A Criminal’s Worst Nightmare
My job isn’t easy, it’s the furthest thing from easy; it’s without a doubt the worst job out there, but it makes sense I guess; the criminals should get the most gruesome and unfortunate jobs, even I support that. But before I go on, let me clarify: I am not a criminal.
September 4, 2016
Last night I was assigned to Davina Parish. From her name, I expected her to be one of those rich prep school girls, all the money in the world and no problems, an ever gloating girl living in the safety of privileges; no criminal record, no matter if she committed a crime or not. What I would do to trade lives…
I arrived at the address written on my assignment sheet at exactly 4:00 A.M., which meant I had two hours before the sun came up. I folded up the piece of paper and shoved it in my pocket as I arrived at a trashy, and clearly cheap, motel. This can’t be it. I turned at a loud bang as a man slammed his truck door shut. I saw his figure walk towards the motel with a duffle bag slung over his shoulder, spare change jingled as he walked. I checked the address one more time before stuffing the paper back into my pocket.
This was it; Davina Parish lived on the ground floor, room 114. I felt a drop in the pit of my stomach. Mama had always said not to assume.
I climbed in through the back window. The light on the bedside table was left on, and although it was dim, I could see the majority of the room. There wasn’t much; nothing more than a bed, a side table, and a small desk. I held my breath to survive the smell of the half eaten pizza and beer that mixed with the odor of overflowing garbage.
I found Davina sprawled out on the bed, the overused motel sheets twisted through her legs. She slept soundlessly on her stomach, her head turned the other way. I couldn’t see her face, but I somehow got the feeling that Davina wasn’t much older than me. As I stepped towards the bed, I heard a loud crunch under my boot. I froze, but thankfully the girl didn’t wake. I picked up the photo frame I had just crushed and emptied out the glass. It fell noiselessly on the carpet; even in the dim light, I could see black stains from long forgotten battles seeped deep into the ground. Inside the frame was a picture of Davina with a small boy, he couldn’t be older than four. He sat on a wooden swing held by rusty chains and smiled big to show his teeth. His exuberance forced his eyes into tight green beads. Davina stood directly behind him, holding the chains and smiling gently. Her dark red hair matched the thick, red-leafed woods that surrounded her and the boy. I put the picture on the bedside table and resumed to look for her dreamcatcher.
I found it stuck to the ceiling with a mass of tape. It was elegant with a white frame and oak-brown weavings, very sophisticated compared to the mini pastel colored ones I
usually see. I took out my reacher and carefully brought the dreamcatcher down. There was a sharp chapping sound as I unhinged it from the safety of the tape. It felt delicate yet heavy in my hands. I rested it down by the broken shards of picture-frame glass while I took out the containment box from my pack. Davina stirred again. As quietly as I could, I placed the dreamcatcher in the containment box and put it back into my pack.
Time was slipping fast. It would take me another fifteen minutes to reach the base of Mount Innova, leaving me with only one hour to hike to the peak. I shuddered at the thought of being caught by the sunrise, still somewhere on the side of the mountain with Davina’s dreamcatcher. I had only made it to the top before sunrise once before. Every other incident is branded into my mind; every chase, every death, every terrifying gunman. I hope one day the memories will fade, but I know I will never be able to forget, especially the nightmares of Aaron Harding.
