It was a cool October night in New York City. Dr. Raymond "Ray" Stantz was hunkered down in the private lab of the firehouse that had become Ghostbusters HQ with a new interest piquing his ever active curiosity. In this case Ray had been fascinated by infamous crimes, specifically that of serial killers. A large stack of aged newspapers, various informative books and old VHS tapes containing interviews from survivors of America's most notorious serial killers littered the small work space and had all but cornered Ray behind his unusual elective research.
A quick knock on the opened door frame of the lab pulled Ray's attention from the large opened book in his hands. "Huh? What?" He asked while looking up in a daze of confusion. Ray's eyes were red from strain and fatigue as he stared at his colleague in the door frame.
"Ray," Dr. Peter Venkman gave his colleague an annoyed look as he stood in the opened door. "it's almost four in the morning. Will you please go to bed and stop moving heavy books around? It sounds like a drunk wandering around down here..."
"Huh?" Ray looked at the clock on the wall and was shocked to see that it was so late into the night. "Oh, sorry Venkman! I just got so caught up in-"
"Don't care Ray." Peter closed his eyes and leaned against the door frame. "Sleep now."
"Right, right. Sorry." Ray closed his book and turned off the desk lamp with a satisfying click. "I just had no idea that-"
"Ray..." Peter interrupted without opening his eyes. "I seriously can't stress the 'don't care' part enough right now. Sleep."
"Right. Okay." Ray got up from behind the desk, stretched out his shoulders with a sleepy yawn and walked toward the door where Peter was still leaning. "Let's go to bed."
"Good idea. Why did I think of that?" Peter retorted in grumpy sarcasm.
It didn't take long for Peter to fall asleep once the duo quietly walked into the dark bunk room. Both Dr. Egon Spengler and Winston Zeddemore were already in bed and fast asleep, neither man noticed their colleagues walking into the room.
Peter flopped down onto his bed and was asleep within a few minutes of laying down.
Ray, on the other hand, was still very much awake and his mind was racing with all the grizzly details he had uncovered during his research into the psychology of the most notorious minds that ever ravaged the country. Laying down on the bed and resting his head against his pillow Ray shut his eyes and let his mind wander with the endlessly bleak details of his research.
As sleep finally won out over Ray's tired mind his body began to relax and all was quiet and peaceful. Just as Ray was about to drift off a loud 'screech' from the basement startled him awake. He bolted upright in his bed and looked around the dark room, surprised that no one else had woken up.
The screeching from deep in the basement sounded off again. The screeching was like metal being scratched or gouged by a blade and the sound was enough to cause the hairs on the back of his neck to stand on end.
"Guys!" Ray called out louder to his sleeping colleagues. "Do you hear that?"
The other three Ghostbusters were still sound asleep and showed no signs of waking.
The screeching continued to echo loudly, ominously from the basement.
"How can you guys sleep through this?" Ray asked as he got out of bed and used the fire pole to slide down from the bunk room and into the garage bypassing the staircase in the process. "What the heck is that noise?"
Ray approached the basement carefully, walking past Janine's vacated desk and wandered down the dimly lit stairs leading into the basement. The screeching continued the sound off as Ray approached.
The basement was dark save for an eerie glow the flickered over the walls like a roaring fire. The brick walls of the basement that were normally lined with equipment, tools and of course the massive Ecto Containment Unit, were somehow bare. Large pipes snaked along the walls, some carrying steam and others water that dripped rhythmically from the sweating lines. A large boiler and furnace stood ominously in the rear of the basement, housing the large roaring fire that illuminated the otherwise dark room.
"What in the-" The screeching sounded off and stopped Ray mid question.
Ray tracked the source of the sound to the furnace, but he couldn't see anything moving.
"What's going on here? This isn't our basement!"
A figure slowly wandered out from a shadowy corner and stood before the furnace, casting a looming shadow over Ray as he stood on the bottom step of the basement in shock. The figure was tall, slim and had a brimmed hat on his its head.
"Who... Who are you?"
The figure raised his right hand revealing what looked like a long knife in its grip. The figure dragged the blade across the metal surface of the furnace causing the ear piercing screech once again.
As Ray held his hands to his ears he stared fearfully at the figure before him. "What do you want?"
The figure stopping dragging the blade and held its hand out toward Ray. One by one the figure extended the fingers on its hand and revealed that the single blade was in fact one of four, each blade was attached to its fingers like a massive animal claw.
Ray swallowed nervously and took a step backward as the dread and foreboding began to gnaw away at his every instinct for self preservation.
The figure began strolling toward Ray, dragging its clawed hand along the pipes with each step. Heavy boot steps stomped along the concrete floor and deep, animalistic breathing echoed menacingly through the basement.
"Stay back! I'm warning you!" Ray's voice was shaking with unprecedented fear. "I don't want to have to hurt you!"
As Ray took another step backward he felt something move in behind him with a swift speed he could only imagine. He turned and came face to face with the figure. The figure's face was that of a horrifically, grotesquely burned man. His flesh was blackened and red with gaping scars and imperfections that marred every centimeter of his skin. The acrid odor of burned flesh and hair filled the air.
Ray was too frightened to scream, let alone speak. All he could do was watch in horror as the figure suddenly reached back into the air used its claw like hand to cut deep scratches into Ray's forearm as he lifted the appendage up and over his face to shield himself from the deeply disturbing figure.
"Gah!" Ray cried out in pain only to find himself laying in his bed, being shaken awake by Peter.
"Ray? Ray!" Peter yelled to get his friend's attention as he held Ray by his shoulders. Ray was tossing and turning frantically in his bed and sweating with psychical exertion. "Wake up!"
"Stop, don't!" Ray shouted as he was finally full awake and staring at his friend's confused face. "Peter?"
"Yeah..." His response was just as confused as his face. "You alright? Have a bad dream?"
"Y-Yeah. But it s-seemed so real..." Ray sat up in bed and ran his hand through his hair. "So intense..."
"Whoa! What's going on here?" Peter took Ray's arm in his hand and examined four long deep lacerations running down his arm. The four cuts were perfectly spaced and bleeding heavily. "How'd you do this in your sleep?" He turned his head to yell out the opened door of the bunk room. "Hey Winston! Egon! Need a medic in here!"
Ray slowly pulled his arm away from Peter and stared at the cuts in disbelief. "Peter..." He cradled his bloody limb against his chest, soaking his gray t-shirt in dark red blood in the process.
"Yeah?" Peter sat on the edge of Ray's bed with sincere concern in his voice, his eyes fixated on the blood all over Ray's arm and shirt.
"This... This happened in my dream!"
Ray sat idle on a chair in the far corner of the rec room with his bloodied arm wrapped up and the makeshift aura video-analyzer atop his head. The contraption built crudely from an old colander, wires and circuits had proven itself invaluable when it came to gaining in depth information to the human psyche, brain activity and any unusual levels of psychokinetic energy that could be affecting the brain itself.
Egon checked analyzer to ensure that it was functioning properly before attacking EKG leads to Ray's chest. "I'm going to run a few tests and compare the results to your baseline readings. I'm curious about the current functionality of your circadian rhythm, as well as the levels of the chemical melatonin your body is naturally producing."
"Egon," Peter casually strolled over to the corner with his arms folded and eyebrow arched. "nightmares aren't unusual. And when you consider the type of material that Ray had been recently reading before his little nighttime escapade it isn't too surprising that he would end up suffering a vivid nightmare."
Ray shook his head. "This wasn't just some routine nightmare Venkman." Ray sat upright as Egon attached addition leads to his temples to measure an EEG reading. Ray put his hand over his bandaged arm and flinched at the pain that still lingered in the fresh wounds. "This was... This was real. I know that doesn't make any sense but it's the only way I can describe it: Real."
"So were the twisted psychos you were reading about!" Peter defended his remark earnestly. "You said the man who attacked you was disfigured and armed with an unusual weapon. Sounds like the starter park for a boogieman and serial killer nightmare to me. There's no mystery here, you just have an overactive imagination and need a manicure."
Egon had placed the bell of his stethoscope on Ray's back and was listening to the shaken man's breaths. "You forget Venkman that Ray has suffered nightmares that had real world ramifications before."
"You mean Gozer?" Peter sounded completely indifferent to the situation. "I had Gozer nightmares myself and nothing happened. I'm pretty sure everyone in New York City did."
Winston walked into the rec room having heard the tail end of Peter's comment. "I know I did." Winston confirmed. "Okay, so when I took care of those bloodied sheets I looked around for anything sharp that could've cut Ray's arm and found nothing. No knife, razor, broken glass... Nothing. And before you say anything else," Winston shushed Peter before he had the chance to keep complaining. "there was no blood under Ray's own fingernails so there's no way he could have scratched himself that deeply."
Peter let out annoyed sigh. "Oh come on Zed! Don't tell me you think that some nightmarish burn victim attacked Ray in his dream and cut him up in real life! Please tell me you think it's all in his head too, you're supposed to be the rational one in the group!"
"I've seen some pretty strange things." Winston replied honestly and with a calm tone. "If the ghosts we've encountered have found a way to get revenge on us through dreams I wouldn't be surprised at all."
"Watch what you say," Peter waved his hand dismissively as he walked out of the rec room and toward the bunk room. "you'll just encourage them."
Egon finished noting Ray's current vitals and then proceeded to check the settings on the analyzer. "Okay Ray, I'm going to watch the monitor as you tell us exactly what it was you dreamt. Don't hold back on any details."
"Okay, I'll do my best." Ray put his hand on the colander on his head and took a deep breath. "I fell asleep and loud scratching noise, metal scraping against metal lured me to the basement. You guys were all there as well but none of you heard the noise or woke up."
Winston took a seat at the desk and listened intently to Ray's story. "Sounds pretty routine to me."
"I went down into the basement except it wasn't OUR basement." Ray's heart rate picked up a little and was evident on the cardiac monitor next to Egon. "It was like a massive boiler room in an old factory. There were long pipes everywhere along the walls, they were steaming and hissing and there was a massive furnace against the far wall."
Egon had a clipboard in his hands and was writing down the details in Ray's recollection.
"I kept hearing the scratches and finally saw the source. It was a man dragging a long razor over a pipe."
Winston sat up a little straighter in his chair. "A razor? I know that'd scare me."
"Well, he had four razors. And there were either a part of his hand or attached to his hand at the fingers. It's like he had a metal claw for a hand."
"Clawed hand?" Egon repeated curiously as he continued to document Ray's nightmare. "Tell me about the man. Did you see his face? Did he say anything?"
"He didn't say a word," Ray replied firmly as he pictured the horrifying memory in his mind. "but he did get really close to me. One second he was standing in front of the furnace and the next second he was behind me and cutting into my arm." His hand subconsciously rubbed at his bandaged arm in response. "I could see his face but I really couldn't make out any details."
"What did you see?" Winston pressed as he was thoroughly intrigued by the nightmare.
"He was burned. Burned into a disfigured mess with large scars and porous wounds all over his face." Ray's heart began beating faster, the beeping on the monitor becoming more frantic. "I think he was bald, I'm not sure. He may have been wearing a hat and his shirt... It was a long sweater and I think it had stripes."
Egon suddenly stopped writing and went pale. "Perhaps Venkman is correct." Egon quickly stated as he turned his face from his colleagues and turned off all of the monitors. "A nightmare can be a very powerful thing."
Winston could sense that Egon was upset. "You okay Egon? Did he say something that-"
"It's fine." Egon persisted sternly as he uncomfortably strolled out of the rec room and down the stairs. "It'd just be best for Ray to cease his research into serial killers for some time, it'll keep the nightmares at bay."
Ray slipped the analyzer from his head and began carefully peeling the leads from his head and chest. "That was strange." He ran his hand over his hair casually and set the equipment aside.
"Strange?" Peter's voice rang out as he returned to the bunk room. "Strange and Egon are practically synonymous. What's so special about now?"
"You were listening?" Winston shot Peter an amused, if not impish glance.
"Couldn't help it," Peter answered swiftly without breaking stride. "I love hearing about Ray's little fantasies. I just don't care for all the science stuff involved."
Ray walked over to the edge of the staircase and watched as Egon hastily locked himself away in his private lab on the first floor. "I wonder what's bothering him? I've never seen Egon get so spooked before."
"Hmm... Interesting. "Peter folded his arms defiantly and marched down the stairs with his head held high. "Don't you worry about it Ray, I'll take care of Egon."
Egon was hurriedly attempting to busy himself in the lab as Peter knocked his two knuckles on the locked door casually. At first Egon didn't respond but knew that if he didn't say anything that it'd draw more unwanted attention if not outright suspicion. Taking a deep breath to regain his composure Egon unlocked the door and opened it slightly before focusing on the numerous books and articles that Ray had been studying the night before.
"Hey Spengz, whatcha' doing in here?" Peter asked in a light, playful tone as he stepped inside the unusually messy lab. "Please don't tell me that you're actually going to try to clean up Ray's mess!"
"Venkman." Egon greeted his colleague in a cold tone. "I'm merely attempting to organize the material and set aside for the time being."
"Uh-huh." Peter wasn't buying it. He has known Egon for far too long to not notice that something had disturbed Egon. The always calm physicist rarely showed any sign of fear or confusion, let alone pass up the opportunity to see out the answers to a mysterious question. "What's on your mind Spengler?" Peter pressed sincerely. "Not only am I licensed psychologist but I'm your friend! Talk to me."
"Never mind Peter." Egon tried to push the question away as he picked up a large book from the desk. Turning his back to Peter silently Egon resumed sorting through the macabre material that had completely enraptured Ray's interest the night before.
