The Church in the Woods: The Dream – Part 1

I had a weird dream last night. It wasn’t like your normal everyday dream. It was very disturbing to me. I wouldn’t consider it a nightmare, but I know I will never forget it. It still brings a shiver just thinking about it.

Before the dream, everything was normal. Saturday had arrived after a long, tiring week of work. I was an IT technician. It was the kind of job where we would assist customers, varying from software issues to networking ones. Occasionally, the job would require us to meet them on their turf to provide onsite service. Unfortunately for me, I wore multiple hats which meant I had to tackle most onsite visits. Some would think of me as a versatile, irreplaceable employee, and you wouldn’t be wrong. I, however, couldn’t look past the glaring fact that the company was just being too cheap to hire others, opting to milk every ounce they could get from us, their understaffed employees.

You can see why I would spend most of my weekends only sleeping or watching television; basically, anything that required the least amount of work or movement. Unfortunately, these tactics made them fly by faster than usual. There’s nothing worse than expediting your rest days to your work ones. This weekend, I decided to mix it up a bit. Instead of my usual lazy days around my apartment, I decided to venture out and visit my parents. I hadn’t been home in two years, and I couldn’t remember the last phone call I made to them. So, I figured I was overdue for a visit.

Home was around 50 miles away, but that didn’t seem too bad compared to most people I knew. I had plenty of friends who were clear across the country from their folks, so I knew I had no room to complain. To be honest, I was looking forward to the drive. The one’s in the morning were the best: watching the sun gradually rise, feeling the cool breeze while coasting the near empty streets, absent a river of traffic. Was there a better time to travel?

I couldn’t wait to see my dad or my step-mom either. I could already picture the two of them ambushing me with hugs while releasing a barrage of questions about how everything was going in my life, and I haven’t even gotten to best part: homecooked meals. Energized by these thoughts, I quickly packed up a few things: toothbrush, clothes for one night, towels, and anything else I thought I might need. For a second, I thought about giving them a quick heads-up call to let them know I was coming, but refrained, thinking it would be better if my visit was unannounced.

After my car was loaded, I pulled out my apartment area, and began the drive. As expected, the sun had barely peaked beyond the horizon. The drive itself was smooth and fluent with barely any other cars on the road, just the way I liked it. As early as it might have seemed to some people, my parents were early birds. They got up at the crack of dawn to maximize their day, taking care of small things throughout it: cutting grass, morning runs, errands, etc.

It didn’t take long before I reached my old hometown. I was met with the familiar setting rendering old memories. Almost at every angle, I could recall some event from my life while growing up. It wasn’t until I looked in the rear mirror that I noticed I had a smile pressed on my face. There was no hiding it I guess; I was happy to be home.

Eventually, I reached my neighborhood turning onto the street where my parents lived. From the distance, I could see their house at the far end to the right. I drove down the street glancing left and right attempting to see if old neighbors were still present at their homes. Just from a glance, I could recognize what houses had new people and which ones had familiar faces. Only a few were actually up and outside; one person in particular was Mr. Harris. He was infamous for always attending his yard. He was mainly seen cutting his grass and did so in a full jumpsuit regardless of how hot or cold the weather shifted. It vaguely resembled the ones prisoners would wear except it was navy blue instead of a bright orange.

I reached my parents’ house and parked next to the mailbox. The driveway had my dad’s car in it; my step-mother’s car was usually kept inside the garage since it was a newer vehicle. The house itself was fairly big. It was two-stories with all white siding that made up its exterior. It had burgundy shutters to accompany each window and a decent size porch with a bench on it.

After parking my car and walking up to the door, I could already see the screen door closed to allow the cool air to run through. The aroma of bacon and eggs filtered outward along with the sounds of talking and moving around. Despite still having a key to the place, I rang the doorbell. Instantly, I heard my dad’s voice grumpily question out-loud who would be visiting at this hour. I could hear his footsteps walking over until he emerged into the entrance hallway. I could see his eyes widen and a smile grow on his face. He called out for my step-mother to come over to him. When she did, I was met with a loud cry of joy as she raced over to the door, opening it and pulling me into a vice-grip hug.

