The Beginning of the End
Somewhere, deep in the darkness, he could hear the soft tortured cry, the whimpering of a small child, the moaning of a woman in pain. He couldn't remember anything; not where he was are or how he came to this darkness. He found that he was injured. His leg ached and he couldn't stand on it. Under his fingers, he could feel a smooth, cool surface - not concrete, perhaps a tiled floor.
He shouted out to anyone that will answer. "Who is here?"
"I am here," a small soft voice said near him. "I am here, John. I think I am hurt, though." It was his girlfriend, Stacy. Now he could vaguely remember going out. Where? He had decided to go to dinner and perhaps the park later.
"Stacy, where are we?" He asked with a tremor in his voice.
"I think we are under the restaurant or something. One moment we were eating, the next everything exploded. John, I'm scared. I can't see anything. Am I blind or is it really totally dark?"
He groped around to find her with his hand. "Is this you?" He touched something soft.
"Yes," she said and grasped his hand with her own.
"I think it is totally dark, I can't see anything, either," he told her squeezing her hand gently. "Do you think you can stand?"
"I think so," she said and let go of his hand. He heard her moan as she stood. "I can stand, but I think my arm is broken. It feels wet. I think I'm bleeding."
Suddenly he remembered that his cell phone was in his pocket. It wouldn't be a lot of light, but better than none. He pulled it out and flipped it open. The light was dim but he could see Stacy standing beside him. He moved the light up to her arms. She was bleeding from a long cut on her lower arm.
"Oh!" she exclaimed. He couldn't see her face from his place on the floor.
He shone the light down to his leg. There was no visible injury, or at least not that his blue jeans weren't hiding. "I think my leg is broke, too. Do you think you can help me to stand?"
"I can help you, son," came a male voice a few feet away. "I don't know how, but I seem to be okay." A flashlight switched on, blinding them momentarily. "My name's Jack. I'm security at the hotel. I'm going to go look for help. You stay here. Try to call for help on that cell phone. We need to see if we can get everyone still alive out of here."
Jack saw Stacy's arm and without asking, stripped her sweater off of her and wrapped it tightly around her bleeding wound.
"Owe!" she cried out.
"Sorry, ma'am. It's gotta be tight." He flashed his light over John. "Sir, it might be best for you to sit tight until I can get help. You don't want to damage that leg more. I'll be back soon."
John felt a little better knowing Jack was there to help. He could see his flash light move throughout the space, stopping occasionally to help and reassure someone.
He remembered that he was supposed to be calling for help and dialed 911. All he got was a busy signal. He tried to call his mother, but got the same.
"Stacy, do you have your phone with you?" he asked.
"I did. It was in my purse, but I have no idea where it is now." She sighed deeply. "My arm is really starting to hurt bad, John."
"Just hold on, honey. Jack seems to know what he is doing. He'll find help." She had sat back down beside John and he pulled her against his side for comfort.
"There are dead people all around us, I think," Stacy said, "I saw them when Jack flashed his light around."
John had noticed that but hadn't wanted to mention it. "Whatever happened is really bad. I think it must have been a bomb or something. I think we might be in the basement of the hotel. The restaurant is on the ground floor," he told her. "I hope Jack can find a way out."
He had been calling 911 over and over trying to get through, but so far only a busy signal. The cries and moans were getting quieter. He hoped that more people aren't dying.
"You want to try your mom?" he asked, handing her the phone.
She got no answer either and began to cry. She laid her head on his shoulder.
Suddenly, a bright flash appeared before John's eyes. It was another explosion and this one was the end.
John woke up drenched in sweat. He sat up and picked up the water glass on the table by the bed. He downed what was left in the glass. He looked through the pile of clothes on the floor and picked out the cleanest dirty clothes he could find and went to the small bathroom to shower.
This was the third dream of this sort that he had had, he thought as he stepped into the shower. He didn't even know a girl named Stacy. She had been in every one of his dreams and there was always a huge disaster. In the first one, they were trapped in a burning building, the second, a car accident, but this one really was the grand prize winner for nightmare of the year. If this Stacy ever showed up in real life, he would run the other way!
And who was this Jack? He was the would-be hero in each dream, yet he never managed to save them. He and Stacy die every time. It all seemed so real, as if it was actually happening. There was no foggy vagueness that was so common in dreams.
John dressed for work, though it was several hours too early. He wouldn't get back to sleep. He went into the small living-room in the three room apartment and turned on the television. He needed the comfort of the background noise. Only people who live alone felt the need to have the TV on continually whether they were watching or not. There was something sinister about a quiet house.
He went to the small kitchen and started some coffee. He brushed the week old box of donuts to the side of the table and sat down to wait.
Stacy sure was a looker, he thought looking aimlessly at the wall in front of him. Why was it that he couldn't keep a girl? He wasn't bad looking. At twenty-six years old, he was still in his prime. He wasn't the hunk of the year by any means, but he had nice wavy hair and large brown eyes. Didn't chicks like brown eyes, anymore? He ran his hand through his dark hair and unconsciously stroked his beard. Maybe it was the facial hair. Well, too bad! He had worked far too long to grow it and he wasn't about to shave it now for any doomsday girl named Stacy!
