The In-Dream Hotline

📅 Published on October 12, 2020

“The In-Dream Hotline”

Written by Nathaniel Lewis
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 7.80/10. From 5 votes.
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The pregnancy had not been unplanned. In fact, we had planned our entire lives around the pregnancy… patiently acquiring degrees and job titles until we were financially secure enough to start trying. Then, the careful charting of Anna’s cycles, and the dutiful love-making, even if we had both had long days and wanted nothing more than to sit like tree stumps in bed, scrolling through our phones for a while until sleep came to wash us clean again. That was back when sleep could do that for me. Before the nightmares started.

They started on the night that the little stick showed us what we wanted to see. Anna had the blessed urine; we checked three times, with different brands. Plus, plus, plus. The results were as sure as our love for each other, and our desire to raise a child together. We celebrated with a couple of glasses of sparkling grape juice – I had agreed to forgo alcohol alongside my wife – and talked excitedly until late in the night. When I finally fell asleep, it was with a warm and easy happiness crawling through the folds of my brain….

In the dream, we were at the hospital. A cadre of doctors and nurses were fussing over Anna as I stood by her side, holding her hand, encouraging her. She was drenched in sweat and had a distorted look on her face, as though experiencing a pain unlike anything I had ever known. I realized that she was crushing the bones in my hand, and tried to pull away, but couldn’t.

One of the doctors put his hand on my shoulder and smiled. Only, it wasn’t really a doctor… it was my father, who had died of a stroke some years before. “It’s okay, son,” he said. “That’s all perfectly normal. She’ll be fine. Try to see this moment for the beautiful thing it is.”

I turned back to Anna. She didn’t look okay. “Get it out of me!” she screamed. I looked down at her swollen belly, and saw the child writhing around beneath the hospital gown and the layers of my wife’s flesh.

“Sir,” came a sudden voice from behind me. “I’m afraid you’ll have to come with me.”

The voice, I knew, belonged to Steven Hartley… the police officer who had caught me smoking a joint when I was a teenager. The passage of time seemed to have left him physically unchanged since that day, and his humors hadn’t improved either. He looked as stern and serious as ever.

I stepped, almost unwillingly, towards Officer Hartley, and then we were outside my house, looking up at the stars.

“You know what you have to do,” he said, handing me a massive knife. “Stab it in the heart.” Then he walked off into the darkness.

I stood looking after him, into the impenetrable night. There was something out there, I knew, just beyond the reach of the porch light. It was slowly pacing the perimeter of the property, growing bolder as my wife’s pain increased. As I turned the knife over, feeling its terrible weight in my hand, I heard Officer Hartley howl out for a brief moment before being suddenly silenced.

It’s going to come for us, I thought. It’s going to devour Anna, and our son. I have to kill it.

I gathered my courage and stepped off the porch, but a scream coming from the house turned me around in an instant. Then I was inside, where my wife lay panting on the couch. She was naked now, and her stomach had grown hideous blisters… translucent and yellow, filled with fluid, and swelling up and down like something breathing.

“Cut it out,” she said through a clenched jaw. “That’s what the knife is for. Cut it out and kill it. Please. It hurts so much.”

I knew then that I had to kill my son… and fast. If he was born, terrible things would come to pass… not just to me and Anna… but to the world. A tremendous evil would spread out from my house, like the first cells eaten by cancer. My son’s henchmen were waiting just outside, ready to be unleashed, like rabid dogs, with a deadly and unquenchable thirst.

The knife was ice cold, and I felt its chill run through me.

“Quickly!” shouted Anna. When she opened her mouth, a trickle of yellow ooze accompanied her command, and ran down her chin, and onto her breasts. Her belly stretched grotesquely, as something inside struggled to burst through it and be born.

My son, I thought, unable to move. I can’t kill my own son. But I knew I had to.

Suddenly, there was a tearing sound, and a creature emerged through the ripped flesh of my wife, dripping with placenta and gore. It was a monstrous thing, with an indeterminate number of legs, all of them covered in thorns… some like tentacles, some with hooks on the end like an insect, or pinchers like a crustacean. A bony tail like a human spine twitched manically, and on top of it all, where the head should be, was what looked like a ball of hamburger meat, perfectly round, with a single hole in the center. I gazed into that hole in shock; it seemed to lead to endless depths.

My son, I thought. A monster.

This monster turned its hamburger head to face Anna, and I watched, still unable to move a muscle, as it sucked the flesh of her face into its hole, like some hellish vacuum cleaner, until there was nothing left there but a naked skull with two exposed eyeballs rolling around uncontrollably. Next, the creature brought up one of its legs – one with a pincher at the end – and squeezed Anna’s skull. What remained of my wife’s head cracked open like an egg, and her brains came pouring out like the yolk.

The evil beast turned its hole in my direction, and spoke to me, in a slithering hiss:

“Come here and give me a kiss, Daddy.”

* * * * * *

It was easy enough, on the first night — when the prospect of my imminent death jolted me awake – to write off the nightmare as a weird bit of subconscious drivel. Anna was by my side, snoring gently, pregnant with the child that we both wanted with all of our hearts. That was the truth.

When it happened again the following night, in almost the exact same way, I again dismissed it as just the jitters that all people who are about to become parents for the first time must face.

On the third night, I got up and poured myself a drink, violating my agreement with Anna. I asked myself: “Do you really want this baby?” And, at the time, it was still an easy question to answer: “Yes. Unequivocally yes.”

During the second week, I started entering search terms into incognito web browsers that I never imagined I would be typing. “How to talk to wife about abortion?” Things like that.

Slowly, I had stopped thinking of it as a meaningless dream, and more and more as a prophecy. Maybe a prophecy shrouded in metaphor… I never actually believed that my child would be born with insect legs and a hamburger head… but as a prophecy nonetheless. I wouldn’t love my child. I would grow to become repulsed by it, and view it as the thing that had ruined my life.

Meanwhile, I didn’t need to wait for my child’s birth – my life had already started to fall apart. At work, I told them it was some kind of temporary trouble at home; and at home, I told Anna that it was some kind of temporary trouble at work. But, I knew, the only way it would stop would be for the nightmares to stop. Maybe they would stop once the kid was born… but I didn’t think I could make it that long. I was terrified to go to sleep, only to then spend my waking moments feeling terrified of a fetus.

I began researching dreams… where they came from, what they meant… and most crucially, how to stop them. That’s how I found out about the In-Dream Hotline.

It was a post on a forum dedicated to people who had recurring nightmares. I had started visiting the site because it was a small comfort to know that there were others out there like me… people who couldn’t stop their nightmares from having real-world consequences. But, more often than not, I left the site feeling an even deeper despair. People had tried everything… years of therapy… medication… support groups… folk remedies like drinking hot sauce while standing on your head before bed… and nothing seemed to work.

The post about the Hotline was titled: “I stopped my nightmare! For real! I promise this works!” I had been duped before by such claims, but I clicked on the post anyway.

It began by giving an account of the author’s nightmare, and how it had affected his life. I was immediately struck by how similar his case was to mine. Eerily similar. His nightmares had started as soon as his wife had gotten pregnant. They’d also involved some horrible monster being born. Like me, he had been gung-ho about a child before the pregnancy, and it didn’t make sense to him that he was having such dreams. And nothing he did could stop them. Until he saw the red rotary phone.

“I think it was there all along,” he wrote. “I remember looking at it and thinking something like, yeah, I’ve seen that phone a hundred times. I wondered, what happens if I pick it up? So I picked it up. It worked. I don’t know how it worked. I don’t remember anything after I picked it up. But I swear to God, I picked it up, and when I woke up, I just knew it was gone. The nightmare was gone. And sure enough, next night, I go to sleep, and it doesn’t come. Best sleep I’ve ever had. I woke up feeling refreshed, and excited all over again about the baby.

“It’s been a year now. We’ve got a healthy baby boy and I could not be happier. (Sure, I’m not sleeping so great these days, but for different reasons!) And today, I was looking at Toby, and thinking about what a miracle he is, and I remembered all of this craziness. This place offered me some support when I was going through it all, so I thought I’d come back and share my solution. Maybe it won’t work for everyone, but I swear to God it worked for me. PICK UP THE PHONE!”

As soon as I read that, I realized that the phone had been there all along. I could see it clearly in my mind. And I decided that the next time I saw it, I would pick it up.

* * * * * *

That night, the dream started as always, and progressed as always. Despite being through it dozens of times, it never got easier; I was always swept away in the tide of terror.

During the course of it, there were slight differences in each iteration, even though it always led to the same place. This time, for example, it wasn’t Officer Hartley who called me outside the room; it was Father Greene. Same knife as always, though.

“Take this blade, my son, and purge a great evil from the world,” he said. We were in the hallway of the dorm where I had lived in college… where I had first met Anna. But the hallway stretched on too far… into the void. I watched Father Greene vanish into it… and cry out shortly thereafter.

My son is evil, I realized, turning the knife over. I have to kill him before he’s born.

I turned and opened the door to my old dorm room. Anna was on the carpeted floor, naked, her stomach covered in festering sores, which each wept a black tar-like substance. My own stomach turned as I tried desperately to remember what I was supposed to do.

Kill your son. Stab him in the heart.


Something else…. Something a lot easier than that.

“Kill it!” wailed Anna. “It’s eating my insides! Do it now!”

I looked down at the knife, then back up to my wife, whose belly was undulating as if she were stuffed full of liquid. That was another detail that always changed: which monstrous form my son would take, once he broke free of his constraints. The only constant was that it would be something horrific beyond comprehension.

I turned briefly away from my wife – as I always did – and that’s when I saw it. There in the corner, next to a pile of textbooks, and another of dirty laundry: a red telephone, in the old rotary style.

That’s what you need to do. Pick up the phone.

Even then, I moved painfully slow, like slow-motion in a movie, as Anna began to go into convulsions, her head slamming against the carpet. As I got closer, I felt the power emanating from the phone, and knew that it was something important. Something that could change the course of things.

Finally, my hand wrapped around the receiver and I yanked it up to my face.

“Hello?!” I shouted into the mouthpiece.

“Welcome to the Hotline, where your wildest wet dreams come true, and your scary nightmares are poofed away like a fart in the wind,” said a young, bored voice on the other end of the line. Then there was a second, authoritative-sounding voice in the background, and the young man cleared his throat. “I apologize for the flippancy, sir. It just gets… old… after a while. You must know what I mean, from the other end of things. Like, how many times have you had this dream?”

A spray of the black substance shot out of Anna’s mouth.

“Please help me!” I yelled into the phone. “What do I do?”

The voice sighed. “Make a selection.”

“A selection?! What do you mean?!”

“Pick a number. Put your finger in the little hole there… bring it all the way around… and let her rip. It’s a phone, dude. I know it’s kind of old-fashioned, but… do you really need me to explain it to you?”

“But what number do I pick?”

“Wish I could tell you, bud, but that’s a decision you’re gonna have to come to on your own. But don’t sweat it. It’ll work out just fine… I mean, it usually does anyway. But, uh, from the sound of things on your end, you’re probably gonna want to make a selection before it’s too late.”

I tried to focus on the dial. The numbers were fuzzy, and I couldn’t make them out at first. Anna was screaming from the floor, pleading with me to do something. I stuck my finger into one of the holes… number 5, right in the middle… I’d spent my life trying to stay away from the extremes… sticking to the middle… and I listened as the phone clicked….

Then everything blinked away, and I only had one thought… I did it. I stopped it.

* * * * * *

When I came back to myself, I was standing above Anna, looking down at her face. She was asleep like she was always asleep when I woke up from my nightmare. But this time, I noted, it was different. I had stopped the birth of my son, in the dream… not by killing him, but by picking up the phone.

An incredible relief washed over me. I knew then that I had not only stopped the nightmare, but had purged its effects completely from my consciousness. Looking at Anna’s still face, I imagined a bright and happy future together, with a healthy baby bouncing gleefully on my knee. The first of at least two, I thought… possibly three… but no more than that.

But why did I feel… wet? And what was that in my hand?

I knew the answer without looking… but I looked… first at the bloody knife in my hand… then at Anna’s stomach, still bleeding from a hundred wounds.

Rating: 7.80/10. From 5 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Nathaniel Lewis
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Nathaniel Lewis

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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