"Alright, but the offer still stands." Peter decided to back off and let Egon alone with his thoughts. "If you need to talk-"
"Thank you Venkman." Egon refused to look at his friend as he concentrated on other matters at hand. "But I don't think it'll be necessary."
"Hey, whatever." Peter turned around with the intent on exiting the lab. "I'm not the one harboring a deep dark secret that causes nothing but indescribable emotional pain that stunts my ability to connect with other people."
Egon froze at the comment but didn't give Peter the satisfaction of a reply. As Peter left the lab he shut the door and went about his business without another word.
Shaken by the details of Ray's vivid nightmare Egon sat down behind the desk and pressed his face against the opened palms of his hands as he leaned on his elbows. Egon, the always composed Ghostbuster, began trembling in silent fear as he struggled to repress the dire feeling.
Upstairs Ray and Winston were putting away the no longer needed equipment when they heard the door open on the first floor and Janine Meltniz arrive for the day. The receptionist had a cup of steaming tea in her hand and a confident stride in her step. As she entered the firehouse and crossed through the garage she spotted Peter leaving the lab with a serious look on his face.
"Something wrong Dr. V?" She asked as she took her place behind her desk. "You look like you're actually paying attention to something."
Peter shot Janine an amused glance as he made his way up to the second floor. "I always pay attention when a pretty lady walks by."
Janine instantly blushed and looked away from the psychologist as she began sifting through the stacked paperwork that required her utmost attention.
Rejoining his colleagues on the second floor and inside the rec room Peter couldn't help but stare at the white bandages on Ray's arm.
"How's Egon?" Winston asked as he finished wheeling a monitor back into its place beside the storage shelves.
"Not in the mood to chit-chat." Was Peter's abrupt and conclusive answer to the logical question. He finally looked up from the bandages and at the engineer's face. "How's your arm Ray?"
"Sore." He confirmed as he walked into the kitchen and prepared a pot of coffee to brew. "But I'll live."
"Just do us all a favor." Peter pleaded with a warm but firm disposition.
"Stop reading scary stories before bedtime!"
The day had remained thankfully quiet for the Ghostbusters. No calls were reported, no unwelcome visits from Peck and Ray had respected the request to stop his research into such dark, depressing and violent histories of American psychopaths. At least for a while.
Janine had left for the evening after completing her paperwork and promised to clock in early the next day to help Ray put away his collection of bleak reading material for the sake of his, and possibly, everyone else's sanity.
Exhausted from the lack of sleep from the night before as well as the abrupt arousal from the nightmare Ray was the first one to go to bed that night. Peter and Winston resided to the rec room to watch a cheesy black & white horror film from the 1940's, while Egon sat at the kitchen table reading a theorem on particle physics and ionization properties.
Just as the movie was coming to an end a loud scream of terror from the bunk room caused both Peter and Winston to jump on the couch and make Egon drop his book on the table.
"Ray?!" Egon called out as he bolted from the table and into the bunk room. As he passed through the door frame he spotted Ray laying on his bed with his arms up over his face in a defensive posture as if he were in the midst of a life threatening confrontation. "Ray!"
Peter and Winston joined Egon in the bunk room just in time to see Egon trying to shake Ray awake. Peter's hand smacked against the light switch by the door frame and illuminated the bunk room to the upsetting display.
"Ray! Ray! Snap out of it!" Egon was shaking Ray by the shoulders but could awaken the sleeping man. Desperate to bring Ray out of the nightmare Egon grabbed onto the bandages around Ray's arm and squeezed tight! The shock of pain was enough to stop Ray's screams of terror and transition into a scream of pain. "Ray, wake up!"
Ray's eyes opened as he took in deep panting breaths. He's entire body was shaking with fear and heavy beads of sweat were dripping from his face and soaking through his shirt.
Peter and Winston gathered around the bed to support their frightened colleague.
"Ray?" Egon let go of Ray's arm and slipped his grip down to Ray's wrist to check his pulse. "Ray, you're safe."
"Egon..." Ray was absolutely terrified. "It happened again."
"What happened again?" Egon asked as he let go of Ray's wrist.
Ray slowly reached his hand up to the collar of his sweat soaked black t-shirt and pulled the fabric down. A deep red line of blood was oozing from a long cut along his shoulder blade.
Egon then saw the blood and his own fingertips. He immediately reacted to the injury with scientific concern. "Remove your shirt."
Peter rushed into the adjoining washroom to retrieve the first aid kit while Egon and Winston stayed with Ray.
Ray struggled to pull the shirt collar around his neck and over his head. Winston gently pulled on the fabric of the t-shirt and helped Ray remove the sweaty garment and expose the wound fully.
"Aw, man..." Winston eyed the injured carefully as Peter set the first aid kit down at the foot of Ray's bed. "He's going to need some stitches."
Egon agreed with Winston's assessment. "We'll bandage his shoulder and I'll drive him to the hospital."
"Want me to go with you?"
"No. You and Peter should remain here at the firehouse in the event of a call." Egon insisted. "I'll take care of Ray."
Peter gave Winston a shrewd look and motioned for him to take a step back. Whispering the psychologist gave his observations on the situation. "Winston, I don't see anything that could've cut Ray's shoulder, do you?"
"No." Winston's concern faded into confusion as he looked around the room. "What do you think is happening?"
"I'm not sure." Peter admitted. "But I get the feeling our dear Ray might be in trouble."
With Egon keeping him company in the exam room Ray breathed deeply as the doctor tended to the massive cut on his shoulder and began stitching the wound close. It was very late into the night which meant the hospital was quiet and calm. Ray was exhausted but didn't dare to close his eyes, he didn't want to see the twisted burned face of the man every again.
"How did this happen?" The young doctor asked as he concentrated on the painful injury. "It looks like someone came after you with a knife or straight razor."
Egon studied Ray's expression waiting for him to answer but he kept his silence. Egon then chose to give a response to the curious doctor. "We were on a bust. Something caught him off guard."
"Oh, I see." The doctor couldn't help but notice the bandages on Ray's arm. "It looks like you've been pretty unlucky with your busts as of late, huh Dr. Stantz?"
"Huh?" Ray looked over to Egon for a hint and received a nod motioning toward his arm. "Oh, yeah. Happened yesterday." Ray put his hand over his arm and rubbed at the sore limb lightly. "Guess it's just a string of bad luck."
"Want me to examine your arm before you leave?" The doctor offered kindly as he finished applying the final stitches and placing a protective pad of gauze over the fresh wound. "It wouldn't be any trouble."
"No thanks." Ray was reluctant to let anyone else see his injuries. How could he possibly explain that what was happening to him wasn't the result of misfortune or clumsiness in the real world? How do you tell someone that you're being stalked and attacked in your dreams? Loosening his grip over his arm Ray stood up slowly from the table and carefully moved his arm to check the pain level in his repaired shoulder. "I just want to get back home and take it easy."
"Don't we all?" The doctor agreed as he took a small prescription pad from his lab coat pocket. "Here, I'm going to write you a prescription for a mild painkiller as well as a small dose of antibiotics."
Ray accepted the prescription and gave Egon a weary glance. "Thanks, Doc."
"Come on." Egon handed Ray his red flannel shirt to slip on over his arms. "Let's get you back home."
Before Egon could step out of the room the doctor gently pulled on Egon's arm. "Is your friend okay? He seems sleep-deprived or intoxicated."
"He hasn't been sleeping well for the past two nights." Egon admitted without hesitation.
"Well, the painkillers should help with that. Just be sure to closely monitor how many pills he takes, there's always a risk with any medication but these particular pills can result in nausea, lack of appetite, confusion, drowsiness and in high enough doses respiratory arrest.
"I'll take care of him." Egon reassured confidently. "Good night doctor, thank you for your assistance."
Winston and Peter were unable to sleep after the night's chaotic events. The two men preoccupied their minds and satiated their curiosity by delving into the research material that Ray had collected over the years. The large books and stacks of newspapers had been somewhat organized after Egon took control of the room and set things in a more proper place.
"Man, Ray has some really dark interests." Peter grimaced as he thumbed through a large book that chronicled the history of confirmed cases of cannibalism in America. "If I ever see him reading though this and talking about a new recipe I'm running for the hills!"
"Focus Peter." Winston shook his head as he carefully sifted through the newspaper articles. "This might be the only way to- Wait a minute!"
"Find something Zed?"
Winston pulled a bundle of newspapers free from the larger stack and pointed to a lengthy article dating back to the late 1970's revolving around young men perishing in the night after suffering through weeks of recurring nightmares.
"Check this out; there was a strange occurrence out in Ohio where a few people, all young in age and in good health, suddenly dying in their sleep after telling their families that they can't sleep anymore or else something would get them in their dreams."
"Sleep disorders of Nostradamus?" Peter asked sarcastically.
"Not likely. According to the articles the victims were afraid to go to sleep, convinced that if they did they'd die. The victims would resort to drinking huge amounts of coffee and popping caffeine pills just to stay awake. When they finally collapsed from physical exhaustion and mental strain the families heard them crying out in their sleep and looked as though they were fighting back against something, or someone unseen. Not long afterward the victims all fell still and were dead from... get this," Winston shook his head with disbelief. "natural causes."
"Natural causes in young people? How young?"
"Late teens, early twenties. So, young."
"Think this planted the nightmare seed in Ray's fertile little mind?"
"It might be. But even if this is the cause of his nightmares it doesn't explain the cuts that appeared on his body overnight."
"I'm still wagering that the cuts on his arms were the result of any overdue manicure," Peter's skepticism was waning, but still present. "as for the cut on his shoulder maybe in his panicked flailing he brushed up against something. Like the corner of the desk by his bed."
"Except the cut was too perfect, too straight. It had to have been caused by some kind of blade."
"Then where is the blade?" Peter asked logically. "You looked all over the place yourself and didn't find anything. So how can he be cutting himself with a blade if there's no blade around?"
The large green door of the firehouse opened as Ecto-1 backed into its place in the middle of the garage. Egon exited the driver's side and made his way over to the passenger side and helped Ray climb out.
"Let's get you upstairs." Egon insisted as he guided Ray up the stairs and into the rec room. "Maybe you'll feel better after a shower."
"Shower?" Ray sounded groggy and defeated. "Good idea."
Peter stayed in place in the lab while Winston jogged up to the second floor after Egon and Ray. The weary engineer stumbled awkwardly into the washroom while Egon tossed him a clean white towel. Ray slipped off the flannel shirt and exposed the heavy white bandage covering the stitched on his shoulder.
"Do your best to keep your stitches dry," Egon reminded him kindly. "I'll take a look at them in a moment."
The door to the washroom shut and the sound of pouring water from the shower filled the closed room.
"How is he?" Winston asked in a whisper as Egon stepped away from the washroom door.
"Not good." Egon pulled the written prescription out of his pocket. "The doctor prescribed medication for the pain and possible infection that could also aid his inability to sleep."
"About that..." Winston wrung his hands together nervously. "Peter and I had been going through some of Ray's research material and found an article revolving around nightmares and strange-" Winston didn't want to finish his grim sentence but pushed him to do so. "Strange deaths."
"Interesting. This could be the origin for Ray's nightmares."
"That's what Peter and I figured too, but we still don't know he's been getting cut."
"We'll find the cause of the lacerations soon enough." Egon pocketed the prescription once more. "I'll take care Ray's medication. Would you mind keeping an eye on him until I get back? I don't think it's wise to leave him alone for the time being."
"Sure, no problem. That's what friends do."
"Thank you. I shouldn't be too long."
While Egon quickly took his leave of the bunk room Winston took the opportunity to look around once again in an attempt to locate anything that could have possibly been used to injure Ray in his sleep. Checking under Ray's bed Winston didn't find anything out of the ordinary. In addition there was nothing sharp or dangerous in or around the nightstand, stuck between the floorboards, tucked away under the pillow or the sheets of the mattress; there was absolutely nothing!
The shower turned off and soon after the door to the washroom opened. Ray walked into the bunk room with the towel around his waist and sat down heavily on his bed. "Where's Spengler?"
"Getting your medicine. Feeling pretty lousy, huh?"
"You have no idea."
"Want some coffee?"
Ray laughed a little as he repeated his previous statement. "You have no idea..."
Winston kept an eye on Ray without keeping the tired engineer feeling trapped or mistrusted in the process. Ray sat upstairs on the couch in the rec room with a malfunctioning PKE meter in one hand and a screwdriver in the other. A cup of hot coffee was sitting on the table at arm's reach and would soon find itself to the be the first of many consumed by Ray that day.
From the garage Winston chatted with Janine and waited for Peter to finish his assessment of the research material that had presumably given Ray the disruptive nightmares that had begun plaguing him two nights prior.
"How's Ray doing?" Janine asked as she began typing up a report to be delivered to Peck's office.
"Tired but he still seems to be in good spirits. I don't think he wants to talk about the nightmares just yet, and I don't blame him."
"You now when I was a little girl I had a recurring nightmare." Janine confessed as she seamlessly filed one report and began another. "It haunted me for years!"
"Really? What was it about?"
"Well, I used to dream that I was lost in the forest and no matter how far walked or which trail I took I'd always wind up right back in the same place over and over again, unable to find my way home. And every time I would start to walk a new trail I would see a man dressed in a black suit with a pale, white, featureless face watching me from the treeline."
"A faceless man?" Winston felt his skin grow cold at the thought. "I don't think I'd be able to handle something like that."
"Neither did I, but when I was about thirteen years old I told myself that the nightmares were going to stop and that I wasn't going to be afraid anymore. Not long after I had the dream again but instead of getting lost forever in the forest I managed to find my way home."
"All through sheer force of will, huh?"
