Dream Journal Zero – Dissolution

“Well, well, well…  Look who decided to get out of bed.”  Mina said.  She was sitting at the kitchen table in her pajamas eating a bowl of cereal.

“Good morning.”  Aaron said.  He poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down across from her.  “How long have you been up?”

“About an hour.”

“Why didn’t you wake me up?”

She shrugged while crunching on another bite of the cereal.  He slurped down a gulp of the Ethiopian coffee and wiped the sleep from the corners of his eyes.

“Had that weird dream again last night.”  He said.

“Same one?”

He nodded.

“Run me through how it goes one more time.”  She said.

He sighed.  “Okay, well, my wrists are bound together with some kind of rope or twine and I can’t get my hands free.  There’s this figure wearing a pitch black robe and a hood walking just in front of me, leading me down this strange tunnel.  A stream of blood is running down the middle of the tunnel and there are these lights mounted on the ceiling every twenty feet or so–  Except they aren’t emitting any light, they’re giving off darkness instead…”

dissolution 1

“That doesn’t make any sense.”  She said.

“I know, I know.  It’s a dream.”  He slurped his coffee.

“What do you mean ‘they’re giving off darkness?'”

“They’re attached to the concrete wall of the tunnel near the ceiling in a protective cover.  A pitch black darkness is pulsing out of the holes of the mesh cover.  Do you understand what I mean?”

dissolution 2

“No, not really.  But continue.”  She said.  She picked up the box of cereal and poured more into the bowl.

“There’s not much more to it.”  He said.  “I continue walking down the tunnel behind the figure in the black robe.  My gut is churning with fear the whole time but I never stop following.  I know that I should turn around and run in the opposite direction, but I don’t.  At one point there’s a fork in the tunnel and I see nothing but pure darkness ahead.”

dissolution 3

“We walk into the darkness and it’s like walking into a freezer, I’m shivering, teeth chattering, the works.  Shortly after that I step out over nothing and I have the sensation of falling and falling…  And then I wake up.”

[Original writing & photography by J. E. Lattimer]

© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved

Another Day, Another Dime

Eric was alone in his car and stuck in the middle of gridlock.  It was rush hour and the traffic that surrounded him on all sides was barely moving, if at all.  He could see stoplights turning different colors further on down the road, but nothing was happening.

Eric glanced down at his watch.  He had left his day job thirty minutes ago and had only traveled ten miles.  He had less than an hour to reach his part time evening job on time and it wasn’t looking good.

The cell phone in his pocket started to chime.  He pulled it out and glanced down at the small screen.  Eric was vehemently opposed to people talking on their phones while driving, but what he was doing now couldn’t be called driving.  The number on the caller id didn’t seem familiar, but out of sheer boredom he answered it anyway.

“Hello?”

There was a brief pause and no one spoke on the other end.

Yello?”  He said again, this time in a slightly mocking tone.

Click.  “Hello, Mr. Washington?”  A man’s voice said.

“Um, who’s this?”

“Is this Mr. Eric Washington?”

“It could be…  Who am I speaking with?”

“Mr. Washington, my name is Dale and I’m calling on behalf of Debt Services Incorporated.  This call is an attempt to collect a debt and any information collected today can be used to royally screw your life up.”

“Wait–  What did you just say?  I–”  Eric said.

The voice on the other end, Dale, interrupted him.  “Mr. Washington, I’m calling about the amount you still owe to Mountebank General Hospital, now–”

It was Eric’s turn to interrupt.  “Listen, Dale, I wasn’t able to make the payment last month, and–”

“Mr. Washington, if we can’t work something out on the phone here today, well, then I’m afraid we’re going to have to take this matter to the next level…”

“What does that mean?”  Eric said.  The light ahead turned green and the traffic started to crawl forward.  He glanced up at his rear view mirror and caught sight of a guy in a minivan who had his index finger buried knuckle deep in his right nostril.

What do you think it means?”  Dale said.  Pure venom in his voice.

“Listen, you little punk!  I’m working two jobs and doing what I can.  Inflation is so bad that it’s still not enough.  Now, what you don’t do is call me up out of the blue and talk to me like that!  Ya’ hear me!”

“Just calm down, Mr. Washington.”  The venom had been replaced with a calm, soothing tone.

“Don’t tell me to calm down, jackass!”  Eric said.

“Okay, okay.”  Dale said.  “You leave me no choice, sir.  I’m going to type up how you were irate and threatened me today.  This will be reported.”

