Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Story # 1.7 Anderson

Knocking was heard at the front door.

A figure approached from the east side of the house, undid the dead bolt, and turned the knob to allow whomever was knocking in.

There stood Larry standing on the front porch, looking in.  Larry had an expression of joy on his face, to greet whomever answered.  But that expression faded quickly as he saw the appearance of the person standing before him.

Before Larry stood Jay, inside the foyer of his home.  He was disheveled, still wearing his pajamas and the sheets from the bed draped over his shoulders.  His eyes had dark circles under them and were puffy.  His nose was running and he looked as though he hadn't eaten or slept in a week.  Larry stood there, his mouth agape, processing the look of his friend and colleague.  Finally he uttered some words.

"Jay?  You look like hell, man!"

"Nice to see you too, Lar.  Care to come in?"

Jay pulled the door open more, but Larry didn't move.

"I don't know if I should.  I don't want whatever the hell you've got."

"Believe me, it's not contagious.  I'm glad it isn't."

Larry walked through the door, and once clear Jay closed it behind him.  Larry examined the main living room and it was apparent he wasn't the only one not keeping up with things lately.

"What happened in here, Jay?  Your house is usually immaculate?"

Jay sniffled and whiped his nose with the sheets.  This prompted a look of disgust from Larry as he watched the atrocious act.

"Linda hasn't been here much lately."

Larry stood there, stunned by this revelation.

"Jay, did you guys split up?"

Jay started laughing, hysterically it seemed.

"Did we split up?", Jay repeated gasping for breath to say the words through his laughter.

Larry was utterly perplexed now.  He's lost his mind!

"No, Linda has been living out in the camper behind the house for the last few weeks.  We both think it's safer there."

"What?  What are you talking about, Jay?  Safer?  What does that mean?"

"Why don't we sit down and I'll try to explain."

Larry walked into the living room, stretching his legs over obstacles strewn throughout.  Everything from sheets, to pillows, to toys were scattered throughout the room.  When Larry turned he caught a glimpse of the two front rooms and saw they were as equally in disarray.  It was as if a tornado had whipped through the house.  Larry moved some of the stuff off of a chair to find a place to sit.  Jay sat on the sofa adjacent to him.  As he sat, Jay stared at the floor for a moment, while Larry observed his friend.

Larry wasn't sure what to say or do for his friend.  He was just worried about him and worried about his wife and children.  Where are the children in all of this?  He's gotta make me understand this.

Jay came out of his daze and looked back up at Larry.

"I appreciate you coming by, Lar.  Bringing my stuff from class."

"Don't mention it.  Do you think you're any closer to coming back?"

"I don't know.  I've been hoping, praying I could, but nothing has worked out."

Larry tried to lighten the tone for a moment.

"Well, you have to come back before the Super Bowl party.  You can't miss that."

Jay laughed as he looked down again.

"Penny for your thoughts, man?"

Jay did not respond.

"Man, have you at least been to a doctor, I hope?  Have you eaten lately?  You want me to get you something and bring it back?"

"No, no, I'm not hungry and believe me I still have a good appetite.  I have too."

Larry didn't understand the last part, but went on.

"Have you slept much, any?"

Jay began to chuckle again.  As he laughed, Jay reached down into the pocket of his pajamas and pulled out a little pill bottle.  He held it up so Larry could see the label.

"Does this answer your question?"

The bottle was for caffeine pills, and it was almost empty.

"Why haven't you been sleeping, Jay?  That's not healthy."

"Neither is what I've been going through."

"What have you been going through?"

Jay looked straight down and took a deep sigh.

"Jay, if you don't tell me I will never understand.  I just wanna help, man."

Jay looked back up at Larry.

"Larry, I'm dreaming things.  Bad things.  Very bad things.  Everytime I put my head on the pillow and go to sleep the dreams just get worse."

"What kind of dreams?  Like nightmares or night terrors?"

"I only wish they were nightmares.  But they are so intense and so vivid, it's hard to even call them a dream."

"What are they about?"

