was like before you look at the photos… just in case.”

I asked him, “What crime scene?  What are you talking about?”

He then said, “I believe it was ‘Episode 2’ of your podcast. You know, the one where there’s a video of you-know-who looking into the hotel room window.”

Shit… I thought I was done with the Grinner.

Anderson went on to explain, “When we first walked in, we found the victim sitting on the floor propped up against the foot of the bed in the hotel room.”

Wait a minute… we?  Anderson was on the case in the beginning?

He continued, “There was a twelve gauge shotgun resting on the floor next to the body, and what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  The splatter pattern indicates the end of the barrel was extremely close to the victim’s face.  Most of the cranium was scattered in fragments throughout the room on the walls by the head of the bed, and some stuck to the ceiling.  There was no face to identify, and we’re going to need to see what condition the teeth are in in order to potentially get a positive dental ID.”

I wondered why they would rely on dental records to ID the body.  I asked him, “Why couldn’t you use fingerprints?”

He ignored my question as he began pushing a file toward me.

I wasn’t so sure I wanted to see the pictures now after this description, but I knew I needed to see them.

“I’d like you to take your time and look at the crime scene photos.  You may find some of the images to be difficult to view,” Anderson warned as he slid the laptop toward me once again.  “We are hoping, of course, that you can help to provide a positive ID on the body which can be extremely difficult with these types of gunshot wounds, but let me know if anything jumps out to you as recognizable… or unusual.”

I thought this was a strange comment… The whole damn situation was unusual.  I wasn’t quite sure what he meant. 

Anderson continued, “The body was eventually searched and we found a wallet in the back left pants pocket, as well as a post-it note with a cell phone number on it in the front right jacket pocket.  We didn’t find any other belongings in the room, and there was no cash in the wallet, so we thought there was a chance this could have been a robbery, although there were several credit cards still in the wallet.  Keep in mind that we didn’t have access to the video footage now in your possession.  We’re looking for additional account numbers under the victim’s name to check for activity in case any may have been removed.”

“So you have identified the body?” I said.

Anderson sighed.

“There’s something else” he said.  “You’ll see some writing on the wall, written in blood behind the head of the bed.  We have evidence to suggest the words could have been written after the gunshot, which is why we had initially considered this a potential homicide versus suicide.  Luckily, one of the crime scene investigators had a keen eye. You’ll also see an incision on the inside of the right wrist that was difficult to spot at first.  It was partially obscured by some writing found on the forearm, so it’s possible a cut was made and used to write the words prior to the gunshot wound, but we were never able to find out for certain.  The blood from the gunshot and the blood that was used in the writing had similar clotting appearances, but most of us believe it was written prior to the gunshot.  However, since there was no blood found around the wound, it’s reasonable to suspect that the heart wasn’t beating when the incision was made.  Or, if it was made prior to the gunshot wound, someone would have had to clean it prior to pulling the trigger.  The whole thing is a cluster.”

I looked at Anderson and said, “I’m no detective, but wouldn’t fingerprint identification be all you need?”

Anderson stared at me directly, almost uncomfortably, without blinking his eyes for a moment before he spoke.  “That’s being looked into.  We took prints off of the body, but we didn’t find a match in our records at the time.  That usually means the person has never been printed – at least locally.”

“Usually?” I asked.

Anderson moved on without engaging my question.  I was beginning to get a little frustrated, so I asked him if there was a reason he’s dodging my questions.  He said, “Look, I just need you to approach this with an unbiased point of view, and there are certain things I can’t share with you yet in order to achieve that.  Satisfied?”

I thought about it for a second, and it made sense, so I said, “Okay, let’s move on.” 

He slid around to my side of the table to pull up one of the wider-angled images taken for me to view, which happened to be the most visually shocking one of them all.  Perhaps it was because of the way it was taken from the doorway to the hotel capturing the entire scene, and there sat a headless cadaver, unrecognizable to me.  I suppose this made it easier to look at in a way.  It was just… a lifeless body instead of someone I may know.  On the wall above the head of the bed were the words written in blood, ‘THEY’RE ALREADY HERE’ in capital letters amidst the splatter pattern from the gunshot.  I imagined this photo most accurately depicted what it had been like for the poor housekeeper who discovered the body, and there was an overwhelming amount of information to be seen. 

I looked at picture after picture, trying to find some recognizable feature that indicated to me that this may have been someone I either knew, or had found images of in the papers.  I didn’t see any tattoos.  The hair color was common brown, the clothing was kind of plain, which matched just about anyone’s style.  There really wasn’t anything unique at first glance.  It wasn’t until I started looking at some of the close-up images that my attention started to pique. 

The initial images depicted the body sitting on the floor at the foot of the bed, with the left arm lying to the side and shotgun next to it, while the right arm was laying across the stomach and the palm resting on the waistline.  Additional images were taken after the initial photographs were done and the body was moved.  The image of the inside of his right forearm was not visible in the body’s original position.  When the palm was turned up, you could clearly see the letters ‘C.O.M.’ spelled out in black Sharpie. I paused on this photo for a moment. 

“Do these letters mean anything to you?” Anderson asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

Anderson perked up and reached for his pad and paper.  “Well?” he said.

My mind was racing because this had been sort of an inside joke I had going with a guy I went to high school with, but that couldn’t be related to this case.  I just told Anderson, “Have I ever told you that I used to watch a lot of X-Files?”

He looked at me with a hint of frustration.  “No,” he said as the excitement drained from his body and he put his pencil down.

“Well, C.O.M. was kind of a code-word I used back in high school with a small group of friends… especially during our senior year.  It was an abbreviated version of one of our favorite quotes from the X-files.  We would use it to let one another know that we were about to lie about something.  Like this one time when we got caught by the school security guard sneaking back on campus after ditching a class.  We came up with an excuse on-the-spot about our teacher asking us to take out the garbage for her because the janitorial staff didn’t do their damn jobs.  I didn’t think the security guard really bought it, but he let us go, and we all said ‘C.O.M.’ right after and laughed.” 

“I’m not following,” Anderson said, sounding even more annoyed.

I explained, “The quote was from Agent Mulder on the show, who said to Agent Scully, ‘I would never lie. I willfully participated in a Campaign of Misinformation.’  We would just say ‘C.O.M.’ when we were bullshitting people.  Every once in a while, we would pass notes in class with these letters on it as a way of asking if we wanted to ditch class that day.  Or we would mutter ‘C.O.M.’ under our breath before telling one of our parents we were going to go to the movies or to hang out at a friend’s house, and we would really be going to a party where there was drinking.  It was our kind of code-word for letting me know we were about to do something we shouldn’t be doing, and that we wanted our friends to participate.” 

“Okay, I get it,” Anderson said.

He had that look of suspicion in his eyes again.  I paused for a moment to consider the implications of what I just said.  I didn’t even think before spewing that out.  Did I say too much?  These letters seemed like a message blatantly intended for me, and that last part made it sound somewhat incriminating.  I hadn’t seen any of those guys since high school though, and it seems like a huge coincidence that these letters would be used, let alone potentially intended for me to see.  Is that even possible?  I’m not sure who else would have understood this, but why would a guy kill himself only to leave me an obscure message? It doesn’t make sense.  Or why would someone murder this fellow only to leave that message for me, if indeed it was a homicide?

Anderson spoke up, “If what you are saying is true, then what could this person be asking you to participate in?”

This question made me really uncomfortable.  “I have no idea, Detective.  Obviously I can’t participate in anything if he’s dead.”

I was getting that paranoid feeling again… considering whether or not I should contact a lawyer. I convinced myself to keep providing what information I could in an attempt to assure Detective Anderson that I truly had nothing to hide.  My mind was racing though.  I asked Anderson if there was anything at all he could tell me in addition to the information he’d already shared.  He hesitated for a moment, then pulled out another file.  He opened it and pulled out one page of paper.  It was a fingerprint analysis confirming the identification of one Joseph Foye.  Malcolm Foye’s grandfather who basically raised him.

“Can you think of anything Mr. Foye would have to lie about?” Anderson asked, not really allowing me much time to process this information he just dropped on me.

“I have no idea… does Malcolm know?  What actually happened to Malcolm after the church?” I asked.

Anderson told me how he met up with Malcolm at the hospital after he gave a report to his superiors and the County Medical Examiner regarding the body of Benjamin Scanlon.  Malcolm had received a psych evaluation at the hospital, and self-admitted at the recommendation of the emergency room physician into a rehabilitation institute, where he’s been ever since.  “Malcolm doesn’t know yet,” Anderson said.  

My thoughts were piling onto one another, one by one, and it was so much to take in that it was difficult to have a rational thought in the moment.

“Wasn’t this back in 2015?” I asked Anderson.

He confirmed.  I continued looking at the photographs, but kept returning to the writing on the inside of his right forearm.  I couldn’t help but wonder at the potential purpose for drawing my attention to this image.  Anderson reached over and magnified the image slightly, then re-centered it over the letter ‘M.’

“See there, on the vertical portion of the letter on the right?” he said.  “There’s the incision I was talking about.”

He was right.  It was hard to see because the Sharpie ink was drawn right over the top of it, superimposed as if it was supposed to hide the fact that the cut was there.  It was about an inch long with some dried, dark blood near it which blended in almost perfectly with the black Sharpie.  I zoomed in some more and noticed there were some additional lines running perpendicular to the cut and the Sharpie ink, but they were small.  The ink nearly covered them entirely, and the cut was basically right through these lines as well.

“What are these lines?” I asked.

Anderson pulled the laptop closer to him and said, “I hadn’t noticed these before.”

They looked like a bar-code. He pulled out his cell and made a call and stepped out of the room.  I kept looking at pictures as he continued to make additional calls.  I overheard him say “Check the others for bar codes.”  

