2,038 / 50,000
Here we go again. ;)
Kicking off my newest NaNoWriMo story with the entire prologue of the story. As always, a little rough, but I think this is my strongest first day writing for a number of years of doing this.
Edit: Oops, just noticed some format glitches from some settings. I'll fix that when I wake up. =)
Visions of a Parallel World
Prologue - Somewhere Out There
This is not the world we would have made for ourselves. The world is wrong. The question is, wrong for whom?
Popular opinion would say it is wrong for the people living upon it. Even with greed, and quests for power, or just plain stupidity, it can be hard to believe that the human race would cause such damage to their own world.
There are other worlds though, worlds beyond imagination. Or even just within the imagination. Distant worlds, and yet closer than any world could possibly be.
Charlie Boxer has seen these worlds before, almost his entire life. At least as long as he could remember, he could see them. Strange worlds that could never have been the one he walked through every day.
He doesn't remember when they started appearing to him, to do so would be like trying to remember his first step, or the first time he blinked. Once upon a time, Charlie thinks he may have been mostly vision free, but he does remember they started out as dreams.
If one were to ask him, he could never say with any certainty when he had that first dream, but he remembers what it was like, since every week for almost his entire life until he graduated high school, he would be woken up in the darkest dark of night, cold sweat dripping from his brow, a bead of it moving down the ridge of his nose and dangling from the very tip before it fell.
He even remembers the screaming, he remembers that even more than any other detail. Those first few months were hell on the young boy everyone called Charlie.
No mother can resist the cry of her children, and Darlene Boxer was no different. Charlie may not have remembered the first few months of his life, but his mother recalled every sleepless night. While the boy thought the dreams didn't start until childhood, he was much younger, almost a newborn, when they first appeared.
Charlie would never remember those early years - who does? - and his mother had no clue why her child, fresh from her womb, would wake up in those wee hours of the night, screaming like the hounds of hell were on his heels.
His cries pierced the quiet darkness of the house louder than any smoke alarm, and within a matter of minutes, the baby's breathing was ragged, strained. He was unable to make a noise worse than a raspy, gasp for air. Darlene would rush to the crib to comfort her boy, holding the tiny bundle of flesh to her bosom, but to no avail. The nightmares had their hooks into him, and they would not let go.
For an entire week, Darlene was woken up by that same scream, to the point where she was unable to sleep, never knowing how long her eyes would be closed before they were forced open again, and rushing to the crib, before she had even realised she was out of bed.
By the seventh day, she was a nervous wreck. While Charlie was able to get a few hours of sleep around his nightmares, Darlene was sleeping less and less. With her husband off working the night shift at the local granite quarry as a watchman, it was up to her to try to help Charlie, but there was nothing she could do.
After too much coffee, and not enough sleep, had begun taking it's toll, Darlene found herself sleeping on a chair next to Charlie's crib, to be nearer to him. She had taken him to several local doctors, but none could find even the slightest thing wrong with the young boy. In fact, physically, Charlie was in perfect health for a baby, even better some would say. Expected infections and illnesses passed him by while going on to other children. All Darlene could do was deal with the nightmares as long as they lasted.
Several more days passed with Charlie's screams tearing through the night, with his mother ever at his side. Somehow, she was even beginning to grow accustomed to them, the horrific event almost becoming so routine that she was finding herself able to sleep before the baby would wake her once more.
As it had to do sooner or later, Charlie began sleeping through the night. The first time, his mother was surprised when her eyes opened not because of the impossibility of her son's scream, but from the sun creeping over her toes and up her legs. She first thought she had somehow slept through the nightmares, but Charlie lay sleeping in his crib, more peaceful than she had ever seen him.
More time passed, and he continued to sleep through the night. Darlene assumed she was somehow responsible, her presence comforting Charlie in his sleep, thinking that all he wanted was his mother nearby. This was far from the truth, and no one ever knew why, but it was a comfort to Darlene that he was sleeping through the night, that was all that mattered.
She remained on her chair for another handful of nights, before at last feeling comfortable enough with her son's state that she could return to the comfort of her own empty bed, instead of trying to sneak into it before her husband stumbled through the front door.
It seemed as if everything was back to normal in the Boxer house, at least for half a decade.
With five years passed, that first night a growing Charlie let out a familiar scream, Darlene thought she was the one having the nightmare. Old habits were hard to kill, even after so much time, and she found herself beside Charlie's bed, the crib long since retired, before either of them knew it.
