John was paralyzed by the scene playing out in his head. It felt so real that he thought he was literally there! It was so dark! So frightening!
Santa appeared. Not the traditional Santa, though the creature was dressed in the same red, white, and black suit, but a Santa that had fiery red skin and a hideously demonic visage. Instead of a bag, this Santa wielded a sword and a club.
“You will bow to me!” It demanded. “I rule the world! I am your god! You will observe my day! You will speak of no other! You will bow to me!”
“I bow to no one,” he heard himself say.
“Then prepare to die!” the Santa cried.
It seemed to take him forever to come to the realization that he didn’t need to run. After all, the dream had begun the moment he had gone to bed and fell asleep. How long he had been asleep was anyone’s guess. One hour? Two? Three? All night?
Then, he turned and faced the monstrosity. Suddenly, it stopped chasing him and became indecisive.
“You hold no power over me,” he stated, “be away with you.”
And then, it was gone. A wisp of smoke marking its passing. He opened his eyes and looked at the clock. It was 4:30 AM. he had been asleep most of the night.
Again he had been shown something. But what? What had been revealed to him? And why?
As with his vision of the headless bodies, he could tell no one. Not one soul. Otherwise, they would think him crazy. Or merely seeking attention.
He knew he wasn’t crazy. Nor did he really want attention for such things. They frightened him. Confused him.
He didn’t like the idea of having those kinds of dreams. Nightmares. Nightmares that he couldn’t wake from until they were over. Nightmares that held messages.
No, he would rather gain attention from things he did right. Not dreams he had. Or visions. Or anything that could be misused.
He rolled over and went back to sleep. Maybe he would have better dreams from this point on. Darkness consumed him and he drifted back to dreamland. This time, there were no Santas. Only dark worlds filled with war. Destruction. Like an old war movie.
But at least it was less frightening. Less abrasive. He could handle war scenes.
Perhaps it was because home was a warzone. Or because it was a break from the religious crap his parents believed. Whatever it was, he was willing to watch it play out.
Bombs were exploding everywhere. And yet, he was oddly unafraid. It was as if he was in the lead of those around him. They seemed to follow him into the thick of battle without question.
But who were they fighting against? And why? What had happened to the world?
He hated dreams. But here he was, in the middle of yet another terrifying dream. Mystery of mysteries. And all mysteries seemed to be shown in dreams. And nightmares.
This time, he was being chased by a giant horned ram’s head. Or was it a goat’s head? Or a mixture of both?
There was no body. Just a head. A living, bodiless ram’s head. Or goat head. First black, then changing color constantly. And that grin!
It was almost human! And extremely evil! As if the head meant him harm.
No words. No warning. It simply appeared and began chasing him in his room. Then up and down the stairs.
Again, it took him seemingly forever to realize that all he had to do was turn and stand his ground. Maybe hours. And even when he did, he hesitated.
When he finally turned to face it, it shrank and disappeared. He was getting tired of the cryptic dreams. The strange, otherworldly visions. He wanted a peaceful night’s sleep.
Something he had not had for a while. When he wasn’t having dreams that scared the shit out of him, he was dreaming of wars in places he had never been. Ruined cities. And yet they all felt so familiar. So normal.
It unnerved him. He was a child. He wasn’t supposed to have these kinds of dreams.
And yet, here he was. Being given clues. But to what? And why?
He loved hearing the coyotes howl just outside his window. It was one of the plusses, for him anyway, of living in the country. Another was being around animals. Playing hide and seek with the goats. Having a safe haven from his sister in the old barn near the lower pastures.
For some reason, the spirits there defended him. Hid him. There was no other way to explain it.
The old tack room was a great place to find solitude. And John loved to be alone at times. Especially after being threatened by Leanne.
There, he could ponder the meanings of his dreams and visions. Not that he would have any revelations, but he pondered them anyway. But because they haunted him on a daily basis.
And the coyotes put him to sleep. So soothing. So serene.
Thunder had the same effect. It was soothing, especially when it was distant. Even the sound of rain soothed him.
But there were dangers out here as well. Lightning. Tornadoes. His sister.
But he had friends. Billy Marliss and his sister, Nicki. Their sister Regan was too young to hang out with them on the bus. Nicki, though seemed to have a crush on him. Billy, though, watched his back.
And then, there was Nicole Arlington, who also seemed to have a crush on him. She would sit with him when Billy was not on the bus and want to play house. Not one of John’s favorite games, but it passed the time.
Then there were Craig Wills, Danny Harolds, Wynn Paldry, Jonnie Pensley, and Stan Johnson. Chuck Fields and Jeff Upheldt didn’t really count. They weren’t as close as ‘the gang’. Penn Dringer had moved in Kindergarten, so he had long since faded from importance.
But even ‘the gang’ was not as close as Billy and Nicki. Or Charles and Nikki. Those were John’s closest friends.
Billy and Nicki lived just up the road. John could go visit them any time. Charles and Nikki were family friends and he could visit them whenever his mother went to visit theirs.
And then, there was Ellie, Donnie, and Daria. The Morrisons. John’s father was a friend of their father, his mother a friend of their mother.
Finally, there were the Walstons and the Maldwells. The Maldwells were also old friends of John’s parents. But the Walstons were ‘church friends’.
The Maldwells had seven children. John had become friends with the two youngest, John and Terri. Leanne was friends with the others as they were too old for John to get close to.
The Walstons were a whole different matter altogether. All of the Walston children were too old for John to be friends with and their parents made him uncomfortable. Robert Walston was a braggart and Mindy was a prude. A snob.
All the boys were too old to be too friendly with. The girls as well. John was too young to enjoy cars or girls. Nor was he interested in racing, football, or wrestling.