"I guess so. I mean, I hope so! I like to think some part of me in strong enough to push aside something as silly as a bad dream!"
"Maybe you could talk to Ray about it. I think he'd feel better talking to you than to us right now."
"Why? Because you don't believe him?"
"No, we believe him. There's definitely something going on, but I'm Ray is already convinced that me, Peter and Egon are just going to listen for a 'scientific' reason rather than genuine concern."
"Oh, I don't think Ray would doubt the sincerity of your concern, you guys have been friends for years!"
"But after everything he's been through and how tired he is, I think this calls for a woman's touch!"
"I'm flattered." Janine grinned at Winston. "Alright, before I leave this evening I'll see if Ray's up for a little chat."
"Thanks Janine, you're the best!"
The garage door opened as Ecto-1 returned. Backing into its usual place in the center of the garage Winston gave Janine a reassuring smile. "I'm going to see how much progress Peter has made. Egon will stay with Ray."
"Right." Janine readjusted her glasses and ran her fingers through her fiery red hair. "If you need anything from me, you know where to find me."
Egon exited the iconic hearse and looked over to Janine. "Where's Ray?"
"In the rec room. He seems to be okay."
"That's good." Egon made his way toward the staircase with two bottles of prescribed medication in his hand. As he made his way into the rec room Egon spotted Ray downing the last of his coffee and making his way toward the kitchen for a refill. "How does your shoulder feel?"
Ray glanced back toward Egon, his eyes were red and bloodshot with heavy dark bags which made his tired eyes seem brighter than normal. "I can barely feel it right now."
"Then we'll avoid any painkillers for the time being." Egon decided as he opened the small pill bottle containing the antibiotics. "Two pills."
"I think this is a little extreme for a few stitches." Ray looked down at the pills in Egon's opened palm and turned his attention back to the coffee.
"Normally I would agree with you, but considering we aren't sure what caused the injuries to begin with and that you have multiple lacerations that will tax your body while trying to heal, the antibiotics may be necessary."
"Sure, yeah." Ray didn't have the energy to even try to argue with the logic of the situation. Accepting the pills Ray downed them with his coffee and returned to the couch to finish repairing the PKE meter. "I think I found the problem with the meter, by the way. Loose wire."
"Easy enough to remedy." Egon followed Ray to the couch and sat down beside his exhausted friend. "Much easier than building a replacement model."
"Egon," Ray sighed and gave the physicist a serious glance. "I don't need a babysitter."
"I'm merely concerned for your health." Egon insisted. "But if you'd prefer me to give you space I will respect your decision."
"I appreciate the concern, but right now I want to be alone."
"Very well. I'll be down in the lab if you require anything."
"Mold experiment again?"
"I do have a new strain of potentially edible fungi. I've been testing it for toxic properties and so far the results have been inconclusive."
"Don't let me keep you from your mushrooms Egon." Ray took another sip of the coffee and stared intently at the meter in his hand. "I'm fine. I promise."
"Okay then." Egon rose from the couch and walked slowly down the stairs and through the garage. He stopped momentarily beside Janine's desk. "If Ray should ask-"
"I'll point him in your direction." Janine easily knew what Egon was about to ask of her. "Don't worry."
"Thank you." Egon joined Winston and Peter in the lab where he found his two colleagues discussing a newspaper article of extreme and macabre interest. "Gentlemen."
"Egon, just in time." Winston had set aside a stack of newspapers and placed the palm of his hand on top of the stack. "Peter and I may have found something that could explain Ray's nightmares."
Adjusting his glasses over his nose Egon took a look at the carefully selected newspaper articles that had been meticulously examined by both Winston and Peter. The articles had begun to yellow and ink had faded from age. The large bold text was still legible but the smaller text was much more difficult to discern against the background. Below the articles were images; either black & white photographs or crude police sketches that gave the already dreary articles a much darker tone.
Peter was leaning back in a chair with his feet kicked up on the nearby table, his hand folded together over his chest in a relaxed manner.
Winston was sitting at the edge of the table with the towering newspaper articles surrounding him. His hands and fingertips were covered in old ink and the smell of aged newspaper had completely saturated into his clothes.
"What have you uncovered?" Egon asked as he approached his sleuthy colleagues with an unspoken hesitation in his mind.
"These are the stories about the people who apparently died from their nightmares." Winston slide the articles toward Egon with one hand while moving his other hand to a second stack. "It happened in the seventies in a single town and there was never any proper explanation given for their deaths."
Egon pulled the articles closer to himself after having them slid over by Winston.
"And these," Winston continued as he slid the second larger stack of articles over to Egon. "are stories revolving around a string of murders that had taken place in the same town shortly after these initial deaths."
Egon kept his emotions in check, the only expression he conveyed was interest through a single arched eyebrow.
"And this," Winston struggled to push the largest of the three stacks of newspaper articles toward Egon. "is a huge compilation of deaths involving nightmares after the previously occurring murders had been dealt with. And again, all this carnage and tragedy took place in the same town." Pushing a small manila folder toward Egon Winston gave him a stern look. "And these are the names associated with the tragedies of the town; all blacked out and any trace from the town's official historical records have been altered or completely removed."
Egon visibly stiffened as he stared down at the massive collection of articles that had been collected and obsessively examined. "This is all fascinating, but I fail to see the connection to Ray's nightmares."
"Spengz," Peter finally broke his uncharacteristic silence and spoke with a serious tone. "Ray used to live in this town."
Egon couldn't bring himself to dismiss the possible connection. There was no such thing as coincidence. "You claim there was a series of murders in this town as well as numerous reports of 'fatal nightmares'." Egon wanted to confirm before forming any theories. "What was the name of the town?"
From the lab door came the unexpected answer. "Springwood." Ray was leaning against the door frame visibly exhausted with dark bags hanging under his tired, bloodshot eyes. "I spent two years there with my Aunt Lois after my parents died."
"Springwood..." Egon whispered as he paled with fear, a reaction that went unnoticed by the other Ghostbusters except for Peter. The observant psychologist could tell that the reserved physicist was holding something back.
"From what I remember," Ray continued with a groggy voice full of slurring words. "there was a single killer in the town and he targeted children. I was lucky. Aunt Lois decided to move away when the kids started disappearing throughout the neighborhood. It was only after we moved did she feel safe again."
Peter and Winston exchanged glances of confusion. "Serial killer." Peter observed casually. "And they caught him, right?"
"Yeah, I remember getting a letter from a friend back in town after the killer was caught. I can't remember the name of the killer anymore since my Aunt Lois found the letter and burned it out of fear. Guess my aunt thought the town and anything connected to it was cursed or something..."
"Do you remember the friend who wrote to you?" Peter continued with sincere intrigue. "Maybe she has the answers we need."
"Yeah, but... she can't help us." Ray stated with a melancholy sigh.
"Why's that? You lost touch with her?"
Ray shook his head. "No. She's dead."
"Oh." Peter felt bad for bringing up the sad subject on his already mentally taxed friend. "Sorry Ray."
Barely able to stand upright any longer Ray leaned even heavier against the door frame and closed his eyes. "It's okay Venkman, you didn't know."
Winston was absolutely absorbed with the dire history of the small town that no one had heard of until Ray's nightmares began. "So there was a string of nightmares in the town," Winston was trying to keep the timeline accurate. "a streak of murders at the hand of deranged serial killer, then more mysterious deaths by nightmares. What is the cause of it all? There's no way that these three incidents aren't connected to one another."
"Yeah... I know." Ray was on the verge of falling asleep where he stood. "Wish I could you guys, but I can't remember of the details. Too long ago, I guess."
Egon moved away from the table and pulled Ray's arm over his shoulders. "Come on Ray, you need to try and rest. You'll either collapse from exhaustion or make yourself sick."
"I already feel sick." Ray admitted as he allowed Egon to guide him away from the lab. "I haven't gone this long without sleep since finals at University."
Peter waited for both Ray and Egon to be out of sight before speaking up. "Think we can figure out the name of our mystery killer? Or are we doomed to linger in curiosity until Ray's nightly terrors finally end and we think of something better to do?"
"I'm not going to stop looking." Winston confirmed as he stood up from the end of the table. "But I'm going to need some coffee before I keep digging."
"Better hurry before Ray drinks it all." Peter joked lightly. "I don't think Janine wants to spend a hefty chunk of our budget on coffee again."
"Oh yeah, you weren't here when we first opened. Lot of late nights, lot of cranky scientists. Coffee has always been a good friend to us."
Egon decided to check Ray's stitches for any sign of infection or residual bleeding. While examining the freshly dressed wound Egon noticed that Ray was having difficulty staying awake as he sat patiently on the wooden chair.
"Everything seems to be healing well." Egon informed Ray. "Get some sleep, you'll feel better."
"Sleeping is fine," Ray murmured as he shrugged his shoulder and pulled the collar of his shirt back over his bandages. "it's the nightmares that are the problem."
"You cannot remain awake for much longer. Sleep deprivation can result in some serious physical side effects as well as potential long term damage."
"Don't remind me." Ray slowly stood up and wandered like a sluggish zombie toward the bunk room. "Just... Just don't hesitate to wake me up if I start screaming in my sleep. I don't want to lose my voice AND my sanity..."
Winston and Peter wandered upstairs to the rec room where Egon was standing alone. While Winston focused on the coffee and the impending task he had assigned himself Peter was more focused on Egon.
"Ray finally get to sleep?" Winston asked as he poured himself a cup of fresh coffee.
"Hopefully." Egon replied in a low tone. "It'd be best if someone remained close in the event of another nightmare affecting his sleep."
"You volunteering?" Winston asked as he took a sip of the coffee.
"Of course. I'm concerned for his health."
"And we're concerned for yours, Spengz." Peter put his hand on Egon's shoulder and shook once. "You haven't sleep since this morning either. We'll both keep an eye on Ray for a while, then you're going to get some sleep."
"I can assure you-"
"Nope." Winston walked past Peter and Egon as he made his way back down the stairs. "Peter's right. You can't let yourself get sleep deprived, too. We'll all take care of Ray tonight."
"See?" Peter gave Egon a smug look. "Winston says I'm right!"
"Very well." Egon reluctantly agreed with the decision. Deciding that a cup of coffee for himself would also prove beneficial Egon walked over to the kitchen and filled a mug with the hot coffee. "We'll watch over Ray in shifts."
"In the meantime, let's chat." Peter insisted as he joined Egon in the small kitchen. "Egon, didn't you once tell me your family summered in Springwood?"
Egon flinched at Peter's comment and fell uncomfortably silent. Having told Peter a detail from his childhood was something Egon never expected to come back and haunt him later on in life. The memories of his family enjoying peace and quiet every summer in the humble town used to be a pleasant mental sanctuary for Egon to retreat to when stress began to weigh heavily on his mind; but the memories had been tainted by personal loss that Egon had tried to desperately to forget.
"Springwood is a small town, right?" Peter continued to question all the while studying Egon's reactions and body language. "What're the odds that both you and Ray spent time in the same town full of murder and mystery as kids?"
"Stop. Please." Egon sounded unusually timid, his normally deep voice becoming lighter as he spoke. "I don't want to discuss it."
"Alright, I'll stop." Peter wanted answers but didn't want to push his friend to an uncomfortable limit. "Just consider talking about it if you feel up to it. I think this is the best way to help Ray. I mean, you're the only other person here who-"
"Stop." Egon repeated with a stronger tone of voice.
Without another word Peter stared at Egon's face which had paled and he could see Egon's glistening with emotion. Backing off for the time being Peter walked into the bunk room and decided to keep an eye on Ray while Egon regained his composure and Winston continued to seek answers in the old articles.
Peter stood at the end of Ray's bed and watched as the nearly traumatized man slept deeply, his entire body still save for deep rhythmic breaths. It appeared as though Ray was sleeping peacefully; no nightmare, no problem.
Sitting down on the edge of his own bed which was the furthest from Ray's bed Peter kicked off his shoes and laid back against his pillow. "Just keep sleeping like that Ray, we all need a little rest right now." He shut his eyes and exhaled deeply. "Sweet dreams, pal."
Egon retreated to the roof of the firehouse and stared out at the city skyline. The cool October weather was calming and the air smelled of fall. The various buildings that reached upward to the sky were illuminated in the most unusual, random patterns as the light shown through different windows on different floors; slowly blinking out as the occupants turned off the light to go to sleep for the night.
Folding his arms over his chest Egon looked up toward the every blackening sky and stared in scientific wonder as he began thinking out loud to himself. "This cannot be happening to Ray. It's impossible." His left hand subconsciously reached up to right bicep and pressed against the unseen scar under his sleeve that had been with him since he was a teenager. "I put it behind me. I pushed him from my mind. Why is he back?"
Winston rubbed at his tired eyes as he leaned back in his chair and stretched out his stiff shoulders. He had been hunched over the newspaper articles for so long without moving that his entire upper body was a giant stiff knot. Finishing the last of his coffee he gazed over at the clock on the wall and saw that it was almost midnight.
"Better call it a night." He decided as he rose from the table and turned off the light in the lab. "Maybe we can get more information at the library in the morning."
Janine had already left earlier in the evening leaving her desk vacant but organized. The files were neatly filled out, the reports had been finished and the phone remained quiet.
As Winston walked up the stairs into the rec room he met Egon who was descending from the roof using the small side staircase concealed in the corner of the rec room.
"Enjoying the night air?" Winston asked as he and Egon walked into the bunk room.
"I needed to clear my mind."
"I know what you mean. I'm going to finish looking through the articles in the morning, I'm so tired I can't see straight."
