there you are
Finally. Please forgive my disposition today
I barely got any sleep last night. You see, my nightmare has returned
Identical to the one I had several months back.
You would not know about that. How would you? Please
allow me to enlighten youand you will soon enough understand
life had been plodding along on at a relatively normal and contented
clip. My career was going exceptionally well, and I was getting
some serious writing accomplished, finally making a name for myself.
it happened, completely out of the bluea dream that was going
to repeat itself over three increasingly harrowing nights. I feel
I should mention that I had never before been haunted by nightmares
or night-terrors, so this came as quit a fright.
first night of the dream, I found that in it I was casually strolling
in the nearby park, as I am in the regular habit of doing. It clears
my mind, and the light exercise invigorates my imagination. I was
unsure as to what time of day it was
Perhaps early afternoon.
The air was crisp, but comfortable, and there was a generous splattering
of clouds in the sky. All at once they appear, from nowhere
Four excessively tall gentlemen with striking bald heads contrasting
their nondescript facial features. They were dressed in matching
old-fashioned black long tuxedos and were marching with remarkable
speed towards me, and I needed to dart out of the way to avoid being
On their shoulders was balanced a coffin. Not
an expensive coffin, mind you; no, this one appeared to be made
entirely from pine, and had nothing on it other than the most basic
was at that moment I awoke, slightly amused by the vivid nightmare,
but not completely alarmed by it. It was only a matter of minutes
until I fell back into a more restful sleep.
did not think much about the nightmare as I went about my daily
routine the next day. Not until I once more lay in bed, that is.
For when I rested my head on my pillow, tightened the bedclothes
about me and closed my eyes, the image of the coffin kept popping
into my mind's eye. Normally, the clarity of dreams have faded
until forgotten. Yet this image of the four peculiar fellows carrying
the casket was remarkably clear.
tried to dismiss the disturbing mental picture as I fidgeted awkwardly.
Finally, I did succumb to sleep
and that dream once more manifested
itself within my slumbering mind
Initiating with precisely
the same odd series of events from the night before
time it continued further. For some reason I felt compelled to follow
the curious pall bearers, and I had to almost trot to keep up with
them. They seemed thankfully oblivious to my being there. They marched
purposefully through the park, past the Bowling Green, where several
old gentlemen dressed in shirts and ties with flat claps on their
heads grinned menacingly as we went, and saluted us. Then on near
a muddy soccer pitch, where young boys of about nine or ten with
muddied faces and muddied knees stopped playing their game and began
pointing and laughing hysterically as the four men, the coffin,
and I marched on by.
procession continued along the gravel path and on out of the main
gates of the park and down the high street
then I abruptly
awoke, to discover I was once more contained safely in my bed
time I was not amused by the nightmare, as I discovered myself to
be in a cold prickly sweat.
promptly took a warm shower, to calm my nerves.
I returned to bed
and after a short while of fighting back
horrible thoughts fell into a peaceful sleep.
following night as I lay there in the darkness of my bedroom, I
wondered if again I would have my nightmare, and I wondered further
if I was going to discover who was in the coffin
took a little while to finally fall asleep. As I had suspected,
the nightmare did indeed come back
Once again we were in the
park; once again I followed the coffin, and once more the bowlers
grinned and saluted and the pale faced youngsters stopped kicking
their ball and sneered and cackled as we went past them. Once more
we continued on out of the park and along the main street, and then
I saw ita hand painted sign, just a few shops ahead.
and Watts Funeral Parlorserving the City of Birmingham since
they marched up to the premises, the heavy doors of its imposing
entranceway swung open, seemingly by themselves, and they continued
on inside, along a wooden corridor towards the rear of the property.
Despite the stamping of boots against the wooden floor, there was
no discernable sound to be heard. I followed immediately behind
them and into a large sized room at the rear of the building.
placed the coffin onto a long narrow table standing about three
feet high draped in faded, moth bitten black velvet.
studied the room. It had no windows, its dark wooden walls cracking
and showing their age, and a small fireplace on the back wall of
the room. The room was softly illuminated by black candles in simple,
old-fashioned sconces on each of the room's four walls. I breathed
in the air, which smelled dank and stale. It occurred to me that
the room could have been taken from a Charles Dickens novel.
I stood there, I abruptly turned around and realized that the door
I had entered through was no longer there. I stared blankly at the
dusty wood-covered walls where the door had been moments before.