“Wh-what?  Wait!  I’m not being irate or threatening you!  How did I threaten you?”  The light had switched back to red and he still hadn’t made it through the next intersection.  He nervously glanced down at his watch again while applying the brakes.

“I find your words and tone of voice to be very threatening.”  Dale said.

“Wh–  My tone of voice?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  Who are you reporting this to?”  But no sooner had he spoken the words than he realized he was listening to dead air.  He pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at the screen.  Dale had hung up on him.

He closed the phone and tossed it onto the passenger seat.  He glanced over to his right and saw a young  girl sitting behind the wheel of an old Cavalier and openly smoking something out of a pipe.  Could be tobacco, but he doubted it.  He looked in the rear view and found that the guy behind him was still digging in his nose.

Eric took a deep breath and tightened his grip upon the wheel.

The light turned green and every car started moving except for the sedan in front of him.

What is she doing?  Eric thought.

The car was just sitting there and the woman behind the wheel was staring off into space like a zombie.  He honked his horn, hoping to break her from the trance.  The woman turned around and looked at him as her face contorted into a sadistic grin.  She raised her middle finger in his general direction.

another day another dime

[Original writing & photography by J. E. Lattimer]

© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved

The Backwoods of Oblivion

When consciousness returned I found myself laying on the ground next to a large tree.

Where was I? How did I get here?

The back of my head was throbbing.  I placed my hand where the pain was originating from and felt something warm and wet.  The back of my head was bleeding.

Had I been attacked by someone?  An accidental injury?  I could not remember anything.  Was the head wound responsible for the lack of memory?

I had to find my way out of here, find the nearest road, anything.  Problem was I could not see the hand in front of my face.  I inclined to a sitting position with a groan and leaned up against the tree. Something pricked the back of my elbow in the process and sent a new wave of pain up my arm.

What the hell was that?

I checked my pockets.  My keys, wallet and smokes were all missing, all that was left was a handful of change and a cheap disposable lighter.  I pulled out the lighter and stood up very slowly, using the tree to balance all the while.  I flicked the lighter to life and used it to look around my immediate surroundings.  I was in the woods, which was odd, since I lived in a city, and there were huge thorns sticking out everywhere.

Well, one mystery solved-  My arm had been gouged by a thorn.

backwoods of oblivion 1

Nothing left to see here.

I picked a direction and started walking.  It was slow going-  My head was still throbbing, I felt dizzy and my balance was off.  What concerned me the most was that I could not hear anything.  No cars, no planes, no animals or insects to be heard.  Nothing.  Eerie, it was so quiet. The sound of my footsteps crunching on the ground was the only noise.

I stumbled and landed on the ground twice in short order.  The first time I flicked the lighter and discovered that I had tripped over a fallen branch.  The second time the ground had sloped down suddenly and I had stepped out expecting to touch the ground, falling forward and doing a fancy little half somersault instead.

My head was still hurting and I could feel that the back of my neck was wet, so the bleeding had not stopped.

Every so often I flicked the lighter and waved it around as a source of light.

Where was the moon? Just trees and more trees.

The third time I stumbled and fell  it was much worse.  I slid down a large embankment of some sort and landed hard, twisting my ankle.

Just great.

Clambering back to my feet I found myself standing on something solid and slick.  I flicked the lighter and discovered that I was on a frozen river or creek of some sort.  But that didn’t make any sense at all since it wasn’t winter…

backwoods of oblivion 2

I made my way up the other side of the riverbank and continued on.  Not really knowing where I was or where I was going.

I was still trying to recall what I had been doing during the day.  I remembered eating some spaghetti for an early dinner, watching something stupid on television.  Nothing after that.

I staggered and stumbled around for what must have been hours.  It became a repeating pattern.  A nightmare that I could not wake from.  Every time I flicked the lighter and looked around I found the forest to be even more dense than before, more difficult to navigate through.

backwoods of oblivion 3

Eventually I decided to just give up and wait for the sunrise.  I found a nice spot of ground to rest on.

The back of my head and my ankle were hurting, but I wasn’t tired or hungry at all.  I remained there for what must have been many hours and the whole time the forest around me was deathly silent.  At one point I used the lighter and discovered to my horror that it was completely out of fluid.

The sunrise never happened.

It slowly dawned on me that I had not survived the head wound.

[Original writing and photography by J. E. Lattimer]

© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved

Another Uncertain Future

another uncertain future 1

She had been out of work for six months and her unemployment was about to run out.

Her job had laid her off due to lack of business and she had been unsuccessful at finding another.  Five interviews so far and every time someone told her she was either overqualified or under-qualified.  Fifty-two applications in six months and nothing to show for it.

