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The Nightmare

by | Aug 7, 2022

Last month I wrote a letter to Susan Collins asking for advice. After waiting just long enough to get the hint, I decided to go home and figure it out myself. I was somewhere in the Western Maine woods when my 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 decided to break down right in the middle of an old logging road. 

No phone signal. No map. It was mid-afternoon, but tall trees meant I’d be losing daylight quickly. The way 18-wheelers barreled down those roads didn’t make waiting in the car feel very safe, so I’d have to try hiking out of there. 

I didn’t remember seeing any houses along the way, so I continued walking in the same direction I’d been driving. An hour later the road straightened and I realized I’d made a terrible mistake. Ahead was only thick forest on both sides of a road that went all the way to the horizon. It would take hours to walk it and the light had already faded faster than I’d guessed. It’d be pitch black by the time I made it halfway back to the car, which, again, wasn’t really an option.

Overwhelmed, I screamed. I just let all the expletives fly. I screamed so long and so loud that I almost didn’t hear the thrashing coming from the woods on my right.  

I froze, silent. The thrashing stopped. It sounded 100 feet away and big. Bigger than a moose. Fuck. What was I going to do? Crouch there until it went away? Then what? I was still stuck out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but growing darkness and a sudden need to go to the bathroom. 

More silence. Had I actually heard anything? Was my imagination getting the better of me? As soon as I thought this, the thrashing started up again, headed straight for me! 

I sprinted in the opposite direction, stumbling in soft leaves, branches whipping across my face — whatever this was, it was outpacing me. A root caught my foot. I went down. I rolled onto my back to face my attacker, but nothing was there. My eyes had adjusted enough to see that I was alone in a clearing. I sprang up, disoriented. I couldn’t tell which way I’d come from. Not that I wanted to go back toward whatever had been chasing me. Fuck. Again. 

I was almost in tears when I heard the voices. Actual human voices! Instinctively, I moved toward the sound. I saw light coming from cabin windows. People! I was saved! Voices grew more distinct. Were they arguing?

Then a short burst of hot air engulfed me from behind. The smell of rot. It was breath! I sprinted toward the cabin, the thrashing immediately behind me. The ground shook under its feet as I burst through the cabin door. I slammed it, bracing it with my shoulder. This thing could’ve charged through that door and through me like a paper football banner. 

But it didn’t. 

Instead, silence.

I whipped around to see four people staring at me, slack-jawed. One had long hair, one wore a trucker hat, one was in uniform, and the fourth had glasses. I was looking for the words to explain when I noticed there was a fifth person in the room, lying face down in a pool of blood. 

“What? I, uh…” I stammered.

“We know,” said Glasses. “It chased us here, too. But it can’t seem to make it through that door.”

“I’m deeply concerned,” said Uniform, unconvincingly. 

“What does it want?” asked Longhair. “There’s got to be a way to reach a compromise.”

“I don’t like the way you’ve all been talking to me. I’m going to let that thing in here!” Trucker Hat threatened.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” said Uniform, suddenly reversing his position.

What the hell was going on here? 

A low bellowing sound began to shake the cabin. It took me a second to realize it was laughter. It was coming from the body on the floor, now rolling back and forth across the cabin with unnatural speed. It stopped abruptly, bolting upright, laughter intensifying. 

In terror, I watched as it began to levitate. Then, reaching across its bloody face, it tore off its skin, revealing another face: Susan Collins!

I looked around the room to see if the others were seeing this. At once, they all burst into the same laughter and began levitating! One by one they tore the skin off their faces to reveal that they were all a Susan Collins! 

Their laughter became so fierce that the cabin windows exploded. Then a pounding began to buckle the door until, like the windows, it exploded. 

In a cold sweat, I awoke.

It had all been a dream and I was still where I am now, in the Batlorean waiting for Susan Collins to reply.

 

Samuel James is an internationally renowned bluesman and storyteller. He is also a contributor to the bestselling How to Tell a Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling, from The Moth. He can be reached at racismsportland@gmail.com.

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