William M. O'Brien, Jr.
Iris Hilton seemingly had a good life. She had a husband she genuinely loved, a good paying job and a home life that was the envy of the neighborhood. But she did have a problem. She didn’t care for her job, a head bookkeeper for a law firm. Twenty years she had run the bookkeeping department her way. But now, she hated to go to work
For years she had looked longingly at the lawyers in her firm, noting the high fees and other rewards they easily reaped over the years. In short, she wanted a piece of a very lucrative “pie.”
“I can be through law school in less than three years,” she told her husband over dinner one night. “I already have most of the prerequisites on my Batchelor’s; now all I need are the basics, the law courses themselves.”
“What are we going to do for your income in the interim?” Don Hilton had put down his knife and fork and taken a strong drink of his wine.
“We have your salary and you can continue your antique business.” Becoming excited, she rose from the table. “You said yourself your business is picking up and sales from the antiques has been great lately.”
Don relented and told her to look into law school, hoping this was just another of her passing whims. He still didn’t know how they were going to make it, but he figured they could work something out, providing she was truly serious about it.
That night, Iris, too excited to sleep, studied the sites of the two law schools nearby. She could, and would, apply to both of them.
At two o’clock that night, she finally left her computer and fell asleep.
She quickly began to dream. In a haze she stood on the porch of a local community hall she had visited only once. There were other people nearby but their talking made no noise and they paid no attention to her.
After looking around she moved slowly toward a portico overlooking a parking lot and gardens nearby. The haze had been replaced by a mist that settled on her skin and froze her so that she shivered and hugged herself.
Out of the mist, a woman appeared and began walking across the parking lot toward the stairs leading up to the portico.
Glancing to her left, Iris noticed that the people who were formerly near her had disappeared and the mist had settled all around her. In fact, the mist had hidden the few cars in the parking lot, but the woman coming toward her walked slowly in plain sight.
Now Iris experienced a coldness she had never experienced before, and the woman had now reached the bottom of the steps. Suddenly, the woman lifted her head and turned toward Iris.
As she was enveloped in mist, the features of the woman were unclear to Iris as close as she was, but the presence at the foot of the stairs inspired a feeling of sudden terror that made her turn away and start to run into the building behind her.
Sweating profusely and almost paralyzed in sudden
horror, Iris awoke and jerked upright in the bed.
Don, snoring softly beside her, turned over away from her. However, Iris, still terrified, remained upright and glanced apprehensively at each corner of the room.
Never before had she experienced such a nightmare. She didn’t remember becoming scared in a dream since she was a child. She had pleasant dreams, most of which she couldn’t remember, but nightmares were not part of her nighttime experience. Until tonight.
She tried to shrug the dream off, but the picture of the woman, drilled into her brain, remained vivid. At four o’clock in the morning, she knew she had to get back to sleep, but an icy fear of the dream returning prevented it.
To make the best of a bad situation, she rose and made her way to the office and her computer. Sitting before her computer screen, she tried to determine the identity of the woman in her dream, thinking she had been something she had seen on line before. Although the mist had prevented Iris from any direct recognition, there was something familiar about the woman. She was someone Iris knew, either from her direct experience or from her social network.
All that day, a feeling of icy terror lay in the pit of her stomach and the picture of the woman of her dream remained in the back of her mind. The elements of the hideous dream could not be ignored. Something about it was definitely threatening, not just the unknown woman, but the entire situation.
That night, Iris went to bed shivering, wondering if sleep would bring the awful dream back. Also, if it did, would the identity of the unknown woman, not a stranger, become more clear.
However, that night brought no nightmare, or any dream of any kind. Although relieved the next morning, Iris still could not escape the effect of the awful dream. And this realization was beginning to bring about a fear of any sleep at all.
She knew she would go through the day warily thinking about what was going to happen if she even took a nap. And on top of this, she wondered why this one dream had inspired so much horror in her. That day at work she wanted to talk to someone, anyone, about her dream, but something told her not to. It was her private hell.
That night she described her dream in detail to her husband who waved it away as just a typical nightmare.
“A nightmare from someone who hardly ever has one!” she exclaimed. “I think there’s something here more than just a dream.”