He got up and poured himself a cup of coffee, deciding to forego the milk and sugar and took a drink of the strong black brew. He looked around his kitchen and realized that it had been awhile since he had cleaned it. There were three pizza boxes stacked on the counter next to a sink overflowing with dirty dishes. Geez! He was going to have to start buying paper plates, he thought as he started to clean up the trash.
By the time he needed to leave for work, he had gotten the kitchen sparkling clean and had even mopped the floor. Maybe the nightmare served a purpose after all. He nodded approvingly as he stepped out the door, and was even whistling as he descended the stairs to leave the building.
The rest of the week was uneventful. No more dreams, anyway. It wasn't until the next Monday that it happened. He was in the supermarket, minding his own business when a familiar figure appeared at the end of the cereal aisle.
John glanced over at the woman and instantly recognized her. He turned away quickly before she could see him and held a box of Captain Crunch in front of his face. He pretended to be reading the ingredients and stood frozen in place until she moved past him toward the check-out. He turned cautiously and could see her from the back, standing in line. It was Stacy. There was absolutely no doubt.
Panicking, John threw down the box of cereal, left his grocery cart, full of food, and ran for the door. He quickly made it to the parking lot and searched for his car. In his state of mind, he couldn't remember where he parked it. Oh, God! He had to get out of here now!
He breathed a sigh of relief as a truck pulled out of a nearby space and revealed his car in the next spot. He began a brisk walk when he heard the voice behind him.
"Sir, sir! You dropped your phone!" Great! It was Stacy's voice. Well, he would just have to get a new phone, he thought as he climbed into his car and sped off as if the devil were on his tail. He drove straight home, checking his rearview mirror every few seconds to make sure she wasn't following him.
John paced back and forth through the living-room trying to comprehend what was happening. He had dreamed the girl and there she was, bright as brass. She had the same red shoulder length hair, same flashing green eyes and lily white skin. How could it be? Could he have met her somewhere before and incorporated her into his dreams?
He took a deep breath and began to calm down a bit. That surely was the case. He has seen her somewhere before. Perhaps he had gone to school with her or maybe she worked in a place he frequented. Even as he was reassuring himself, he knew in his heart that it wasn't true. He had never met her or he would have remembered. A face like that was not easily forgotten.
John flopped down on the couch and forced himself to relax. It was working. Not only was he emotionally exhausted, but he had had a long day of lifting crates and his body was ready to give out. He had almost dozed off when the phone rang. It startled him and he jumped from the couch at the shrill noise.
He let it ring a couple of times. What if it was her? His home number was on his cell phone. But then, again, what if it was Bill from work? He had to answer it.
He picked up on the forth ring. "Hello"
"Johnny! Are you okay? You sound upset," the woman said, sounding concerned.
"No, mom. I'm fine," John said, relieved once again.
"Well, you could call once in a while. I get worried." She paused a moment. "Are you keeping your laundry up? I noticed that you haven't been by in a couple of weeks to do it."
"Yeah, ma! Hey, I'm sorry; I should have come to check on you. Are you okay? Do you need anything?" John was really ashamed of himself.
"I'm fine, sweetheart. Just missing my boy! I got worried when that girl called earlier. She said she found your cell phone. I hope it's okay. I gave her your address. She wanted to return it."
John was stunned, speechless. She had given Stacy his address?
"John, are you there, honey?"
"Uh, yeah, Mom. It's okay. I'll come by tomorrow to see you. I love you." John couldn't keep the tremor out of his voice.
"All right, Sweetie. I'll see you tomorrow. Come for dinner."
John heard the click as his mother hung up. Then he silently put the phone in the cradle. God, God, God! Stacy had his address and was coming here to return the phone. What did he do now?
He ran to the front door and made sure it was locked and bolted. Then he went to take a shower, hoping she would come while he was in there and he wouldn't hear the buzzer.
There was no such luck. He was just climbing into bed in nothing but his boxers when he heard the buzzer. What should he do? He really needed his phone. What was the worst that could happen? He put his pillow over his head and tuned out the buzzer's second buzz. He already knew what was the worst, didn't he?
If he opened that door, her sparkling smile would melt him. Her sensual voice would entice and he would be helpless to resist. They would start dating and their demise would be imminent. He thought all of this as he unbolted the door and opened it just a crack.
"Hello," he said as brown eyes met green. He was surprised to see that she wasn't alone. She was with a man that he had never seen before.
"Hi. John? I found your phone. You dropped it at the store today. My name is Stacy and this is my dad, Jack Stark." John looked at the man, suspiciously.
"Uh, thanks. I'm not really dressed for company." John said, quickly, taking the phone.
"That's okay. Bye, now." Stacy said, giving him a sweet smile and turned away. Then she suddenly remembered something and turned back. "Oh, by the way, I added a song to your music. It's from my brother's band. It's called 'Utter Devastation'. Listen to it if you get a chance." She winked at him and walked away.