"I keep seeing dead people.  People I know, people I don't know.  But they aren't lying around me in coffins, they are walking around just like you or me."

"What like the zombie thing you talked about a few weeks back?"

"Worse."

"How worse?"

Jay took a big gulp before answering.

"I at least know that kinda stuff isn't real.  But these, these things are."

"I don't understand, Jay?"

"Everytime I close my eyes to even sleep for a minute, they come for me.  All I can do is run.  There's nowhere to hide, no one to ask for help.  I'm completely on my own with them.  And when I wake up, they are gone and I'm back here."

Tears were starting to well up in Jay's eyes.  Larry could see the anguish, the fear in his friend's face.  He reached out to him and held his hands.

"Jay, you're not alone in this, man.  Ok?  We can find you some help.  You're never on your own.  I'm sure Linda is more than willing to help.  There's no reason for them to feel unsafe."

"Yes there is, Larry.  Because what I told you wasn't even the worst part."

Larry leaned back a little.

"What's the worst part?"

"Linda has told me that during the time I'm supposed to be asleep, I'm actually awake."

"What?"

"She says that when I go to sleep not long afterwards I wake back up and move about the house, the yard, heck she said once I even took the truck out for a spin.  And each time I come back, lay back down and fall back to sleep.  Then I wake up screaming, sweaty, gasping for air like I had been running for miles.  I even feel like I have been.  That's why my appetite hasn't changed.  You see, I'm losing weight because I keep having to run for my life in the dreams.  And when I get back here I can eat and replenish myself.  I've just been trying lately not to sleep, but sometimes I just can't help it and doze off.  Then it happens again.  And to top it off, Linda says I'm a completely different person during this time.  It's like I'm a whole other man."

Larry just stared at his friend, completely taken aback by this.  He really was beginning to think his friend had lost his mind.

"Stop looking at me like I'm crazy, Lar.  Crazy people don't know when they're crazy and the people around them certainly don't act like they are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, then tell them about it rationally."

"Dude, Jay, this is maybe a bit too intense.  People don't loose weight in their dreams because they aren't really doing anything."

"And I'm trying to tell you I AM!"

Jay stood up, flabberghasted by his friend.

"Easy, Jay.  You're in a safe place."

"Don't patronize me!  I'm telling you these things are real!  I have lost 20 pounds in 3 weeks, not because of anorexia or some sickness, but because I've been running for my life from....from..."

"The undead?"

"Exactly!"

"And while you're doing this, you're a completely different person in real life?"

"That's what Linda has told me."

"Does this other person have a name?"

"She's never said.  He just brings up the word Anderson and talks about it like it's a place, not his name."

"I've never heard of anywhere named Anderson.  Has she communicated with this person much?"

"As little as possible.  She said he is hyperaggressive, mean, hateful, remorseless, violent, and looks at her like he could..."

"Like he could what?"

Jay stopped looking around the room and looked down at his friend.

"...like he could kill her."

"Ok, I just wanna say I didn't mean to patronize you, but you have to listen to me right now.  What you're saying to me is pure insanity, Jay.  Because I have alterior motives for coming here other than just checking up on you."

Jay stopped pacing now and stood there facing his friend.  He sat back down on the sofa and listened intently to what Larry had to say.

"The school wants to fire you, Jay.  They need all the help they can get right now and between this with you and Britton a few months ago, they have to have people that can work.  So they also asked me to come by and see if you're fit to come back."

Jay nodded in acknowledgment of what his friend was saying.

"Now, I could go back and make up something, but if you keep not showing up they'll fire you and me for not reporting it.  But if I go back and tell them what I've seen and what I'm hearing..."

"I know, Lar.  I'm sorry you're caught in the middle of this.  But it is the truth.  I don't know how else to explain this."

"I've never heard anything like this before, Jay.  But, I'll tell you what might help?"

Jay was all ears.

"A nice shower and a shave."

Jay chuckled again as he looked down and nodded in agreement with his friend.