After my cup of coffee was empty, I began yawning.  Anderson, looking quite tired himself, finally said, “Why don’t you go on home and get some rest.  Maybe you could come back tomorrow to look at the rest of the images.”

“Thanks,” I said.  “I’d be happy to.”

“I’ll leave your name with the front desk in case I’m not in.  They’ll set you up.  Let me know if you think about anything else.”

Anderson handed me his card and started to walk me out.  It hadn’t occurred to me until that moment that I didn’t know how to reach him if and when I might need to.  At the security checkpoint in the front lobby, he said, “Just one more thing… we haven’t informed anyone yet.  We were hoping you could shed some light on this for us, but since you’re still going to come back to look at more stuff tomorrow, let’s be discreet. Okay?”

I said, “No problem, but I have one more question for you before I come back in the morning.  Why now?  You’ve known the identity of this body for what, five years now?  Why are you pulling me out of work today to ask me to look into this?”

Anderson got that scowl on his face that I’d seen before, as if he were in deep thought.  He was discerning whether or not to provide me any additional details, and he probably assumed I was going to continue being a pain in the ass with questions if I didn’t get a few answers.  Eventually, he said, “Have you ever heard of SCIC?”

In fact, I had.  I said, “Isn’t that the defense contractor here in San Diego?  Yeah, they subcontract with the military for aerospace and weapons technology… high tech stuff, right?”

Anderson nodded to confirm.  Then he said, “Two weeks ago, they had a break-in.  We were called out to the scene, but couldn’t find anyone.  A set of right hand fingerprints ID’ed the perp as one Joseph Foye.”

I stood there perplexed for a moment.  Anderson continued, “So I was hoping you can help explain how the fingerprints of a man who died five years ago, with ties to The Storage Papers (as you refer to them), ended up breaking and entering into a highly-classified tech company, while managing to evade the dozens of security cameras, armed guards, and other personnel in the building… all while leaving only one set of prints deep within an area of the complex that they were cautiously avoiding details about when my team was working the place.  Would that be something you’d consider ‘impossible’ or ‘paranormal’ even?”

I had to agree. Anderson took a deep breath and advised me to get some sleep.  Apparently we’d only touched the tip of the iceberg.

When I got home, the house was dark.  There was a stack of mail sitting on the end table by my favorite spot on the couch, which I easily ignored due to how tired I was.  I crawled into bed.  I hadn’t realized how late it was, but I started drifting asleep slowly around one a.m.  My dreams were consumed of images from the crime scene photos, and my mind continued searching for clues from the memory of images that left scars on my brain.  I drifted deeper and deeper into hard sleep, and then suddenly I was startled awake with the image of the forearm and the realization that I missed something at the police station.  Anderson referred to the fingerprints found at the SCIC building as right-hand fingerprints.  The writing on Joseph’s right forearm was in perfect penmanship.  The wallet was found in the right pants pocket, but the shotgun was lying on the left side of the victim.  Mr. Foye was right-handed. 

I sat upright in bed with sweat streaming down my face.  Unless he had become ambidextrous, it couldn’t have been Joseph Foye laying there dead.  My sleep-fogged mind tried to wrap itself around the possibilities with this realization.  Could he have written those letters in perfect penmanship with his left hand?  Why would he use a shotgun with his left hand?  This was obviously set up, most likely by the Grinner at the time.  I had to wonder how much of Malcolm was aware of what went down that night.  I instantly felt sorry for him.  Even if this was set up to look like a suicide, that didn’t explain how the body’s fingerprints matched the prints in the SCIC building from two weeks ago.  My head hurts.

I reached to my nightstand to pick up my phone and call Detective Anderson.  It went straight to voice mail.  “Detective Anderson, this is Jeremy.  I have some information regarding the pictures we looked at last night.  You might be interested to hear what I have to say.  Please call me as soon as you get this message.”

I figured Anderson was still asleep.  I looked at the clock and it was after 10:00 a.m.  For a moment I was concerned about work, but then I remembered it was Saturday.

The Mirrored Woman – Season 3 Episode 5

See Content Warnings
General horror, choking, language, paranoia, and car accident.
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Jeremy reads a document created by Ron in which a name has been redacted. It is unclear why this is the case. The unnamed individual met with Ron and discussed a dream he has where at 11:11pm he encounters a woman who mirrors his every movement. The woman stops mirroring his movements and attacks him at which point he wakes up. After having this dream for 10 consecutive nights, he goes for a drive and believes he is being tailed by a black SUV. He is involved in a car accident after which he awoke in the Emergency Room and called Ron to meet. Ron noted that he had allowed an unnamed woman to hypnotize the man who dreamed.

Along with my update from the break, I wanted to share a document with you that I believe relates to some of the others I have planned to share with you this season.

Now, we all dream.  Sometimes we remember our dreams and others, not so much, but science tells us it happens despite our recollection, or lack thereof.  We speculate, but I can’t help but wonder if we know the true purpose of dreams.  Are they simply our subconscious trying to find a way to interpret or rationalize the things we go through in our hours of being awake?  If so, are there varying levels of success?  Or… are our dreams some kind of makeshift window into other realities?  Or maybe something in between?  You can go dizzy listening to armchair philosophers who like to argue that perhaps we’re all living in some kind of a simulation, and that during the hours we sleep, we achieve a distorted glimpse into our actual environments.  

All of this is admittedly entertaining to think about, but you have to wonder if there is any truth in those thoughts.  Have you ever had a dream where, within that dream, you realized you could control what happens, and even manipulate the environment and outcomes of different scenarios?  What if it were possible to dream about whatever you wanted to dream about?  That sounds pretty close to heaven in my book.  But what if there was a way to enter another person’s dream?  You would have insight like no other into that person’s life, what’s on their mind, the struggles they’re dealing with, and so much more.  One might even say you had the power to manipulate them… after all, even if they remember their dreams, they’re “just dreams,” right?  Nobody is going to believe that anything occurring within them is actually based in reality.  

Today’s document may cause you to question all of these possibilities.  It appears to be a notes from a conversation between Ron and someone who’s name has been redacted.  Why would Ron redact someone’s name in his own records though?  I need to remember to ask him about that.  Either way, it reads as though it may have been a recorded conversation.  There’s no dates listed either, but I can tell it’s local because of some of the details mentioned.

It reads:

I met [redacted] outside of the Emergency room on Sunday after he was discharged.  He called me from the ambulance during transit from his motor vehicle accident to the ER, insisting that I meet with him before he got home.  He wouldn’t explain anything on the phone for fear that his phone was “bugged,” and he believed that his accident was directly related to his research at work.  While I’m trying to put the pieces together to figure out how to best help him, I’m struggling with the legitimacy of some of his claims.

I waited by his car for him to come outside, and he asked if we could find somewhere private to talk, so we agreed to meet at a local 24-hour diner off the 5 and Encinitas Blvd, which was conveniently on the way home for both of us.  Once we arrived, we found a quiet booth away from the other two parties present.  After all, it was after 2:00 a.m. and crowds weren’t going to be a problem.

When the waitress arrived, we both ordered coffee, and he ordered breakfast.  Then he started telling me about this recurring dream he had over the preceding 11 days, which I thought was odd.  Why was he counting?

He described not knowing if it was a dream vs. reality the first night he had it.  This guy was an early riser his whole life, and usually got into work around 4:30 a.m., so his bedtime was generally between [7:30] and 8:00 p.m.  So when this dream starts, he’s actually lying in bed awake, and he rolls over to see the time on his alarm clock, which reads 11:11 p.m.  He stops telling me about the dream already to inform me that he believes the number 11 is significant.  But he continues.

He swears he’s lying in bed looking at his clock for more than 10 minutes within the dream, but the time never changes on the clock.  So within the dream, he is conscious that the number 11 is significant as well.  He suddenly feels compelled to get out of bed to check all of his other clocks in the house, just to see if they all say the same time, or if the one on his nightstand is simply frozen.  

It takes him 11 steps to get to his bedroom door, and then another 11 steps to enter the living room, where he plans to first check the time on a grandfather clock that was in his grandparents’ home when he was a child, but in reality, he does not actually possess this clock.  He just knows it’s there in his dream.

When he takes his 10th step toward the grandfather clock, his attention is drawn toward movement on his left side.  By the time he’s finished with his 11th step, he’s never able to actually look at the time on the grandfather clock because he’s always getting a first glimpse of what’s causing the distracting movement to his left.  There’s a second-floor landing visible to him at this position in the room, and he sees a woman’s feet at the top of the stars, but they’re not facing the stairs.  They’re facing the opposite way, heels at the edge of the top step.

He says, “hello,” but there’s no response, so he takes one step toward the bottom of the stairs.  As he does this, the woman’s right foot steps backwards and descends one step on the stairs.  As he stops, she stops.  He says, “hello?” again, but the woman doesn’t respond.  The only thing he can see is her bare left foot, and now her bare right foot and calf.  

He takes another measured single step, and as he does, her left foot now descents to the second stair from the top.  She stops when he stops.  He starts to panic now and he doesn’t understand why, but he decides to test a theory.  He takes one step backwards toward his bedroom.  The woman matches his movement by taking one step with her left foot forward, up the stairs where it previously was.  He substantiates the rules… that for every step he takes forward, she takes a step backwards, and vice versa.  But he doesn’t know if she’s just someone playing a game with him, trying to mirror his movements, or if this woman is bound to these rules and doesn’t have any choice but to follow them.

He explains that his mind is as sharp as ever, as if he were awake, so he figures he’ll try another test.  If he runs three or four steps forward, and the woman is just trying to play some kind of game, she’ll lose her balance trying to move that quickly going backwards down the stairs, and likely won’t be able to keep up if he moves quickly.  He tests his hypothesis.

