Organizing old files, I came across a vivid nightmare I had during my first month in Norway. It flung me out of bed and, half asleep, not looking at the screen, I typed it out as fast as I could, as much as I could, before it left my head. I do not normally have nightmares, beyond some good natured zombie slaying. Eleven months later, it reads like something a stranger wrote…
I wake up. Nightmare. Played out like a fully illustrated horror story. Maybe a slight detour through Hell, but it never says so straight out.
You start out on a lonely stretch of road. Snow. Fields. A few trees. Car breaks down. You walk. Barbed wire. Desolate. Farmhouse (or something) ahead.
You walk along the road. You stray away from the road.
There is a family. Maybe two families. Maybe a vacationing family and some friends. Their car is broken down. Snow. It’s cold. Very cold. Dangerous cold. Everyone’s getting to that dangerous place — lie down and sleep forever. For some reason, they’ve given up on knocking on the doors of the building (it’s a farmhouse, or something, a set of buildings that appear boarded up and abandoned).
There is no more warmth in the car.
The adults dig out the snow outside, a little ridge of shelter, and start putting the children there for safety, packing them in like little bags in a freezer. But the white powder falls over their faces. Everyone is about ready to sleep. Why have they given up? Maybe it was a car accident and everyone is disoriented. Maybe there is some frozen blood.
At the last second, a ray of light. Someone from in the building opens it up. Not the people that live there. No one lives there. No one is from there.
But lots of other people seem stuck here too. It’s some kind of abandoned, shutdown vacation resort.
Lots of people. Lots of stories on how they got here. Yet you don’t recall seeing any other broke- down cars.
Lots of stories. Lots of paths that lead here.
No clocks. But you feel there is some kind of countdown you don’t want to be on the other side of. But you’re curious.
People mill about, weathering the storm in the warmth inside. Food and booze have been found. Lots of stories…
Janet has gotten to know Hank. She likes his wit. She mentions getting drinks and he reluctantly says he’s an alcoholic. Says he’d feel weird, feel like some dirty failure if he went and made a drink for himself. Janet thinks that, given the circumstances, he deserves a little libation and suggests that she get one, and that he take a sip from her’s…that way he’s not some pathetic failure grasping at discovered booze, but maybe…a well to do gentleman at an upscale party, taking a drink from a fine woman.
She asks him what she’ll be having.
She mixes the drink. She brings it back. He takes it, deftly, from behind her and says thanks. She sips the spare she prepared for herself. She thinks she is about two drinks away from sleeping with Hank.
Lots of people here. Lots of stories.
Lots of paths that lead here. There are no clocks but there is a countdown.
There are pleasure sounds, in the night, in the building.
There are also what might be construed as muffled screams. Struggle…but not much. Lots of stories here. Lots of paths.
Somehow, no matter where each begins, it ends bad. It comes down in waves. In synchronized patterns. The countdown is done.
Flashes of images. Smiles. Blood. Hair. Leaking fluid from an eye. Whispers. Chewing. Ragged nails, dark and dripping in the moonlight. Hair mostly covering mad eyes and you pray you don’t see them fully.
You walk the grounds outside the building. Not very cold, not much snow now. Is that strange?
Winding paths. Other, smaller structures around the main building. Tool sheds and utility buildings.
Lots of paths and fields and a few trees and groves and, in the distance, the abandoned road. Stories out here too. People taking walks. You walk behind someone.
They seem to be taking an odd course. Maybe had too much to drink.
There are other stories here, and they’ve all turned bad on the vine.
There is a couple sitting on a stump. Their faces are sewn together. Maybe they scream or maybe they moan — hard to tell in the muffle.
A mother peels the last of the skin off her sun’s skull and says, “There, was that so bad?”
A little girl rides her daddy’s shoulders. She gnaws at the ragged hole in his hard skull, crams in little fingers and tears out another glistening chunk from inside and chews it like cotton candy. “No this way, daddy!” she says, imperiously pointing. He grunts something, not quite able to form the words and he lurches in that direction, and he has vacant, idiot eyes.
All the stories turned bad.
You don’t want to see them.
But you are curious, and you have so many questions.
You overtake the man you’ve been walking behind. You know you shouldn’t. You don’t want to see. But you do. His ocular cavities are empty, blood-streaming down his face. On his thumbs and fingers, the gore and jelly tell the story.
You walk on.
Where do all these people come from?
A car drives in random directions, tires spinning, fish-tailing, sliding about the fields. It is well away from the road.
You catch images inside. Horrible. Each hammers the heart.
Bad things in each glimpse — glimpses of gore and mutilation and messy stitches and cuts and body parts and complete abomination.
The kids don’t say, “Are we there yet?”. They stopped screaming some time ago. The father’s foot and arms are all that seem to work still. His eyes failed him a while back. The eyes from his family, sewn or stuck to various places on his body don’t seem to help either. The children are sewn together in one lump, for more economy of space.
The car keeps spinning and roaring along the fields. No telling when it will stop.
Other bad stories. Where did these people come from? You feel you ought to know.
Time passes. Skip to the end.
You walk along the side of the building. You’ve made it through the madhouse. By now there is no real snow and only a little chill. You walk along a path that winds away from the building and its complex and the perpetual stories of the people you are pretty sure will never leave. You try not to fall into those pitfalls — to ignore the siren call of personal oblivions.
You walk along a path better than that. It winds away.
You walk with a woman, good looking, raven hair, large eyes full of sensible wisdom, in sensible boots for hiking the terrain. She has an inquisitive smirk you like.
The path winds away from the abandoned complex and then, in the distance, you can see the road. And for a while, the path parallels the road. You look ahead, and see the path eventually winds away, into some grove of skeleton trees and hills and off into a distance you cannot see.
“You could walk with me for a while,” says the woman. “This leads to more. You can find out more.”
Could you? Better than the sad stories behind you, and proud in your superiority, you could find out more. You are so curious. Maybe there are answers on that path. Maybe all the secrets, all the answers, all the why’s to the surreal stories and souls behind you, explicit answers about the abandoned tourist complex. So curious…curious…curiosity…
“There’s just one thing…” says the raven-haired woman.
You feel the moment coming. You’ve been duped. Your stomach drops and you feel the horrid reveal coming. Just in time. You don’t whip your head away in any obvious manner (that would break some kind of rule you dare not break), you just look forward and off to the right a little, because you’re still curious, still able to see out of the periphery of your left vision, able to see all the cuts and gashes in her face, the wounds that no longer bleed, the angry fish hooks…and other things you can’t quite make out.
“…you’d have to stay with me forever.”
You don’t want to know the secrets. You don’t want to go down that curve. You realize curiosity is a trap too. Curiosity is a path.
You don’t run. You don’t even abruptly change course. You do not want to offend. You do not want to draw any attention to yourself. You do not even speak or respond to the question. You slowly curve away from the path — the step-crunch of the field — and slowly curve away from the woman and her path and you never look back, only straight ahead, as quietly and as invisible as you can.
You crunch across the field and back to the road. You walk along the road again. You stay to the road. You may have a while to walk.