"Listen, why don't you jump in the shower and I'll wait here for you.  Then we'll go see the Dean and let him know how you're doing together.  Then maybe we can talk to a buddy of mine.  He's been doing alot of research lately on the human mind.  He might know something we could do or someone we could talk to about your problem.  Cause I know shrinks are head cases themselves.  They'll just make you even more crazy than you already are."

Jay laughed.

"You're right.  Just wait here and I'll go with you."

Jay got up and left the room.  Larry sat there pondering what his friend had just said to him.  That's pure insanity.  There is no way that story will fly with the Dean.  How can I convince him to say something else?  While Larry thought, Jay was in the shower.

**********************************************************************************
Jay let the warm water soak him down.  He thinks I'm crazy.  Jay tried to keep his mind as clear as possible and focus on the shower.  He didn't want to think about anything else at the moment.  A shower and a clean shave sounded spectacular.  Jay couldn't wait to trim the stubble off inch by inch.

But the sound of the shower running was suddenly disturbed by utter silence.  No water continued to come out of the shower head.  Although Jay was soaking wet, the shower itself was not.  The shower actually contained massive amounts of dust and a little debris from the dry wall surrounding.  Then Jay heard audible footsteps approaching.  Big footsteps, that were determined in their gait.  Jay began to become afraid.  He looked to his left to see the faint figure of two people having just entered the bathroom.  Their images were obscured by the semi-transparent glass of the shower door.  He then heard the sounds of rumblings coming from his right, like that of thunder.

The audible sound of a radio communication then came through with one of the figures responding to it.  The dialogue sounded very much like military talk, but Jay did not understand it.

Another rumble occurred, this time louder and caused the house to shake all around.

Then Jay heard another communication.

"E.T.A. sixty seconds.  Stand down and secure."

The soldier, at least that's what Jay thought, acknowledged the communication.  Neither of the figures had taken notice of Jay standing in the shower.

Suddenly a massive jolt rocked the entire house.  Both of the figures lurched around grabbing hold of anything nailed down.  Jay lurched backward in the shower as dust and debris rained down from above.  Jay couldn't take it anymore.  He opened the shower door.

When he stepped out the soldier on the ground took notice and aimed his weapon up at Jay.

"What the hell?", the soldier yelled.

The other soldier, holding onto the counter top, turned around and saw Jay standing there, completely nude.

"What the hell are you doing in there?", the second soldier asked.

The second soldier's voice was distinctly female.

In both cases Jay was hearing their voices through radioes connected to their gas masks they were wearing.

Jay had no idea what was happening.  He just knew that one second he was showering and the next he was standing in his bathroom with two soldiers and what sounded like a war happening outside.

Another jolt shook the whole house tossing Jay and the soldiers about again.  The soldier on the floor had to cover himself from falling debris from the ceiling as the other soldier lunged toward Jay.  Jay moved quickly passed them both and out of the bathroom, making his way around the corner into the hallway.

"WAIT!", yelled the female soldier.

Jay turned the next corner and ran into his own foyer.  What he saw was beyond belief.

The entire front side of his home had been blasted out, fire and debris strewn all around.  The gaping hole allowed Jay to see the landscape before him.  In the distance fires raged, and light flashes went off with the sounds of missiles streaking across the sky.  He heard gunfire, machine gunfire.  Jay was acustom to hunters in the area, but never machine guns going off.

It literally was a war zone right outside his home.

What is happening?  Where the hell am I?

Jay could then hear the sound of the radio again, from one of the soldiers in the other room.  He could hear it getting closer to him, but more importantly he could hear what it was saying.

"Nine...eight...seven...six..."

Jay knew it was a countdown, but he had no idea as to what the countdown would lead to.

Then Jay felt a tug on his shoulders as one of the soldiers grabbed him and yanked him backward to the now empty living room.  None of the furniture or clutter was present.  Jay was now flat on his back, the jarring collapse almost knocking the breath from his lungs.  He looked up and backward towards the back of the house.  The windows were all blasted out and holes were present in the ceiling.  Nothing looked like it had moments earlier when he was talking to Larry.

Where's Larry?