He takes four running steps toward the base of the stairs, but she doesn’t lose her balance.  Her movements are as quick as his, and her movements look unnatural, like watching a film in reverse.  Now he is even more scared, but he can’t figure out why.  In his dream, he recognizes that his fear is irrational, as he seems to have full control over where this woman moves, and knows how to get away from her at any time – by simply walking back toward his bedroom.

After taking a moment to muster up some courage, he takes a few more steps and watches her match his movements in reverse down the stairs.  As he approaches the bottom of the stairs, he begins seeing more features.  The woman has very tan or brown skin, and is wearing what appears to be a long white coat that is tattered with holes in it.  She doesn’t appear to be wearing anything underneath it.  She has long, dark hair, but her face can’t be seen through it, at least from the side angle he has.  He tries turning his head to his right, and her head moves to the left when he does, causing her to face him… but his head is turned just far enough so that her face is outside of his peripheral vision, and when he turns his head back toward her, she of course turns her head away so that he can never really make out any details.  All of her movements are perfectly mirrored to his.  

He takes a couple more steps forward and she reaches the lower landing where the stairs turn near the bottom.  At this point, he realizes if he takes an additional three steps, he’ll be at the base of the stairs… and so will she.  He cautiously contemplates his next move, and in doing so, recognizes that those three additional steps would total 11 steps from where he entered the room.  Instead of moving more, he looks around the living room.  He can see a reflection of the grandfather clock, which reads [11:11].  Also within view from where he’s standing, is the microwave clock, which reads the same time.

He stands there for another moment, then looks back at the woman, who is still on the lower landing, and now has her back facing him.  She’s so still that she looks like a mannequin, but he can’t help but admire her long, dark hair, which extends below her waist.  He pinches himself in an attempt to wake up, but has no such luck.  After a few moments pass, he doesn’t really know what else there is to do in this dream except go forward, both literally and figuratively.  So that’s what he does.

His first step forward is her first step backward off the lower landing.  They take another step, and then the third.  She is now on the ground floor within arms reach.  His eyes focus on her hair, and he’s tempted to move it to the side to see if he can see the side of her face.  He takes his left hand and raises it slowly toward the left side of her face, seemingly entranced by how beautiful her hair is and fully planning on pulling it aside to see if he can recognize her.  He has a gut feeling that he knows her somehow, or that she at least knows him.  There’s a sense of familiarity that increases the closer he gets to touching her.

When his fingertips are nearly touching her silky hair, he notices something.  She is no longer mirroring his movements.  He thinks to himself, “if my left hand is reaching up toward her, then her right hand shouldn’t still be by her side.”  He starts breathing rapidly, heart racing, and begins to second-guess his plan of moving her hair aside.  “What if she was sleep-walking and is now awake?  What if she knows I’m there?”  Thoughts race through his mind.  “What if she has free will and can do anything she wants to in this dream?  Why is she here?”

He prays to God that he can reverse this whole situation by simply taking a step backwards, but when he does, she flinches just a bit at the sound of his foot meeting the hardwood floor.  He freezes and she cocks her head to the left, then slowly begins to turn around.  She now stands facing him, arms down by her sides and head tilted to the left.  She’s motionless, and he realizes he stopped breathing a long time ago.  

He tries to make out details of her facial appearance, but it’s simply too dark, and there’s too much hair covering her face.  Some time goes by and he begins to breathe again.  She doesn’t move at all, so he begins to feel more comfortable in this situation, trusting that she’ll hold still.  What’s interesting here, is he described her as “having established a good rapport, and an element of trust, so he had no reason not to trust her.”  I’d like to pursue further questioning later.

Having established trust, he begins closer examination of her face, and soon realizes she doesn’t have a face at all.  It’s just smooth skin, void of eyes, a nose, or a mouth.  For some reason, even though in waking thought it doesn’t sound logical, he assumes that because of this, she is harmless.  He reaches up with both hands to feel her hair, and that’s when he realizes how wrong he was.

She grabs him by the throat with her right hand and lifts him completely off the ground, causing him to choke and gasp for air.  His eyes start to bulge as she tightens her grip and pulls his face closer to hers.  He attempts to loosen her grip with both hands, feet flailing about, and it only gets tighter.  He begins to see dim red illumination where her eyes would have been if she had a face.  As the seconds go by, the lights get brighter, and she begins forming somewhat of a mouth.

Small holes begin to appear where her mouth should be, arranged in a horizontal row, and as her chin gets lower, the holes stretch and tear the skin, causing some of the holes to connect, and make more of an appearance like a mouth.  As it opens wider, he begins to hear a noise that he can’t quite make out at first, but the louder it grows, the more he begins to recognize it’s the sound of screeching tires.  The instant he recognizes this, the sound stops and the red glow dissipates from the eyes.  All goes quiet and she goes back to not having a face, but he’s still dangling by the neck in her grasp.  Then he hears a clear woman’s voice say, “Now count backwards from 11 and relax,” followed by a horribly loud crashing sound, with the bending of metal, and it’s almost deafening.  And that’s when he wakes up.  

“The pisser of it all,” he says, “is that the clock by my bed always says 11:11 p.m. every time I have this dream.  It’s a real mind-fuck because I’m wondering if I should get up and go check my other clocks, but I never do… at least until tonight.”  

“So, before I went to sleep tonight, I knew it was going to be the 11th night I’ve had this dream, so I told myself, I’d actually get up, check my other clocks, and look around the house.  Of course, I’m looking at the stairs when I do, but there’s no woman, no clocks stuck on [11:11].  I watched my microwave clock turn to 11:12 p.m. and you know I don’t have a grandfather clock.  So knowing I’m not going to be able to sleep much, I decide I’m going for a drive.  I didn’t really know where, but I just started driving.”

[Name redacted] proceeds to explain how he just hops on the 5 freeway and drives North for a while until he feels compelled to get off in Del Mar.  He says he has an itch to see the ocean, so he drives around looking for beach access, but then he starts getting paranoid.  He feels like he’s being followed and sees a set of headlights behind him following each turn he makes.  So he decides to speed up and make a series of erratic turns at each intersection he reaches, until he finally stops at a red light.

He’s looking in his rear view mirror and doesn’t see a set of headlights, so he thinks he’s lost his tail.  But a few seconds later, he sees a car turn a few streets back and he’s not sure if the car is coming from the same street he just turned from.  In order to get a better view than the rear view mirror provides, he makes sure the traffic light is still red, then he puts his right arm behind the passenger seat in order to help swing around and turn to look behind him.  He watches the car behind him, still a couple of intersections away, but it makes a right turn down one of the streets, and no one is behind him as far as he can see now.

So he turns to see if he’s got a green light when he starts hearing the screeching of tires.  It takes him a moment, but he sees a black SUV in front of him driving in reverse at high speed.  The red tail lights are approaching quickly, and before he has time to react, he hears the collision and is knocked unconscious.  

So he wakes up in the back of the ambulance on the way to the Emergency Room, and decides to call me.  He can’t remember any license plate number.  In fact, he can’t remember seeing any license plate on the vehicle at all.  Apparently it was a hit and run.  Someone actually intentionally reversed their vehicle in an attempt to harm him.  A local resident heard the collision and ran outside.  They also described a black SUV, but didn’t get a license plate.  The intersection where the collision occurred was at Camino Del Mar and 11th street.  

He said it took him a little while after arriving in the ER to gather his thoughts, but he’s 100% confident that [name redacted] did something to his head when he allowed her to hypnotize him.  He says she did it in the name of therapy, but now he’s sure that she just did it to screw with his head.  He called out sick for work while he was eating his breakfast with me at the diner.  

Notes: I followed up with him the next day to see if he had the dream again, and he said he hadn’t.  I also went down to the Sheriff’s department and was able to get a copy of the report.  They were able to get a decent picture of the tire tread on the SUV, and estimated the vehicle had been going between 50 and 60 miles per hour at the point of impact based on the distance [name redacted] car was moved from the intersection.  Of course, there was black paint on his bumper, grill and hood.  Looking at images of his car though, it’s a wonder the impact didn’t kill him.  

I’ll need to consider whether or not to question [name redacted] the next opportunity I get.  I’m not sure it’s worth risking at this point in time, but perhaps under different circumstances in the future, I can revisit my notes here when there’s not so much at stake.

I have just a few takeaways from this document.  Obviously Ron knows the name of the man that was having the dreams, but it appears he not only knows the name of this woman that he refers to, but he might actually know her, like in-person.  How is this possible though?  Do these guys work together?  Or did they in the past?  

I have to wonder what “risks” he was referring to, and when this was actually written.  I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be wise to sit on this one, just as Ron did, until I can see if there’s any more to learn about this situation.  Maybe there’s some small detail in the upcoming documents I’m going to release here on the podcast that one of the listeners may catch and I miss… if that’s the case, please let me know.  Until then, I’ll be back in two weeks with more of the papers.

Unmarked – Season 3 Episode 4

See Content Warnings
General horror, marijuana use, non-consensual injection of unknown substance, restraints, and body horror.
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
An unknown individual had a letter anonymously delivered to Jeremy’s home. The letter recounts a psychology student at Stanford being invited to an internship to help input the psychological profile of criminals into an algorithm to prevent crime. Over the weekend, they notice things are getting more and more unusual; they are locked out of all their online accounts, they have car trouble, and things are missing in their home.
They finally make it to a warehouse where the study is occurring, using an address on a business card the recruiter gave them. They soon find themselves strapped down and being hooked up to sensors and an IV drip without their consent. Their body has an extremely negative reaction, but time seems to freeze, then they find themselves back at their place, except they see themselves as they were the night before last.
They are suddenly back in the warehouse, still connected. The recruiter tells them they traveled to the past, then continues having them travel back in time, with their side effects worsening. To try to alter their destiny, they try to ruin their day and cause their past self to miss the internship, but seem to be unsuccessful.
During their travels through time, they overhear the people working on the supposed internship reference Project Infinitum, and also discuss The Storage Papers podcast. The mysterious individual issues an ominous warning to Jeremy to be careful.
Jeremy suspects it is a part of Project Hydra.