I began to spin my body about feverishly in alarm. All I could see
were the candles flickering away on the walls, the unlit fireplace,
and the coffin set on the table.
stopped spinning and stared at it blankly. I made my way over to
studied it keenly as I ran the fingers of my right hand over the
cheap coarse wood. There were no nails or screws securing the top,
I noted with a combination of delight and dread. I felt a sudden
sharp pain and realized that I had managed to implant a splinter
in my index finger.
I gradually placed my fingertips under the top and lifted it up,
just an inch.
then took a big breath and held it as I lifted it further and peered
screamed, dropped the lid and instantly recoiled at the face gazing
up at me, beaming through badly applied makeup, empty eyes still
It was the face of my editor and dearest friend
immediately awoke, to discover that I was indeed screaming
As I once more attempted to calm my nervousness, this time without
success, in the shower, I noticed a throbbing in my right hand,
and discovered with further horror and complete disbelief that a
splinter was there.
could not bring myself to sleep for the rest of the night, despite
it being only a little after two
I simply went downstairs
to my kitchen and made a pot of strong tea.
I sat there depleting the pot of tea, I kept replaying the terrible
scene over and over again in my head
and kept considering
the splinter, which was as real as anything and still in my finger.
it has a rational explanation," I muttered out loud in an attempt
to convince myself. "I must have gotten the splinter without
realizing it, and then incorporated into my dream. That can be the
watched the clock ticking away the hours
Three, four, five
I sat there silently as the morning sun awoke and cast
its soft morning glow over my kitchen.
another ordinary day, I considered, doubting the words as quickly
as they formed.
it was nine
My editor was always at her desk by that time
in the morning.
head dizzy from the disruptive combination of lack of sleep, anxiety
and the large quantity of caffeine, with trembling fingers, I dialed
my editor's number.
was on the fifth ring that the phone was answered
told her about the dream, and she joked about my imagination always
working overtimeand that I should stick to just writing speculative
fiction and not dreaming it. I laughed, and my mind was eased.
a preposterous notion indeed, predicting someone's death in a dream.
I wish I could tell you that that was the last of it. Alas, the
most shocking is yet to come. It was a few days later when I had
a question for Constance, and once more dialed her number. The phone
was answered, after the sixth ring, but not with Constance's usual
cheery voice meeting my earit was the voice of her young assistant
my goodness," she said and I could tell that she was crying,
"there has been a terrible car accident this morning. Police
are here right now asking all sorts of meaningless questions
Constance's Jaguar, according to what they have said, apparently
skidded out of control
and she's... She's
want me to go with them, to make the final verification, and"
at once my mind was filled with the haunting, disturbing vision
of Constance's distorted face I had seen in my nightmare
I must have fainted and collapsed on to the ground, hitting my head
on the cold marble tile in the process.
awoke in a hospital bed, heavily sedated, with a pretty redheaded
nurse smiling down at me.
told me, as she held my hand, that I had suffered a bit of a breakdown,
by the shock of losing a close friend and that I had been out for
almost a week
Even missing the funeral.
went on to inform me that I had been talking about the dream I had
experienced in my semi unconscious state
and how I had kept
repeating the scene over and over again.
added with appropriate help, my life would resume to normal
within a matter of weeks, telling me how resilient humans are.
last few months have been awful, absolutely awful. My writing fell
apart, I have been visiting a therapist three times a week, and
the only way I can get myself to sleep these days is by a prescription
But at least the dreams went away.
that is till a few days ago.
dream was precisely as I remembered it.
the first night, there I was once more in the park
more saw the menacing pall bearers, and yet again I darted out of
their way to avoid being knocked over.
the second night, we once more headed out of the parkand again
the bowlers sneered and the young boys scoffed and pointed their
grubby fingers at us.
on the third night, just as we had done before, once more we continued
out of the park, through the main gates up the main street, and
I saw the Birching and Watts Funeral Parlor sign
and I followed
the procession inside.
the door vanished, and again I spun about frantically
I finally focused my attention on the coffin.
more I made my way over to it and studied the cheap brackets and
Again I saw there were no screws or nails keeping the
top in place.
ran my right finger over it, and got another splinter.
I placed the tips of my fingers underneath the lid and gradually
eased it upward.
I peered inside, the candle light flickered eerily about me
And as my terrified eyes met the face of the person lying there,
Then I awoke in my bed, just as shaken, and just
as terrified as before.
is why I needed to contact you so desperately
For that face
lying there in that cheap pine coffin
It was yours.