"Stay down!  Do not get up, sir!"

Jay wrestled with the man holding him down now.  As he struggle a piece of newspaper hit him squarely in the face.  Jay grabbed it and pulled the sheet away.  It was the front page of the newspaper, half torn away.  But there was enough for Jay to read the headline:


HEAVEN HELP US!
THE APOCALYPTIC ONSLAUGHT OF THE...

The ending had been torn away from the heading and no picture was present.  It also had been torn away.  One thing did remain and that was the date and city of publication.  The date was two weeks earlier and the city was Anderson, South Carolina.

A bright, blinding light shown through the decimated front of Jay's home.  Jay let go of the newspaper and covered his eyes.  He could feel his retinas burning with intense pain, having caught a glimpse of the light before covering them.  The next he heard was the roar of something approaching quickly.  He tried to look up and see what was coming, but could bearly see anything at all.  However, he did see the faint image of something completely recognizable in the distance.  He saw the image of a mushroom cloud rising into the air, just before the concussion wave hit and torn the house apart all around him.

**********************************************************************************
Jay was screaming and thrashing about.  Suddenly Jay realized he was not incinerating.  The room all around him was back to normal, normal for how it had looked when Larry arrived.  Hovering over him at the moment was Larry, trying to get him under control.

"JAY!  JAY PLEASE GET HOLD OF YOURSELF!"

Jay stopped thrashing and sat up.  He looked around the room to get his bearings and see if everything was all right.  He was breathing heavily, laying in the middle of the floor still nude and wet from having left the shower.  The shower was still running in the bathroom and there was no war going on outside.  Jay then paid attention to his friend Larry.

"Jay, what is happening?"

"I don't know.  But a nuclear bomb just went off and destroyed Anderson, South Carolina.  It all happened today, right here, right outside this house."

Larry could only stare at his friend, having seen the man run into the room, throw himself to the floor, then start thrashing as if he were on fire.  He had no way of explaining what he saw, he just knew it happened and had to finally say something to his friend.

"Jay, there's no such place as Anderson, South Carolina.  You're in Smithville, South Augustina.  South Augustina in the United States of Columbia."

"I know that.  It's not here in this world."

Friday, December 16, 2011

Story # 1.6 What's in a dream?

It was 2 AM...

All was quiet throughout the house.  Only the dim glow of the night lights strewn throughout could be seen, and the hue of the lamp in Jay and Linda's son's room shown with them.  Chad was sleeping soundly, for a change.  The six month old baby had a brush with what the doctor called "reactive airway" that had made Jay and Linda's lives a lot more interesting in recent weeks.  With the around the clock treatments needed to assist young Chad, the couple had to take turns in order to muddle through it.  Life, in general, had been very busy, both at work and at home.  Compound the issues with the Holiday Season, it was a miracle Jay and Linda even had hair anymore.

Because of the stress of the season and all that goes with it, Jay's dreaming had been slim to none.  He hadn't had a bad dream, or any dream for that matter, since the time of Britton's death.  But that was about the change.

************************************************************************************

Chad began to stir in his crib, as the sounds echoed in Jay and Linda's bedroom from the night vision monitor relaying them in.  This got Linda stirring as well.

Linda had long since loathed the monitors for their children, because they presented everything from a night vision perspective.  And just the thought that someone could potentially be looking back at you, children or not, gave her the creeps.  But, these were the best way to see what was going on with their children and not having to be in the room with them at all times.  Linda honestly didn't know how women kept track of their children before the advent of technological wonders, like the monitors.  However, she still didn't like them much.

Linda plopped her head back down on the pillow, realizing it was now time for Chad's next treatment, and most likely a feeding session combined with a diaper change.  And since Linda had done the previous treatment, it was Jay's turn.

Time to wake Jay up!, she thought.

"Jay?"

She nudged him, with no response.

"Jay?"

She nudged him again, still with no response.

"JAY!"

Jay awoke with a snort, babbling incoherently for a few seconds before finally sitting up at the side of the bed.

"It's time for Chad's treatment, can you go?"