Quietly the two men walked into the bunk room and over to their respective beds. Egon's bed was next to Peter's and across from Ray's bed, while Winston was next to Ray and across from Peter. Before laying down the two men both watched Ray for a moment to ensure that he was actually sleeping and that his sleep wasn't being plagued by nightmares.
Satisfied that Ray wasn't in any danger Egon took off his glasses, laid down and shut his eyes. Winston laid down shortly after and was soon asleep.
Egon was still awake but he was comfortable and resting. A gust of wind swept through the bunk room through an opened window over Ray's bed and sent a chill up Egon's spine. Sitting up Egon looked at the opened window and watched as a small swirl of leaves danced around just outside the thin screen.
Creeping over to the window he put his hand on the frame with the intent to pull the window and shut it when he heard children laughing outside. It sounded like a small group of kids were playing together in front of the firehouse.
"What in the world?" Egon retracted his hand from the window and focused on the kids outside. "Why are there children out so late?"
Using the fire pole in the corner of the bunk room Egon slid down from the second floor onto the first floor. As his boots hit the floor Egon could hear the laughter just outside the door of the firehouse. It was louder and more excited than it sounded on the second floor.
Making his way toward the front door Egon pushed it open slowly and stepped outside. It was suddenly quiet.
"Where'd they go?" Egon wondered as he stood alone on the sidewalk in front of the firehouse. It was dark, the street was quiet and the movement came from the breeze rustling leaves over the pavement. "They couldn't have gone too far in such a brief expanse of time."
A soft giggle from behind Egon made his turn quickly on his heel. A little girl in a white dress with her light brown hair pulled up into pigtails with red ribbons was staring at him with a blank expression on her face.
"Where did you come from?" Egon asked in as gentle a tone as he could muster. "Why are you here?"
She didn't reply. Lifting her hand she pointed to something behind Egon.
Turning back around Egon felt his heart begin to race as three more little girls, all wearing white dresses with their hair in pigtails were playing together. The girls were jumping rope and reciting a haunting little limerick.
"One, two Freddy's coming for you..."
Egon took a step back from the girls toward the firehouse. The sight wasn't natural or innocent; there was something ominous and foreboding about the children at play.
"Three, four better lock your door..."
As Egon's back pressed against the door his hand reached for the handle but found nothing. The door was inaccessible.
"Five, six grab your crucifix..."
Egon ran his hand over the door only to find that the wooden surface had become a solid brick wall. Turning his focus to the bricks Egon realized that the entire firehouse had become a solid brick structure with no doors or windows.
"Seven, eight try to stay up late..."
Egon reluctantly looked back toward the three girls skipping rope and over again to the first little girl who had pointed to her friends as she alone finished the limerick.
"Nine, ten never sleep again."
The high pitched screech of metal scrapping against metal made Egon's flesh crawl. The little girls had all vanished into nothingness leaving Egon alone in front of the bricked up firehouse. A sinister chuckle from the shadows caught Egon's ear.
A man stood in the shadows across the street of the firehouse. The faint outline of his silhouette identified the brimmed hat on his head and the four long razor blades in his right hand. Except the razors weren't actually in his hand, the razors were attached to his fingers and jutted outward in a threatening manner like an animal's claw.
Taking a step forward the man flexed his hand, causing the four blades to clink together in a metallic chime.
"Oh... shit." Egon muttered as he pressed his back up against the bricks of the building behind him.
The man stepped closer, his grotesquely burned face becoming more and more clear with each step forward.
Egon swallowed nervously as the man raised his hand toward him and chuckled once again.
"What do you want?"
The man didn't respond as he stood just inches away from Egon. Stepping his closer his foul breath sickened Egon to his core. "To finish what I started." With a quick single swipe the man dug the first blade of his maniacal glove into the skin across Egon's upper chest.
Egon's hand instinctively covered the bleeding wound and applied pressure as he cried out in surprised pain.
The man finally spoke in gravelly voice that seemed to vary in pitch and tone with each sentence. "Welcome to my world."
Egon's eyes widened with fear as the man lifted his gloved hand up higher with the intent to slash all four blades as deeply as possible into Egon's face, neck and chest. "Who... Who are you?!" Egon asked in a trembling voice.
"Your worst nightmare." Was the menacing response. "Remember my name."
Thinking quickly Egon stepped to the side and shut his eyes tightly. "This is a dream." Looking back at the firehouse he saw that the door had reappeared. Moving swiftly he pulled the door open, ran inside the firehouse and slammed it shut behind him.
Backing away from the door Egon listened for any sign of the man but heard nothing. It seemed as though he had left.
Just as Egon was about to relax four sharp blades stabbed through the door and tore downward creating four deep gouges like a massive claw. The sinister laughter sang through the damaged door and made Egon stumble backward into Janine's desk.
A hand on his shoulder made Egon jump, only to find himself laying on his bed in the bunk room and staring into Winston's worried face.
"Egon! You okay?"
With a shaking hand Egon wiped the beaded sweat from his face and accidentally smeared the blood on his palm across his forehead in the process.
"What the-" Winston saw the blood on Egon's face and the bleeding wound in Egon's chest. Winston grabbed Egon's hand and stared at the blood in abject confusion. "What the hell happened to you?! How is this possible?"
Pressing his blood covered palm against his still bleeding chest Egon could feel his heart pounding in his chest and the fear forcing every muscle in his body to tremble. Winston's presence was calming but even the strong marine and loyal friend didn't make Egon feel as though he was truly safe, even in the waking world away from the dream demon and his glove.
"Come with me." Winston pulled on Egon's arm to guide him out of the dark bunk room and whispered lowly. "Ray's still asleep so let's get out of here without making noise."
Egon didn't reply as he Winston took the initiative. Glancing over the room, the darkness and blurriness of his vision working against him, Egon could barely see the shadowy silhouettes of Peter and Ray laying in their beds.
"Egon you and I have been friends for a few years now, same with Ray and Peter. So why do you tell me what's going on?" Winston led Egon down to the lab on the first floor. He insisted on knowing the details of the situation, not only to protect his friends but to finally understand how the seemingly impossible was suddenly possible. "I'm willing to listen and I will believe you. Just tell me, I don't want to have to keep taking my friends to the ER without any tangible, real world explanation to give."
Sitting down in the lab behind the desk of newspaper articles and books Egon watched as Winston retrieved the first aid kit. With a shaking hand Egon pulled down the collar of his shirt and examined the deep cut left behind courtesy of the nightmare stalker who attacked him.
"Another one?" Winston noted the similarity in the wound compared to the ones Ray had already endured. "We both know there is no such thing as coincidence, only patterns and facts. What happened to you?"
"I..." Egon paused to clear his throat as voice cracked with lingering fear. Winston peeled his bloody fingers away from the fabric of the shirt and cut it down to expose the damage with a small pair of scissors. "I had an incredibly vivid nightmare. A man with a very unusual weapon had isolated me in the dream and then used said weapon to... to injure me."
"He injured you in your dream." Winston stated firmly as he began cleaning up the deep cut on Egon's chest. The cut itself was perfectly straight and deep, stretching from across Egon's right pectoral muscle and stretched to the midway point over his sternum. "Now you're injured in the real world. No coincidence. I think you and Ray should sit down and discuss your dreams in full detail."
"Dreams cannot verify reality."
"No, but dreams are gateways into the human consciousness, the subconscious and memories."
"You've been spending too much time with Venkman."
"Actually I've been reading about dreams and nightmares since I was in high school. I still have the books to read if you'd like to borrow them."
"No thank you. I trust your assessments will be accurate."
"This is a pretty nasty cut. I thought it was superficial but it's too deep. You're going to need stitches."
Egon nodded and pointed to a drawer in the top right of the desk at the far wall. "There's a small suturing kit in the desk. It contains a proper curved needle as well as silk thread. I'll just need my glasses from upstairs."
"You're NOT going to stitch yourself up Egon." Winston gave him the same firm look from before. "I'll do it."
"Yeah. I'm a marine. Part of basic survival training is infield medical attention that includes, but is not limited to; makeshift bandages, sterilization and binding open wounds. It's not the first time I've had to stitch up a friend."
Peter had been laying in bed, his eyes open but his body still when Egon was roused from his nightmare by Winston. From the darkness he keenly observed and listened to the unfolding event without revealing that he was in fact awake. Like Winston, Peter had heard Egon physically struggling against some unseen foe, though his struggle wasn't as desperate as Ray's had been during the two previous nightmares.
Climbing out of bed he crept over to Ray and made sure his friend was still alright. Ray was laying on his back with one arm draped sleepily over his stomach. He was very still and seemed peaceful, the only movement came from his steady breathing.
Convinced Ray was safe Peter made his way over to the fire pole in the corner of the bunk room and laid down on his stomach next to the large opening in the floor. He could hear Winston and Egon talking to each other down on the first floor.
"This is getting really old, really fast." Peter grumbled to himself as he eavesdropped. "I need my sleep."
"What did you dream about Egon?" Winston put a pair of latex gloves over his hands. "You can tell me, I won't interrupt or jump to conclusions."
Taking a deep breath, grateful that the numbing medication had kicked in and eased the pain in his chest, Egon reluctantly spoke of his nightmare. "I was lured outside the firehouse by the sounds of children, little girls, playing in the streets."
"That's already pretty unnerving." Winston cleared his throat. "Sorry, please continue."
"The were four little girls, all wearing white dresses and red ribbons in their hair, outside the firehouse playing together. One of the girls was standing by herself while the other three was playing together with a jump rope. They were reciting some very bizarre rhyme when the man, the true threat, finally showed himself to me from the shadows."
"What can you remember about the man who attacked you?" Winston curiously asked as he tended to the injury.
"He was about your height," Egon closed his eyes and tried to picture the man from his nightmare. "medium build. He had no hair and I couldn't see his eye color. His face had been disfigured by some kind of past physical trauma, most likely culprit is that of severe second and three degree burns caused by open flames."
"Anything else? What about that weapon he was carrying?"
"It appeared as though he had taken a industrial work glove and attached long, sharpened razors to the the ends of the four fingers. When he... attacked me he kept his hand outstretched and wide open like the way a large predator would use its own claws to take down prey."
"Sounds pretty sinister." Winston was only half way through stitching the laceration closed. "Did he say anything to you?"
Egon nodded once and his brow furrowed. "He stated... He told me that he wanted me to remember his name."
"His name?" Winston's hands paused momentarily as the confusion hit him. "What is it?"
"I cannot remember."
"He didn't tell you?"
"But he seems to know you well enough to think you do?"
"Ray never said anything about a name."
"Did you find a common name in the newspaper articles?"
"No. Like I said it a bunch of names had been eliminated from the records. His must be one of them."
"Are you implying that you believe this man from my nightmare to be connected to newspaper articles?"
"In a way, yeah. I mean Ray had nightmares after reading this stuff, and yeah it could just be the result of an overactive imagination feeding off the mystery of the stories creating horrific nightmares; but since you and Ray have both had nightmares revolving around a similar person AND waking up with fresh wounds I'm beginning to suspect that everything here is connected in someway."
"The image of the man could have easily been planted in my mind through Ray's depictions of said man."
"Yeah, but Ray also spent time in this weird town and his aunt was bound and determined to get away from that place. Judging by the dates on the newspapers Ray would have to have been ten or eleven years old at the time, but he can't tell us any details from that town. It's like his aunt wanted him to forget about it, even go so far as to burn a letter from a friend who lived in that same town."
"It is unusual I admit." Winston finished stitching up the wound and had applying a clean white bandage. "But without any definitive evidence-"
A loud scream of fear from the bunk room stopped Egon midsentence.
"Ray?" Winston inquired worriedly.
Peter's voice called out in response. "He's okay! Just startled!"
Egon put his hand over his bandaged cut and flinched. "Ray should be examined. I want to make sure there hasn't been any harm caused by sleep deprivation."
Peter walked into the lab with Ray clinging onto his arm like a frightened child. Ray was sweating profusely, his hair damp and pale face marred by beads of the cold sweat.
"What are you two doing down here?" Peter asked coyly. "Slumber party?"
Egon gave Peter an unamused glance. "I too had a nightmare." Moving his hand from his chest he revealed the bandage beneath his palm. "And I too had been injured."
Peter's keen eyes flashed with confusion. "You too? Great, who's next?"
Winston turned to attention to Ray. "Ray, you okay man?"
"Y-Yeah." Ray was trembling but unharmed by the ordeal. "He didn't cut me this time."
"But you saw him again?"
"Yeah. But... But he didn't seem interested in me. It's like he was just toying with me for fun before he decided to go somewhere else."
Peter pulled Ray's hands free from his arm. "Yet you sat up screaming like a maniac. What else did you see in your dream?"
"It was... It was horrible." Ray confessed through a breathy whisper as he finally let go of Peter's arm and fell back against the door frame. "After the man left me alone a... a little girl in a white dress stood in front of me. She had her back turned to me and was skipping rope while reciting some kind of poem. Then she stopped and turned to me. Staring. Just... staring at me."
Egon looked away nervously and stared at the floor. Winston slowly glanced over at Egon and studied his friend's frightened demeanor.
Peter could see Egon suddenly become tense as Ray spoke. He encouraged Ray to continue the story. "What else did you see?"
"The... The little girl just stared at me without saying a word for what seemed like an eternity. Then she blinked and her eyes... Her eyes were black soulless pits with... blood running down her face. She pointed as me and screamed. That's when I woke up!"
"Little girl in a white dress?" Winston looked over at Egon discreetly. "Ray, did she have red ribbons in her hair?"
Ray's already pale face seem to fall two shades whiter. "H-How did you know?" He voice was shaking as violently as the rest of his body causing his voice to crack.