I actually was in the middle of recording an episode from one of the files in the storage papers when there was a knock at my door on Sunday. When I opened the door there was nobody there. Instead I found a plain, unmarked white envelope sitting on my welcome mat. Perhaps more foolishly than I should have acted, I opened it almost immediately. Inside I found a handwritten letter spanning multiple pages which were neatly folded into thirds. I read through it several times, trying to determine if it were a practical joke, but based on the little I’ve learned from these papers, I think it might be the real deal. I’ll let you decide.

Dear Jeremy,

You don’t know me and I don’t know you and that will never change. Before I tell you what you need to know, I’ll tell you a bit about myself and I apologize for the length, but the devil, I’m afraid, is in the details, so I hope you’ll indulge me as these may be my final words to anyone. Not so long ago for you I was a student at Stanford – a psych major. In fact, I might still be depending on how long that courier company took to deliver this. And, of course, depending on if it even makes it to you or if it’s intercepted.

Now, I’m not a party animal or anything. I took my time at Stanford very seriously. Other students may have a rich family so this place doesn’t make a dent in their pocketbooks, but not me. My time here was the result of a lot of hard work and I had no intention of throwing it all away. That said, I was feeling pretty good Friday night, so I decided to indulge a little. And by indulge, I mean I burned through as many brain cells as I could in celebration.

You see, Thursday I had taken a pretty intense test. Friday morning I found out that I had passed. That by itself was amazing, but then Friday afternoon I left my Intro to Cognitive Neuroscience class and there was a man waiting for me in a grey suit and green tie. I was surprised when he said my name – a name which I won’t share with you for your own safety. I was even more surprised when he told me why he knew my name.

Apparently my professor routinely passes names along to some of his contacts who are looking for promising students to eventually recruit them. What type of companies are looking to recruit psych majors, you ask? Good, then we’re on the same page. It didn’t make any sense to me either, yet he somehow had the perfect answer. We got some coffee and he explained that he represented an organization that was looking to take a step beyond the cutting edge of the criminal justice field. They were developing an algorithm to help stop crime. Apparently many law enforcement agencies have been working on this, but they wanted to introduce a more interesting element.

They had all the data about different crimes that had occurred and all the environmental, social, and political factors that went into it, but they wanted to go deeper. They wanted employees who would work with their artificial intelligence so that it could understand why those specific criminals broke the law and add the psychological element into their algorithm. To sort of turn the clock back and truly prevent crime from happening in the first place.

I gave a nervous smile as I sipped my coffee and told him I’d seen that movie already. He politely chuckled, then told me that they were recruiting people from universities all over the world for this to get the next generation of people who understood the mind to break it down for them and that they were going to be doing a study on Sunday if I was interested in at least putting that down on my resume once I graduated.

If you’ve ever been a student, I’m sure you know how valuable a resume that doesn’t consist of waiting tables is when it comes time to start applying. I wasn’t sure that I was as qualified as he thought I was to be contributing to something as science fiction as he described, but I definitely wanted a little polish as I entered the workforce. I accepted. As I did, it hit me just how big this would be. A previous professor had spoken to the value of internships and published papers, but I thought I’d be further along in my studies before I got noticed enough to do something like that. So when I arrived home, I got into my stash and smoked a bowl and passed out about a half hour later.

When I woke up Saturday I was ready to conquer the world, despite me still wearing the same clothes I had on the day before, having fallen asleep on my recliner. I dug into my jeans pocket and pulled out the business card he had given me with every intention of learning more about the company so I could be more fully prepared when I showed up on Sunday. Instead I found that it contained what I assumed to be his last name – Hyde or something like that – and a phone number. On the back I found a handwritten address which, according to a quick search, was near the shipyards.

I wasn’t exactly what one might call particularly social and spent most of the day completing homework, studying, and watching Netflix. Eventually dinner time rolled around and being tired of frozen burritos I thought I would treat myself to an actual meal and decided to splurge on McDonald’s. That’s when I first noticed things were a bit unusual. I always keep my keys on a stand by the door, but they weren’t there. I searched everywhere from the recliner cushion to every surface between the chair and the door.

It wasn’t until I realized I was sweating and went to get some ice for a glass of water that I found them in the freezer. Which made some weird sense when I found my wallet in the refrigerator. I then figured out I was sweating because the heat was turned on, despite it being almost 90 degrees outside. I tried to shrug it off as getting too high but I knew I hadn’t so much as moved from the recliner since I started smoking last night.

I knew someone had to be messing with me when I got to my car. I’m not mechanically inclined at all but upon no response from the engine I still popped the hood to see if there was anything obviously wrong before completely giving up. As it turns out, even I could spot a disconnected battery. I reconnected it and felt pride swell my chest as the engine turned over, then caught. That pride was quickly tempered with frustration and paranoia at who could be messing with me.

I got my McDonald’s and quickly returned home. When I arrived I began a survey, takeout bag in hand, to determine what else could be wrong. In the end I found a handful of things. My toothpaste, shampoo, and body wash were all completely empty. There was no hot water available. Three of my course books were missing, along with the single beer I had in the fridge. I ended my perusal of the perimeter with a locked door and decided to push it out of my mind for now with more Netflix. That is until I discovered that my Netflix account had been discontinued. When I tried to login and reactivate it, I found that my password had been changed. I started the recovery process only to further discover I was locked out of my email account.

It was now nine in the evening and I had an important meeting first thing in the morning, but I was beginning to legitimately freak out about this. Not only had someone invaded my physical space, but also my digital life. To update my password Google stated they would have to physically mail me a code to enter in and I nearly threw my phone in frustration, but I still needed it. I checked my bank account and that’s when my frustration turned into fear as I was told my username or password was incorrect.

I was no longer in the mood for Netflix and I ended up not finishing the burger. I just wanted my life which a mere 24 hours ago had nowhere to go but up to come back. I would have slept fitfully just from that but then every hour or so I was woken up and each time it was more difficult to go back to sleep as my bed seemed unusually uncomfortable. The first time I was startled by my phone blasting Haddaway at full volume from my nightstand. Next there was a crash that jolted me out of bed and I found that everything that had been in my refrigerator was now on the floor. Once I could have sworn there was someone in the room with me but when I put on my glasses I found myself alone. I didn’t sleep the rest of the night after that.

When morning rolled around and the sun began to naturally light up the room I finally got up and threw my sheets on the floor in frustration. It was then that I solved two mysteries at once: why my bed was so uncomfortable and where my missing books and beer went. If I hadn’t been so preoccupied last night I probably would have noticed the visible lumps in the mattress.

I took a shower – still cold – to help gather my wits. Even though my life seemed to be falling apart in a timespan of just one day, it was still important to me to think about my future and attend this study. My one button down shirt and pair of slacks were almost unsurprisingly absent from my dresser. Instead I wore khakis and a polo. My car would not start and this time my battery was still connected so I flagged down someone else in the parking lot who was able to give me a jump. “Rough morning?” he asked. If he only knew.

I looked for the business card to get directions and found that it must not have transferred from my jeans to my khakis. With a touch of relief I remembered that I had looked it up on my phone and it was still in my history. I had some other searches in my history I didn’t recall ever making but in the end I found the address I was looking for and I was able to make it there at 10am sharp. I parked in front of what I assumed was the correct building although I felt unsure given that it seemed to be an abandoned warehouse.

When I entered, I was instead given the impression of a rather advanced laboratory for some sort of practical science which was pretty far out of my league. The man who had recruited me saw me before I saw him and came over to greet me.

“Are you ready to change the world?” he asked.

I told him no world changing events happened on a Sunday and he laughed. “Why does this place look so run down outside?” I asked him.

“You know how Apple started in a garage?” he asked in return. “Well, this is our garage.”

I asked him what the abstract of the study was and he told me we’d be getting to that but first they needed to make sure I could interface properly with the computer. I nodded, having no clue what that meant.

As it turns out, it involved several sensors being placed on my body, then my head, wrists and ankles being strapped down. He told me these were required sensors. Then they brought out the IVs. I could deal with sensors, I could deal with not understanding everything, but I’m majoring in a soft science. I don’t deal with hard needles. I told them I don’t consent to it and they acted like they couldn’t hear me.

Within a few minutes of the needle being inserted into the crook of my right arm then connected to the tube, I began to feel an intense burning course through my arm then spread to my chest. I was so distracted by the pain that I didn’t notice they were performing a similar procedure on my left arm until I realized I was having a different sensation coming from that side of my body. This time it was just pure, unadulterated pain. I screamed. I cried. I begged for them to stop. They ignored me, instead adding additional needles and pumping different fluids into me.

At one point I looked down to discover my entire right arm was rapidly developing blisters that spread from the needle’s entry point. My left hand had turned almost completely black. I couldn’t see further down my body due to my head restraint but I could feel my skin on my legs cracking open and something thick oozing out. I knew I was going to die.

Then the strangest thing happened. At first I thought it was an illusion caused by what I’m sure was a furiously drug addled mind, then I decided this was actually what death felt like. Everything was slowing down. The drip into the IV fell through the air at an impossibly slow pace. Everyone moved as if they were stuck walking underwater. Then it all stopped. I blacked out.