After about a ten-minute moment of hugs and greetings, I was finally able to settle in. I brought all my stuff into my old room which was in the basement. The basement of course was finished and had a big television in front of a couch along with the washer and dryer down there. It was almost like a second living room, perfect for having guests over or even a tenant for renting.

The day went by fairly quick. I spent most of it talking to them about my job, politics in the world and other recent events. It wasn’t until the evening arrived when my dad announced that in his spare time he had managed to convert all the old home-movie tapes onto DVDs. My dad was always the type to keep busy. He worked hard throughout the week and even on the weekends because he was unable to cope with the downtime. It was in these times that he would keep himself busy with small side projects. These projects varied from big ones like installing new floor boards to small ones like planting fresh flowers outside. Apparently, this time his project had been converting the old tapes before they became too bad to view.

We decided to spend that evening watching the old movies to gawk and laugh at the old days in our lives. He popped in the first disk and left temporarily to use the bathroom. The video appeared to be during Christmas time. The footage was very grainy producing a few white streaking lines across the screen. The timestamp in the corner read: December 25, 1991.

In the video, we could see a big tree in the background heavily decorated with tinsel and ornaments. Below it, a multitude of a presents covered the floor varying in size. Off to the side was my mother, my real mother, very young in appearance. She must have been at least in her mid-twenties at the time. I didn’t get a chance to know her.

My father had informed me she had died when I was too young to remember. I only recognized her from photos I had seen lying around. It wasn’t until I was old enough that my father explained her death was in fact a murder. Some crazy loon had broken into their apartment and shot her. He didn’t really like to speak about it and I didn’t blame him. Because of his feelings, I never pressed him more about it.

The camera in the movie sat fixated without shaking giving the assumption that it was on a stand. Soon after, my father appeared from behind the camera to join her on the ground. He too was young in appearance. It was strange to see them this way and brought about a small amount of laughter from me. They both seemed to have their eyes fixated on something. It wasn’t until my dad adjusted the camera that I could see that the something was me. There I was, a younger version of myself. Checking the timestamp on the screen confirmed that I was one-year old.

I watched in awe as my younger self hobbled around curiously grabbing small things around the apartment. Occasionally, he would render a smile to my parents whenever they called out my name in a soft tone. The moment was nice until the screen went to complete static. The sound was a little distorted, but it was clear the video was not over. I could make out what sounded like a knock at the door from the audio, but wasn’t sure entirely. My dad returned just as this happened and went over to the television cursing at it. He finally ejected the DVD and popped in a new one informing us that the rest of the tape must’ve been too bad before the full record. Yet, we didn’t let that hinder the moment and prepared ourselves as the next disk loaded up.

After a long evening of laughing and admiring our younger images on the home-movies, we decided to call it a night. We said our good nights with my step-mother promising to cook us all a big breakfast tomorrow. I made my way back downstairs and changed into my pajamas eventually laying on my old bed. I lay there for a couple of minutes just smiling to myself still thinking about the videos and other times I had while growing up. Without realizing it, I found myself asleep.

Now, this is when it all happened. This is when I had the dream. In this dream, I found myself back in that old apartment I had viewed with my parents earlier in the home-movie. It was odd though, unlike the angle the camera appeared in the video, I was standing offset of it. It was an angle that did not appear in the video and yet somehow, I could see more of the apartment with greater detail: from the kitchen in the back, its sink full of dishes, to the pictures hanging on the wall.

I wasn’t sure how this amount of detail was applied because clearly, I was just a child at the time and remembering this would be impossible. There was a possibility that my brain was just filling the gaps of the apartment with places I had seen and been to, but deep down I thought otherwise; it felt like everything being presented was exactly how it was at that time.