“I think it’s just a passing dream, hon,” Don said, pouring himself another glass of wine.
Lying in bed wide awake, Iris thought again about the dream and tried to concentrate on the central figure.
At one o’clock, she finally drifted off to sleep. But, this time, the dream returned and she found herself staring at the central figure which was halfway up the outside stairs and staring straight at her. Still the features of the face were unclear but its staring was unmistakable. Iris turned and tried to run into the building just ten feet away, but she could not move.
Trying, frantically, to move her legs and waving her arms around her woke her.
Pouring with sweat, she turned to find both of her pillows on the floor. And she was out of breath.
“Don…Don..” she cried, tears running down her face. She called his name louder .
“Whaaat…” A sleepy voice next to her answered.
“That damned dream is back,” she spoke aloud. “What…What am I going to do.”
In tears, she moved over and wrapped her arms around her husband.
“Well, bawling isn’t going to do you any good.” Irritated at being rousted so early in the morning, he leaped up from the other side of the bed and headed into the bathroom.
“I’m scared, damn you. I’m scared.”
Iris sat up in bed and hugged herself. “What am I going to do?” she asked herself, in a low voice she hoped her husband wouldn’t hear.
Later she ate a sparse breakfast and headed to work. On the way, she though again about her law school research. With all the concern about the horrid dream, she had forgotten about law school. At her desk later in the morning, she made up her mind to pick a school and apply to it.
But what about the dream.
Heading home after work, a feeling of terror creeping up through her the closer to home she got, the worse she felt. Soon would be dinner than, after that, bed. And then, the dream.
It had missed one night before and she hoped to God it would miss this night. She was convinced that she couldn’t face a confrontation with it tonight. The hideous figure was getting closer and closer.
That night there was no dream, but she awakened at three in the morning to a horrible smell, an extremely foul odor she could not identify. She turned over and tried to awaken Don.
“Don…Don..Wake up.” She shook him violently. “Wake up!” she yelled in his ear.
Slowly he turned over on his back. “What now?” he asked in a voice that combined sleepiness and irritation.
Instantly, Iris noticed the smell was gone.
Painfully, Don sat up in the bed. “Iris, what’s going on now? Another dream?”
“I…I don’t know. I don’t know.” Iris shook her head, on the verge of tears. “When I woke up, there was this smell. I don’t know what the hell it was. It…It smelled like…like something dead, I guess.”
Don sniffed the air. “There’s nothing here, now.”
“I know, it’s gone.” Iris shook her head violently. “But it was here.”
“Can we go back to sleep, now?” Don, still irritated, rose and headed for the bathroom.
Iris, still apprehensive, lay back on her bed, determined to lay awake until the alarm went off at six o’clock.
She didn’t make it. By four thirty, she was sound asleep, but she awoke at the alarm not as rested as she usually was.
She looked around her room for a possible source of the smell but, of course, there was none.
“I don’t know what was going on early this morning, Iris,” Don complained, sitting up on the other side of the bed. “But whatever it was, it’s not here now.”
“I know. I know.” Iris was emphatic. “But it was here. I swear to God it was here. It’s part of that damned dream. I know it is.”
“That doesn’t make sense, honey.” Don shook his head. “How could a stinky smell in the bedroom be part of a dream?”
All that day at work, Iris couldn’t get the hideous smell out of her head. But as the end of the day beckoned, the horrible dream, which Iris had immediately connected the smell to, began to occupy her waking thoughts. And again, just as the days before, she became more and more terrified of bedtime.
That night, after lights out, Iris sat up in bed in an effort to stay awake. However, this did not work as she became sleepier and sleepier, and gradually slid down to the bed surface and fell asleep.
There was a dream, but not the one of her fears. In a mist, she wandered alongside a stream she recognized as the slip of water at the back of the lot of the first house she and Don shared. While she walked she began to hear a voice from somewhere off to her right toward the house which she could not see in the mist.
A strong, shrill voice was calling her name. The voice was somewhat familiar so she turned toward the house and walked slowly, closely examining her surroundings all around. After a few minutes, a figure appeared off to her right; a figure that after a few minutes took a shape she knew only too well.
A scream welling up in her, she awoke. Breathing heavily and shivering, she looked about the room.