Egon broke his silence. "Because I dreamt of her too." Standing up he walked over to Ray and put a hand on his shoulder. "Ray, we're dreaming of the same man. What was the poem the little girl was reciting? Can you remember?"
Peter almost laughed at the absurdity of the situation. "Now that is where I draw the line! There's no way-"
"One, two..." Egon interjected tersely.
Ray's eyes widened and he put his hand on Egon's arm. "Freddy's coming for you."
Peter's inquisitive eyes narrowed. "Who's Freddy?"
Upon hearing the name Ray pressed his back against the door frame of the lab door and slid down to the floor with his hands covering his pale, sweaty face. His eyes widened with abject terror as the name spoken brought back a flood of dark, depressing, horrific memories. As his entire body began to tremble with the macabre memories that he had long since repressed the face, the glove, the name... It all made sense.
"His name is Freddy Krueger." Ray whisper in a quaking voice. The extreme reaction to the resurfaced memory had caused the lacerations on Ray's arm and shoulder to begin seeping blood again. "He was... He was a child murderer! A serial killer!"
Peter and Winston's eyes flashed with unparalleled shock as they exchanged twin glances of confusion and concern. Peter knelt down beside Ray and put his hands on Ray's arms and tried to pry his hands down from his face.
"A serial killer?" Peter questioned as he studied Ray's face and reaction. "If this guy was real, if he was such a sick twisted freak, then why haven't any of us ever heard of him until now?"
Egon picked up one of the many newspaper articles and pointed to the blacked out text. "Because that's what the town wanted. They wanted everyone to forget about him and his victims."
"But... why?" Winston took the newspaper from Egon's hand. "Wouldn't the families want justice for the deaths of their loved ones and want to ensure as much research into the killer's sick mind was made possible to prevent any further tragedies?"
Peter tried to pull Ray up off the floor but the frightened engineer wouldn't budge.
Egon shook his head. "I remember who he is and why he was erased from history. What they did was for the best." His left hand returning to his scarred bicep beneath the fabric of his sleeve.
"Please explain." Peter insisted as he relented in trying to get Ray up off the cold floor. "What the hell is going on here?"
"First let's get Ray's shoulder and arm taken care of." Egon spotted the blood saturating through the bandages. "Then I'll answer every question possible."
Working in tandem Winston assisted Peter with lifting Ray up from the floor and all but dragging him over to a chair so his bleeding wounds could be checked. "Okay, I'll take care of Ray," Winston pointed over to Egon. "you tell us what we're dealing with here."
Steeling himself mentally Egon finally opened up about the horrible secret being guarded by the small town that he had spent his summers as a small child. "Springwood Ohio holds many dark secrets. The town fell into infamy in the early 1940's when a horrific incident at the asylum known as the Hathway House resulted in... Well, it resulted in him."
"How do you mean?" Winston asked as he began replacing Ray's bandages on his arm. "What happened?"
Peter crossed his arms defensively as he easily sorted out the 'incident' and ending 'result'. "A nurse was attacked, wasn't she?"
"Not a nurse." Egon gave Peter a deeply sympathetic glance. "A nun."
"Oh man..." Peter ran a hand over his mouth as the demented thought was enough to make his stomach flip. "How'd it happen? Do you know?"
"Yes. Before the records were altered or destroyed I was able to do some research on the town when I was a child. My cousin and I snuck in the archives of the library basement when rumors of a 'curse' spread during the summer."
"Tell us what you know Egon." Winston turned his attention to Ray's shoulder.
Ray nodded once in silent agreement.
"According to the records sealed in the archive," Egon continued his explanation with a heavy heart. "there was an incident in the asylum where a nun, a young woman who volunteered her services to help the criminally insane, was accidentally locked inside the asylum for three days with all of the dangerous maniacs."
"Locked up with maniacs." Peter flinched openly. "I can't imagine a worse scenario."
"But she could." Egon resumed morosely. "The maniacs took turns... sexually defiling her. She was... raped... hundreds of times. When she was finally discovered and rescued from the maniacs she had been impregnated."
"My God." Winston finished with Ray's shoulder and sat down beside his friend, his shoulders slouched and his eyes wide. "That poor woman!"
"The child born," Egon bowed his head. "was Freddy Krueger. According to the records from the asylum the 'mother' put him up for adoption and never knew who the 'true father' was, and no one pressed her to find out. What good what it do but put a face and a name to one of the monsters who attacked her repeatedly? Twenty years after the incident the asylum was shut down, the building left abandoned to rot away in shame. The property was purchased and a new building was erected founding the Westin Hills Metal Institution."
Peter's curiosity was piqued. "You said Freddy was put up for adoption. Did you find the adoption records?"
"Yes. My cousin and I followed the trail and located the records for him. A man named Mr. Underwood adopted him, but only to have as a punching bag for his alcoholic rage."
"Never had a chance to be normal." Peter muttered. "Born into hell; unloved, unwanted, the product of a violent act by a violent man. Taken in by a violent man who never gave him a chance to live a life without violence."
"There was also records revolving around Krueger's childhood crimes." Egon looked over at Ray who was still in a daze. "He was known to harm small animals at school and home, and was constantly bullied by his peers. The school reported finding deep cuts and other self inflicted wounds on Krueger's person on a regular basis."
"What happened to his adoptive father and his birth mother?"
"The mother passed away from illness in the early 60's. The 'father' was found dead in the basement after being reported missing by neighbors. He was found with his throat slit and multiple stab wounds all inflicted by a straight razor."
"Murdered." Peter arched his brow. "Freddy's first human victim."
"The police were unable to directly link Krueger to the crime and as a result no charges were filed against him. He was placed in foster care until he aged out three years later. Krueger then returned to Springwood and managed to marry and have a daughter of his own."
"What?!" Winston was genuinely shocked. "How'd a psycho like that get a family of his own?"
"Unknown. How Freddy met his wife, who was strangled to death in front of their three year old daughter, was never known by anyone in the town."
"He strangled his wife?" Winston was morbidly curious. "Why?"
"She found his... 'secret'." Egon confirmed bitterly. "Krueger was stalking the streets at night killing the children of his former classmates who tormented him as a child. He killed twenty children before he was identified. Freddy Krueger was the infamous 'Springwood Slasher'."
"So he was caught." Peter tried to sound as if the situation had already been resolved and was no longer an immediate concern. "And Ray must've triggered a repressed memory of the town while doing his research. Mystery solved!"
"There's more to the story." Ray finally spoke up, his voice shaking and timid. "Freddy was caught, but never prosecuted for the crimes."
Peter rolled his eyes. "Of course he wasn't. Why not?"
"There was a slip up on the search warrant and the judge in charge was drunk. Freddy was released on a technicality and was never punished for his crimes by the law."
"Not punished by the law," Winston knew where Ray was heading with the story. "but I'm willing to bet he was punished by someone else."
Ray nodded once and finally lifted his gaze from the floor. "I remember that night."
"The night Freddy was released the parents of the... murdered children- They banded together and tracked him down. Freddy was hiding out in a storage shed behind the abandoned factory where he once worked; it was also where he took his victims and killed them. He left their bodies dismembered all through the town but always took them to the factory first." Ray began wringing his hands together anxiously as the mortifying details of the crimes returned to his memory. "Once they had Freddy cornered the parents torched the shack and watched it burn to the ground with Freddy trapped inside."
"Did the police ever do anything about it?"
"No." Ray cleared his throat nervously. "The man who led the charge was a police officer who lost his firstborn daughter to Freddy. The body was moved from the torched shack and hidden somewhere in town."
"So Freddy got what he deserved." Peter declared boldly. "I wouldn't prosecute the parents either. Now Egon, Ray," he gave his colleagues a stern look. "what does this have to do with the town records being destroyed and you two having nightmares about this guy?"
Ray shook his head. "I can't say for sure, but I think I'm having nightmares about him because I was a kid in the town when he was on his killing spree. I was... targeted but I escaped."
Peter, Egon and Winston were left in stunned silence at the revelation.
Egon looked at the marks on Ray's arm. "You were attacked?"
"No, I was targeted. I remember being followed by someone when I was walking home from the park one night. I heard his footsteps and turned around and saw him watching me. I freaked out and ran back to my aunt's house a few blocks away. It wasn't until I saw the newspaper two weeks later that I recognized the man and told my aunt what happened. I guess that's why she decided to move away from Springwood. It wasn't safe anymore, for anyone."
Peter gave Egon an inquiring stare as if to ask: 'Well? Are you going to say something?'
"Okay, I can buy that." Winston was now convinced that the man in Ray's nightmare was the same man known as Freddy Krueger. "But what about Egon? He was cut in his sleep just like you were after having a similar nightmare."
Egon could feel Peter staring at him and knew that if he didn't speak up then he'd never come to terms with what had happened to himself as a child. "I too was a child in Springwood during the attacks."
"You were?" Ray sounded as shocked as he was amazed. The odds of the two of them spending time in the same small town seemed too farfetched to be believed. "Why were you there?"
"I had family in Springwood. My parents would spend the summer with my Uncle Cyril and I'd spend time with my younger cousin, Sydney."
"Sydney?" Ray's eyes brightened with familiarity. "I knew a girl by the name of Sydney, we were in the same chemistry class together. And she's the one who wrote me the letter! The one my aunt burned! Did she have long blonde hair, blue eyes and wear braces?"
Egon nodded. "She had such a bright future ahead of her."
"Had?" Peter caught the term quickly. "Past tense. You mean...?"
"She was one of Freddy's victims." Egon's tone was uncharacteristically full of somber emotion as he spoke. "She was only thirteen years old when Krueger got her. I was fifteen, I should've been looking out for her."
"Egon," Peter finally understood why Egon rarely spoke of his childhood and didn't want to even think about Springwood. "you're not responsible for Sydney's... fate. She was the victim of deranged serial killer! It's not your fault."
"I was older than her, I was responsible for her. I promised my uncle that I'd always protect her. I failed." Egon shook his head. "I can't escape my past failures, I can't forget it. And neither can Krueger." Egon rolled up his right sleeve and revealed the deep scar that had been carved into his flesh courtesy of Freddy. "We've met before and I'd prefer to never meet again."
"Wait, wait..." Winston put his hands up as if he could put the entire situation on pause. "are you saying that this Freddy guy is attacking you two because you spent time in Spring wood during his reign of terror and escaped? Like, he has unfinished business and wants to take you guys down from the beyond the grave using... dreams?"
"Nightmares." Ray corrected quickly. "Always in nightmares."
"What do you mean always in nightmares?"
Sighing Egon answered reluctantly. "Krueger began appearing in the nightmares of the remaining children who belonged to the parents who killed him. The vengeful parents took down Krueger and Krueger managed to find a way to hurt them one last time out of his own vengeance by killing the children who escaped his killing spree. Ray, was obviously a child who escaped and whether or not his aunt had anything to do with Krueger's death, Krueger is still after him."
Ray tagged on additional details. "Using nightmares Freddy went after the surviving children and killed them in their sleep. From what I've uncovered about the town and the various travelers who founded the surrounding land, the presence of dream demons had been documented and feared for many generations. The entire town and its citizens are being bombarded by vicious nightmares that have taken dozens, possibly hundreds of lives."
"What about you?" Peter walked over to Egon and sat down beside him. "Did your uncle... You know... Track down Freddy?"
"Unofficially, yes." Egon was just as shaken as Ray. "My uncle joined in the pursuit of Krueger. Sydney was his only child so I imagine being his only nephew, and being someone who eluded Krueger's killing spree, I'd also be targeted."
"So what do we do?" Peter asked in a slightly defeated tone. "Use a Ouija board and tell Freddy to back off?"
"No." Ray reached over the table and fumbled through the stacked books he had been researching a few nights prior. Isolating a large leather bound book Ray opened the tome and flipped the pages until he found the information he had been seeking. "We go after Freddy on his turf. We confront him in the dream world."
"How do we do that?" Winston asked with a sincere intrigue.
"Nope! No way!" Peter threw up his hands in annoyed surrender. "This is where I draw the line. You three can sit here and discuss nightmares until the sun comes up, but I'm going to bed. Dream demons and taking on pissed off serial killers is where I draw the line!"
"Venkman?" Egon watched as Peter left the lab and retreated to the bunk room on the second floor. "Venkman!"
"Let him go." Winston urged dismissively. "He may not believe this, but I do. What do you want me to do?"
Egon and Ray took a moment to ponder their next move. Battling such a powerful and dangerous force on an entirely different place of existence would prove to be a new challenge that neither man had ever experienced before. There could be no errors on their part.
"First off," Ray made a firm, calculated decision. "we'll need to make a trap. One that will function in the dream realm and keep this sick freak locked up. Permanently!"
While the desire to face off against the Dream Demon known as Freddy Krueger was an amicable decision amongst the gathered Ghostbusters the plan itself was seemingly impossible, if not a guaranteed death sentence for the intrepid trio. Confronting lingering ghosts, lost spirits, troublesome monsters and resurrected demigods had seemingly become effortless compared to facing off with a vengeful demon who was hellbent of finishing his quest to eliminate those who once escaped his brutal assault as children.
"Bringing a functioning weapon into the dream world is impossible." Egon admitted after mentally calculating the physics of the theory in question. "While we can construct or modify a trap to strengthen it against the power of Krueger, we would be unable to physically carry any device from the waking world into the dream world."
"Then how do we stop him?" Winston asked as he peeked through the opened lab door hoping that Peter was still nearby pr eavesdropping. "If we can't face him on his terms and win how we even the odds in our favor AND on our terms?"