Unlike before, when she took him into her arms now, and his tiny appendages tried to wrap themselves around her slender waist, his cries abated much quicker. She brushed her fingers through his long, red hair, trying to focus on the mundane, thinking he was long past due for a haircut, school would be starting soon, anything other than that these sleepless nights may have returned to both their lives.
She was relieved when the following night, she was not awoken by Charlie, but instead his year-old sister Adrienne. Just as relieved that Charlie had slept through the night thus far, but that when his sister woke up crying, it was because she was hungry, or needed changing, and without the ear splitting cries his brother had exhibited within his first few months of existence.
Charlie was again carted around to doctors when he had more nightmares, almost every month, but still nothing could be found wrong with him, physically or mentally. They gave him a perfect bill of health every time the small child sat upon their examination tables, tiny fingers picking absently at the tissue paper covering the soft cushions.
When asked about the dreams, he was reluctant to give details, only able to recall strange buildings, "like the peerymids," he would say if pressed for details. Even that came with great effort, and several months. No details could be dragged out of him for some time, and most who asked Charlie about the dreams were certain there was even more he wasn't telling.
Not even Charlie was certain how much he remembered. Most of what he recalled was a sense of dread, or as close to one as a five year old could comprehend. Some images stuck in his mind, as he saw them every time he dreamed. The buildings were always the safest for him to think about, as he knew they were only buildings, and could not harm him, but they were constructed with odd angles, that bent his unconcious mind every time his dream self visited this world.
He couldn't bring himself to think of what else he saw there, his mind too young to comprehend the creatures he saw, if any mind could ever be ready to do such a thing.
Many months passed, with the nightmares becoming an almost weekly feature in the lives of the Boxer family. They never became so regular to be pinned down to any specific day, and even sometimes came on consecutive nights, keeping Darlene on guard, but while the intial scare seemed to rattle her child, he seemed to be coping, as all children do with nightmares.
She tried putting in a night light, and watching Charlie's behaviour, trying to predict when the nightmares would strike, if something might be causing them, but as she would find a potential cause, she would be woken up on a night where Charlie didn't watch the Twilight Zone, or didn't eat pizza before bed. There seemed to be no corrolating cause that Darlene could see.
Just as Darlene was settling into this becoming an unpredictable ritual in her life, and the lives of her children - even Adrienne was awoken by the howls of her brother - just as they had started out of nowhere, they went away.
A week passed, and she slept through the night. Then two weeks passed, then a month. An entire year passed before Charlie's cries woke her once again. Adrienne was more of a disturbance than Charlie by those days.
The dreams still awoke the entire household on rare occasions, no more than two, three times a year, no more than a normal child with normal nightmares, despite the severity of Charlie's reactions.
While his parents were happy to assume Charlie was at long last sleeping like a normal boy, with normal dreams, the truth was far worse.
The dreams never fully went away. They kept coming, several times a month, and on more than one occasion, several times a week.
Even at such a young age, Charlie could see how troubled his mother was by these dreams, by what her son was doing. He felt responsible for what was happening. His father had always told him to take responsibility for his actions, so every time he found himself back on that world, turning away as strange creatures borne only out of nightmares bore down upon him, his eyes pulling closed as they leapt upon him, tearing his body to pieces, and scattered them across their alien landscape, Charlie would still wake up, drawing in breath.
However, he held in that scream, buried it in his gut, and clutched at his pillow, or his knees, and would lay there on his bed, in a puddle of sweat, shaking as the scream tried to escape, tears streaming down his cheeks, mixing with the sweat.
Charlie spent the rest of his young life like this, and he was not always successful. Try as he might, some nights the scream shot from his mouth before he could stop it. He learned to hate that loss of control, and the dreams that caused it, resolving him to try better.
The dreams, and poor sleep, caused Charlie to be a strange child, never quite fitting in at school. He made efforts, but the other children all knew that something was off with the eldest Boxer child.
Even into high school, the dreams persisted. His screams were even fewer then, but the dreams were more frequent. Charlie had become adept at hiding them, and even had friends at school, and was on the football team. While many still thought he was a little odd, he was finding his place, and even enjoying life around the bad dreams.
As with everything in life, there comes a balance, and just as things were going well for him, the cost came due. When tragedy struck, Charlie's plans were derailed, and instead of going to the nearby college, he chose instead to leave school altogether, leave everything behind. He walked away from his education, his family, his friends, and much to his surprise, even his nightmares.
He didn't believe it at first, but once Charlie realised that nightmares had been left behind with everythign else in the small town of Kraftsbury, Vermont, he vowed to never return.
Time had a way of breaking even the strongest of oaths.