Although Linda phrased it in the form of a question, this was actually a command, and one Jay had best adhere to.

Jay mumbled something that was, again, incoherent, scratched his thigh, then hoisted himself up out of the bed.  He made his way through the hallway, his shadow trailing behind him as he passed the night light nearby.

Linda proceeded to snuggle back into her sheets.  She laid there, half listening to the rustling going on in Chad's room as Jay assembled the necessities for the treatment.  Jay's lumbering steps, indicative of the fact he was still very much in a sleep-like state, amused Linda as a smirk lit up her face.  She could hear Chad, fully awake now, moving and lurching about as his daddy prepared to give him the treatment.  She could still hear Jay's footsteps in the room, now a little more determined, as if he were more awake now.

She was beginning to drift off to sleep again, until a sound she didn't expect grabbed her attention.

It wasn't just any sound either.  It was the sound of Jay talking as if he were addressing someone.  However, he wasn't addressing Chad, but someone else.

"So, I guess you're hiding behind that camera, aren't you?"

Linda began to wake up again, not completely sure of what Jay had just said, but listening.

"Yeah, you're in there all right.  You're in there living it up while we fight to stay alive."

Linda fully opened her eyes with that remark.  Now she was listening intently.

"What a coward.  You think you're something special, don't you?  Looking down on us, probably hoping something will just kill us off so you don't have to answer for anything anymore.  Don't you?"

Linda sat up in bed and looked directly at the monitor for Chad's room.  What she saw scared her nearly to death.

Jay was staring right back at her through the monitor, looking directly into the camera in Chad's room.  His eyes glowed a deathly gray from the black and white screen.  His face looked serious and stern, a slight grin curled around his lips.  As if Linda wasn't already taken by surprise from the image, what came next made her begin to tremble.

"You thought we'd just die off, didn't you?  Well, I've got news for you....we're still here.  And now I'm gonna come inside there and make you come out of hiding to help us, whether you like it or not."

With that statement, Jay shot off out of the line of sight of the camera.  But Linda wouldn't have to speculate on where her husband went for long.  She heard his much more pronounced and determined footsteps heading for their bedroom.

Linda just sat there, unsure what was going on.  She didn't know whether to jump out of bed and defend herself or just wait and see what Jay did.  She chose to wait when she saw Jay's shadow coming down the hall, before he finally entered the room himself.

"Jay, is everything all right, honey?"

Jay stood in the doorway, the illumination of the night light behind him.  It gave and eerie persona to Jay's stance, that looked very much like a man on a mission.  He stood there staring back at Linda, breathing deeply.

"Jay, you're scaring me!  Is everything all right?"

Jay did not respond.  Instead he turned to his left and proceeded passed the dresser, then turned to face into the bathroom.  The doors to the room were wide open, with everything inside visible, even in the dark.  Jay then began to talk to the obviously empty room, at least to Linda.

"ALL RIGHT!  YOU COME OUT OF THERE RIGHT NOW!!"

Jay was practically screaming as he spoke, loud enough to wake the dead.  Linda was petrified now.  She took turns looking at Jay's back, then looking into the empty bathroom.  There was no one in there, she could see it herself.

One thought came to Linda's mind, he must be sleep walking.  Please, God, let him be sleep walking.

"YOU GET THE HELL OUT HERE RIGHT NOW, OR I'M COMING IN AFTER YOU!"

He yelled so loud, Linda was worried the neighbors might hear him, nevermind the children she was sure he had woken completely up at this point.  She decided to say something this time.

"JAY?!  Stop yelling at nothing!  You're freaking me out!"

Jay then turned and looked back at Linda.  He had a very annoyed look on his face as he looked back at her.

"WOULD YOU SHUT THE HELL UP?!  AND WHY DO YOU KEEP CALLING ME JAY, WOMAN?"

Linda was completely freaked out now.  The look on Jay's face, to her, seemed like he was wide awake and totally aware of what he was doing.  That begged the question, Why does he not know his own name?

"YOU SIT THERE, SHUT UP, AND LET ME DO MY JOB!"