While Egon pondered the all too important question Ray looked down at his freshly bandaged arm with a twisted sense of fear and awe. It was then an interesting theory came to mind. "Maybe the only way to even the odds is by bringing him to us; confront him with home field advantage!"
"And how do we do that?" Winston was trying to follow Ray's logic but failed.
"Easy." Ray held up his bandaged arm and pointed to it with a smug grin. "What happens in the dream world affects the real world, what should be an illusion becomes tangible and real. That means if Freddy is an illusion than he too can become real if we can bring him into the waking world."
"...How?" Egon was enthralled by the theory but unable to comprehend any plausible scenarios.
"I bring him into the real world." Ray took a deep breath and lowered his arm. "I sleep, encounter him in my nightmare and confront him head on. I get a hold of him and hang on until I wake up, then he'll be here in the firehouse and we can trap him!"
"Ray," Egon was reluctant to go along with the plan. "even if it was in fact possible to bring something physical from the dream world into our waking world... It's t dangerous."
"I know, I've been hurt and we know he won't hold back, but we have little choice."
Winston chimed in with a somber tone. "I hate to break it to you Ray, but that sounds completely crazy! Don't get me wrong, you're my friend and I know you're sane, but this is too farfetched to be believed."
"We should at least try." Ray argued. "If I'm wrong and there's no way to stop this Freddy freak then that means it really is just a nasty nightmare and it spread over to Egon from hysteria or repressed memories. None of us are in any real danger and I'll stop reading horror stories so close to bed."
After dismissing himself from the conversation in the lab and retreating to the bunk room up on the second floor Peter let out a deep, sleepy yawn and fell into his bed with a heavy 'whump'. Fatigue had overrun his mind and made sleep the only priority for the psychologist that night. It didn't take long for Peter to drift off into a much needed slumber.
It wasn't long before the voices from downstairs roused Peter from his much needed sleep. Annoyed, exhausted and fed up with the nightmare nonsense that had disrupted the normal routines of the four Ghostbusters. "Ray... Will you PLEASE drop it!" Peter grumbled bitterly as he pulled his pillow from under his head and pressed it against his face. The voices were still loud despite the cushion providing a sound barrier. "That's it! I'm going to put an end to this once and for all!"
Tossing aside the pillow Peter practically jumped out of his bed and made his way over to the fire pole into the corner. Sliding down into the garage Peter was ready either yell at Ray or grab him by his good shoulder and shake some sense into him.
"All right you guys, it's time to-" Storming into the lab Peter was ready greeted by an unexpected sight. A long figure was standing amongst steaming pipes that snaked over the walls and standing before a massive roaring furnace that burned with a bright orange flame. The figure had its back to Peter, its gaze seemingly fixated on the fire raging in the furnace. "You're not Ray... Or Egon. Or Winston."
The figure extended its right hand revealing a glove with four long razors attached to each finger.
Turning to face Peter the figure revealed its horrifically burned face and released guttural chuckle.
"Shit... You must be 'Freddy'." Peter tried to back out of the room only have the door slam shut behind him and lock. Reaching for the knob with one hand he began wrestling with the lock as he stared with unparalleled horror at the burned man who took a step forward. "This isn't real. This is a dream."
"No." Freddy waved a single razor at Peter as if shaking a finger in correction. "This is a nightmare. YOUR nightmare."
"Is it too late to wake up?"
The fire in the furnace rushed upward with a renewed energy that illuminated the pipes in bright orange glow that cast long, slithering shadows against the walls. Steam hissed loudly from the pipes like a thousand angry snakes surrounding the trapped psychologist.
"This isn't real, it's NOT real!" Peter repeated to himself in a desperate bid to awaken from the nightmare.
"Seeing," Freddy hissed as he appeared right in front of Peter, slamming his gloved hand against the wall beside Peter's head. "is believing."
Peter slunk down against the wall as he locked eyes with Freddy's bright green irises that glared at him with a twisted glee. "Being 'ready to believe you' is just a slogan buddy, don't take it so literally!"
Freddy's clawed hand dragged down the wall with a loud screech, the razors gouging deeply into the surface leaving behind four long cuts that scarred the bricks and mortar. "You're stubborn." Using his ungloved hand Freddy grabbed onto the front of Peter's shirt and pulled him closer to his own face. "I like that."
"I know at least four other people who would side against you."
"Your mind, it's strong. But your fear is stronger." Freddy dragged his claw down over Peter's shoulder, over his chest and pointed his index finger directly at Peter's heart. "Let's see if your heart is just as strong... Shall we?"
"I'd rather not!" Peter rebutted as he immediately grabbed Freddy's wrist with both hands and tried to hold it back with all his strength. Peter's white knuckles strained to hold back the demonic hand of his attacker, his fingers tearing into the fabric of the sleeve of Freddy's shirt. "I'm very sensitive!"
Freddy was much stronger than any mortal man in the dream world. Grinning with a demonic joy Freddy toyed with Peter as he slowly overpowered the man and pressed his razor closer and closer to the Peter's heart as it pounded with adrenaline in his trembling chest.
Rarely outsmarted Peter thought quickly and remembered that Ray had awoken from his nightmare covered in painful wounds. The injuries were enough to cause Ray to call out in pain from his sleep. Releasing one hand from Freddy's wrist Peter stretched his own arm outward toward the billowing steam of the nearest pipe and cried out in pain as the dangerously hot mist quickly pain searing into flesh.
Peter suddenly shot upright in his bed as he pulled himself out of the nightmare and back into the real world. Panting in pain as the adrenaline coursing through his veins made his heart race Peter stared down at his arm and saw the massive red burn that had saved his life.
"Peter?" Egon entered the room quickly and stared at his friend with confusion in his eyes. Retrieving his glasses from the nightstand he walked over to where Peter was sitting and looked down at his arm. "You've been burned."
"Remember when I said I was done with all the nightmare stuff?"
"I think I was a little premature."
"You were attacked as well." Egon shook his head angrily. "We must find a way to stop him. We can't possibly continue our lives with these nightmares plaguing us."
"I'm on board. What do we do?"
Egon didn't answer, only because he didn't have the answer to give.
Ray and Winston joined their colleagues in the bunk room and stared at Peter with wide eyes.
"Great," Winston sounded more annoyed than worried. "three down and one to go. I'm going to go make some coffee."
Ray put his hand on Winston's shoulder but didn't break eye contact with Peter. "You okay?"
"I've been better." Peter admitted as he held up his burned arm for Ray to see. "Maybe we'll have matching scars that we can get covered up with matching tattoos. How about you get a heart with my initials and I get skull with your initials?"
"Did he say anything to you?" Ray asked as he ignored Peter's joke. "Did he give you any clues as to how we could possibly defeat him?"
"He said my fear was stronger than my mind. Which is good because that means I'm not as bullheaded as you all think!"
"Be serious, Peter! Please!"
"I am being serious! I'm seriously irritated, seriously tired, seriously sore; I mean look at this!" As Peter went to point at his burn for emphasis a swatch of torn fabric fell from his hand and landed on the floor beside his bed.
"Wait a moment." Egon bent down and picked up the tattered piece of fabric. Studying it carefully between his fingers Egon realized he recognized the fabric, he had seen it before. In his nightmare. "Peter, where did this come from?"
"I... I grabbed onto his arm when he came after me. I guess I tore a piece of his shirt in the struggle."
"You... brought it back with you? From your dream?"
Ray's eyes lit up with excitement as he snatched the fabric from Egon's hands. "I knew it! I was right! We CAN bring objects out of his dream world and into our world! I can go after him in my dream, I can bring Freddy back into the real world!"
"Ray." Winston's voice of reason was singing proudly as he pulled the fabric from Ray's grip and held it tightly in his own fist. "That sounds incredibly dangerous. You can't do anything so risky unless we know for sure we can stop him, that is, if you can even really bring him into our world."
"I have to try." Ray defied firmly. "He's attacked us three," he gestured to himself, Egon and Peter as he spoke. "he'll likely go after you, too. He'll probably go after Janine and who knows who else! We have to stop him. We have to protect everyone before he begins a new reign of terror. There are so many innocent children in New York City alone, what if he spreads beyond our minds and into the minds of everyone connected to us?"
"Ray's right." Egon reluctantly sided with determined engineer. "This 'dream demon' managed to awaken itself just from Ray stumbling across newspaper articles that stimulated a long repressed memory. He's strong and if he really does feed on fear then we have to stop him as soon as possible."
"I agree, he needs to be stopped." Winston was still trying to be the voice of reason. "But Ray, why do you need to confront this guy? He's already injured you pretty good, why not have us all go after him together as a team?"
Ray bowed his head guiltily. "Because I'm the one who's responsible for his return. I have to stop him. I won't let anyone else get hurt. It's my fault."
Peter's instincts as a psychologist kicked in. "Ray, it's NOT your fault. You were the first of us to have a nightmare dealing with this lunatic but you aren't responsible for his actions or for the actions of the people who killed him all those years ago. You're a victim just like me and Egon."
"It's still something I have to do." Ray wasn't going to back down from his decision. "I won't lose another friend to Freddy. No one else is going to die by his hand."
Time was critical. Ray's heartfelt decision to confront Freddy Krueger with the intention of stopping the dangerous fiend weighed heavily on the minds of his three colleagues and friends. Once Ray was asleep he'd be alone in his nightmare, unable to call for help or escape the dream until he was either awakened by an outside force or by Freddy choosing to let him go. It seemed the former was more likely than the latter, but the options would be greatly limited by secondary forces.
Egon and Winston busied themselves with gathering any potentially useful equipment for the impending endeavor down in the lab, while Ray and Peter gathered their thoughts in the rec room.
"Are you sure about this Ray?" Peter asked as he wrapped up his burned forearm in a roll of white gauze. His hands were still shaking from the horrific experience and his heart went out to his brave friend. "Wouldn't it be easier to call in a favor from one of your occult contacts to handle this,or use a form of hypnosis to keep a part of your mind conscious?"
"No," Ray spoke softly as he discreetly took two of the white pain pills as he had been prescribed the by his doctor and popped them into his mouth. "I have to do this. Freddy found his way back into the world of the living through me. I'm the bridge that he's using to cross back and forth."
"Please don't tell me you plan on BURNING this bridge to stop him." Peter practically begged. "It's not worth it if you end up lost to this twisted freak."
"Thanks Venkman." Ray gave his friend a surprised glance. "I didn't know you cared so much."
"Of course I care! If you go down then that means I might have to go after him next, and I don't want to."
"Don't get me wrong," Peter joked lightly in a desperate attempt to ease the dark tension in the air. "I'd miss you every day if Freddy managed to skewer you but in the end I'd miss myself most of all. You'd be a close second though."
Winston walked up the stairs with a modified cardiac monitor in his arms, a trap slung over his shoulder and a proton pack on his back. He paused momentarily to look over at Ray. "I called Janine and asked her to come in. If you're right and this Freddy psycho might come after me and her then it'd be best to have her here with us." Adjusting his grip on the monitor he continued on his way to the bunk room. "Besides, she'd kill us if we left her out of this and something bad happened to you."
Peter gave Ray a smug look. "I think she'd be more upset if something bad happened to Egon and less upset is something bad happened to me."
"I think you're right." Ray laughed a little as Egon also ascended the stairs with additional equipment in his hands and a second proton pack on his back.
"I'll be able to monitor your brain patterns while you dream." Egon explained as he crossed the rec room with a tray loaded with supplies; rubbing alcohol, cotton balls, a bottle of an unlabeled medicine and a syringe, and made his way toward the bunk room. "In the event that your vitals show signs of distress we'll be able to wake you from your sleep."
"That's somehow not as comforting as I had hoped."
The door on the first floor opened and shut quickly as Janine arrived and made her way up to the second floor in hastened pace. "What's going on here?" She asked as she approached Ray with genuine concern in her voice. "Winston said you were going to face off against something called a 'dream demon' and that I should be here for my own safety."
"It's a little complicated but yeah, your best bet is to be here with us." Ray calmly reassured her. "We're getting ready right now, it's going to be a little odd, but everything will be okay. You'll see."
"I hope so."
Janine gave Peter a pleading look to leave so that she and Ray could be alone for a moment.
"Odd is just the beginning." Ever adept at reading body language Peter took the opportunity to excuse himself and check in with Egon and Winston in the bunk room. "Speaking of which, I want to see what monstrosity of a contraption Egon has put together now. He never ceases to amaze me. Don't know if I should be proud or paranoid."
Janine gently held onto Ray's hands between her own as she took Peter's vacated seat. "Ray, I've been meaning to talk to you."
"What about?" His inquisitive eyes lit up with curiosity.
"Oh." He tightened his fingers around her hands in response. "What do you want to talk about?"
"When I was a little girl I had a recurring nightmare myself," she gave the engineer an empathetic stare. "and when I confronted the fear it finally stopped. In all the years I spent being haunted by this faceless figure I thought I was going to go crazy. But when I finally faced my fears head on it ended the nightmares and I felt like a stronger person."
"How'd you face your nightmare?" Ray was very intrigued by Janine's revelation.
"Since the man had no face, just a blank white nothingness, I projected a familiar face onto the figure and when I was able to identify the man all of the fear and intimidation faded away. I was able to wake up from my nightmare without being afraid to look anyone else in the face ever again."
"Wow... I had no idea you went through something like this when you were younger."
"I don't like to talk about it. My parents told me I was responsible for the nightmare because I either read too much or spent too much time daydreaming. My friends didn't seem to care either. I had no one to talk to and the people I tried to tell wouldn't listen. It was very frustrating."