When I came to, I was at home. An assessment of my body found that I was disfigured beyond recognition. My khakis were soiled with urine, feces, and some kind of dark green sludge which still oozed slightly from the cracks in my skin. My entire right arm was covered in blisters that leaked puss and blood. But most importantly, I felt no pain. For a few moments at least. Then I caught a glimpse of myself passed out on the recliner, skin unmarked by the torture I had endured, and once again blacked out as pain overtook me.

The next time I opened my eyes, I saw a grinning face before me. The face of the man from the coffee shop. “How was your expedition there?” he asked me.

I tried to spit in his face but found I could barely move my swollen lips. “Don’t strain yourself. I don’t actually need you to talk. You’ve interfaced perfectly with the computer so we’re learning all sorts of stuff from your little trip to the past.”

I guess some sort of facial muscles were still able to display shock and confusion because he said, “That’s right, you just paid a visit to the past. Maybe eventually it won’t have as many…unpleasant side effects, but for now you’re helping us with one of the early stages of changing the world. Think of all the implications!”

I finally was able to work up enough spit in my mouth to try to throw it in his face but it ended up just dribbling out like drool.

“Now, I’d like you to relax,” he continued, ignoring the saliva sliding down my chin. “It’s going to be a long day, I’m afraid.”

He turned and nodded to a technician by some equipment who then pressed a few buttons and I felt my pain increase beyond what I thought was already the maximum level possible. My vision in my left eye turned red, then I once again blacked out.

There I was. This was me. In the past. Asleep. No idea what was going to happen to me. That’s when I made the decision. I had to stop myself from going. I had to do whatever it took to make sure this torture never happened to me. I got to work. I only had about ten minutes before I blacked out again.

When I came to I was terrified to find that I was still in place. It must not have worked. Or maybe it’s a different timeline? I’m still not sure. But I had to keep trying. Each time I went back, I did more to ruin my life so that I could actually save myself. Each time I found that it wasn’t enough. I did, however, discover some sort of rules…I wasn’t able to actually directly interact with my past self. I tried a couple of times and each time I found myself in intense pain and ended up blacking out again.

That’s when I gave up. I’ve taken two trips since then, including this one. One was to find out more about what was happening to me. I visited the facility in which I was being held captive and found them setting everything up. In a conference call I overheard them referring to Project Infinitum, which I’m guessing is what I’ve been an unwilling subject of. But they also talked about a podcast and discussed what fate it should meet. I couldn’t tell what they said after, but I do know they said it was called The Storage Papers.

So I’m on this trip now. I looked up the podcast and found enough information between that call I overheard and searches I made on my phone to track down your address. I ordered a courier service to deliver this to you and I’m writing this note in the past. I’ve left explicit instructions to ensure you have no contact with them so you can’t trace anything back to me. If you find me, it could bring them all down on you that much faster. If all goes well I only have one more trip to make after this and either way it’s too late for me, but I wanted to tell you to be careful. These people know about you. They know what you’re doing. And, based on the experiments they’ve been conducting on me, they have the ability to learn far more about you than you ever thought possible. Please believe me, Jeremy. Be careful.

As promised, there’s no name anywhere within the letter or any indication where it came from. I looked for any missing students at Stanford but there were no results which could mean this is a hoax, it could mean it hasn’t happened yet, or…it could mean it’s been covered up. I also can’t help but wonder if the name on that business card wasn’t Hyde, but actually Hydra, as this seems to fit that organization’s activities.

Whatever the case, I’ll be taking some extra precautions on this end and I’d like everyone listening to know that should anything happen to me, I’ve scheduled several episodes to automatically be released so nothing will stop these papers from getting out there. I know some of you listening to this podcast have left me voice messages and emails as you’ve investigated these further. I’d encourage anyone else looking into these to also take precautions to ensure your own safety if you continue. With that said, no matter what, another episode will be posted in two weeks. See you then.

Dream Eater – Season 3 Episode 3

See Content Warnings
General horror, car accident, body injury, child illness, child experimentation permitted by a parent, drug overdose resulting in death of a parent
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Jeremy’s experiments with lucid dreaming have been unsuccessful.
Brianne was on her way to visit a psychic she found in the medical files when she was involved in a car accident but has no memory of getting into the car at all. She had a dream where she was chasing a blurred person. In her dream she found a card that says “I’m saving your for last, Brianne.” When she woke up she had the card but it was blank. That’s her tell to determine whether she’s awake or asleep now. All the people in the medical files didn’t seem to exist prior to their teenage years. Brianne also doesn’t remember much of her childhood.
In this week’s document a child gets sick and doesn’t have any dreams whenever a monster comes to visit at night. Years later they remember what actually happened: men entered their room with gas masks at night to study them. The same men paid their mother to allow it.

Thank you for tuning in to The Storage Papers. If you’ve been keeping up with the show, you’ll probably remember that I’ve been having strange dreams, dreams where I’m sort of floating away from myself and hovering over my sleeping form, like my soul isn’t tethered to my body or even this dimension. And then in an instant, I snap back and I’m awake. If that doesn’t sound familiar, feel free to go back a couple of episodes and get caught up. I’ll still be here when you get back. 

If you’re still here, then I guess you deserve an update on my experiments with lucid dreaming. So far, I haven’t exactly been successful. Since you’ve last heard from me, I’ve spent a week trying to force myself into a lucid dream. I’m not sure if this will come as a surprise, but lucid dreaming just… doesn’t work this way. It’s not something you can force, at least not without knowing what you’re doing. I’m not ready to give up, but I probably won’t give any more updates unless I see some success. 

Regardless, I think I’m grasping at straws anyway. Disrupting my sleep patterns, leaving myself feeling exhausted, taking sick days just to stay at home and rest… if I’m being honest with myself, I don’t think the solution is something I’m going to find on my own. Not on the internet or in any of your emails (though trust me I’m grateful for it).

The answer is somewhere in these boxes. I just have to keep searching, and not just for myself. Brianne needs my help and after everything she’s gone through – everything I’ve done – and what happened to Ben… I owe that to her. 

I’m thankful that she’s not dead yet. 

Brianne casually messaged me, letting me know that she was in a car accident. Nothing major. She’s not seriously injured, just a little sore from the impact. But that’s not the point. She says she doesn’t remember driving or falling asleep at the wheel (not that you necessarily would, I presume). She woke up with her rental car in a ditch, a trail of flattened grass and a bent mile marker leading back to where she must have drifted off of the road. It’s easy to pass it off as exhaustion and carelessness, and that’s exactly what she did. I was grateful that she was alive, and she was just grateful that her insurance covered rental vehicles. She told me something, though, that I thought made this much more curious–something that kind of made me think more about alternative explanations. 

She said that she left behind all of her clothes. Her wallet was in her purse and that was in a suitcase… in the closet of her hotel room. She left her necklace on the nightstand and her cell phone was still charging next to it. She left everything behind. How? Was she that exhausted? It’s certainly a possibility, but it all just seems so strange. I asked her to give me something more to work with. Anything. What she thinks she’s going to find. If she thinks that having more control over her dreams is really going to accomplish anything. 

What she describes to me already sounds like lucid dreaming. I guess I just couldn’t understand what she was looking for. Eventually she told me something new, but not without some trepidation. She said she has a connection to the killer… or killers.

The face is always blurred, but usually the whole body is too. It’s like looking at someone through a Vaseline lens. Sometimes she’s on a sidewalk, other times she’s on a secluded beach… in the center a crowded shopping mall, or a forest trail with soft light sifting between the branches. She’s not alone. Other people are usually around but it’s like they can’t see her or they are ignoring her, avoiding eye contact. 

A man is slowly following her. She’s never sure if it’s the same person. She can’t make out any details beyond a vague shape. When she can’t see him, she can feel him. It’s an anxious feeling, and it’s a longing feeling. A feeling in your chest or maybe in your heart, like loving someone that you hate, or like remembering old toys you grew out of. The other people in her dreams pretend not to see him, but they take steps to avoid him: changing directions, swapping to the other side of the street, or making sudden turns down department store aisles. They’re afraid of him. She can see it in their eyes and when they hold their children’s hands just a little tighter when they walk past. Sometimes when she looks back he lifts his hand and waves to her playfully. 

I didn’t understand. I asked her how she knew that this was the killer, how she knew that it wasn’t just some coincidence that these people were dying in their sleep and she was having nightmares about some strange blurry man. I was hoping she didn’t have an answer, but she did. She told me that the first night that it started, he wasn’t following her… she was following him. His blurry form stood out in the crowd of people waiting to board a subway train. He waved his arm to get her attention but she was already walking closer, drawn to him. People around him would get caught in the blur emanating around him if they got too close. Like heat refraction, those little wavy blurry lines above a hot grill or an asphalt road in the summer heat. 

He boarded the train and she followed, pushing through the crowd of people, hoping not to lose him. By the time she made it on to the train he was already making his way to the next car. She chased after the blurry man, shimmying between shoulders and stumbling over ankles and purses and baby strollers, from one car to the next. He stood up ahead waiting for her at last, but in her brisk pace she stumbled and fell on to her hands and knees. She must have picked up something sharp, like a piece of glass, because she cut her hand when she fell. Nothing serious, just a small prick in the center of her palm. Enough to draw blood. 

When she looked up again, making her way back to her feet, she found herself alone. The man was gone and the train was empty. On the floor a few feet in front of her was a folded over piece of paper: thick like card stock, or some type of fancy stationery.

She opened it. In thick looping handwriting were 6 words:

I’m saving you for last, Brianne.

And when she looked up from the paper, dotted with the blood rolling down her index finger from her bleeding palm, she saw that she wasn’t alone anymore. The man stood there and around him stood a group of what looked like children, but all of them were hidden behind the same blur. One of the children stepped forward. She could make out her blue dress and skinny legs, and she spoke to Brianne, she told her, “We’ll all see you soon, Brianne. But now it’s time to wake up.”

