The Hooded Nightmare
An Alley No One Would Want to Be Caught Awake In
A man stood there, staring at her. The stranger who always haunted her in her dreams. He was standing in the middle of a field with dead, decaying animals as far as the eye could see. The fowl stench of animal flesh made her gag. She tried to hold her breath, but she gasped for air. Breathing in the horrid smell of the atmosphere around her only made the queasiness worse. Tears were streaming down her cheeks from the depressing sight and the pain aching in her throat. There was nothing she could possibly do, but stand there and be helpless, she hated the feeling. As she stared at the mutilated animals, she noticed something odd about the colors of their fur and their size. They were nothing like the animals she encountered in reality. They were bigger than animals she had ever seen. Different shades of blue and white danced on their fur along with other dark colors. The fur was sketched with black and silver markings inked all over their bodies.
She looked around her, seeing rows beyond rows of trees closing them in. There was no life in the trees. Tabitha could tell just by looking at them. The bark was blackened and the branches looked mangled as if they had been burned at one point in time. She saw diminutive pathways within the trees, but that was it. No roads or houses. This place was familiar. Tabitha visited it many times in her nightmares. It seemed to radiate an energy that suggested it might have been beautiful, before it was ravaged and trapped in death and darkness.
The stranger was about ten feet away. He took a causal step toward her. His hood was up and all she could see was his lips open in a grotesque smile. She didn’t know him outside of her dream. His face always remained hidden from her. One thing was for certain: he was no friend. Tabitha knew from previous trips to this dream world that he was there to kill her. She didn’t understand why though, he never spoke to her. He walked toward her again, looking more like a shadow than a person, which made a cold shiver go down her spine. All Tabitha could think about was getting far away from him, but every solution she came up with would only fail in the end. She decided to do the first thing that came to her and that was to run. He was already in front of her by the time she turned around. It was as if he knew everything she was thinking. She tried to push him away, but her hands went through air, he disappeared and all that remained was black smoke in the air where he was. Tabitha didn’t wait for him to come back, she ran like she planned in the first place, leaping over the sick corpses. She knew it was a cowardly thing to do, but did she really have any other choice?
Slowly everything began to fade away like when a movie changes to another scene. She came to a stop and looked around, standing in an alley. Smelling the garbage from a nearby dumpster, she gagged. Had there been food in her stomach, it would have come up. The alley smelled of rotted meat and old ketchup with the mixture of drinking alcohol. She must have been near a bar or something.
Tabitha felt someone was watching her; she knew it was the man in the hood. She heard something behind her. Without thinking, she started running, again. Dashing faster than a professional soccer player hustling toward the ball for the goal. She wanted to look behind her to see if someone was really there, to see if someone was even chasing her at all, but she was afraid she would see him or it would be her luck that she would trip over her own feet in the process. She couldn’t hear anything, but the sound of her feet beating against the gravel. Her heart was racing. It felt like it was about to burst from her chest. Sweat drenched her hair as she continued to run. Tabitha was exhausted, she wanted to stop, but had a feeling in her gut telling her she had to keep going.
At the end of the alley, well what seem like the end of the alley, the part she never made it too. She never figured out what was beyond the alley because there he stood, the hooded man, the villain of her nightmare, the man who would never stop and would never give up, the man who wanted her dead for a reason she felt she would never know. And a part of her didn’t want to know. He was crouched in a fighting stance like a hunter about to attack his prey. She saw him holding a sword of some kind in his hand, like he needed to use it against her. He moved like air and quick like lightning, he had no use for the sword against her. He had the sword lowered to the ground, as if to slash up at her.
She couldn’t scream and she didn’t try, she didn’t want him to think she was weak, and she was tired of running. Her throat closed up as he ran toward her, he reminded her of a panther. He was quick, definitely quicker than her as she tried to move out of the way. She was no match for his speed, he crashed into her, she felt herself falling back, but she never hit the gravel beneath her.
She woke with a start.