Over the past week I’ve been visited nightly, barring last night. I wish I could tell you my visitor was a woman at best case, of the extraterrestrial variety in the worst case – or what I hoped would be the worst case.
To put it lightly, my sleep schedule has not been the ideal model for a healthy individual since the beginning of quarantine. At the beginning of quarantine, I told myself of all this spectacular writing I would do. I told myself I would finally find a publisher for my first book by August. But here nearing the end of September, and instead the biggest test I have given myself is how few hours I can sleep a night and still function through a full day. After yet another late night of indulging in video games and obscure comedians until my body grew limp enough to sink into the couch, I managed to crawl out of the chair and trek a total of 20 feet to the bedroom of my apartment. Once I made it to my room, I climbed the Everest of my bedside and passed out almost immediately. I couldn’t be sure of the time that night – maybe 3 or 4am.
It was there with a hazy mind and a deprived body I first saw him. The dream took place in the house I grew up in, but aged nearly beyond recognition. Based on the fading wood and green-stained tile, I could only assume my dream took place far into the future, but it felt so present and real at the same time. And that was when he first emerged.
Out of the recesses of the fading kitchen corner, a silhouette appeared. Initially I could only make out his tremendously tall, lanky figure. If I am six-feet tall, I would say he had to have been 6’4”. Even through the shadows I could tell his face was wide and unusually round. His specific facial features were muted by the darkness. He stepped closer, still shrouded well. He reached out with his long right arm, wiry fingers extending ominously. Though I possessed full control over my body in the moment, I chose not to move. I knew such a situation was supposed to frighten me, but instead I felt a warm sensation from his presence. His fingers grasped around a picture frame on the countertop by the sink. All I could see were its crude outlines and refracting light off its falling dust as he moved it. The man stepped closer again. He turned the picture towards me, holding it perfectly in the light. He didn’t say a word, but I knew what he wanted.
It was my grandfather at a very young age – the only picture I’d ever seen of him. He was shorter than me, but stronger than a truck. His burly hands wrapped around one man who I believe was my uncle, and the other I couldn’t pretend to identify. My grandfather was wearing a bowler hat and a plaid suit – he looked like a pipe dream of “The Godfather”. Even in my lucid state, I remembered what a fine man he was. I extended my finger towards the photograph, nearly touching the silhouette’s slim digits. Making eye contact with him, I nodded. He nodded back and retracted the picture. Stepping closer to me once more, I could finally see his stained crooked teeth and –
Morning. Just as I was about to get a better look at his facial features, my alarm clock interrupted our interaction as soon as it had begun. A friend once told me a few years back that you will never see anyone in your dreams that you haven’t seen before, but for the life of me I could not begin to identify him. Perhaps if only he drew slightly closer to me I could point out an old colleague, an uncle, a professor – or so I prayed.
The next night was similar, but this time I was slightly more eager to go to bed for the prospect that a mysterious man might want to ask me telepathic questions about my family lineage again. I felt a need to help him again. It felt uniquely calming. I drained nearly all my energy in front of the blaring sounds of simulated war, then slugged my way to the bed where I immediately lost consciousness. Eventually my dreams began once again, but the location changed.
We were at a Greek restaurant, only a few blocks from my apartment. It began with me sitting at an outdoor table alone. I flicked through the menu, which was mostly blank, scattered with a few pictures here and there of various unrelated food items. Then a deafening shriek reverberated behind the menu. I jumped and dropped the menu. It slid through the air and landed neatly across the table under a pair of frail white hands. I followed them up from finger tips to wrist to forearm to upper arm to shoulder to – it was him. This time I could see his full face. He towered over me, even whilst seated at the table. His face was round as I had remembered from the night before and each of his facial features sat peculiarly like a classic Picasso. His wide mouth and thin lips bore a permanent smirk beneath his flattened nose – the bridge was all but non-existent. Far above his nostrils sat his eyes, uneven in every way: each positioned at a slightly different angle from the other, both resting upon unique longitudes of his head. Across both eyes strung a singular thick bushy eyebrow. A thinning disheveled bird’s nest of a haircut superficially covered his shining scalp. By all rights he was one of the most frightening men I’d ever seen, yet I stayed seated at the table with him nonetheless.
With his smirking, blank, never-changing expression, his long fingers reached out as they had the night before. In the light, I notice his right hand was equipped with seven fingers. His left remained under the table. He pushed the menu back towards me, as if to suggest he would be paying for the meal. It was a beautiful day – I could feel the sun beating upon my shoulders. I graciously accepted the menu and nodded to him in acknowledgement. Just then, I realized I still hadn’t said a word to him, nor vice versa. “Hi,” I blurted. “My name is Jeremy. What’s yours?”
His expression remained unfazed. The most I got from him was a few long blinks as if he was falling asleep, but I could tell his focus remained sharply intact. I opened the menu and raised it, unintentionally blocking out his face. I couldn’t breathe. I struggled to regain my breath and flipped wildly through the pages. I glanced back and forth, scanned up and down – it was all the same. The pictures had vanished and had been replaced by words, specific words, an endless string of them. “It’s over. It’s over. It’s over. It’s over.” On and on and on. Every time I flipped a page I expected something different, but it never came. I had to have flipped through at least fifteen pages before slamming the menu shut. I released it and looked up, only to watch the menu glide into the back of an empty chair across from me. My head swiveled around, I stood up aggressively. Where is he?