Half of the companies in town have my information in a file cabinet.  She thought.

She had enough left in savings to pay the rent for one more month, the utilities if she was lucky. But that wouldn’t leave anything for food or gas.  Her husband had died ten years ago.  She could count her friends and family on one hand–  And none of them had any spare cash to loan her.  The credit card was maxed out and she had no idea how she would make the payment on it next month.

She stood at the window in the darkened room and looked out at the sleeping town.

“What happens now?”  She said.

another uncertain future 2

[Original writing & photography by J. E. Lattimer]

© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved

The Man in the Shadows

I was out getting a cup of coffee when my cell went off.  It had been set to vibrate so it wouldn’t disturb any of the other patrons.  I sat my book down on the small round table, pulled the phone out of my jeans pocket, answered it.

“Hello.”

“Hey Jack, how’s it going?”  A guy said on the other end.  The voice sounded tinny and distant, but familiar.  There was a slight echo following each word as he spoke.

“Mike?”  I said.

“Yeah.”

“Hey.  Not much.  What are you up to?”

A few seconds passed without a response.  He started to speak again, but a strange static interrupted the sentence and garbled his voice.

“Sorry, I didn’t get that,” I said.  “Getting some interference over here.”

“I said:  Are you at home right now?”  Mike said.

“No, just out getting a cup of coffee.  I planned on heading out soon, though.  Why?”

“I need to talk to someone that has their head on straight…  It’s starting to get crazy here…”

“What?  What do you mean?”

But he didn’t give me a direct answer.

“When do you think you’re going to be back to your place?”  Mike said.  There it was again, that faint echo behind his voice.

I glanced down at my watch, estimated how long it would take me to drive across town.  “Oh…  I don’t know, I should be back there in about twenty minutes.”

“Cool.  See you there.”  Mike said.  Another round of static followed, this time so loud that I had to pull the phone away from my ear until it subsided.  When I put it back there was only silence on the other end.

“Hello?”  I said.  Then, looking down at the small screen on the phone I saw “Call Ended” flashing.  I closed the cell and put it back in my pocket.  What the hell was that all about?  It was time to go home.

*              *               *               *               *

When I parked and walked up to the front porch I saw that Mike was already there, waiting.  He had taken a seat on one of the chairs I had sitting on the porch and was nervously smoking a cigarette.  When he saw me coming up the front steps he rose up out of the chair and walked over.

“What’s going on, Mike?  Everything okay?”  I said.  I already had my key out and was just going to unlock the front door when he stepped up real close and whispered to me.

Do you see them over there by the corner?  The big white van with the tinted windows?”  He said.

I started to turn my head in that direction but he reached out and grabbed my wrist.

No,”  He said.  “Don’t look over right now, wait until we’re inside.”

A slight chill ran up my spine.  White van with tinted windows?  I unlocked the door and stepped inside.  Mike followed behind me and promptly closed and locked the door.

“Mike, listen–”  I said.

“Wait, just wait a second.  Don’t turn that light on yet.”  He walked over to the west side of the living room and carefully peeked out through the edge of the blinds.  “Yep, suckers are still sitting there.  Come check it out.”

I walked over to the window.  He stepped away and now it was my turn to peek out past the blinds.  There was a white van parked near the corner and the windows did appear to be tinted black.  While I was watching the brake lights flashed red and the van drove off down the street.  I turned away from the window.

“Alright.  So there was a van parked over there and now it‘s gone.  So what?”  I said.

“You don’t understand, man.  That van has been following me for over a week now, wherever I go.”

“Aw, come on…”  I said.  I reached out and clicked the nearest lamp on so we weren’t standing in the dark.

“No, I’m serious.”  He paused to look around the place.  “Is Charlotte home?”

“She’s still at work.”  I said.

“Good, don’t want to freak her out.”

“Well, you’re freaking me out!  Now, I have to ask you, and don’t take this the wrong way-  But are you on something?”

Mike laughed.  “I was about to ask you for a beer, but no, to answer your question, I’m not on anything.”

“There’s beer in the fridge.  Sorry man, had to ask.”  I said.  But I had known the answer already.  I had known Mike a long time and had never known him to be one to use any intoxicants other than alcohol.

I sat down on the couch and watched as he walked into the kitchen and returned with two bottles of beer.  He handed me one and then opened his.

“I really don’t know where to start.  It would take days to explain it all…”  He trailed off and took a seat on a nearby chair.

“Well, who’s in the white van?”  I said.

Mike shook his head.  “I don’t know.”

I leaned back into the couch and let out a long, frustrated sigh.

