This story is by Crystal Johnson and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“The Dreamcatcher is a beautifully woven hoop with feathers and beads,” Gramps said. “The thread entangles the bad dreams while letting the good dreams pass through. But what would happen if a nightmare escaped the dreamcatcher?”
Jade walked in at the tail end of that last bit. She sighed, “Ah, Gramps you’re going to scare my kids.”
“My grandkids are fearless,” he said. “You used to love hearing the story.”
The twins were cheering for Gramps to finish the story.
“Many years ago, a demon placed a curse on a dreamcatcher allowing the nightmares to escape. The spirits inhabit the victim’s subconscious mind to make the nightmares a reality,” Gramps continued. “Some people were driven to madness, while others were scared to death.”
The lights flickered and went out. Tia shrieked and huddled close to her brother Tiko. “Don’t worry, I’ve got you little sister,” he said tightening his hold.
“No need to panic you two. Jade, go check the breaker down the hall.” Gramps frowned, “The breaker has never gone out,” he shook his head at the thought.
“You’re doing it again.”
“Giving into the superstition.”
Gramps gave her a stoic look. “Have I ever been wrong?”
“So what does that tell you?”
“Something sinister is brewing.”
“My thought exactly.”
With that in mind, she left to check the breaker. Gramps grabbed some candles and a flashlight.
“Now where was I?” Gramps asked lighting the first candle.
“The spirits drove madness to people,” said Tiko.
“That’s right, and they kept them in a comatose state.”
“A deathlike sleep?” asked Tia.
“Yes, the victims couldn’t distinguish dreams from reality,” Gramps answered.
Jade walked in with a puzzled look on her face.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I checked the breaker and went outside it seems the whole block is dark.”
“That’s odd, we need to gather the elders, right now,” said Gramps.
“Since they only live a few houses down from here,” Jade asked, “do you want me to bring them here?”
As Gramps nodded, a scream of terror rang out. Jade jumped at the sound.
“What in the world?”
“That sounded like it came from across the street.” Panic gripped Jade, “I’ll be right back,” she said and rushed out of the house.
Gramps got up and lit two more candles.
“Take these and go upstairs,” he ordered. “Stay in your rooms until we return.”
Gramps rushed back downstairs. He opened the door to go outside and collided with Jade, who had returned with the elders.
Her face was blanched with fear.
“Jade, what’s wrong?”
“On our way back here, I found this,” she held out a broken dreamcatcher, “behind the Holistic Shop.”
Gramps gaped at the sight of the pieces.
“Where’s Dr. Storm?”
“His shop was closed,” Jade replied. “I believe he’s behind this, I mean he’s the only shaman in town other than Elder John.”
“How much you want to bet he’s in the woods practicing his dark magic?” asked Elder Nathan. “Rumors have been flying all around town about him and his “rituals.”
“If Dr. Storm is gone, he’s probably the one who placed the curse and broke the dreamcatcher.” Elder John continued, “He just cursed our people, this shall not go unpunished.”
All the other elders agreed.
“Once he’s caught what should be his punishment?” asked Jade. “It can’t be plain jail time.”
“No child,” said John. “I have a special punishment perfect for this act, it’ll make hell look like a beach resort.”
“So how are we going to find him?” Gramps asked. “The countdown has begun, no one is safe to sleep.”
“Well, let’s check all his hangouts and meet back here in one hour,” said John. “And if you do see him, do not try to apprehend him alone. Consider him armed and dangerous.”
Heading out the door to start the search, they noticed several kids outside.
“Shouldn’t you kids be inside?” asked Gramps approaching them.
“Something’s wrong with our parents,” said one of the kids.
“What’s your name, kid?” asked Pete.
“My name is Sam,” he said. “My dad can’t wake up.”
They all looked at each other with the same thought and feeling of dread. The curse was already taking a toll on some of the townspeople.
“We need to hurry, time is growing short and sooner or later someone will die,” said John.
“I’ll stay here with the kids,” Gramps said. The rest of you can split up and search for Dr. Storm.”
Jade and Pete had searched one end of town for Dr. Storm, but there was no sign of him. They were about to walk back to Gramps’ place when Pete noticed a faint light in the woods and asked, “Did you see that?”
“See what?” asked Jade.
“There’s someone in the woods,” said Pete. “Go back to John and Nathan, I’ll check it out.”
“Be careful,” she whispered walking away.
Pete walked toward the light and caught a glimpse of the doctor. He remembered not to attempt to apprehend him alone, so he ran back to tell the others.
“It’s him,” he whispered. “Let’s get out of here.”
Reaching the town’s square, they noticed more children were outside.
“What’s happening?” Jade asked.
“The same thing that’s happening to Sam’s parents,” said Gramps. “They can’t wake up.”
“We spotted Dr. Storm in the woods,” Pete told Gramps. “He looks like he’s invoking more dream spirits. We need a plan to lure him back to town.”
“I think I have an idea,” John said. “Follow me.”
They followed John to the Holistic shop. He picked up a rock and threw it at the window.
“Now one of you call Sheriff Williams,” said John. “Tell him you heard someone trying to break into the Holistic Shop, that way Dr. Storm has no choice but to show up here.”
Sheriff Williams arrived with Dr. Storm he was immediately surrounded by the elders.
“What’s the meaning of this?” asked Dr. Storm. “Sheriff told me about a break in, not an old fashioned scalping.”
“You cursed us,” John said. “You broke the dreamcatcher and now people will die in their sleep because of you.”
“What makes you think it was me?”
“Jade found the broken pieces behind your shop,” Pete responded. “No one else practices dark magic.”
“Why would you invoke a curse upon us?” asked Jade.
“You think I don’t know what the people of this town say about me,” Dr. Storm said in anger. “The constant ridicule when you think I’m not around to hear it,” he continued. “I wanted you all to pay.”
“Pay,” Pete shouted. “So cursing everyone with their nightmares was supposed to do what?” he continued. “Did it occur to you that killing everyone wouldn’t change anything? You’ll still be a bitter old witch doctor.”
John started to chant in Iroquoian. Pete and Nathan took hold of Dr. Storm’s arms, keeping him in place. John continued to chant. The pieces of the dreamcatcher glowed and levitated towards Dr. Storm, branding itself on his chest. Pete and Nathan released Dr. Storm’s arms. He screamed, holding his charred chest.
“What’s happening to me?” asked Dr. Storm cupping his hands on his head. “Make it stop,” he dropped to the ground and curled in a ball and begged, “Please.”
“You’re going to spend the rest of your life with your fears and nightmares haunting you to death,” said John.
They left Dr. Storm screaming as all his nightmares drove him insane. Sheriff Williams stayed back and called for the P.E.T team to arrive.
Walking back to Gramps’ house, Jade saw the lights flicker back on as the demons fled from the houses they had attacked.
“The curse is lifted,” Gramps shouted as he saw the parents with their kids.
“You can say that again,” Nathan sighed with relief. “We all can sleep without fear.”
“Now that the curse is lifted, what’s going to happen to Dr. Storm?” asked Jade.
“Well child,” said John. “He will be admitted to a mental hospital where he can be watched 24/7.”
“I’m just glad it’s over. No one has died and the demons didn’t get the children,” said Pete.
“Speaking of children,” Jade said. “I need to check on Tia and Tiko.”
Jade and Gramps walked in the house.
“Go check on the kids,” said Gramps.
Jade walked upstairs to Tia’s room first. When she opened the door, Tia wasn’t in her bed. She left to check Tiko’s room and found Tia snuggled with her brother fast asleep.
“Sleep well sweet child,” she whispered. “Don’t worry your head your dreamcatcher is humming above your bed. Listen so softly I know you can hear the tone of beyond close to your ear,” she continued. “Love is alive and living in you beyond all your troubles where good dreams are true.”