It was the peak of winter when I was assigned to empty Aaron’s dreamcatcher. I remember because he was bundled in blankets in his red racecar bed when I went to collect his dreamcatcher. It wasn’t until sunrise that I understood he had seen more horror in his eight years of life than anyone should ever have to experience. I remember sweating through my thick down jacket as I hiked up the side of Mount Innova, his dreamcatcher safe in my pack. I was so tired from trudging through the snow so I had stopped to take a break at a clearing in the woods. The sky was growing lighter and the stars were fading and it brought me this ephemeral peace. I stupidly wasted precious time, indulging. I wasn’t skilled at that time. It was still dark as I was hiking, and I didn’t realize the sun would not reach the side of the mountain for a while; it was the lighting of the peak I should have been concerned with. With every step closer to the peak, the sun’s rays crawled viciously towards me until we finally met in an explosion of terror as Aaron’s nightmares invested in me to escape the light. The sun scorched me as I instinctively gripped the dreamcatcher. My nails embedded in my palms as my heart raced through Aaron’s nightmares. Crack! I smelled a thin layer of smoke. Bang! A body hit the ground. I jerked and hit my head hard on the bed springs above me. Only then did I realize I was seeing it all through Aaron’s eyes, hidden under his bed. Muddy boots slowly thumped into my line of sight and I covered my mouth to dampen my harsh breaths. The boots stepped through the pool of blood that had amassed by the fallen body – which I could now tell was a woman — and slinked toward the bed. They stopped in front of me and I closed my eyes. My hands were wet from a combination of sweat, tears, and moisture from my breath. As the sun rose, the dream started to fade. Still, I saw a hand lift up the bed skirt; everything around it was disappearing. The figure squatted, one hand on the ground to brace, then tilted its head under the bed. A clown masked the figure’s face but carried none of the hilarity. I couldn’t help but scream until the nightmare was burned completely by the sun, leaving me haunted, panting on my knees and trying not to vomit — I had been screaming “Daddy, please! Dad!”
Like I said, my job isn’t easy; I empty dreamcatchers. They call people like me Spiders. Criminals, punished by law, to live every nightmare, to feel fear and horror, to answer for our sins. We take the nightmares caught in the webs to the peak of Mount Innova to be burned- we cleanse the web. A single totem pole stands at Innova’s overlook and if we don’t hook the dreamcatcher onto it before sunrise, the steel shelter doesn’t unlock. If the shelter doesn’t unlock, we are left outside, vulnerable to the nightmares caught in the dreamcatcher. Nightmares are no ordinary phenomena; they are persistent, resilient, and parasitic. They latch onto life to survive and jump from soul to soul to escape the dreamcatchers’ nets, which proves why sometimes nightmares are your own, personal, and why sometimes they are completely random and undecipherable.
I won’t ever forget eight-year-old Aaron Harding in his red racecar bed.
My hood was cinched around my face, leaving just my cheeks and nose exposed to the early morning frost. My cheeks felt incredibly dry despite the sweat the rest of my body was producing. The sky was getting brighter, I could see my breath fog the air. My pace inherently quickened until I was forcefully wheezing the icy air into my lungs. I had to get there.
The sky bled a blend of purple, pink, and orange; the orange had evolved from a light golden to a deep bronze in just ten minutes. I was almost there, I could see the tip of the steel shelter.
I was running. Maybe it can’t exactly be described as running; thumping heavily like an unbalanced two-year-old is more apt. I kicked up snow and dirt behind me in the process. It was impossible to bend my knees under layers of insulation and boots. I took a moment to try and be somewhat appreciative of the frost, for I know I will long for it in summer’s sweaty strain. I tried, but no gratitude for anything was coming to mind at that moment. My thighs burned, my lungs hurt, and the sun was nearly up. It was going to happen again.
Sunrise was at 6:08 A.M. I had six minutes and still forty feet to ascend. I looked at the path that curved modestly around the mountain and knew there was no chance I could cover that much ground in six minutes. I looked up at the side of the mountain and eyed it as if it was provoking me to fight. I tugged hard on the straps of my pack to secure it against my back and started straight up the mountain. My chest was burning, I couldn’t catch a deep breath; I gritted my teeth and kept climbing. A loose rock gave way under my foot and I slammed into the thorny bushes. The branches pressed through my gloves and against my palms as I grabbed them to keep from sliding down the mountain.
My heart was pounding in my throat. I was almost there, I reached over the edge and heaved myself up onto the peak of Mount Innova. I didn’t wait to catch my breath. I sprinted past the steel shelter, straight for the totem pole, and fell to my knees as I dug Davina’s dreamcatcher out of my pack. I still had this faint hope that I would make it, but then I heard the creak. My heart dropped to my stomach and nausea filled my throat. The steel door was closing.
No, no, come on! Come on! I screamed over and over as I hooked Davina’s dreamcatcher onto the totem pole. I looked back at the door but it was sealed shut. My hands closed around the snow at my side and I threw it at the shelter. This isn’t fair!
This was the sentence for our crimes.
I am not a criminal!
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