The fires tore at my skin, trying to peel away the thin veil of covering that kept the flames from my vitals. I ran down through the hallway, tripping and coughing and throwing up all the way because of all the smoke that was suffocating me. I picked myself up, hunkered low to the ground, arm up trying vainly to filter the oxygen from the smog. I kept drowning in the dark wisps of dead air and wood, my own bile, sweat, tears and even some blood. The ceiling was falling apart and a piece managed to fall on my eye. I tried to staunch the bleeding after it happened, but it was futile. All around me, the inferno edged ever closer. I lightly jogged, crouched close to the ground, going down this infinite hallway that mocked me with the death that it could deliver anytrime, but instead, it almost seemed as if it chose to watch my slow and painful demise. Suddenly I burst out the front doors and collapsed on the stone steps. I spit up a bit more and rolled painfully onto my beck to help the air into my lungs. I looked up at the building that almost took my life. The windows had already exploded from the heat, and it was hardly recognizable, but it was there. The Church that I'd known all my life nearly killed me. But I escaped. I thought with a vague sense of humore that I was God's chosen one.
It was a short thought.
There was a loud thundering crack , and the next thing I knew, the cross was freefalling.
Towards me. It was on me in a second.
I woke up screaming in a cold sweat. Again. I calmed down and sat up slowly, feeling my chest. The pain was almost there, out of reach, but the sensation wasn't hard to imagine. Just a short ways away from being enflamed. I got up and walked over to the bathroom, splashing refreshing cold water on my face. I let it trickle down my neck and chest, enjoying the sensation of moisture instead of the burning pain. I leaned against it and stared at the drain. That nightmare plays again and again over and over again, and it's been happening every night. I've been afraid of going to sleep. Even going to church. I stopped going there on Sundays a week ago. I just can't handle how realistic the nightmare church was in comparison to the real thing. The nightmare church was missing a couple of minor details, like the seats and the bleachers the singers stand on. The center room is completely empty, in fact. Except for one thing. Well, one person really.
There's always a man standing where the Reverand usually does. He stands there, watching me with a frown. Some unreadble expression plays on his face, regret, sadness, pity, remorse...disappointment? The fire has no effect on him, the fire doesn't even come near him. It stays away, leaving a neat circle of protection around him. He's wearing the usual getup of a priest, with the black cloak and white collar. His hands are at his front, folded. I never really interact with him, focused on the all-too realistic pain in my chest, my lungs, my....well, everything. I don't really pay much attention to him, but he's worth noticing.
I went and put on some clothes. Casual Tee with jeans and sneakers, showing off my form. I enjoy sleevless shirts. They show off my muscle. Especially black ones. They seem to compress and show off my abs. I've showed off my entire life, but I don't care what others think. I was sexy and I wanted every damn person to know it. I wore a belt with a large buckle even though the pants fit just fine. It drew attention to my...well, you know. I looked out the window. Cold and drizzly. Gray and depressing. Dark and unforgiving. I put on a light black jacket. Hell, why not? I ccould tough it out.
I went to my car and started it up after a few tries. Piece of crap didn't exactly coincide with my looks. I'm saving up for a new one, so I planned to suck it up. After it warmed up I went over to my job at the bar. I go there because my friends stop by daily to get a few drinks before crashing at some whore house. Having hot girls shove money in my pants as a tip is nice too.
It was a regular shift. Nothing weird, nothing strange, just me and my drinks. And the sluts. Unfortunatley, my friends couldn't make it, leaving me without company. But to stable the good and bad, two girls walked in, already pretty giggly. After a few drinks they started to flirt with me and I began the process of enticing them into sex. First, you learn their names. Second, give them free drinks if they remove their bras. Third, and this is only if you know theyu'll do it, and if they're close friends, you have them kiss. Lightly at first, but more passionatley as you give them more convincing. You keep them entertained until your shift's over, then you continue to get them into your car. Your choice of car sex or at home sex. I was feeling classy tonight so I lead them up into my room. There we had a night full of fun and ecstasy. It was shaping up into a pretty great night, until we had our 4th round. Then we all started to get pretty tired. I settled down with both of them in my arms, then I passed out.
Tonight, the nightmare was the most intense one I've ever had.
The dreams don't always start me off in the same place twice. It changes every few times I have them. But never in the entrance room where the Reverand stands. This time was different. And a major change is that I started with immediate pain. In my feet and hands. It wasn't burning either, it was more...really bad stinging. Sound slowly drifted to me, and my eyes were wide open, but my sight took a while to blur into focus. When my sound came in, the loudest noise was my screaming. With sight, I saw that I was suspended 3 meters off the ground with a wooden plank running down from behind my back, planted firmly in the ground. I saw that I was naked, and my feet were tacked to the board with nails. I looked around wildly, bellowing and panicking and sweating, and saw that my hands were tacked down as well. Blood ran down my hands, I kept shouting and yelling and begging for help. I eventually looked forward and saw, against the wall, was the man. He seemed...angry. His brow was furrowed and he seemed to be focused on me. Concentrating. Soon I felt faint heat against my toes and heard the slight crackle of flame. My panicking redoubled as I realized that the cross was now on fire, and that I couldn't do anything about it. It crept up and up, making the soles of my feet warmer and warmer, until the very bottom of them finally caught fire. I looked up, crying, eyes clenched shut, roaring as loud as I could from pain, praying I could just wake up. The fire kept on going up, getting up to my ankles, calf, knee, thigh, waist, all the way until it reached my neck. The experience of being lit on fire so slowly and deliberatley is hellish to say the least. It was the worst pain I could imagine anyone having, and to happen for so long robbed me of what confidence I had against these endeavors totally. Eventually my head was blazing as well. My entire body and the cross was being reduced to mere ash. I begant to choke on blood from using my throat so much, yet still I tore through the crackles of fire with my cries of pain. I was burning a full 5 minutes after I was fully engulfed before I was, mercifully, awoken from my sleep.
I didn't wake in a cold sweat like all those other times. I woke up alone, my body completely dry and brittle. It hurt to live. I could still feel the burn of the pyre. The stinging went away, as did my throat injury, but the burning raged on. It got worse by the minute I breathed. I didn't even cry, or call, or move. I just layed there, begging. Not for the pain to end, not for help to arrive, not to be rid of any of this. I didn't ask for any of that. I just wished I was dead. That Satan, or God, or Jesus or the Buddha or Allah or whatever the hell was out there to just end me so the dreams, my pain, my pathetic life would just all stop.
The pain subsided to about one-fourth as much. I could move now, and the first thing I did was cry. No sound, no movement of the chest that accompanies sobs, I just cried, savoring the reliief of the salty tears riding down my cheek. I cried, and cried, and cried long after the pain ended. I don't know how long I was there, but I'd guess 3 hours. Finally, I got up and showered with the water set to the coldest setting possible, even if that meant my shower would barely be running.
The water running down my face, chest, body and legs was so amazing, it was uncomparable to anything. Not sex, nor money, nor life or revenge was as sweet as this respite. It was a Hell feeling that fire, but that shower was my baptism.
I didn't stop crying until I got out of the shower.
I got dressed in whatever the hell it was I got. I don't even think I put on underwear I was in such a hurry. I got into my car and started it (after a few attempts,) and headed straight to the psychologist in town.
I got there within 15 minutes. I sprinted through the doors, going directly for the doctor. A lady stopped me and asked for my appointment. I begged but she wouldn't relent. I started groveling, and crying and telling her I would pay her the 100,000 dollars I had to my name if I could just get in to the doctor. She seemed to soften up, spoke a little bit softer and consoled me a bit but still wouldn't let me in. I collided into the nearest wall and buried my face in my hands, sobbing. I slowly fell to the floor, shoulders quaking with my cries, when someone stepped in and stared at me.