Linda didn't know whether to be mad or scared at the way he was talking to her.  But, she decided to do more than just talk to him.

As Jay turned back to look into the empty bathroom again, Linda got up and walked around the bed to approach him from behind.  As she came up on him, she was going to speak and ask him, again, what was going on.  But Linda was met with an even bigger surprise this time.

Jay wield around quickly, reached out and grabbed Linda by the neck with his left hand.  This stopped her in place as her husband stood there squeezing her throat with a death grip.

"I told you woman, get your ass back in that bed!"

Gasping a little for breaths, Linda attempted to speak, "What are you doing, Jay?  Please stop this!  It's me, Linda!"

Jay looked at her intently, "I don't know any Linda.  Who the hell are you?"

Now tears began to well up in Linda's eyes.  She looked back at his, in the dark, but could still see the truth resonating from them.  This man, the man that was supposed to be her husband standing before her, had no clue who she was at all.  She could see it in his eyes.  It was as if a completely different person were standing there before her, or someone had taken over her husband's body.

Now, Linda was scared for her life.  If Jay honestly didn't recognize her, what would he be capable of?

"Back off!  Get back in that bed, and leave me alone!"

With that last statement, Jay realized Linda's neck.  She gasped for air as she tried to right herself.  Jay, or the man formerly known as Jay, proceeded to turn around and head into the empty bathroom.

Linda clutched her throat, bending over slightly as she still tried to catch her breath.  Then she began to stand back up straight and looked into the room her husband had just walked into.

What happened next turned everything on it's head.  Jay switched on the bathroom light to reveal an empty bathroom.  He proceeded to turn on the facet.  He then leaned down, cupped some water in his hands and doused his face.  He then took a towel, dried off his face, looked at himself in the mirror for a moment, then turn the facet off.  He then turned off the light and turn to come back to the bed.  Jay stopped in his path when he walked up to find himself face-to-face with Linda.

Linda had no idea what to expect from him, but she certainly didn't expect what happened next.

"Linda?  What are you doing standing in the middle of the room?  What time is it?  Oh crap, is it time for Chad's treatment?  I'm sorry, I must have over slept."

Linda did not respond to Jay.  She just stared at him, completely befuddled by the series of events that had just occurred.  She switched on the lamp next to Jay's side of the bed so she could see him.  Jay looked away momentarily to let his eyes adjust, but hen looked back at her.  Linda could see in his eyes that she was standing face-to-face with her husband now.  What in God's name just happened?

"Linda, are you ok?"

Jay was confused now.  He had no recollection of the events that had just occurred.  No memory of talking like he had, or of screaming.  No idea he grabbed his own wife by the neck in a threatening gesture.  With this realization, Linda was both relieved and pissed off.  She had the most natural response any woman could have in this situation.

Linda rared back and slapped the bejesus out of Jay on the left side of his face.

With a now stunned Jay holding his hand to the side of his face now, Linda proceeded to grab the pillows from Jay's side of the bed and then uttered a proclamation.

"When you figure out who the hell you are, you can sleep with me again!"

With that, Linda walked out the bedroom down and back into the living room.  Jay watched her leave, unsure of what to do.  He could only think of one thing to say.

"What did I do?"

Friday, December 9, 2011

Story # 1.5 Why Britton?

Jay awoke in a cold sweat...

...screaming.

"Honey!  Honey, what's wrong?", asked Linda.

Linda popped up, fully awake from the horrific sound made by Jay.  It was a blood curdling scream, which Linda could only surmise to mean that Jay had a nightmare.

Jay was gasping for breath as he continued to lay sitting up in the bed, attempting to get his bearings on his surroundings in the dark.

"Jay, what's wrong?"

Jay looked at his wife.  He looked at her as if he hadn't seen her in weeks.  Linda looked back at him, their eyes locked.  She could see the fear in his eyes and wanted to know what had frightened him.  Jay, however, was not forthcoming.

He looked away from her and sprang up out of bed into the bathroom.  He switched on the light and doused his face with cold water in the sink.  Linda was still sitting up in bed, watching Jay.