“Look,”  He said.  “I’ve been doing a lot of research these last few months.”

“About what?”

“Politics, geopolitics, history, religion, more…  Most of it on the internet, some books.”

I frowned.  “Nothing strange about that, I guess.  You are going to college right now.”

“Yeah, right, but I starting figuring things out-  I think.  I starting playing “connect the dots,” if you know what I mean.”

I shook my head.  “Not sure that I follow.”

He stood up and paced back and forth while talking and drinking his beer.  “Does not matter!  It does not matter!  A couple of weeks ago I was getting drunk and playing pool at Jake’s bar downtown.  Played a few rounds with a couple of guys.  You know how talkative I get when I’m drunk…  I was excited about some of the stuff I had been researching and was talking to them about it, and, well, things have been strange ever since.”

“Who were these guys?”  I said.

“Again, I don’t know.  Thought they were just a couple of jocks, but now I’m wondering if they were military, or something else.”

“What exactly were you saying to them?”

“It would take too long to explain, don’t have time to get into that tonight.  What I’m trying to say is that everything changed after that night.  The next morning Kelly fired me at work for no apparent reason.  Two years there and she didn’t even give me a reason.  Then my phone started acting up–  Echoes and static and blank phone calls that don’t register on the caller id.  Then the white van started following me everywhere I went.  And now, just over these last couple of days, the man in the shadows has appeared.”

I laughed out loud, I couldn’t help it.

The man in the shadows?  Did I just hear you correctly?”  I said.

“That’s what I’ve been calling him, at least.”  Mike said.  “I’ve started noticing him loitering around whenever I’m in public.  It’s the same guy every time–  Who knows how long he was following me before I started noticing!”

“What does this guy look like?”  I said.

Mike smiled.  “I managed to get a picture of the punk last night outside of a bar while I was smoking.  I guess he just felt compelled to come out there and stand in the cold with everybody, since he was not having a cigarette.”  Mike rummaged about in his pocket and produced his phone.  He concentrated on hitting a few buttons, then walked over and handed it to me.

I took the phone and gazed down at the photograph on the screen.  It had been taken outside at night, so the lighting wasn’t great.  I could make out a guy wearing a gray baseball cap with a winter coat zipped up to his neck, some lights in the background, a blur of movement or something in the foreground.  His face was fairly unremarkable and featureless.

Hmmmm.”  I said.  I reached out and was handing the phone back to him when it started to ring.  Mike’s eyes widened to the size of saucers upon hearing the ring tone, and I think his hand was shaking just a bit as he answered it.

“Hello?”  A pause.  “Hello!”  He turned the phone off.

“Who was it?”

“Another blank call.”  Mike said.  He gulped audibly, then walked over and peered out of the front window.  I was still sitting on the couch trying to make sense out of everything he had just shared with me.

“Hey…”  Mike said.

“What?”  I turned to look toward where he was standing, frozen in place.

“I want you stand up slowly and come see this for yourself.”  Mike said.  His voice sounded strained, full of fear, barely above a whisper.

And there it was again– That same chill running up my spine.  I stood and walked to the window.  Again he moved out of the way.  I looked outside and my blood instantly went cold.  There he was, the same guy he had just shown me on the phone, the man in the shadows, standing stock-still on the sidewalk in front of my house!  I allowed the blinds to fall back into place and slowly backed away from the window.  Mike was pacing frantically around the room.

“You have to be kidding me!”  I said.  “What exactly is going on here?”

“I’ve got to go!”  Mike said.  “Sorry, man, I should not have come over here…”  He turned and sprinted through the kitchen.

“Mike, wait–”  I said.  He had already disappeared from view and then I heard the backdoor opening, closing.  By the time I got there he was already gone.  I returned to the front window and looked outside once again, but there was no longer anything to be seen.

*              *               *               *               *

The next morning I tried to call Mike and found his phone to be disconnected.  The day after that I tried stopping by his apartment on the north side of town.  No one answered the door and when I looked in through one of the windows I was shocked to find the room to be totally cleaned out and empty.  Over the next few weeks I attempted to track him down through some of his friends and even went so far as to stop by his dad’s place–  But no one had any more information on Mike’s whereabouts than I did.

Of course by this point [Now that a year has gone by without anyone hearing from or seeing Mike], there are many different theories on what happened to him / where he went, etc.  I have heard them all and I always sit there nodding at the person telling their version of the tale–  But in my heart I know what really happened:  The man in the shadows made Mike disappear.

the man in the shadows new

[Original writing & artwork by J. E. Lattimer]

© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved