11 Jun Really Bad Dreams
“Really Bad Dreams”Written by Heath Pfaff Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 13 minutes
Brent was killed by a slice of toast fired at high velocity from an evil, sentient toaster. It blasted a hole right through his chest and took a huge piece out of the wall behind him. We didn’t know what was happening at that point, but you really didn’t need to know more than the fact that something terrible was happening.
It was several hours later, as me and a group of friends were huddled in the “bomb” shelter under Dave’s garage, that we picked up the first reports of what was going on while huddled in the dark around a wind-up radio. The news was calling them the spiral meteors, giant building-sized rocks whistling down from space to bury themselves into the ground like drill bits from the stars. They were pointed at both ends and twisted like a Twizzler but sharper at the end. They were purple, like the kind of purple you’d see in a piece of psychedelic art, and everyone had a theory about what they were.
My friends were arguing as to whether they were alien ships or some form of weapon fired from the other side of the world. The news wasn’t saying where they all had touched down, only that there were fifty of them across the country and that they should be avoided. There were evacuations in effect, but for us, it was too late for that.
One had drilled its way into that cheap French grocery store with all the great prices on brands you’ve never heard of, the one just down the street from my apartment. I loved those knock-off pizza rolls of theirs, but there wasn’t much hope of me getting them again anytime soon. It was like the damned meteor, or spaceship, or whatever had been dead set on ruining my day in a glorious fashion.
If they were aliens, the most bargain basement of all grocers seemed like a poor choice of tactical targets – unless they knew how detrimental the pizza roll issue would be to human morale.
Crushed grocery store aside, it was that weird pink mist that came out of the thing that was the real problem. It didn’t even have to touch you to be trouble. I wasn’t sure what set it off, but once it had you, things went bad real quick. It could see inside your head, and whatever terrible shit haunted your nightmares, that was the stuff it was going to squirt into reality. It was like some kind of 3D printer from hell, assuming “hell” was “space,” and the print material was pink mist.
“Does anyone mind if I smoke?” someone asked, and the reply was a quick and surprisingly vehement resonance of the word “No” in varying levels of outrage. To be fair, we were in a small place, and there were at least fifteen of us. I couldn’t move without nudging into someone.
“No one smokes!” Dave declared, setting the rules since he was the one who owned this hole in the ground we were all stuffed in. Originally it had been one of those pits for working on your car, but he’d dug it out a little more and installed a few benches and a shelf full of non-perishable food that I thought was probably less “non-perishable” than he believed. I wouldn’t have wanted to try eating the canned meat products he had stacked all around us.
We were all crammed into the “main room” of the shelter. There was another small room off to one side that was really just a doored off stairway out of the pit with a “hatch” at the top that was made of some screwed together layers of plywood. For about the tenth time since I’d arrived, I was questioning my choice to come here over just about anywhere else. I had to admit, in the aftermath of Brent’s death, I hadn’t been thinking very clearly. Brent was my roommate, and I was trying to figure out how I was going to pay his portion of the rent now that he was dead. I was still trying to figure this out when an Easter bunny came tearing past me with a knife. It was chasing a woman running away in bright yellow crocs, but when it saw me, it turned and charged after me. I escaped, but not before I’d seen just too much. Way too much.
I spent a great deal of time running, and before I knew it, I was at Dave’s place with a bunch of other people. The general thought was, “Hey, doesn’t Dave have a bomb shelter?” None of us had actually seen it, and now that we were all crammed inside of it, I was sure that I wasn’t the only one regretting this choice.
“Can I vape?” someone else asked, and there was a moment where everyone was quiet as though thinking this through.
“I guess,” Dave finally said, breaking the silence.
“Oh, that is just not fair!” Smoker snapped. “He can vape, but I can’t smoke?! What kind of shit is that?”
The smell of oranges and cotton candy filled the air, and the blue light of a vape pen lit up someone’s face for a moment. I wasn’t sure who that was. I knew some of the people, but not all of them. This was like a really shitty high school party, where the person’s parents are gone for the night, but you still can’t do anything because the kid who invited everyone is afraid of his folks finding out.
“No one wants to breathe in your smoke!” someone snapped, and then someone else complained about the vape smell, and I thought about leaving this dark hole in the ground and going upstairs to die. Eventually, things got quiet again, but I was certain it had taken a significant portion of forever.
“How long will we need to stay down here?” Brian’s voice spoke from somewhere pretty close to where I was. Brian was probably late for a workout. Fortunately, he’d gotten over ending every sentence with the word “Bro” because that had been the worst.
“At least until…” Dave started speaking, but his voice was cut off by the sound of someone trying to turn over a pull motor.
“What the hell is that?” Oh, that was my voice. It was a good question.
“Do you have a weedeater down here?” Brian asked.
“What, no! Why would I have a weedeater in a bomb shelter? There are no weeds down here!” Dave seemed indignant, and then the engine pulled over again, and this time it did so successfully. Screaming followed a moment later, along with a terrible splattering, squelching noise that put me in mind of someone throwing spaghetti and meatballs at a wall as hard as they could.
The crowd surged towards the door, taking me with it. It was chaos, and I had no idea what was happening in the dark, but as the door was pushed open, I caught sight of a guy I didn’t know holding a cigarette in one hand and holding the plywood hatch open in the other so he could blow the smoke out. Smoker had screwed us all over. Damn. Or maybe I should have thanked him for getting us out of that hole? No, people were dying. Screw that guy.
“What’s going on? I just wanted to…ahhh, it’s Doctor Chainsaw!” Smoker screamed, not finishing his first thought. I turned to look behind me even as I kept moving out of the basement, and that’s when I saw Doctor Chainsaw. It was an apt name. The man was dressed in a doctor’s coat, and he had a chainsaw hand. If I had to picture what “Doctor Chainsaw” might look like, this is what I would have pictured. He even had one of those stupid old-timey reflectors on his head and a stethoscope around his neck. Maybe it was to check and make sure he’d properly killed you with his chainsaw?
I was fairly certain that was a violation of his Hippocratic Oath, but then maybe he wasn’t that kind of doctor. An unattached head sailed by my still attached one, and I prioritized running over thinking. Our group of now bloodied basement skulkers spilled out onto the streets like a horde of the undead. I might have found this comparison to be amusing considering how close we were to becoming the “dead,” but again, I was still prioritizing running.
There is a certain level of panic you can reach where you do a thing with no forethought anywhere in your head. Sure, I was running, but where was I running to? Who was I running with? Did I have a plan? These and many other clever questions were getting no answers. I might have kept running until I collapsed from exhaustion had I not tripped over a curb, which were just too damn high in this neighborhood, and fallen directly into the corpse of a naked man.
There was a javelin sticking out of his back, and attached to it was a note that said, “Jacob Riley is hereby suspended until further notice for going to school with no clothes on.” Not a great way to go.
I clambered back to my feet and stood up in time to see my grandmother walking down the street in my direction. I knew this was bad news since she’d been dead for five years, and I was only too familiar with this dream. She had a bottle of skin cream in one hand.
“Chubby Cheeks!” Oh no, not that part too. “Gram-gram needs some help with her lotion.”
“Oh, Grams, I can’t. You’re dead, and I just…” Why was I talking to her? I knew what this was. I wasn’t sure how it was going to try and kill me yet, but I knew it would. That was what these things did.
“Dead?! Dead??” Grams looked upset at this. “I’m dead because my little Chubby Cheeks wouldn’t put the gods-be-damned lotion on my shoulders! You killed me, you little fucker! You killed me!” Gram’s jaw popped out of socket as she said this last thing, and her mouth gaped open. The arm not holding the lotion bottle snapped backward at the elbow, and the broken bone folded out of the skin like a switchblade knife.
This was new. I didn’t have a great imagination, so all of this was original content brought to me by the pink horror mist. I was still standing there like an idiot who really wanted to die, and that’s probably exactly what I would have done if Brian hadn’t come charging out of nowhere, wielding a shovel like the sword Excalibur, and decapitated my grandmother directly in front of me.
I let out a horrified scream.
“I saved you!” Brian proclaimed.
“You killed Gram-Gram!” I looked at him in shock, and then back to the headless body that was still standing in front of me. Long, ropey worms were crawling up out of the neck stump and the body was starting to twitch and shudder. “Oh no, quick, kill Gram-Gram again!” I shouted, pointing at the new horror show developing in front of us.