And she did. Still clutching that piece of paper in her hand. Only now it was blank. She says that’s her tell. If the paper is blank, then it means she’s awake. She thinks it’s a gift from the killer. A head start. That way she’ll know when she’s asleep… and when to run.

Brianne was on her way to visit a psychic. She’d stopped at a hotel for the night, planning to drive the rest of the way in the morning. That is, before the accident. The psychic is someone whose name was in those documents: an MRI and a PET scan among other tests, done years apart. Neither of us were certain how Project Hydra was connected to the physical documents, aside from their watermarks. The only one who knew that was Ron. We had even less of an idea what the Grinner wanted with this stuff. There is a thin connection between the Grinner and Project Hydra, and it all centers — for the moment — around these medical documents

Brianne told me one more bit of information before she got off of the phone. She said that she’d been doing some research and she couldn’t find anything on the victims’ childhoods. It’s like they didn’t exist until their late teens. That information seemed like it’d be hard to find, if not next to impossible for most of them, but it left me wondering what made her even think of this line of inquiry. So I asked her what she remembered of her own childhood. She took a while to respond. I could hear her lighting up another cigarette before she finally spoke. 

“…parts of it.”

I started thinking more about kids and their relationship with dreams… and nightmares. It feels like it was so much harder to differentiate dreams from real life when I was a boy. Sort of like what Brianne is experiencing now, only we don’t have a piece of paper that tells us whether we are in a nightmare or if the monster is real. But what if sometimes we got it right? What if they convinced us it was just a dream… and we convinced ourselves… but it wasn’t just a dream? Worse yet imagine if it was both: dreams and reality bleeding together, and the monster slithering through both? 

I found a document that reminded me a bit of last week’s, this sort of blurring between dreams and reality. It also made me think of Brianne and the gaps in her childhood. It’s typed and printed, and to be honest it seems almost brand new, or at least fairly recent.  One day I hope to ask Ron about this one, if it’s still fresh in his memory. It’s just a couple of pages. It reads as follows.

I called it the Dream Eater.

I’m really not sure why I decided to come up with a spooky name for it or why I’d draw it in pictures as this giant ravenous beast, even though I hadn’t actually seen it that way. If I had to guess, I’d say it probably felt better to imagine that I was strong, but this thing was stronger, rather than picturing it as weak and myself just much weaker. 

I turned eleven that summer. I was riding off of the high that I got from starring in an instant oatmeal commercial. I remember looking in to the camera and smiling, sitting at a kitchen table bathed in lights, with a bowl of ice cold oatmeal in my hands, and I sort of bulge my eyes out and say, “Thanks, mom!” 

I guess that’s some kind of irony. Mother had shuffled me around to all of these different casting calls, and I’d sat in on all of these group auditions. She’d gotten me a bit of background work on a couple of public access kids shows, but she was convinced this was my big break: instant oatmeal with little candy dinosaur eggs that opened up when you poured in hot water. I never actually got to try it. Mother was pretty strict about my diet, especially when it came to sugar. 

Years later I’d be chosen to play a minor role in the pilot for a teen sitcom about a high school baking club or something called “Sugar, High.” My role would’ve been the guidance counselor always looking out for the main character, a less-than-popular girl at school who… I guess wins the whole school over one cupcake at a time… or some nonsense like that. Mother would have hated it. 

She used to do laundry at night sometimes so it wasn’t out of the ordinary to hear the door creak open in the late hours. I’d usually find a bin of clean laundry in the morning. Worse than that slight invasion was her procession of male friends that would come over and occasionally poke their heads in at night while looking for the bathroom. I’d built a habit around ignoring it, blocking out their drunk giggling and… other noises. 

This was sort of different though. I’m not sure how long I let myself believe it was nothing. The door would slowly inch open and a shadow would stretch across the floor, growing taller as the dim light from the hallway made its way in to my room. I’d feel lightheaded. Dizzy. Like the whole room was on its side, my vision doubling, and then everything was so blurry and splashing all around me in waves. The shadow would make its way closer and closer and I could see a hand reaching out towards my face.

And then I’d wake up, and it’d be the morning. 

I could sometimes see it leaving, sometimes carrying or dragging something heavy behind it, but by the time I’d gathered my bearings, it’d be gone. At first it was easy to pretend it was just nightmares. That’s what mother led me to believe. I was homeschooled and this was back before the internet when your parents were still the authority on everything, so if she said something I’d try my best to believe it was true. Actually, I don’t know that I ever really thought that was true. The nightmares… I think I just wanted to believe it. Not because it made things any easier, but because I just needed to trust Mother, to know she was always right. 

I started to get sick all the time. It was sort of like the flu. My muscles and my joints ached, I was always so tired, and some days I could hardly hold down a glass of water without vomiting. My skin turned pale, dark bags under my eyes, purple and yellow bruises littered my arms and legs. I didn’t think at the time that I should have seen a doctor. I had complete faith in Mother and she never took me to see a doctor. 

I remember once, I was running up and down the steps, swinging around this toy fighter jet that I’d attached to a shoestring, and I managed to hit myself in the face with it. Blood trickled down my chin and she blotted it up with a wet rag. The needle poked through my upper lip. She told me to hold still, my legs dangling from the kitchen counter. It’s hard to remember, but I think she stitched my lip up with dental floss. She needed a strong drink to keep her hands still, I do remember her saying that.

The reason I’d started calling it the Dream Eater… I’d made up this whole backstory for it. What I thought it looked like. Where it came from. And what I thought it was doing. I hadn’t had a single dream since I started seeing it, at least not that I knew of. It just made sense to me that this monster made of shadows crept in to my room at night, just as I was drifting off, and swallowed up my dreams.  It sounds stupid now, even to me, but when I was ten years old this was absolutely real. I firmly and truly believed this. I don’t anymore.

I started seeing more of the monster. Not just more often, but more of it. It wasn’t the hulking black beast that I thought it was, but it had these giant bulging eyes and it’d skulk slowly in to my room. 

I remember it grabbing at my arms with its leathery hands and pushing its face in to mine. My vision was blurred and I could hardly make out anything but those big empty eye sockets. And it told me something. It spoke for the first time. 

“It’ll all be over soon.”

It wasn’t too much longer after that night that the visits stopped abruptly. Weeks went by, and then a month, and I started feeling better. I started eating normally again and feeling like myself. Mother would unfortunately overdose on morphine soon after. I’d find her underneath the water in the bathtub and I’d call 911. She’d leave behind a note, but I’d never get to read it, even though I know it was meant for me. 

My Aunt Becky didn’t take me to auditions. I didn’t hear from any more talent scouts or booking agents after that (at least not for a while) but after I graduated high school she’d promised to pay my tuition. I went to a university, looking to follow my dreams as an actor, but I dropped out a month or two in to my second semester. I wouldn’t find my way back to acting until I was picked up by an agent while doing stand up comedy. She thought I was funny and wanted to know if I’d audition to play a guidance counselor in the pilot for a cheesy teen sitcom called “Sugar, High,” and of course I said yes. It wouldn’t get picked up, but it got me noticed and it got me work.

About six months ago the dreams started. There aren’t enough bottles of Jack or bars of Oxy to make them stop. All these years later and my brain has decided I’m finally ready for the truth. In my dreams I see it so clearly. I see all of it, everything I sheltered myself from. There’s a hissing sound and I look around before I realize it’s coming from the vent on the ceiling above my bed. I feel dizzy, everything is moving and swaying.

I hear Mother out in the hallway talking to someone. Their voices are muffled, like they are talking into plastic cups. I can’t make out much of what they are saying except for one phrase that Mother keeps saying: “This has to be the last time.” 

It walks in to my room. Only it’s not a ravenous black shadow or a mutant fly creature. It’s a man wearing a gas mask. He shouts back out in to the hallway, telling whoever else is out there not worry. That I’m “out like a light.”

He brushes my hair back and puts his hand on my shoulder and whispers in to my ear.

“It’ll all be over soon.”

My vision is in and out after that. More men come in gas masks and they carry along cases of equipment. Throughout the night they poke me with needles and IV drips, cover me with wires and telemetry leads. There’s this helmet that’s covered in multi-colored wires and blinking lights. I don’t get a good look at it before they place it over my head. Some of them behind screens or monitoring scrolling charts of paper, a needle jumping up and down, marking them with black ink.

They don’t seem to care that I’m looking at them, sometimes even making eye contact. They know I won’t remember any of this. Whatever it is that they drugged me with will see to that. After some time they disconnect everything, dismantle their equipment, and pack everything up. The sun begins to rise and makes its way through the curtains in yellow-grey light. 

Mother walks in to my room, after all of the men have left, and she kneels by my bedside and cries. A man in a beige suit comes in and puts his hand on her shoulder. With his other hand he removes an envelope from his jacket pocket and lowers it to her. The envelope is small but its thick and if I had to guess, I’d say it’s full of money. I think I’ll always wonder how I was able to let this memory stay dormant in my brain. I’ll probably also always wonder what made it bubble up to the surface

Mother was pushy and overprotective and selfish, but I don’t think she would have let this happen to me without a fairly good reason. Then again, money makes people do some pretty awful things.

Can I ask you a question, listener of the show? If someone needed your help and you thought you were the only one who could help them, how far would you go to do it? I think in some ways I blame myself for what happened with Malcolm. If I’m being honest, you’d have to try really hard to paint a picture of those events where I’m not to blame. 