Morning. The alarm buzzed again. This time I couldn’t stand another minute in that bed, or another second with my eyes shut. I rocked my whole body to land my feet squarely upon the floor. “It’s over.” I whispered to myself. For a moment I couldn’t tell why I had said such a thing out loud, but then I remembered the man. He frightened me the second night, but I needed to see him again. Yes, he was terrifying. Yes, he was ugly. But I felt I needed him. I knew I needed him, and he needed me.
The next day I did not wait until 4am to finish my nightly routine: I missed him too greatly. I dozed off at around 10:30 that night, and just before morning he appeared again. This time when he reached his hand out and each finger unraveled before me, he offered nothing but an open palm. First, I looked up to meet his eyes. He cocked his head to the side and hunched meekly in front of me. I placed my comparatively small hand in his and nodded. He nodded back once more and we turned to walk together. His weak shoulders bounced lightly with each step. Closer at his side now, I could make out a light stubble of a beard protruding from his jagged chin. I heard his wheezing breath struggle to keep his body in motion.
He guided me down a path I had never travelled before, but I trusted him dearly – convinced by a man who had said nothing. Together we glided one step at time down a hallway, but not just any hallway. This one was constructed out of a nearly perfect diagonal-tiled floor, porcelain white. Its ceiling was vaulted, raised as much as 15 feet from the ground. But after I looked every which way, I noticed there were no walls. In their place was a plethora of sights enough to make me ignore the glaring structural anomalies.
On our left were two young boys, playing in a sandbox – one crudely pushed together a mound of sand between his knees while the other prepared a plastic mold of a castle for descent. They both laughed. Neither ever said a word. On our right was a couple holding hands in a car. The back of the car was transparent enough to see the crumpled papers and empty Big Gulp cups strewn across the floor of the backseat. The boy spun the dial back and forth while the girl looked through the sunroof at the stars above. A blue light flickered upon their faces, their eyes snapped with glee. I could tell they were at a drive-in theater, but I never saw the screen.
Past the children on the left there was a doe – a white doe with a limp. It strutted haplessly through high grass. The light shining from above told me it was only a little past noon. She heaved, hardly able to control her tongue drooping over her drying lips. The doe turned towards us, one ear flinching. My eyes darted towards the man by my side. I wanted to help it. Still, he remained expressionless – dead eyes and that ugly half-smile unmoved. Still, he said nothing.
We stopped our walk down the hallway. I lost sight of the doe and looked straight ahead. The man gently released his meek grasp around my hand and side-stepped away from me. His head tilted and he pointed ahead at her. A child stood motionless with her braided hair falling towards her left shoulder. She spoke in a soft, calming voice. I couldn’t hear what she said. I approached, but the man did not join me. “What is it?” I asked her.
Her voice maintained a consistent tone. I still could not hear her. I stepped closer and repeated myself. “What did you say?” I tried to match her tone of voice.
With one more step, I could make it out. “It’s over, Jeremy,” she muttered.
“What is it, what’s over?”
“It’s over, Jeremy. It’s over. It’s over, Jeremy. It’s over. It’s over, Jeremy. It’s over.” She continued on and on in perfect harmonic repetition.
“What is it? What’s over?” I asked again, this time more frustrated. I reached out a hand and –
Morning. My alarm rang once more and I shot up straight in bed. I planted my palms adjacent to my hips on the bed, then swung my torso back and forth – nothing. No little girl, no tall gloomy man, no doe. I thought about the man every minute of the day. What did he want? What was he trying to show me? He was so ugly, yet so pure. If I didn’t know better, I would have said I was falling in love with him. But not in a sexual or even romantic way – I knew I needed him. I needed him, and he needed me.
I fell asleep early again, eager to continue my curious journey. But this time the man did not appear in my dreams. I felt an odd sense of betrayal and guilt all at once. Did I do something wrong? Was it something I said? I wondered if I shouldn’t have approached that odd little girl at all. I should have just stayed back with him.
That was last night – the night he didn’t visit. And as I began writing this, a car approached in front of my building. I wasn’t expecting any visitors, but I know it is here for me. A black ’95 Impala sits running in the parking lot outside my window. I can see its slight vibration as its elderly engine jostles the hood of the car struggling to keep it functioning. Though almost twenty-five years old, the car’s paint looks brand-new. But it isn’t the car itself that intrigues me – it’s the driver. A man sits perfectly still in the front seat, looking straight ahead, hands on the wheel. His figure appeared slender and tall, with a very rounded head propped atop his shoulders. Above his jagged chin were his thin wet lips, stretched almost the length of his face. His expression never changed, not even to blink.
As kind and patient as he is, I know he has been waiting for me for quite some time now. I know what he wants. It’s time to leave. It’s time to go with him. I needed him, and he needed me. It’s over, Jeremy. It’s over.