Brian was on this. He’d always liked to show off how much he could bench press, and frankly, it was something I hated about him, but as he hacked my grandmother apart with that shovel, I couldn’t help but appreciate the hard work he’d put into himself. I told myself that I owed him an apology if we survived this horrifying apocalypse.
A few minutes later, Brian was done, and so was Gram. He marched over to me, covered in a fine sheen of sweat and blood. “I’ve got a plan,” he announced, and started walking, and I was so happy to hear it that I fell in with him automatically. I hadn’t had a clear thought since any of this had begun, and I was ready for a plan.
“Alright, what is it?” I pressed, eager to get off the streets and find somewhere safe to be.
“We’re going to the Winchester,” he announced.
I frowned. Did he really just say that? I had to check. “Now isn’t really the best time for movie references, Brian.”
“What? Oh, no! The Winchester! My rifle. It’s in my garage. It has to work better than this shovel.” He held up the slightly bent tool.
“The shovel worked fine on Gram, and I’m not sure that one gun is going to make much of a difference right now.” I looked ahead down the street in the direction we were traveling. That was the way to Brian’s house, and it was also where the pink fog was the thickest. The screams coming from ahead of us were making me second guess this whole business.
“I would just feel better with a gun in my hands, you know?” Brian clenched his empty hand as if imagining a gun there.
I shook my head. I didn’t really imagine anything would make me feel better at that moment. I wasn’t really offering any sort of counter plan, though, so I reached into my brain and pulled out the first thing that I could get a hold of.
“Let’s go to the mall.” I tossed this awful idea out like it was a viable choice.
“The mall? Is that a movie reference?” Brian sounded as skeptical as he probably should have been. “I saw both versions of that movie, and neither one ended well. Do you remember the zombie baby? That was so messed up.”
“It was, it was, but this isn’t a zombie situation,” I pointed out.
“I just killed your dead Grandma with a shovel. This is definitely a zombie situation.” Brian had found a hill to die on.
I sighed. This wasn’t getting us anywhere. “I think it’s aliens. The giant spiral things are definitely spaceships.”
“Zombies via aliens?” Brian took a step back down the hill.
“What about Doctor Chainsaw in the basement?” I was going to bring up the toaster that had killed Brent, but Brian had missed that one.
“Doctor Chainsaw is a stupid name. Where did that mess even come from? He almost cut my face off before I found the shovel.” Brian had found something new to center on, and I had just once more realized we were still walking towards the pink mist.
“I think the smoking guy made him up. He seemed to recognize him,” I offered quickly. “Hey, Brian, the pink shit is getting kind of thick here. Maybe we should go back?”
“We’re almost there! Look, that’s my house!” He pointed to pink fluff that I couldn’t see through. “I’ll just zip into the garage, grab old Blasty, and we’ll head back the other way, though nothing has attacked us in like minutes, so I feel like maybe the pink stuff is safer than the fringes where we were before.”
“Fine, I’ll wait here. Go get your gun, and then we’ll get moving again.” I said, deciding that going any further into the “Valentine’s Day Horror Cloud” was not something I was willing to do.
Brian gave me an exasperated look. “Okay, okay. I’ll be right back.” He slipped off into the fog, and I held my place. I turned to look back the way we’d come and discovered that it was all pink that way as well. That meant that we were actually in the mist now, and the perception that we were still moving into it was an illusion of density.
“Great,” I muttered quietly under my breath. I found myself pacing in a small circle so I could keep watch in every direction at once. I was getting so good at my circle that I almost entirely missed the strange figure of a woman standing down the road from me. She was at the edge of the mist, just a dark shape on a pink background, like some kind of weird greeting card. If I could flip the whole scene over, I was sure there was a logo to be found.
“Please, if you’re a monster, could you just…not, right now?” It was time for a new strategy. “I’m all filled up on terror for the moment. I need, like, maybe three or four hours? Come back then, and I promise, promise that I will have some more for you.” Begging seemed worth a try.
The woman then did something that most women don’t do. She twisted her torso around at the waist to an impossible degree and then bent down to the ground like an animal on all fours, except her elbows and knees were bent all backwards, and they seemed to stretch and get longer as she came running down the road towards me. Yeah, I remembered this nightmare.
I shrieked in horror and ran in the direction that Brian had gone. I stumbled over the curb (that was a clear safety violation; why hadn’t anyone put in for a fix yet?) and then across his driveway to the front door which I slammed on with all of might. I could hear the meaty smack of the twisty girl getting closer, and I banged on the door again. In a moment of pure genius, I reached down and turned the handle, causing the magic portal to open in the way of the ancients (via hinges) and allow me inside. I slammed my back against the other side of the door and forced it closed, throwing the deadbolt just as the twisty woman slammed into the door jam. She hissed and scratched at the wood.
Why couldn’t I have had stupid nightmares about toasters or doctors with chainsaw arms? Why did I have to dream such awful, terrifying things like Gram-Gram and the twisty woman? At least being killed by a toaster monster would be interesting and not sound like it came out of a made-for-TV horror movie.
“Brian?” I called quietly, looking for where he may have gone. I saw the shovel against the wall near the door. I grabbed it. I didn’t trust indoors any more than outdoors. What was taking him so long anyway? I made my way out to the garage and saw that the rifle was sealed in a lockbox next to the workbench. I tried the door, but it didn’t budge. Brian must have gone back inside for the key, but where was it?
I began to search his house as quickly as I could. I briefly opened one door and saw stairs down to the basement…then I closed that door. “Nope, sorry, if you’re down there, Brian, then this is where we part ways.” I went upstairs instead. I opened doors, wondering how Brian could afford such a nice place when he lived alone. I was just about to allow myself to get jealous when I opened Brian’s bedroom door and stared in horror at what I was seeing. I would never erase the trauma of that sight from my mind.
Its dead eyes turned on me, and I pulled the door closed and started back downstairs. The monster that was an amalgamation of a blow-up doll and two vacuum pump enlargers had apparently enlarged Brian to death and was still attempting to enlarge the bloody tattered remains of Brian’s meat flute. I would take that secret to the grave with me. You were a good man, Brian. You didn’t deserve to go out like that. No one did.
I went to the back window and noticed that there were strange, vine-like weeds coming up through the grass, and it looked like the pink mist was beginning to fade. The vines were about shin high, and I could actually see them wiggling as they grew upward.
I didn’t know what that was about, but as I pushed back outside, I made a point of avoiding them. I’d decided I would go to the mall. Brian hadn’t liked the idea, but Brian had died horribly, so what weight did his opinion really carry now?
It took me the better part of two hours to get to the mall, and it seemed that the further I walked, the less of that pink mist hung in the air. I had a brief run-in with an inside-out mountain lion, and it ate a few of my toes and part of my left foot, but after that, it was clear sailing the rest of the way to the mall. Unfortunately, blood loss and shock set in, and I took the opportunity of my arrival to pass out.
When I came to, there were all kinds of people around talking, and I had clearly been moved somewhere else. There were radios and televisions on. I got up and found my toes, or lack of toes, had been bandaged. Standing felt absolutely terrible, but I wanted to know what was going on.
“What’s happening?” I asked one of the people milling around a TV.
He looked at me, seeming surprised to see me standing. “They’re seed pods,” he said. “The big spinning things are seed pods. Apparently, they landed and spread their seeds all over, and then the pink stuff fertilized them, gets them growing. It also has some kind of defensive mechanism that turns your nightmares into reality.”
“They found all of this out while I was asleep?” I asked, surprised.
“You’ve been asleep for two days.” His clarification of the timeline made me realize why I felt so awful. I hated oversleeping.
“So, what now? What are they doing about this? I’m not doing the last few days again.” I added the last in such a way that it might be construed as sarcasm, though I was dead serious.
“Well, the old pods are dying, but the new ones are growing fast, getting big, and they think they’re going to take off and move on,” he explained, and I felt a surge of relief.
“That’s great news.” I was more than done with them.
The man offered an apologetic smile that I immediately hated seeing. “Yeah, ‘cept they might incinerate most of the surface of the planet when they go, and possibly powder the rest in more nightmare spores.”
“Ahh, good.” I reached up and rubbed the bridge of my nose. “I wish I’d died of shock.”
“Yeah, sorry about that,” the other offered, and he sounded sincere.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None AvailableCraig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A