I only barely saw him through the crack of light in my hands and the blur of my tears, but he talked to the lady and he eventually pulled me to my feet murmmering softly to me. He said "It's alright, I'll take you in now, I'll take care of you, you don't have to worry, I'll see you for no cost, come with me...." He said more but I chose not to listen. I composed myself and braced myself for the interview.
We were in a room with a large window looking out onto the city. There was the classic lay-back seat for the patient and stool for the shrink. I, of course, was told to lay down, and I did so. He lowered himself onto the stool, took out the cliche clipoard and pen and asked the almighty question "So, when did this start to happen?"
He doesn't even know what the fuck "this" is. But despite that, I told him, "About 7 years ago, maybe in the March-ish area."
He nodded and wrote something on the clipboard. He looked up at me and asked, "So, what seems to be the major issue?"
I poured out every detail I could possibly muster. The dreams, the fire, the pain, the details, my "death", and the man. But I really went into detail about my most recent nightmare. Every single thing that I experienced in that dream was now inside that man's memory, for better or worse. I even spoke about the threesome I had the night previous. But I really wanted to get to the part about when I woke up. About the pain, about the tears, and about how I was now fearing for my sanity, my mind, and even my own life.
He asked, "And this man, what of him? Anything that could relate?"
"Other than the fact that he was dressed like a priest, no. He didn't catch fire though. And he always seemed sad. Up until my last dream. He seemed...I don't know, mad, then."
He got up and retrieved a large sketchbook, along with a pencil.
"Describe him for me."
I did, and when he was finished, he had a perfect match of the man that haunted me all these years. He showed it to me and I just, lightly brushed from his eye down to his neck.
He nodded and said that he'll go and review the session. Off the floor he picked up a recorder that was running, and stopped the recording, and went over to a door that lead to somewhere else. I leaned back and relaxed, knowing that someone else knew. That, in a way, I wasn't alone anymore. He came back after about a half-hour and told me that he has an idea about all this, asked for my phone number and told me to go back home. Reluctantly, VERY reluctantly, I acknowledged this and returned back home. I was back in my room, laying down and staring into the ceiling with the lights turned on. I dared not sleep in fear that I'd have another nightmare. Eventually I got a text message. It read "Do you have a computer now?" I replied "No, why?" In response, "If you do, copy and paste this link into the URL bar."
I went over to the bar, knowing that there was a computer in the employee lounge. I got on it and typed in the link that who I assumed to be the counselor. After the page booted up, I saw that it was an article featuring something that happened within the town.
Apparently, about 50 years ago there was a church built in place where the new one stands now. It featured a large staff, many of whom enjoyed and loved working there (citing the article,) and held many gatherings to serve free food to the poor. Unfortunatley, during one such gathering, a man who gives all his money to cigarettes carelessly tosses aside a smoldering cigarette bud onto the large trailing drapes within the entrance room. The building soon catches fire and is totally ablaze within a matter of minutes, it being summer and there being many flammables. Everyone escaped safely. But not everyone makes it home.
The reverend was due that day. He was upstairs, reading through his favorite passages of the scripture. The Church could not afford smoke detectors, but could afford fire extinguishers. However, not one had been used. No one knows what happened to him. His body was never found
I read down and nearly pissed myself. In the article, there was a picture of the man in my dreams, smiling, holding a bible, along with 2 other priests. His name was J.D. Abraham.
I was shaking. I read on, learning that another church, with almost the exact same design of the first one was constructed upon the grave of the old one.
I slumped back, staring at the screen in shock. I didn't know what to do, so I got up and started over to my car. There, I drove over to the church. I don't know why, but I just had to do it. I tried the door. Locked. I turned around when I head a dull thump. I turned and tried the door again, to find it was unlocked. I went inside, not fearing anything anymore, and headed upstairs. No more doors were locked. Why would they be? The doors outside were locked, and there was nothing valuable inside. I finally got to the top level and walked over to the window. I was just looking out, observing, when I was suddenly struck with a thought. What happened to J.D. ? I was suddenly extremely tired and dizzy, and I collapsed to the floor.
I woke up exactly where I collapsed. Everywhere there was fire. Oh God, I thought. It's happening again! I quickly ran down the stairs, running down the stairs, and through a strangely large hallway. The fires tore at my skin, trying to peel away the thin veil of covering that kept the flames from my vitals. I ran down through the hallway, tripping and coughing and throwing up all the way because of all the smoke that was suffocating me. I picked myself up, hunkered low to the ground, arm up trying vainly to filter the oxygen from the smog. I kept drowning in the dark wisps of dead air and wood, my own bile, sweat, tears and even some blood. The ceiling was falling apart and a piece managed to fall on my eye. I tried to staunch the bleeding after it happened, but it was futile. All around me, the inferno edged ever closer. I lightly jogged, crouched close to the ground, going down this infinite hallway that mocked me with the death that it could deliver anytrime, but instead, it almost seemed as if it chose to watch my slow and painful demise. Suddenly I burst out the front doors and collapsed on the stone steps. I spit up a bit more and rolled painfully onto my beck to help the air into my lungs. I looked up at the building that almost took my life. The windows had already exploded from the heat, and it was hardly recognizable, but it was there. The Church that I'd known all my life nearly killed me. But I escaped. I thought with a vague sense of humore that I was God's chosen one.
It was a short thought.
There was a loud thundering crack , and the next thing I knew, the cross was freefalling.
Towards me. It was on me in a second.
I woke up on the sidewalk, right by the bar I work at. I stood up and stretched, not quite understanding what had happened. I decided I'd go and check on the security tapes. But maybe check my facebook first. I logged onto the desktop under my own account and found that everything on the desktop was missing. The start menu, icons, it even only had a black background. There was only one thing. A .txt file. It said "README.txt" I clicked it, not knowing what to expect and the notepad popped up. It read "NOW YOU KNOW."
I walked out of the bar, confused and planning to visit the councelor again. As I was heading out, the breaking news theme started up and there was a shot of a massive pile of ash. I couldn't hear it, put I could see enough. At the bottom of the screen, text in big, blocky white letters read, "CHURCH BURNED DOWN AGAIN."
I walked out, heading to the church, and found that it was true. The church was now a memory. Yet again. I wasn't mad or sad or even remotley confused. Just... disappointed. I knew that somewhere I was under all that rubble. I just didn't feel anything. Except, slight remorse. I didn't want to end on that note. I was a bad person, and now there was nothing I could do. I had to live with this on my mind, that I passed a complete fool. I was about to leave when I saw a familiar face. It was J.D. , staring at me. He looked on for a few seconds, then nodded slowly. And then he was gone.
I stood there all day and half a night, wondering. Thinking about everything that's happened. That I somehow achieved life after death. I head a faint trickling sound... I looked over and saw that some douche was pissing on the ash that remained from the church, with his friends watching and laughing. I looked at him and frowned. After that, I trailed them through their pointless and pathetic night of drinking and eating and fucking. Eventually the one I was most interested in staggered back home, collapsing on his couch and falling asleep. I went over to a stool and sat back nonchalantly, taking my time. I closed my eyes and went to sleep.
I woke up, standing where the altar normally would be. Flames flickered around my feet from a ways away, casting light around me, making me look etheral with the fire staying a harmless ring away. I heard the screaming not long after I found myself standing in this ring. I saw him run past, not taking a single look at me. It's fine, I thought. He'll notice me soon enough. I waited a solid hour in the church, listening to the flames before waking up again.
I was back at the stool, laying back, chill as ever. The man was already gone. I stood up, and walked over to his laptop, typing along this tyrad. It's amusing to see how far I've come, to see all that's happened. And to refresh myself that I'm no longer one of you. That I'm something better. And for a little heads up before I return to my friend here, know this. Dreams are a bit more than some amusing tale. They hold the ability to make someone's life miserable, no matter how good you have it, you're always in danger. Of death. Of pain. Of J.D. Of me.