The Nightmare (A Short Story)

  Its early, two hours before the sun comes up but he’s already up following his morning routine. Turn the television on low so he doesn’t disturb his newborn baby girl and his wife… just loud enough to hear the early morning news to get the traffic and weather report. No reason for it. Traffic is always the same… bad, and the weather man never gets the damn report right. The weatherman lies to him as he puts on the dirty dark blue jumpsuit that represents the last three years of his work life. Every hole, every stain of dirt, sweat, and blood telling a story about the city and the work he’s done in it. He finishes tying his worn leather steel-toes, the set with the hole in the toe where the steel is exposed,  and heads for the door. Without making a sound his wife has made her way downstairs too meet him. Shes dark in the low light, but he still knows the look that’s on her face. One of sadness that he has to leave for the day. always a beautiful look in his eyes, knowing that someone misses you when you’re away. Shes wearing only her favorite robe, the light blue one that was caught in the dryer and damaged on the bottom left seem, it’s loosely tied around her small petite frame. Her arms are crossed and her hair is in a mess but he loves it, he thinks she looks the best at her worst… But he never told her that. They meet in a warm embrace. She cares not about the dirty jumpsuit but only that he stays a moment longer. No words are spoken until the end when its time to go… they each trade three little words with a kiss. He is gone out of the door, it locks behind him and the noise seems to echo in his head forever. He walks to his car, an 04 Mercury Sable with his black backpack in hand but something is wrong with this picture… The snow hits him in the face hard. What snow? Its August. Its normal…? No. He continues to walk to the car but its missing, instead of his Mercury Sable, a rusted 96 Jeep Cherokee is sitting there. This isn’t him… I’m him, its me. I turn and the apartment is engulfed in flames, the snow was ash. I scream and drop my black bag but it doesn’t fall. I look down still screaming and the black bag has become a black rifle… my M4. It’s connected to my body armor!? My Blue jump suit has become my army combat uniform. The fire grows… I kick in the door. The apartment is fine. No fire, no smoke, just a noise… a noise burned in my memory but is it real? I clear the room already knowing what I will find. I make my way upstairs and find the door locked… the echo of the locked door returns but it is fighting with another noise, the sound of running water and a woman’s moaning. All in my head? The door kicks open easily. One of my decorative swords fall from the wall and slide to my feet pointing in the direction of the bathroom, the Latrine. I clear my bedroom and I see her light blue robe on the floor next to clothes that don’t belong to me. My child is missing from her crib! I clear the bedroom and kick in the bathroom door all in one fluid motion… The flames engulf me and feel hot as the fires of hell, the pain feels real. I stand while the flames lick at me and looking back at me are my wife and someone I’ve never met. They stand in my shower naked with evil grins on their face knowing and accepting their sin but this isn’t like last time… I raise my M4 and open fire… pointblank. Every shot reaches its target. I empty an entire mag that seemed to hold more than 200 rounds. The rifle felt hotter than the flames around me. They still stand unharmed staring back at me. My wife exits the shower and behind her the shower head spews what looks to be lava onto her lover. He melts away to mush… down the drain. She approaches me slowly but I can’t move. My right knee suddenly gives out from the weight of the armor. The pain is worse than the flames melting my gear to my skin. I can only scream in agony. She walks up to me slowly and removes one of my knives… My best knife. I can’t stop her… I don’t see it happen but I feel it, the knife sinks right through my armor and chest coming to rest in my heart… no more pain. I awake to my child smiling at me, telling me its going to be ok. -Steven Beal-