Jay continued to lean over the sink, staring down into the white, porcelain bowl beneath.  He was the picture of a man deep in thought and petrified by fear.  His reaction had already unnerved Linda, now she was just plain scared.

"Jay, are you going to tell me what's going on?"

Jay finally began to lean back up and stared at himself briefly in the mirror.  After a few moments, he switched off the light and made his way back to the bed.  He crawled back in, gave Linda a kiss on the lips, and tucked himself back underneath the sheets.  Within a minute or so, he was back to sleep.

Linda just sat there, staring down at her husband, completely befuddled.  Not only did she not know what had just happened, she had no clue how she was going to go back to sleep.

*********************************************************************************

"What do you think happened, man?", asked Larry of Jay.

The two men were standing over the grave site of Britton, whom had been dead now for several weeks.  The epitaph on the tombstone read, "Our Immortal Angel, With Love Always-Mom and Dad."

The tragedy are Britton's apparent suicide had only compounded the recent revelations of further cost cutting measures taking place at Smithville University.  It was as if a black cloud were hanging permanently over the campus.  Not only there, but over the entire city, county, state, and country as a whole.

"I don't know," replied Jay.

"You think she might have been one of the cuts and she just took it badly?  I mean, I know she was one of the newest, but this just seems a little drastic to me."

Jay did not respond to Larry's theory.  He was actually still quite enamored with the dream that had woken him up earlier that morning.  Instead he just stared at the tombstone.

"I've heard they thought a boyfriend might have been involved, suspecting foul play or something.  I don't know how you could hurt a nice piece of..."

"Don't finish that, ok?", pleaded Jay.

Larry looked over at his friend, who was looking right back at him with an intensity he hadn't seen before.

"Are you ok, Jay?"

Jay looked back down at the tombstone, staring at the epitaph engraved across it.  Larry looked down at the stone, then back to Jay again.  He waited patiently for his friend to respond.

"I had another dream last night", said Jay.

"A dream?  About....her?"

"Yeah."

Larry started to smirk as he eased his posture and looked around momentarily.

"Look, man, don't worry if you had an 'inappropriate' dream about her, I guess.  It was just a dream."

"There wasn't anything inappropriate about it, Lar.  I just didn't make any sense."

"What didn't make sense about it?"

Jay took a deep sigh before he started trying to explain what he had dreamed.  He wasn't even sure he understood it.

Larry just looked on at his friend, waiting again for a response.

"In my dream, she was still alive, but wasn't at the same time.  I can't explain it very well."

"Alive and dead you mean?  What, like...what do you mean?"

"She was alive, but it was like she was dead.  Maybe I'm not explaining it right.  She was like...."

"Like a zombie?"

"Yes!  Like a zombie."

Larry started to chuckle a bit, "I think you've been watching that show too much lately."

"It wasn't like the show, Lar.  It seemed so real.  It was like I was there and she was coming after me, like the first dream where I got the bruises."

"Man, I don't know what you eat or drink at night sometimes, but it was still a dream.  So you had a nightmare about her, big deal.  It happens, man.  A tragedy like this, heck half the school has probably had nightmares about this."

"But Linda told me I woke up in the middle of the night screaming."

"Really?  Damn, it must have scared you really bad."

"That's just it.  She said I acted like I was wide awake after the screaming, she was too.  I probably woke up the kids with my screaming.  But I don't remember it.  I don't remember waking up.  I don't remember washing my face.  I don't remember going back to bed.  It was like I wasn't even really there."

"Jay, we've all had dreams like that.  Sometimes they seem real.  Sometimes you sleep walk.  That's probably all that happened.  Don't worry about it so much.  It was just a dream."

Jay was still staring down at the tombstone, taking in what his friend had just said.  He couldn't help but still focus on the dream and what he had experienced.  Especially in regards to Britton.  Jay thought to himself, if it was just a dream, then why do I remember dreaming about her having been murdered before it ever took place?

Jay humored Larry.

"Yeah, it was just a dream."