Brianne’s accident scared me a lot more than it scared her. It reminded me a lot of what I read about it in last week’s episode. There’s a woman out there who traversed the dream world as a young girl and lost a friend in it. Something else happened to her as she was dreaming: she was forced out of a lucid dream and woke up on a sidewalk. Her body disappeared from her bed and reappeared in a relative distance to where she was in her dream. She broke her wrist falling when she woke up. I wondered if this is what happened to Brianne, only instead of reappearing on a sidewalk, she reappeared on the highway… driving.

The author never put her name in the story. Maybe that was on purpose so people didn’t do what I did next. I couldn’t search for her but I could search for information on her missing friend. I began doing just that: searching for missing teenage girls named Alex or Alexandria, looking at hundreds of newspaper clippings and obituaries until I found something that sounded close. Only it wasn’t what I’d expected. 

It was a blog post, a short and less detailed recounting of the story I shared last week. It wasn’t hard after that to track down the author, or at least their email and some social media accounts. I asked her some questions over email: if she could help me to control my dreams, if Brianne’s experiences were anything like her own. I asked her about Charlie, and the man in the khaki suit, and if she had ever seen something in her dreams like Brianne described: someone who was all blurred out. 

Instead she sent me the name of a doctor and recommended a prescription for a certain type of sleeping pills. She said they put you so deep under that they can’t get to you and that they’d keep me safe… and keep me sane. I sent her another email, but it came back undeliverable. I decided to leave it at that and let her try to move on. 

Thank you again for tuning in to The Storage Papers. Remember… the next time you have a nightmare… you might just be remembering something that you really just want to forget. 

Charlie – Season 3 Episode 2

See Content Warnings
General horror, underage use of alcohol and tobacco product, brief discussion of dying, serious illness, body injury
Need to skip this episode? Click here to see the plot.
Jeremy begins to attempt lucid dreaming. Both he and Brianne are having unusual dreams, but Brianne doesn’t want to share hers yet, at least not publicly.
This week’s paper is in a plain white envelope and recounts a story about a person in high school suffering from cancer and their friend, Alex. Alex has to move away, but teaches them to lucid dream, using a blue flashing light as a means to do so. They learn to share the dream and explore the outside world while they are in the hospital. Inside the dream, they meet a boy, Charlie. Eventually, Alex disappears and nobody knows what happened to her. Charlie tells them he is with Alex in her dreams, then forces them to wake up.
They wake up outside of the hospital and nobody knows how they got there. Then they beat cancer and grow up. Then, one day, they wake up to a bottle of pills they take to suppress their dreams being emptied with a note that says, “Come find me.”

If you listened last week to the show, you know that I’ve been combing through the storage papers looking for things related to dreams and sleep. If you haven’t yet I strongly suggest you pause this episode and go back and listen to the one previous. 

I hadn’t been completely honest with Brianne about my own experiences as of late, and I wasn’t sure if she was ready to be honest with me either. I figured it might help if I went first. I shared the contents of last week’s episode with her, along with some details I didn’t think wise to share publicly. I also shared with her my own nightly unpleasantries: a sort of grey area between lucid dreaming and astral projection. The phone call was mostly silent on her end. 

When I was finished, she sighed and remained silent for about a minute before asking me if I thought it meant anything. I told her I wasn’t sure. She told me a bit more about her dreams taking a pause about midway through to light a cigarette. I listened, jotting down notes and flipping through some of the documents I’d already previously set aside, looking for something that might resemble what she was talking about. She asked me not to talk about her dreams on the podcast… at least not yet. I’d consider Brianne a friend and powerful ally and I’m also – and I’m sure this might come as a surprise – a human being, so I’m going to stay true to my word until she tells me otherwise. 

I thought a lot about my own experiences. It can’t be a coincidence that we both started experiencing these things around the same time, and I got to thinking more about lucid dreaming. If you’re not familiar, Wikipedia defines lucid dreaming as: 

“A dream during which the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming. During a lucid dream, the dreamer may gain some amount of control over the dream characters, narrative, and environment; however, this is not actually necessary for a dream to be described as lucid.”

I did a lot of research on the subject, and not just on Wikipedia. There are lots of techniques and bits of technology that have been created over the years that are designed to induce lucid dreaming. There are some that achieve this effect by means of sleep deprivation or by interrupting REM sleep patterns, while others rely on the use of psychedelics. 

One of the most common practices though, something that dates further back than any of these other techniques, is ritual hypnosis. This technique goes by other names as it’s practiced today, and often the ritualistic nature is cut out in favor of traditional hypnosis techniques. Hypnosis is said in some circles to be the most powerful way to naturally induce lucid dreaming. Others say it doesn’t work at all, but it’s said by those who believe in it that these are just cases of poor hypnosis. They also say that it’s important to bring an artifact with you: something to remind you that you are in a dream. Flashing lights, noises, and smells can also follow you into your dreams, and can be used in place of an artifact. 

I feel strange considering it, but it seems so far to be the only viable option. Is it possible for either of us to take control of these dreams? If not to stop what’s happening, maybe just to learn a bit more about it.

The following story comes from an unmarked envelope that I found in one of the boxes by absolute chance… or maybe blind luck. Lately it’s been feeling like the boxes are sort of pushing these documents to the top. 

There’s no post mark on the envelope so I can only assume it was hand delivered. It’s interesting that Ron had so many people come to him for help, and it seems like sometimes he actually helped them. I’m not sure what to make of that anymore. 

I think I can date the document down to the the early two thousands, but the bulk of it seems to have taken place sometime between the late eighties and early nineties. It reads as follows: 

To tell this story properly I have to set the stage, and it would just so happen things started out on one. It was the big, dusty, sticky wooden stage in our high school auditorium. It’s actually pretty silly when you think about it; Alex and I weren’t actually drawn together by our mutual love for drama or the theater, we kind of hit it off because we both hated it. What I had thought was an easy way to score an extra elective turned out to be a giant pain in the ass. I really tried to like it, and when that didn’t work I tried my best to pretend to.

Alex saw right through it. I think that’s actually how she broke the ice; she told me I looked miserable and when I confessed that I was, she scanned the room and then slipped me a flask. I’d expected vodka, but it was some type of peach schnapps and when I took a swig – coughing and almost retching – she just smiled and patted me on the back. I didn’t know it yet, but I had just met my best friend.  

She was just the right amount of bad. She’d pick me up in the school parking lot in her beat up old Geo Metro and we’d skip theater class, smoke cigarettes, and pick up fast food. Sometimes we’d skip the whole school day… just get buzzed and go lay in a field somewhere or wander through the woods. 

But she was also there for me when I got sick. She picked up my class work, talked to my teachers, and even got some other kids to take notes for me to follow. More importantly though, she visited me. She visited me almost every day. 

She’d bring me things from the vending machine – snacks and sodas and gum – until I didn’t want things from the vending machine anymore. And then she decided I collected stuffed penguins. Sometimes I’d wake up to find a new one staring at me from the foot of my hospital bed. It’s funny, she must have gotten desperate because I remember the last one she gave me… it was pitiful. He was a thrift store find, the fabric on his belly more yellow than white, one eye missing, the tag on his backside was written on with permanent marker: the name Fred. We decided that was the name of the penguin, not the name of his previous owner. Fred the Penguin was my favorite. 

I got sicker after that. They say you have to before you can get better. I saw Alex less and less. Not because she’d stopped visiting, I just spent more time asleep, more time in treatment, more time on too many drugs to consider myself conscious. 

But I remember the last time Alex came to visit me in the hospital. She told me about lucid dreaming: what it was and how people did it. She said that the biggest roadblock in our dreams was not realizing that they were dreams. If we were able to remove that roadblock, to somehow remind ourselves that we were dreaming, we could control our dreams. We could do anything we wanted. 

She also told me about dream telepathy: people communicating with each other through their dreams. She was so excited about it. It was first documented by Sigmund Freud of all people. He believed it was real (or at least Alex seemed to think he did). She told me people do it all the time just completely on accident. Sometimes people mistake it for mind reading or think they are having premonitions. Some psychics have even based their whole careers off of it. 

Alex had this idea that if we could learn how to take control of our dreams, we could use them to communicate with each other. I wouldn’t understand why she was so interested in this until a few days later.

I woke up to a chair pressed up against my bed. Sitting in the chair was a cardboard box and sat atop said box were a few folded pieces of paper. I can’t tell you the exact words (it’s been so long now) but I can sum it all up pretty easily: by the time I was reading this, she would already be on a bus, riding halfway across the country to stay with her dad for the summer. Alex never told me about her dad. I think her parents divorce was a sore subject. She didn’t tell me about this either. 

I was surprised, but not hurt the way she thought I’d be. She felt like she was abandoning me. She wasn’t. I just wish she had told me so I could have told her it was all okay, that I would hang in there until she got back. I wasn’t going anywhere.

Along with the letter was a set of instructions, instructions for what to do with the things I’d find inside the box. What I found inside the box was… somewhat strange. 

There was a cassette player and beside that was an odd little plastic box with a button and a plastic lens on it. There was also a hand drawn picture of a penguin with its eyes closed: little Z’s over his head to signify that he was sleeping. 

I’m not sure how I explained away this strange gift to my parents later on. That memory is sort of lost to time. But that night, as I sat there alone, said goodnight to the nurse and flipped off the television, I read over the instructions again.

“The box will flash a blue light every sixty seconds. Don’t worry, it’s not bright enough to wake you up, just bright enough that you can see it in your dreams. Place it with the lens facing your side so it only flashes in your peripheral vision. Put on the headphones and make sure the volume is about halfway, then press play on the tape. Close your eyes and listen to everything the woman on the tape tells you to do. Don’t open your eyes until the woman on the tape tells you to. If everything goes right, you’ll be asleep. 