Around the apartment, it was clearly Christmas time like in the video. I continued to look around noticing my dad standing behind the camera exactly like in the video and my mother sitting on the floor in view of it. As if on cue, he walked from behind the camera and sat next to my mother. It was literally like being present in the footage, scene for scene.

I attempted to grab my parents’ attention. I tried calling out to them, waving and even touching them, but it was like I didn’t exist. They couldn’t see or hear me and my hands went through them almost as if I was a ghost. My dad then shifted the camera to where I could hear my younger self cooing and hobbling around to my side. I watched as the younger me began playing with a book curiously trying to figure out the object.

Suddenly, there came a loud banging at the door. The noise startled me, my parents included. I watched as my dad rose and went to check the door. The door itself had a small peek-hole. I recalled that I remember hearing what sounded like a knock on a door from the distorted video. I heard my dad mumble something in a confusing tone. It was something around the grounds of the peek-hole was either being covered or that someone was standing really close to it.

At this moment, I got an uneasy sensation in my stomach. For whatever reason, I got the feeling that opening that door would be a mistake. However, before I could react, my dad unbolted the locks and opened the door. He was immediately struck with a barrel of a gun. I watched in horror as he grabbed his now bleeding head in pain. The assailant kicked my father back causing him to fall over next to my mother. My mother let out an ear-splitting scream in fear.

The assailant came through the door shutting it softly behind and locking the bolt across. Afterwards, the assailant gave off a hissing shush sound to my parents; hearing the voice confirmed that it was a man. He stood silent, pointing the long-barreled gun at my frightened parents. I too was frozen in fear even knowing I couldn’t be seen.

The man wore a long black cloak over his body with a hood draped over his head. A few chains looped from his waist connecting his hip. When I looked closer, there were several faint grey inverted crosses on the side of his hood and on the back of his cloak. Was this guy a part of some twisted religion?

I carefully made my way around him; he remained in the same position appearing to not show any indication to my presence, yet I still wasn’t taking any chances. When I finally reached a good angle to see his face, my heart dropped. He was wearing a pale white mask over his face. The mask was glossy; the eye holes were wide-open along with the mouth, both completely veiled in black. It gave off an eerie chill; it was as if the mask itself was frozen in a fear, emitting an ear-splitting scream for its life.

We all just remained still with what felt like a long hour. Finally, my dad managed to mutter a question to the man, asking him why he was doing this. The man of course remained silent, ignoring the question. My mother was still whimpering to herself while my dad kept his head low, applying pressure to the wound on his head. He repeated his question with more anger in his tone.

The man finally made a move, taking out a second pistol from within his robes with his other hand. He raised and pointed it in my direction. My heart began rapidly pounding against my chest, more than it had before. Could the man finally see me? Had he always been able to? I raised my hands up in a surrendering pose while backing up a little. When I did, I realized the angle of the gun was slightly off. He was pointing it in my direction, but not at me exactly. I turned my head to see that he was in fact pointing the gun at me, the younger me though.

My mother let out another loud shriek when the man had the gun in the direction of my one-year old self. Of course, being one-year old, I didn’t seem bothered by the gun; in fact, I was still playing around with the book from earlier, oblivious to the whole situation. What was the man planning? Why did he break in to begin with? He clearly did not want anything from my parents. They didn’t have anything expensive at the time. More importantly, why was he pointing a gun at a one-year old child?

My heart dropped even further when I heard him c**k the gun. What reason would he have for doing this? What would it accomplish? My mother attempted to move towards me, but the man refocused his other gun on her, cocking that weapon as well. I looked back at my younger self who in turn looked up at the man giving a blank innocent stare. The man appeared unfazed, solid in his stance. I could see his finger slowly squeezing back on the trigger. Heart still racing, I quickly moved in the path of the gun hoping to obscure his view. Realizing it wouldn’t make a difference, I decided to grab the gun, but my hand phased through it like before. I couldn’t touch him.