"Well, I'm listening and I don't think you were crazy or lost in 'la-la land'." He smiled and squeezed her hands warmly. "Thanks for telling me."
"You're welcome. Just promise me when you go into your dream and deal with this... thing, that you won't forget that you're not alone. All of us are going to be here with you and that you don't have to be afraid."
Ray nodded once. "Right."
"Ray?" Winston peered through the doorway of the bunk room. "We're ready."
"Okay then." Ray stood up slowly let his grip lessen on Janine's hands. As he turned to walk toward the bunk room he took two more pain pills and popped them in his mouth. "All or nothing."
Egon had finished adjusting the EEG monitor to record, not only Ray's natural brain activity but the fluctuations throughout the various levels of sleep that Ray would experience during his nightmares. A cardiac monitor had also been set up to ensure that all of Ray's vitals were available in the event that something went wrong and Ray's life had become endangered.
Peter was staring at all of the wires that were snaking out of the two monitors and were draped over the nightstand next to Ray's bed, stretching down to the floor. "I think you've finally went over the line, Egon." Peter picked up a wire between his index finger and thumb. "Why in the world would you ever need to make a 'dream machine', and how long did it take you to make this thing?"
"Ray and I have a theory about psychic energy becoming increased during REM sleep which could explain the phenomena of 'deja vu'. The monitor has been in a prototype stage for several years now, but I managed to finish the final adjustments only a few hours ago."
"Of course you did." Peter rolled his eyes while he let go of the wire. "I should've known better."
Winston put his hand on Ray's shoulder as the engineer walked into the bunk room with his head held high. "You ready for this, Ray?"
"Yeah. Let's stop this ugly freak." As Ray walked over to his bed to sit down Egon stepped aside. Taking a deep breath Ray prepared for the inevitable fight. "You going to be watching my back Spengler?"
"Yes. We will be able to monitor you very closely." Egon confirmed as he began attaching the leads of the EEG monitor to Ray's temples.
"Good." Ray took off his flannel shirt and laid back flat against his bed. "I trust you."
Janine walked into the bunk room and leaned against the door frame, watching from afar with an unspoken intrigue.
Winston and Peter sat down together on the edge of Egon's bed beside Ray's bed and watched intensely as Egon finished attaching the EKG leads to Ray's chest and checking the readout on the two monitors. Satisfied with the readings on display Egon took a small vial of a pink colored sedative and filled a sterilized syringe with the medicine. "Extend your arm, please."
Ray obeyed and lifted his arm up toward Egon. "You'll be able to wake me up even while under sedation, right?"
Egon nodded once and rubbed a small cotton ball soaked in alcohol over the vein in the crook of Ray's arm. "This is a very diluted solution. I've compensated the dosage according to your weight and current state of sleep deprivation."
"Good to know."
Egon injected the sedative into Ray's vein and carefully retracted the needle. "You'll be asleep very shortly."
"And you'll be ready to face off with Freddy once I bring him out of my dream?" Ray suddenly let out a deep, sleepy yawn as the medication quickly began taking effect.
"We got you covered." Winston confirmed as he pointed to the trap and the proton packs sitting on the bed across from Ray's bed. There was also a very large, well equipped medical kit loaded with various medications, bandages, syringes, a stethoscope and a small portable defibrillator. "Don't worry about a thing, just get him into our world and we'll deal with him."
"Yeah... Easy." Ray's eyes shut as the sedation overwhelmed his mind and body, leaving him weak and vulnerable. "Now I lay me down to sleep..." He whispered softly without a further word.
Peter folded his arms across his chest as he watched Ray drift off into his very deep, very dangerous slumber. "That hit him pretty fast. I don't like it."
Egon nodded in agreement and proceeded to check Ray's vitals on the dual monitors. "Interesting. The sedative shouldn't have placed him in the delta dream state just yet. I double checked my calculations to ensure that the dosage wasn't too potent, this is very unusual."
"Maybe Ray was a lot more tired than we realized?" Peter suggested in an attempt to brush away the discomfort of the entire unusual situation.
Winston reached over with one hand and lifted Ray's eyelids one at a time to check his pupils. "I don't think so, something else is going on."
Janine spoke up as she hustled into the bunk room from the door frame. "Egon, I saw Ray take some pills before he came in here."
"What?!" Egon's posture stiffened with abject worry as he turned with wide eyes toward Janine. "What did he take? Did you see the pill color?"
"White." Janine answered firmly and surely. "Two white pills."
"Shit." Egon rushed over to the medical kit and retrieved the stethoscope while also preparing a small cocktail of carefully selected medication into a syringe.
"What's going on Spengz?" Peter didn't like it when Egon disappeared into his own mind without speaking. "You got that look in your eyes again."
Returning to Ray's bed Egon handed the syringe to Winston for safekeeping as he placed the bell of the stethoscope over Ray's chest and listened carefully. "Ray may have accidentally overdosed himself!"
Darkness surrounded Ray as he tread slowly through the icy cold room. Wisps of fog rose up from the cracked, dirty concrete floor with every step he took, his boots echoing loudly as he marched boldly forward unsure of what it was he was going to find or when he'd find it. With each escaping breath the air filled with more foggy mist that emphasized the unnatural chill in the air.
"Where are you Krueger?" Ray muttered as he crossed the dark, seemingly empty room. A large iron door fixed in the far wall stood as the only exit to the room and would surely lead the Ghostbuster into the dream demon's lair. "Alright, let's do this. Show yourself to me."
As Ray challenged Krueger to the final confrontation the massive iron door slowly creaked open on its own. As the door crept inward a beam of full yellow light began through the ever widening space between the door and its frame.
"Don't hide from me." Ray spoke louder as he tried to push aside his lingering fear. He put his hand on the partially opened door and pulled it open entirely. "I'm not that scared little boy anymore. I'm not a helpless child that you can intimidate, and you're not going to threaten anyone else as long as I'm still here!"
Ray crossed through the door and found himself standing inside of massive abandoned factory. The interior was snaked with steaming pipes, massive rusted boilers, dripping water and hanging wires that dangled from the ceiling and jutted out through various holes in the walls. A loud screeching began sounding off through the building as Freddy, lurking in the shadows and steam clouds, began dragging his four razors over the pipes in a taunting manner.
A shiver went up Ray's spine but he steeled himself against showing any sign of fear. "Come out where I can see you, coward!"
The screeching stopped.
Hissing steam escaped from the numerous pipes creating a wall of mist. Through the mist strode the demon himself, Freddy Krueger.
"You want me?" Ray asked defiantly. "Come and get me! I'm not going anywhere!"
Freddy responded with a deep, gravelly chuckle. "Where would you go?" Stepping closer Freddy locked his green eyes onto Ray. "This is my world. What I say, goes. And I say, you stay."
Ray instinctively tried to reach for the thrower of his proton pack but he wasn't wearing it. Even if he had been able to carry the pack with him into the dream world it was very possible that Krueger would've found a way to disable it or turn the weapon against him. Lowering his hand Ray adjusted his stance as if readying a tackle.
"It's rare for a child to escape my blades." Freddy threatened with a wicked tone as he flexed his hand and showed Ray the four razors attached to his glove. "I'll have to remedy this, won't I?"
"You couldn't hurt me then, you can't hurt me now!"
"No?" Freddy's twisted smile was a nauseating as it was sinister. Using the razor on his index finger he pointed to Ray's bandaged arm. "Then what would you call that? A hickey?"
Ray looked down at his wounded arm and took in a deep breath. "A warning."
"Very good." Freddy liked the sound of that. A warning; a taste of what hell was yet to come. "I'm going to enjoy this. You think you have the power to control forces beyond your world, I'm here to prove you wrong. You were a loser as a child and a failure as a man."
At those words Ray felt himself grow hot with anger.
"You couldn't protect your little friend," Freddy opened the palm of his ungloved hand and displayed a pile of burned ashes. "she warned you about me but couldn't do anything to stop me."
The letter. The letter Sydney had written to Ray all those years ago burned in fear by Ray's aunt.
"And you didn't do anything to protect her."
Rage and frustration overwhelmed Ray's mind. In a matter of seconds Ray found himself charging toward Freddy and tackled him to the ground with a single violent impact. Freddy raised his hand in attempt to use the razors to slice into Ray's back but he managed to grab a firm hold on Freddy's arm and hold it down on the ground with one hand and pin his other arm in place with the other.
"You're not getting away from me!"
In the real world Egon was trying to find a way to wake Ray up and bring him back to full consciousness. The EEG showed a massive spike in Ray's brainwaves indicative of a tremendous nightmare and the cardiac monitor showed another massive spike in Ray's heart rate, yet a dangerous drop in his respirations. The brave, dreaming engineer was in distress. Ray was dying.
Winston was keeping tabs on Ray's respiration by keeping one hand on Ray's chest and was monitoring his pulse by pressing his fingers against the side of Ray's neck. "He's hardly breathing..."
"Venkman try to wake him!" Egon urged as he turned his attention to the medical kit and the medication contained within.
"What do you want me to do?" Peter asked as he hovered over Ray's bed. The engineer was coated in a veil of cold sweat that soaked his entire body, his face twisted into a grimace of pain and anger. "Slap him?"
"Yes." Egon confirmed as he filled a syringe with adrenaline. "Ray's respiratory system has been compromised by the high dosage of pain killers in his system. If could stop breathing if we don't wake him now and induce stimulants to counteract the effects of the opioids."
"Okay, but remember you told me to do this!" Peter reached back his hand and struck Ray across the side of his face Ray didn't react. "Sorry about this Ray..." He reached back and struck again but Ray didn't respond. "This isn't working Egon!"
Janine had been watching from a distance, standing by the door frame. She stifled a scream as he saw a long red laceration being cut into Ray's arm just below Winston's fingers. Dark red blood pooled down at a rapid pace as the wound lengthened and deepened by an unseen weapon. "Ray's bleeding! Something is happening to him!"
"Stand aside." Egon motioned for Peter to move back. With the loaded syringe in his right hand Egon put his left hand down on Ray's left pectoral muscle and firmly inserted the needle of the syringe directly into Ray's heart and injected the medication.
"Adrenaline?!" Peter practically snatched the syringe out of Ray's chest and clutched the emptied vial angrily in his fist. "Are you crazy?! His heart's already racing, you want it to burn out completely?"
"I had no choice." Egon stood by his decision as he stared at the cardiac monitor as Ray's body reacted to the newly administered drug. Ray's already rapid heart began beating even faster and his respirations improved. "Look!"
The painful cut that had formed on Ray's arm was bleeding heavily and dripping down onto the bed. The fight within the dream was all too real.
"He's being attacked and needs to wake up! We'll-"
Ray suddenly bolted upright in the bed and through the nothingness that lays between the world of wake and sleep he had pulled Freddy Kruger into the real world along with him. Freddy's arms were still pinned at his sides, but his long razor had still managed to cut into Ray's arm, the blade now lined up the previously formed wound.
"Get back!" Winston jumped back and dashed toward the proton pack on the far bed. "Janine, get out of here!"
Janine didn't hesitate or even pause to ask any questions. Turning on her heels she bolted from the rec room and down to the garage of the firehouse in a near blind panic.
Freddy, who initially hadn't noticed the jump from world to the next, was suddenly aware of the three other Ghostbusters surrounding him. Slowly he turned his gaze from Ray, who was still holding onto his arms, and glared angrily at Egon. "You."
Egon took a single step back while Winston stepped forward and aimed the thrower of the proton pack at Freddy. "Don't move!"
Ray pushed Freddy away from him weakly, his strength diminishing as the conflicting drugs in his system began to take a drastic effect over his body. Unable to flee or defend himself Ray just stared with wide eyes as he clutched his bleeding arm and hand over his chest. Confusion had set in and kept him down, his body too stressed to move and his brain too wired to process information properly.
Unintimidated by Winston's threat Freddy casually took a step back from the bed and raised his gloved hand at the marine, the four razors glistening in the overhead light. "I don't have a problem with you," Freddy growled. "just these two."
"Yeah? Well these two happen to be my friends! Now back off!"
Peter sided with Winston and grabbed the second proton pack and powered it up. Hoisting the trap and over his shoulder he took aim at Freddy with the intent to open fire. "I'd listen to him if I were you. He has a much better aim and he's been trained in many special ways that all end in pain."
Freddy chuckled and hovered his razors over Ray, who was laying on his bed in a cold sweat with his hand over his chest as his pounding heart was beginning to cause him pain.
"Back off!" Winston powered up the thrower and took a step forward. "Final warning."
Flashing only a quick smirk Freddy lowered his hand toward Ray in a swift flashing motion. Fortunately before the razors had the chance to slice into Ray's flesh Egon had reached out and grabbed onto Ray's arm and pulled his friend off the bed and out of harm's way.
"NOW." Winston urged as he opened fire, Peter joining him in the attempt to capture the dream demon.
Quicker than expected Freddy managed to avoid both proton streams and slip down to the ground floor by jumping down the hole containing the fire pole.
"Where'd he go?!" Peter nearly shouted as Freddy disappeared from sight. His voice was shaking with a mixture of fear and anger. "We can't let him get away!"
"Ground floor!" Winston leapt to the fire pole and slid down after the escaping demon. "We'll trap him in the basement!"
Peter turned and looked at the door frame of the bunk room. "Janine!" Sprinting through the door Peter raced through the rec room and down to the garage to confront Freddy once again alongside Winston.
"Janine?!" Egon's heart began to race as he realized that she was now in danger.
Ray was in great pain and vulnerable. He struggled to speak as the intense pain wracked through his entire body, but focused on his chest.
Egon had knelt on the floor with Ray pulled upward and resting against his knee after pulling Ray out of danger. "Ray? Are you alright?"
