Carlos awoke with start and nearly fell from his chair. He had fallen asleep at his desk when his reoccurring nightmare had come to visit him again.
The very first time he had this nightmare had been in his early teens years. The memory of it escaped him then, and it was not long till he had forgotten about it. It came back when he started college. But then the farther away, the more he saw this dream. It started to reach into his sleep every few months. Still the memory of it escaped him and he could not remember much. But as he got older, and the closer college came to ending the more the dream visited him, and the more remembered.
He did not remember much, only the dark shapes of two men; there were always two men. He could not see their faces, or remember if their names had ever been spoken. But there were always there, shadowed figures that left him reeling in fear when he woke.
Months turned into years, and soon college was coming to it's end. The dreams had started to become more vivid. He started to remember he was being tortured by the two men. In the dream he felt like he had been in some cell or room for and indefinite amount of time; or maybe time had stopped being important. He dreamed and in his it one of the men cut off his ear and finger and broke his bones. It was later, sometime after graduation that the tortures changed, and he remembered having a stigma burned into his chest and being strapped down to a table and electrocuted so many times.
He saw long days and nights with incessant pain and almost painful silence. He saw short moments of euphoria when pain stepped back, followed by long periods of pain from the backlash.
He saw sex. Dirty, hard and brutal. Sex which left behind only infinite sense of shame, guilt, and self-loathing; because he wanted this sex, he dared to enjoy it. Yet, regardless of how he wanted it, he couldn't shake the sense of complete betrayal.
It was when he left college, and started working and putting his knowledge to use that it changed again. He would wake up feeling phantom pains sometimes. In his legs and his chest, in his arms and his hands. But they would pass quickly, leaving him with the dreams.
But today’s nightmare was different.
This time, he had been the one to torture, the sole cause of the pain.
It was the shape two people, the same two dark shapes that would haunt him.
And he killed them both.
He was sorry about the first one’s death and the other he enjoyed killing.
He enjoyed every moment of it, the begging for mercy and death, the pain he inflicted, and the final act of killing the man.
And he hated it. He hated himself because of it. But he hated that man more than he hated himself.
This time he woke up with the now typical lingerings of pain, but with the new sense of slowly cooling blood on his hand and on his face. Whole his body had been covered in blood.
Carlos struggled up from his chair, his knees shaking, a general weakness encompassing him, his back aching from his previous uncomfortable position. He rushed into the bathroom and vomited the contents of his takeout food from the night before. Once he was done expelling his stomach he moved to the sink and began to scrub off all the blood.
In his mind he knew there was no blood, but his skin still felt sticky and covered in it. It was a dream, that was all it was, he kept telling himself this as he ran his skin raw under the hot soapy water. A small voice on the back of his head whispered that it was truth, that he’s a murderer, that he’s a monster; that he tortured and killed and did it so calmly.
He stopped scrubbing after some time, his skin flared and bright red. The feeling of blood drenched over his arms and face still lingered. He decided to make himself a bath, dipping into the hot water once it was done, his hysteria growing as he soaked. He could feel the sensation of the water against his skin overlay the feeling of the dreamed blood. Tears streamed down his cheeks, and he couldn't stop them. He sat there, face buried in his bent knees, sobbing quietly and Breath coming in short gasps.
Carlos didn’t know how long did it take him to calm down, but eventually tears stopped. He could breathe again normally, his body no longer shaking.
He got out of tub and dressed up quickly, hurrying to his office to drown the last remnants of the dream in his work.
He sat at the table and turned his computer on. He still had a job to do. He had projects to complete and things to study, he had no time to dwell on a dream. Not matter how real it felt, no matter what it was, for it would never come true; it would never be real.
There was one new email. Mr Stone, the Head of Research Department, had sent him a email with only the subject line saying "Night Vale".
Carlos remembered something being mentioned about this town and about strange and mysterious events that nappened often there. He had offered to let Carlos lead the research group and to study this small desert town with his own team of scientists.
He oppened email and ran his eyes over the text, but there was almost nothing Stone haven’t mentioned before, the only new information being some dates and the other scientists’ names.
Carlos thought for a moment. On the one hand, he would have to go to some godforsaken place in the middle of desert, far from any large town and possibly the amenities that one would find there. But on the other, it could be a great opportunity, a chance to do something really interesting and exciting! That was the point of him doing Science in the first place after all.
Finally he decided that he didn’t have anything to lose. He typed in a short reply, hoping he was making the right choice.
Suddenly his dream came bubbling back up to the surface of his mind. Something in the back of his head wispered that he shouldn’t accept the offer or he would suffer the pain and horror of his dream, this time as real as his own flesh; that he was going to regret ever going.
But Carlos was a man of Science, he did not believe in premonitions. Carlos shook his head and hit the send.
There was no way back out now.
Somehow, he felt confident that he would never see this nightmare again.