Excerpt

From Dark Laughter…

I finished my hot whiskey. Naturally I wanted more. But I was in no shape to make another run. When I climbed to my feet my thighs and calf muscles seized up into painful knots from sitting too long. I sat back down right away, sucking wind through my teeth. It hurt like a sonofabitch.

After that I do not remember much. I have no recollection of how much time I spent sitting on the step side of my truck. Nor do I recall anything definitive in the evening itself other than little random snatches of awareness, like a flashlight pointed into a dark room, switched on and then off again, revealing only whatever fell by chance into the cone of light. But then, just at the last, I did recall getting into bed.

The absolute darkness of the room enfolded me in a dark cocoon. An electric silence was humming. The luminous face of the clock read ten something. I was alone. I did not know where my wife was. I did not know where my children were. I did not know where my parents were. I laid my head upon the pillow. I pulled the blankets up to my chin. I closed my eyes. I felt myself fall through space, my mind plummeting. I passed out.

I had a dream. The picture in my dream opened up on a scene already in progress. It was like being dropped into the middle of a movie. It was clear that things had occurred prior to my arrival. I did not know what these things were. Nor did I ever find out. In my dream I was standing inside the living room of an executive suite penthouse apartment. I believe that I was appropriately attired, in the sense of a character being dressed in the right costume. We were very high up in the air. Since it was a dream it was pointless to count the floors up. It could have been a hundred. It could have been a million. It didn’t matter. It was a dream.

I crossed the living room of the apartment in my dream. I looked out of its dream window. The people on the ground beneath me looked like little black ants. They were scurrying around on the streets and sidewalks below. It appeared to be windy. I could see tailspins of dirt and newspapers. They were blowing all around the sidewalks. The little figures below were holding onto their hats or their skirts. Everything was blowing. I stared idly at the little patterns of movement their bodies made on the streets far below.

I held a drink in one hand. Something green in a cocktail glass. I had never drank anything like that in my life and I still haven’t. But in the dream I did. It was without taste or odor. It had no bite to it at all. In the dream I was not drunk. I was perfectly lucid. In the background I could hear the subdued chatter of a group engaged in conversation. My wife’s voice was plainly discernible above its homogenized hum. Everything was calm. Placid. Nothing at all was happening. It was as though we were all suspended in an aquarium of air.

Then a slight shadow of movement came from outside the window. It distracted me. I felt numbly curious and strangely detached. I turned my head slowly for a better look. What was out there? I floated slowly over to the glass and peered through the window, looking more closely to see what it was. I felt so disconnected. I craned my neck and pressed my face against the glass, peering through the window to see what it was.

It was my three year old son, Johnny. He was outside. Crawling on the skyscraper’s ledges. Right outside my window. I looked dumbly at first, uncomprehending, and then, finally, I saw what it was. A surge of voltage shot through me. I began to scream at him. He didn’t hear me. I tried to open the window. But the window was solid. It did not open. I drew back my right arm. I hit it with my fist. I hit it very hard. But it did not crack. It was too thick. I hit it again and again. There was a little smear of blood on the glass from my knuckles. But the glass would not break. I could not reach him. I screamed again. His little body was right beneath me. He seemed oblivious to any danger. The wind outside was blowing.

“Alecia,” I cried to my wife.

She looked at me blankly. Everyone else looked at me blankly. My wife did not understand. Nobody else did either. I crushed my face against the window. I began to flail against the glass. My son was very close to the edge.

“Get back! Get back!” I screamed.

He gave no appearance of having heard me. Then one hand slipped off the ledge, out into open space, and just like that as smooth as falling water his body followed after it, off the ledge, into thin air, into emptiness. Falling down, down, down, gathering speed until finally he became a little black speck and then I saw him hit the sidewalk. It was something beyond belief. Something incomprehensible. Something my mind could not accept. But it had happened. In the dream it was real. In the dream it was no dream.

I thrashed around on the mattress beneath me and screamed and screamed. I was screaming in both my dream and in the bedroom. I sat bolt upright in the bed and kept on screaming. My wife jerked awake then jumped up and threw her arms around me.

“Henry!” Henry!” she shouted. “Wake up. You’re dreaming.”

I kept screaming. She began to screech. Our voices echoed off the walls. We were making a ferocious din in that little room. Finally she drew her arm back and brought it forward forcefully. She slapped me hard. Very hard.

And then I heard her voice shouting my name. It seemed like part of the dream. And then another part of my mind took over. I was in the bedroom again. I stopped screaming. I looked around, trying to put things together. I knew then that my son was asleep in the other room. I knew he had not fallen to his death. It was hard to believe at first. But I did, finally, after a while, believe it.

I shook my head back and forth. I felt like a fighter resting on the stool in his corner of the ring between rounds who had been hit very hard but not knocked out. The darkness surrounding me was a palpable substance. I made it my friend. I took it and folded it around my body. I was deep inside of it. I squeezed down hard, hard; very hard. I was becoming stabilized, in place, solid again. But then, sitting there in the reassuring solidity of the real world, feeling the bed that was firmly grounded beneath me and the room that was a reality of fixed dimensions set squarely in place, I gradually began to intuit the presence of something else.

There was Some Thing in that room with us; some Malevolent Presence. It was hiding over in the shadows of a dark corner where it couldn’t be easily seen.

It was laughing.