“The flashing blue light will remind you that you’re not in the waking world, and once you know you’re in a dream you can control it. It can be disorienting at first and confusing, but just remember: whenever you see the blue light in the corner of your eye, it means you’re not awake. Never trust anything if you see that light. Not even me. I’ll be waiting for you in my dreams.”

I did as the instructions said. I put on the headphones, flipped on the light box, closed my eyes, and pressed play.

The woman’s voice was soothing. She guided me through some breathing exercises and after every 2 or three lines I’d hear this ringing noise: like a bell, but more like a cheap keyboard sound effect rather than an actual bell. The voice guided me deeper and deeper and the ringing sound felt closer and closer, like it was enveloping me. The blue light flashed faster and faster… and then it gradually slowed down and the ringing faded. Everything was silent for just a moment before the voice spoke up again. 

“You can open your eyes now.” 

My pulse was racing. I slowly opened my eyes, only at first it was like I hadn’t. Everything was dark, but as my eyes adjusted to the light, my surroundings slowly began to fade into view. I was still in my hospital bed, only it was different. Everything had a layer of dust on it. Cobwebs littered the corners, broken glass glimmered on the ground in front of the smashed television set that was mounted on the wall to my left. Everything was dark, painted with a palette of brown and grey. Something flashed in the corner of my vision and I tried to follow it with my head, but it stayed just in the corner of my vision. It was the flashing blue light. I was in a dream but it felt like a nightmare. 

I carefully guided myself out of bed, too anxious to relish the ease in which I was able to do so. I wasn’t sure what to do. Alex said I’d be able to control my dreams. I should be able to do anything I wanted, but right now all I really wanted to do was wake up. 

The hallways were barren. Every door I pushed open led to another abandoned room with broken furniture and equipment, sheathed in a layer of dust. I was poking my head around a nurses station when I heard footsteps slowly making their way in my direction. I hid behind the counter, holding my breath, hoping whoever it was would pass. The footsteps got closer and closer, pausing at every room. Doors swung open one by one, smacking against the wall with a loud thud. I could feel that whoever this person was, they were looking for me. Hunting for me. 

The footsteps got closer until I could hear that they were right behind me. Fingers rapped on the counter over my head. I held back tears. I felt like I was going to vomit. But eventually they passed, continuing on down the hallway. 

It felt like forever before I finally got up to look around. I was alone again. Whoever that was had truly passed. They weren’t waiting for me to poke my head out, as I had initially feared. I made my way down the hallway – backtracking – going the opposite way than what the mysterious figure had gone. Down the staircase I went, blindly advancing, feeling my way down, before finally making it to the second floor and then to the main lobby adjacent to the emergency room entrance. I was making my way out of the hospital, something I had wanted to do for months. 

But before I could get to the doors, I saw a figure slumped against the wall to the right of them. A sharp pain erupted in my chest and I turned on my heels, ready to run back up the way I had come, but she shouted at me to wait. I looked back to see the figure walking towards me.

It was Alex. We’d found each other… or at least I’d hoped. She took my hand and guided me through the doors, almost pulling me behind her. Outside of the hospital was a forest: gentle sunlight peeking through the soft clouds and trees. Birds sang and bees buzzed merrily, dusted in pollen from rows of wildflowers of every color. 

I looked to Alex in confusion and she looked at me with what felt like pity before she spoke. She told me that this is how my subconscious viewed things. I was trapped in this dark hospital, all alone. And outside, just out of reach, I had projected this forest. It was everything that I wanted but couldn’t have. Alex and I visited the forest almost every night after that. It became a sort of addiction. While I struggled in the waking waking world – my body withering away, treatment failing to take – I flourished in this magical forest. 

One night, as we sat on a bench watching fallen leaves follow the current of a shimmering rainbow river, Alex asked me if I was afraid of dying. I lied and told her that I wasn’t, but I don’t think that’s what she wanted to hear, though the truth probably wasn’t any better. Later that night we would stumble upon a cabin. It was small but on the inside it was impossibly large. We would be invited inside by a man named Oliver and we would meet his wife named Charlotte, and their son Charlie. Things would change after we met this family. This family that lived in my dreams. 

Charlie became our friend. It was odd, but he also never shied away from the fact that he was a figment of my imagination. That was never a problem for either of us, but particularly not for Alex. As time passed and the summer drew to close, it became clear that Alex had a bit of a crush on Charlie (something I was more than happy to poke fun at). We never saw his parents again after that first introduction. It was as if they were just a prop to introduce us to Charlie. He never talked about them either. It was easy to brush all of this off of course, because none of them – including Charlie – were real. They were just subconscious projections, probably from some deep seeded desire to make more friends.

Summer was coming to a close and school was vastly approaching. After a series of operations my health was actually improving, but I cared less and less how my body felt in the waking world. Everything that was truly important to me happened in my dreams. I didn’t have time for my parents or to make plans for my return home. We’d spent all of these months together, at least in my dreams, so it sort of caught me off guard the first night that we didn’t. 

My dream started back in the dark hospital, a place I’d only been once while in a conscious dream state. It was that first night, before I’d found Alex and discovered the dream forest. I whipped my head in circles looking for the blue light… but it wasn’t there. 

I thought back to the person who was in the hospital that first night. It felt like they were looking for me, like they knew I was there. Would they know I was back? I hugged the walls as I made my way back down the familiar hallways, down all three sets of stairs, and made my way down to the lobby.

I called out to Alex. I thought she’d be waiting for me in the lobby again, and when she wasn’t, I decided to check some of our usual spots in the forest as well before making my way down the trail towards Charlie’s cabin. It was odd. The birds weren’t singing. A massive wriggling centipede rolled across a rotting log. Ants traveled in single file across a dead bird, carrying mouthfuls of decaying flesh back to their queen.

I was staring at my feet as I shuffled along the trail when I bumped in to Charlie. He looked disgusted with me, but then quickly changed his expression. He looked angry… or maybe just frustrated. He asked me why I couldn’t see my light. Something about the way he asked made me uncomfortable. I hadn’t known that he could see it. It didn’t make any sense. Instead of acknowledging his question, I asked him one of my own, one that came out more confrontational and maybe more suspicious than I intended: I asked him where Alex was. 

A smile crept across his face and his eyebrows furrowed. “She has her own dreams, you know.” 

I asked him if she was dreaming right now and he told me yes. I asked him if he was in that dream… and he said yes. And then he did something I’ll never forget, something that still gives me shudders when I think about it. He reached towards me with his index finger and pressed it against my forehead and whispered…


I actually did wake up, only I wasn’t in my hospital bed. It was dark. I was a quarter of a mile away on a sidewalk and before I could gather my bearings, I toppled over, smashing my head on the concrete and breaking my wrist. I don’t remember how I ended up back at the hospital, only that I was bandaged up and they were prepping for x-rays when I had the talk with my parents. I believe my Dad’s words were, “What is all this junk?” 

He was fiddling around with the light box. The tape player sat in his lap, the accompanying note was unfolded in the chair next to him. I wasn’t sure how to respond. What do you say when someone confronts you about a secret that you didn’t know you were keeping? 

I’d kept all those things in the box Alex gave them to me in. I wasn’t really hiding any of it, but I definitely didn’t want to talk or answer questions about it either. My dad sighed; there was a pain and sadness in his eyes, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it yet. He asked me if I knew what was going on. He put his hand over mine and asked me where I was going and how I’d fallen. I was confused.

I’d find out later that none of the security cameras had picked up my departure, not in any of the hallways or exits, and no one at the front desk had seen me leave. It was as if I had disappeared, only to reappear falling face first onto that sidewalk. My parents waited until the next day to ask me some of the more serious question. A Detective sat in as well. The questions they asked me I hadn’t really been able to answer, at least not yet. 

They asked me about Alex, if she said anything to me before she’d left to spend the summer with her father (besides the note she had left). They asked if she was in any trouble, if she was upset about anything, if she had a boyfriend. My mind lingered on that last question; I’d thought of Charlie. 

Alex hadn’t been seen in a few days. 

I think everyone knows the next part of the story. The search parties, the news coverage, her parents begging anyone if they know anything to come forward. But there’s a secret part to this story that I’ve never told anyone. The next night I went to sleep normally for the first time in months. No tape, no flashing blue light. I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t know yet that I didn’t have a choice anymore. 

Alex sat on a bench in front of the hospital. The forest behind her looked lifeless, the clouds just a fraction darker. She looked up at me and rolled her eyes. She told me she could never tell me where she’d gone. Her and Charlie had run away to be together. I told her that wasn’t possible. Charlie wasn’t real; her family was real. I was real.

She laughed. She said that he was real. She had met him outside of the dream world. He was sweet to her. I was just jealous.

She left me sitting on the bench alone. Staring up at the dark hospital. Up in one of the windows on the third floor, I saw someone staring back. 

Wherever it is you go in your dreams, you’re not always supposed to remember it. You’re not supposed to be a part of it or interact with it. I don’t think Alex ever came back from it. I think if you spend too long in there, you’ll forget what its like on the outside and you might leave your body behind for something else. 

Its been a long time. I’m not 16 anymore. I’ve been cancer free for 9 years. I’m a grownup now with grownup responsibilities. I take a sleep aid; I don’t remember my dreams anymore. I’m always terrified of going back there. I did go back once, when I was 20, but the cabin wasn’t there and neither was Alex. Sometimes I turn the light box on. I face it away from me and I picture my friend finding it and coming home. 

The reason I’m writing all of this and telling this story to a paranormal investigator after all these years is because something strange happened to me just the other morning. I woke up to find my bottle of sleeping pills empty, the bottle resting in the sink. There was a note resting above the tap written in familiar handwriting. It said:

 “Come find me.”

Thank you for listening. I’ll update you next week on my experiences with lucid dreaming. Until then, sleep tight.