Ray's eyes were shut tight, a faint stream of tears running from the corners of his eyes. "N-No. My chest... It hurts!" His bloodied hand pressed against his chest as his heart continued to pound forcefully against his chest. "It feels like... my heart is... going to explode!"
"I'm so sorry Ray, I had to do it. I couldn't let-"
Ray suddenly let out a groan of pain as he body went limp against Egon's knee.
"Ray?" Egon pressed his fingers to Ray's neck to check his pulse as he stared up at the cardiac monitor still attached to his chest. "Raymond?"
Ray's heart rate suddenly plummeted and his respirations dipped. As he laid motionless on the floor Egon gave his downed friend a frightened glance. The blood flowing from Ray's arm stained his chest and formed a puddle on the floor beside his body. Pale and lifeless it seemed Freddy had claimed yet another victim.
Winston had managed to catch sight of Freddy slipping down from the garage into the stairwell leading to the basement. The clever dream demon was attempting to use the shadows to hide and continue his mind games by utilizing the Ghostbusters' five senses against them to create an atmosphere of total fear and panic. As Freddy unleashed a cruel chuckle from the depths of the basement a shrill, yet muffled scream sounded off.
"Janine!" Winston's heart skipped a beat when he realized that she was now in imminent danger. Freddy had taken her as his hostage. "Venkman, get down here!"
Peter was already racing down the stairs and had set foot on the last step when Winston had called out for him. As he joined his colleague in the garage he instinctively knew that Janine was in peril. "Where'd he take her?"
"The the basement." Winston took a step forward and tightened his grip on the handle of his thrower. "Ready for this?"
"Do I have a choice?" Peter double checked his thrower and made sure the trap was still hanging from his shoulder as he followed Winston.
"I didn't have a nightmare with this Freddy freak," Winston whispered as he tentatively approached the top of the basement stairs. "but I know he isn't someone to take lightly. If he can mess with you, Ray and Egon then I know he's going to have something set up and waiting for us."
"Well as the marine I expect you to take full responsibility for this situation."
Stepping down into the basement, one slow step at a time, Winston's eyes locked onto the form of Freddy Krueger with his back against the far wall and his arm around Janine's chest with his have covering her mouth, while his gloved hand was wrapped precariously around her throat. Pressing the blades painfully into Janine's exposed flesh Freddy flashed the two approaching Ghostbusters a horrifically amused grin.
"Back off man," Peter warned as he aim at Freddy's face. "she's not your type."
"Let her go." Winston's eyes were burning with rage. "Only a coward hides behind a human shield."
Perturbed by the declaration Freddy responded by tightening his grip on Janine's throat causing two of the blades to cut into Janine's flesh drawing a trickle of blood.
Janine tried to scream in pain but her cry for help was muffled by Freddy's hand. Her bright blue eyes were wide with fear and tears were beginning to form in her eyes.
"Last chance." Peter dared to challenge Freddy's fortitude. "Let. Her. Go."
"You want the bitch?" Freddy growled bitterly as he pressed his blades closer to her face, the first blade on his glove running along her chin. He leaned down close to her ear and took in her scent by pressing his nose along her neck. "Come and get her."
Janine tried to pull away but Freddy's grip was too strong. She shut her eyes and stifled an emotional sob of abject horror.
"On three." Peter glanced toward Winston and gave him a sly nod.
"Right." Winston aimed his thrower. "One-"
Simultaneously Peter and Winston unleashed their proton streams and watched as the beams snaked around Freddy's upper body, pinning him against the wall.
"RUN." Winston called out as potentially dangerous beams roared to life uncomfortably close to Janine. "Now's your chance!"
Janine was able to wrest free of his grip and clumsily run away. She ran between the twin beams and ducked down behind Winston, one hand pressed against her bleeding neck and her other hand gripping into his shoulders; needing to feel as though she was finally safe from the dream demon.
Freddy cried out in pain as he futilely attempted to fight back against the proton streams, but couldn't break free. "What is this?!"
"You're in OUR world, now!" Peter retorted loudly. "These are OUR rules!"
Struggling to break away from the powerful weapons Freddy pressed his hands against the brick surface and kicked wildly but couldn't find any leverage to use to his advantage. Swiping through the beams with his razor glove only seemed to strengthen the proton streams.
"Trap!" Winston called out. "Janine! Get the trap!"
Reacting quickly she reached over to Peter's shoulder and grabbed onto the trap's cable. Kneeling down she pushed the trap forward and lined the trigger up next to Winston's boot. "It's ready."
"Pull back!" Peter shouted as he shortened his stream enough to pull away from the wall and toward the trap.
"Got it!" Winston followed suit and helped hold Freddy in the air just a few feet over the trap.
As Winston hovered his boot over the trigger he caught Freddy's malevolent gaze. "I'LL SEE YOU IN HELL." Freddy snarled as he fell prey to the Ghostbusters.
"Lookin' forward to it!" Peter quipped boldly.
Winston stomped down on the trigger and opened the trap. The bright white beam of ionized light enveloped Freddy's entire body and began pulling him down into the trap. As Freddy's terribly scarred body was ensnared in the trap his glove fell from his hand and 'clanged' loudly on the concrete floor. Stomping the trigger for the second time the trap shut and Freddy was sealed inside.
"Finally..." Peter exhaled as he stared down at the blinking trap. "He's gone."
Janine's grip on Winston's shoulder lessened as her fear ebbed away. "Thank God."
Winston nudged the side of the trap with his boot before bending down to pick it up. "Let's go check in with Ray and Egon."
"Yeah," Peter grabbed onto the dropped glove with a careful touch and inspected the grotesque weapon. "and lock this thing up."
Egon had managed to heft Ray up from the floor and back onto his bed with moderate difficulty. While Egon was quite strong it was still a chore to lift deadweight up from the ground without any assistance. Ray had survived his nightmares with Freddy Krueger but his struggle to remain among the living was not over.
Checking Ray's pulse again Egon felt himself grow cold with worry. "Stay with my Ray. Don't give up."
Ray was laying flat on his back on his bed, his eyes closed and skin beaded with a layer of sweat. Dark circles had formed under his exhausted, sleep deprived eyes. His arm had been freshly stitched and bandaged by Egon with surprising speed and meticulous detail.
"Spengz?" Peter called as he strolled through the rec room and into the bunk room. "You two alright?"
"I'm fine." Egon confirmed as he sat on the edge of Ray's bed and stared down at the weak engineer. "But Ray is in serious condition. Did you find Janine?"
"Yes," Janine's voice replied in a trembling tone. "I'm okay."
"How's his heart?" Winston asked as he and Janine entered the bunk room together. "Without Freddy to attack him in his dreams he should be able to rest normally, right?"
Egon only nodded. "According to these readings Ray is in a healthy sleep pattern. Unfortunately Ray had developed a arrhythmia as a result of the stimulants injected into his system."
"Is he... Will Ray be okay?" Peter almost choked on the question as it sickened him to even have to ask.
"I believe so." Egon motioned to the Ray's newly bandaged arm. "I was able to give him an injection a verapamil to correct the arrhythmia as well as slow his heart rate; eliminating the tachycardia. As for his arm, Krueger's blade managed to nick his radial artery. The increased heart rate caused the wound to begin bleeding profusely for a few minutes."
Janine folded her arms over his chest and looked down at Ray thoughtfully. "As long as he comes back to us, that's all that's really important."
"Janine?" Egon could see the blood staining her hand and neck. "You were harmed?" Egon gently reached up and brushed Janine's red hair away from the side of her neck so he could examine the wound. "How did you manage to capture Krueger so quickly? We had little time to react to his arrival."
Winston held out the smoking trap for Egon to see. "Our proton streams got him."
Thinking through the logistics of the events that had unfolded Egon quickly developed a theory. "It's possible that there was enough lingering PKE energy on Krueger's being to react to the proton streams as they would any other ghost. Of course, if Krueger truly is a form of demon then our equipment would have little difficulty in differentiating between him and other true corporeal beings."
"Good thing for me..." Janine whispered as she lifted one hand up to hold against the cuts along her neck. Her hand briefly made contact with Egon's hand which gave her goosebumps. "I'll live." She nearly snapped as a flash on embarrassment caught her off guard. "But I'm NOT going to let you guys forget about this night during the next employee review."
Peter held up his hand as he casually tossed Freddy's glove into the air and caught it. "We need to make sure this thing stays locked up forever, just like Krueger. Vault or toss it into the Hudson River?"
"Vault." Winston decided as he took the glove from Peter's hand. "I wouldn't trust leaving this thing out in the open, even if there is an entire river over. Who knows how many dead bodies could be lurking down there just waiting for some kind of ghostly weapon to stir things up?"
"Good point." Peter admitted as he looked at the trap and the glove in Winston's protective hands. "I don't know what's worse; an angry dream demon or an angry New Yorker."
"...Depends on the traffic..." Ray's tired voice managed to sound off somewhat loudly despite his lethargy.
"Ray!" Peter's posture visibly relaxed upon hearing his friend's voice. "Welcome back."
Egon's hand lowered from Janine's neck as he stared at Ray with immediate relief. "How do you feel?"
"Tired." Ray forced a weak, mischievous smile to his face. "Could you guys keep it down? I was having a wonderful dream."
"Uh, was it one of 'those' dreams, again?" Peter teased playfully, referring to the odd dream Ray had shared about a female specter visiting him in the night.
"What?" Ray's pale face only emphasized the red blush of embarrassment. "No, no! Nothing like that..."
"Yeah, sure." Peter teased. "Your red face is a dead giveaway."
"Come on." Winston motioned for Peter to follow him out of the bunk room. "Let's get the trap emptied and the glove locked away."
"Yeah. The sooner the better. And the sooner we can finally get some sleep without being sliced and diced."
Janine put her free hand on Ray's shoulder and smiled warmly. "I'm glad you're okay."
"Me too. I take it Freddy was taken care of?"
"Yes. Peter and Winston were successful. He'll be locked away in the containment unit for the rest of his meager existence."
"Ray, may I ask you a somewhat personal question?" Egon's dedication to his friend's health, physically and mentally was still heavy on his mind.
"Sure, I guess..."
"Why did you ingest four painkillers before being sedated? You nearly overdosed."
"I..." Ray paused but didn't break eye contact with his friend. "I was afraid."
"Of Freddy? We all were."
"No, well, yes, but that's now what I meant." Ray lifted his bandaged arms weakly for Egon to see. "I was afraid of the pain. I didn't want to feel it, or anything like it, ever again. I didn't think about how the pills would react to the injection."
"I see." Egon was somewhat relieved to know that Ray's near overdose was an accident, not intention or a cry for help. "I can understand that. But you don't have to worry about Freddy anymore. He's gone."
"I just wish we didn't have to deal with him in the first place."
Janine gently rubbed at Ray's arm sympathetically before tucking his injured limbs back down under his covers. "It'll be okay. You'll see."
"Get some rest." Egon encouraged as he stood up from the bed and guided Janine out of the bunk room. "Tomorrow morning I'm going to take you in for a doctor's appointment. I want to make sure the heavy medication didn't damage any of your internal organs."
Janine allowed Egon to walk her out of the bunk room before speaking up. "Is everything really okay?" She turned and locked eyes with him. "You seem a little upset."
"Yes." Egon answered firmly and softly as they stood out of the bunk room. "I just wanted to make sure that you're really alright. It looks as though Krueger came very close to... harming you. I'm sorry you had to go through such an experience."
"It's okay Egon, I've been through worse." Janine took her hand from her neck and looked at the dried blood. "Just a scratch. It'll be okay in a few days."
"I'd still prefer it if you'd let me examine your neck before you leave." Egon insisted as a means of easing his own guilt for summoning her to the firehouse to begin with. "Please?"
"Sure. If you really want to." Janine turned her face away to keep herself from blushing. "I trust you."
"Thank you." Egon put his hand on the small of her back and guided her toward the staircase. "I'll see to your injury down in the lab."
Winston had just finished loading the occupied trap into the slot of the containment unit and deposited Freddy and all of his malice within. The unit's power surged briefly as the sudden influx of such a strong deity had nearly pushed the unit to its limits. The lights briefly dimmed and resumed normal illumination after a few seconds.
"We better check the back up generator before heading upstairs." Winston noted as he placed the now vacated trap back on its holder beside the containment unit. "I don't want Krueger escaping and leading a mass breakout while he's at it."
Peter was playing around with the glove, studying the sharp blades and comparing the size of the glove to his own hand. "Wonder how he came up with this thing? This isn't exactly typical 'D.I.Y.' stuff for the average man."
"Don't go there, man." Winston cautioned wisely as he stared at the glove. "The less you know about what's going on in the twisted mind of a vengeful child serial killer, the better."
Peter strolled over to the large metal cabinet tucked away in the second basement adjacent to the main basement. The large combination lock in the center of the cabinet was known only to the four Ghostbusters and the cabinet itself had been bolted to the ground and built into the brick wall of the entire building. Opening the vault Peter placed the glove inside on a raised shelf and proudly slammed the door shut.
"Goodnight you sick freak."
"Come on." Winston turned off the light and pointed toward the dimly lit stairs. "Let's go check on Ray. And get a beer."
"Sounds like the best idea we've had in a while." Peter agreed with a lilt of relief in his voice. "Then get some much needed sleep."
As the two Ghostbusters left the dark basement the glove, the very weapon that had been stained by the blood of so many innocent lives, began to twitch where it sat inside the metal vault. The tips of the blades scratching gouges into the metal surface beneath it.
An evil presence still lingered within the sinister blades, an unseen hand still possessing control.