His finger gradually continued to squeeze back on the trigger. It was like viewing the moment in slow motion, taking forever to occur. Unexpectedly, I found my mind being flooded with images. They were images of people; they looked to be people I knew throughout my life. Almost like a photo album; endless images of moments and faces flashed by. I saw my mother, my father, friends I had known, girlfriends I had relations with, everyone. They continued appearing one after another and as they did I felt a pulsating pain grow in my head.

I couldn’t take all the images at once; it was too much and yet they persisted. I found myself on my knees as the images began appearing at a faster rate. I was now gripping my head almost shaking uncontrollably until they ceased without warning. The air felt cold, the warm colors around transitioned literally to a grayscale-like color. I looked up slowly and when I did, I saw the flash of the barrel go off, followed by the sound of a loud bang.

I turned around to find the lifeless body of my younger self lying on his back. A pool of blood quickly formed around him. The air was silent; my parents were speechless, frozen in disbelief. The man lowered his gun eventually letting it drop to the ground. We all remained silent and completely still.

He proceeded to lift his hand, removing his hood. Afterwards, he slowly removed the mask from his face. My eyes could not comprehend what they viewed. This man, this murdering psychopathic, religious, nut-case’s face was…. my face. He had the same face as me, the current age me. Tears formed in his eyes and slowly made their way down his face. He turned to my parents; a small smiled formed across his face. It wasn’t a twisted evil smile or a satisfied one. No, his smile and his eyes held a deep sense of sympathy. With it, he spoke with quivering words, “I’m sorry… I had to. I… I did you a favor. Forgive me…”

Without warning, a blinding white light appeared out of nowhere, completely engulfing me. I could see a face appearing amidst the white. Before I could make it out, I immediately jolted awake by the alarm on my cell phone. I sat up quickly; the dream was still burning in my mind with every excruciating detail. When I looked down at my hands, I found them trembling. I put them to my sweaty chest to feel my heart knocking around uncontrollably to no end. What the hell kind of dream was that?

After the dream, I couldn’t fall back asleep again or actually I didn’t want to. It was just so disturbing and more importantly too realistic. Lucky for me, it hadn’t been too early in the morning. Soon, my parents would wake up as well. This thought comforted me a little for I didn’t want to be alone. As expected, I could soon hear my step-mother adhering to her promise, cooking the large breakfast upstairs. Before heading up, I made sure to compose myself in the best manner I could. I didn’t want them questioning me about the ordeal even if it was just a dream. I wanted to prevent any reason to recall it, at least not at that moment, it was too soon.

I ascended the stairs and made my way to the kitchen where I was greeted happily. I of course lied about how I slept. We ate breakfast silently for the most part; luckily, they were deeply involved with the Sunday paper or they were on their tablets. After eating, I thanked them for the meal and promised I’d visit more often. I wanted to leave as quickly as possible so I told them I had to leave early to prepare for work the next day. I packed up my things and said my goodbyes before entering my car. Meditating on that incident really helped me wrap my mind around it. It’s helped me realize that it was just that, a dream. There was no deeper meaning to it other than my mind conjuring up a freakish set of images based off what I had seen prior to.

As time went on, the images began acting more like a dream: I said I would never forget it and yet, like the typical one, it slowly was slipping away from me.

I was ready to head back. Before I could turn my car on, my phone went off. On the other end was my boss. He asked me how I was doing and if I was willing to do an extended onsite service for a client, possibly for a week or two depending on the number of computers. The project involved establishing networks and accounts, and mentioned that the client would provide room and meals. Seeing nothing wrong with getting out of the office for a while, I agreed and asked who the client was. He told me this would be a service provided for an independent church.

  • Aly Greg

    wow this was real mystery..please post the next part I’m not really into questions unanswered.. kudos to the thrill!

  • Ari

    My god, you are a beautiful writer.