A Bad Dream, story and art by P.L. Cobb
Projects, Series

A Bad Dream

This post is part of an ongoing series titled The Wandering Stranger.

Part I | Part III


“Just let me go,” the man begged. “I swear, I didn’t mean to do anything! Let me go and I’ll—”

It looked at him with its beady black eyes. From the shadows he could see nothing, except for those eyes. A hissing noise came from somewhere, and then it spoke. “No.”

A chorus of voices from further away tittered: “He has already forgotten!”

The man slumped down into a shaking heap, sobbing. To think that this was actually happening. He could barely believe it. That this was a delusion was hard to believe. Delusions certainly didn’t leave real marks on your arms and neck where people could see them. Did they? Once someone had claimed that he was possessed. And maybe he was.

“You’re not real,” he said.

“Keep telling yourself that,” the creature laughed. “It’s what your kind says before they die.”

“No.”

“I’m afraid so!” It hissed into his ear, the waspish sound fraying his nerves even more. “I’ve already taken your name, and what memories you once had are gone. There’s nothing left, nothing good, nothing bad; it’s really quite pleasant, actually. Without the the burden of self you’ll no longer have to worry about anything. Think of it more as a release. When you die it won’t mean a thing.”

“You’re not real,” he repeated, the words sounding so hollow to him.

“Who are you?” The thing asked, softly, sweetly.

“I’m … I was …” the man began slowly, then trailed off. He fumbled in his mind for the answer, seeing flashes of gold, but couldn’t come to a solid conclusion. Who was he? A sense of false security soon surrounded him, calming him. Some distant part of him told him to fight, to wake up, but he couldn’t. He just wanted to sleep. His eyes rolled up into his head.

“I’m golden. I’m sharp.” After all the trouble that was all he could muster.

A grating laugh came from out of the darkness. “He’s still got some fight left in him!”

“Shut up!” The thing turned to glare at its kindred.

The man blinked. He didn’t know why, but he felt an indescribable rage well up inside of him. Before he knew it, he was trying to sit up. There were so many questions–where was he, why was it so dark, and where had the warmth gone? It felt like a grave.

The warmth is a lie.

Looking around, the man noticed a pair of shining stars. They looked more like eyes. Before he could think any further his right arm took a swing at them. As his fist made contact with something solid, he began to remember something. “You’ve ruined everything!”

A chorus of laughter surrounded him, but he didn’t care. “I’m going to take back my name!” He lashed out again. Something latched onto his legs; with his other arm he beat down on it. Whatever had taken hold of him began to squeal, like a pig in the slaughter house. That horrible sound made him wince. Grabbing it, he made to rip it off. A sound of cracking and tearing filled the air.

The echoing laughter was soon replaced by shrieks and shouts. Without any warning, a million of the small creatures swarmed over him. Roaring the man ran. He flailed his arms about, swatting at the things, which were gnawing on him, biting him; they were literally ripping him apart. He dropped to the ground, rolling over. There were more hisses and shrieks which followed. Not daring to look back, the man scrambled to his feet. He ran despite not being able to see a thing.

And he would continue to run no matter the cost. As long as he was alive and those creatures were far behind nothing else mattered.

“Who am I?” he asked himself. Where he came from, where he had once lived, the things he had done … All of it was gone.

You are a simple nobody, a small voice said to him.

A Bad Dream, story and art by P.L. Cobb

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