She realized that what had just happened to her was something she had never known before; nor had she ever heard of it happening before.
A nightmarish figure had appeared in two completely different dreams. Why would a figure, becoming more familiar all the time, appear in two different dreams? In essence, the hideous figure was stalking her in her dreams. Terrifying or not, she resolved to find out the identity of the figure, reasoning that was the only way to rid herself of its presence. The next night she would confront her tormentor.
All the next day at work, Iris thought about the coming night and steeled herself to it. Tonight would tell the tale. She would know the identity of the figure stalking her. And she would find out what this configuration wanted.
That night she lay in bed before lights out, reading, but not paying much attention to what she read. She was pondering what would happen when she went to sleep. She was soon to find out. At twelve thirty, she reached over and switched off the light on her side of the bed. Nearby, Don snored softly in peaceful slumber.
Iris rolled on her side and closed her eyes. Sleep came fast and so did her dream. She stood on the porch where she had been from the beginning, but this time the threatening figure stood at the top of the stairs only seven feet from her.
Motivated now by curiosity, she approached the figure with her hand out.
Then the figure turned toward her.
Iris recoiled in horror. The figure before her was something she didn’t even dream would enter her world, either through a dream or reality.
Before her was Nana, Don’s long dead grandmother. In life, she had tormented Iris, reproaching her over and over again about her insistence on going to work instead of staying home as a housewife. Iris remembered that even from the nursing home and later the hospice, the woman had harassed her by phone, calling her even in the middle of the night. She had even called Don at work, spouting hateful things about his wife and threatening to “escape from her present predicament” and “teach his wife her place with a ball-peen hammer.”
Nana was always nearby; Don’s father had left when Don was ten and his mother had died of cancer at an early age. Her hateful attacks began only a year after her grandson’s marriage and continued almost daily, as she had lived only five blocks from her.
Now she was away from the dream and just at her bedside, her fingers, with their nails, long in death, digging into the bare flesh of her arm.
“I knew your marriage would be nothing but ruin,” the hideous wraith croaked, barely legible.
Iris, paralyzed by terror, could do nothing. Next to her lay her snoring husband, oblivious to the hideous scene now unfolding.
Iris screamed but Don did not respond. Everything presently seemed like a dream, but her arm, now with large cuts bleeding out on the bed covers, were painfully real.
Then the monstrous wraith was upon her.
“You selfish, greedy, bitch, why didn’t you have children?” it hissed, not two inches from her face. The claws, leaving her arms grasped her head and began digging into the side of it.
Again Iris screamed, and tried to move from the bed, but the monster now pinned her tightly down, skinny skeletal knees digging into her abdomen.
Long, thin, sharp fingers encircled Iris’s head and began to shake it violently. “You think you want to go to law school?” the creature spat into Iris’s face, still only less than two inches from it. Like two gigantic animal claws, the woman’s dead hands began squeezing the helpless Iris’s head, fingernails digging into the scalp on both sides of the head.
“Now you won’t be around for law
school, will you,” the monster chortled from the bottom of its throat.
Now, even in her pain, Iris noticed that Nana’s eyes were two empty sockets, like a skull but containing a few filthy pieces of inner parts in each eye.
With all of the strength she could muster, Iris screamed as loud as she possible could with the full weight of the monster on her body, and then she turned, with all of her present strength to the right and succeeded in falling to the floor to the right of her bed.
There, she tried, frantically, to crawl away, but Nana’s remains landed fully on top of her.
“That’s not so easy, is it,” it croaked, barely legible, but now its mouth closed fully on Iris’s ear.
“Oh, God, help me, please,” the helpless woman cried as loud as she could. She jerked her head abruptly to the side and tried again to crawl away. But the weight, even dead for so long, prevented her from moving in any direction.
Iris lay on the floor, helplessly trying to shield her head from any further attacks from the monster.
“Now, you’re ready to go,” the ghost hissed into the woman’s ear.
The next morning, Don, rising to prepare to work, headed to the bathroom. Upon returning, he remarked, casually, “I’m a bit late for breakfast this morning.”
When he received no response, he knelt on the bed and jostled his wife, who lay on her right side. When there was no response, he turned her over on her back.
There, Iris lay, dead.