This is the chilling finale of a spooky serial – please use the menu to read the earlier parts for the full effect.
[We join our hero J in a dream encounter. He’s trying to escape Danny who has been hypnotising children into a zombie state.]
Panting hard, and gripped with fear, J stood hunched over but faced his pursuer. He bent slightly at the waist to alleviate the grasping, vice-like stitch produced by running full-tilt. Danny reached the bank of the lake, and stood knee-deep in reeds, glaring at J with menace. J kept his head low, watching Danny via his reflection, rather than looking at him directly.
“You’re gonna regret interfering kid!” Danny’s voice was loaded with fury. “You haven’t a clue what you’re dealing with.”
He pushed his hood back from his face, revealing skin which was eerily pale in the moonlight. Although not wearing his clown make-up, he must use an eye-liner because his eyes seemed huge, dominating his face.
“You won’t get the better of me. I can’t stop now, I have too much to do. My power is growing. No-one will miss those brats, they were weak and ineffectual. I can achieve so much more.”
As he spoke he glared at J, his focus never wavering. Even observing him via his reflection, J felt unable to look away. There was an uncomfortable feeling from staring at Danny, but something other compelled him. J was required to look at him, deep in his dark, unblinking eyes. J began to relax, allowing his body to drop its guard. He could hear Danny talking, but the words no longer made sense. A buzzing sound was building in his head and simultaneously he felt rather heavy and tired. There seemed no reason why he was standing by the lake; it would be so much nicer to sit down, perhaps even lie down, because he was very, very tired. As if weighted with lead, his eyelids yearned to droop and close, yet something in the buzzing made him keep focusing on the pale boy’s face, upside down on the surface of the water
At that moment the moon went behind the clouds. In the ensuing darkness Danny’s reflection disappeared as if a switch had been flicked, and his hypnotic eye-contact with J was broken. J gasped a breath in surprise, it was as if he’d been plunged into icy water. Snapping out of the trance in a nano-second he realised that watching a reflection of Danny had offered no protection at all, he’d been moments away from becoming a successfully hypnotised zombie.
Danny, however, still chanted his mystic words and used his trance-inducing stare. He had failed to notice that his intended subject was no longer under his influence. He continued to recite and stare, while moving his feet ever closer to the edge of the deep, still lake. He stumbled a little which was his undoing, because his wobble shifted his point of focus as he struggled to regain his balance. He continued his mesmerising routine, but now – as the moon pulled free of the clouds – he was looking at his own reflection in the lake.
Danny’s droning speech continued and his eyes were unblinking. J, however, stuck his fingers in his ears and turned his head to the side so that he was only aware of his pursuer from his peripheral vision.
No longer hearing Danny’s words, J wasn’t pulled into a trance as he had been before. From the corner of his eye he observed that the older boy continued creeping forwards, the water at the lakeside was now lapping over his black trainers. J tensed, suspecting the crazy fool was trying to reach him by wading through the water. Without knowing how deep the lake was, it seemed an extreme plan.
He blinked and rubbed his eyes, it was hard to watch without looking directly. Without his fingers blocking his ears, he detected a less commanding tone in Danny’s speech than before, and sounded almost sleepy. He had crept further forward and was, shockingly, thigh-deep in the water. J could hardly imagine he was still being chased, instead it seemed that Danny was in a trance. J risked a direct look, and what he saw amazed him. Danny’s eyes were locked onto the eyes in his own reflection. His lips were moving, reciting whatever he usually did to bring vulnerable children under his influence, but he was accidentally hypnotising himself!
Danny chose that moment to bend at the waist so his upper torso came forward, his face was almost in the water!
J gasped in shock. “Stop! Wait!” he called, but Danny took no notice.
Smoothly, calmly, as if it was the most obvious thing to do, Danny sank his face into the water.
The sky went dark again, thick clouds obscuring the moon, but even in the reduced visibility, J stumbled forward to help. His legs sank into the achingly cold water and he strode forward with big, slow steps, feeling the drag and suck of the black lake around his lower limbs. He still couldn’t see a thing, the moon remained behind a blanket of cloud, but he knew the direction to head.
J swirled his hands blindly in the water, feeling the occasional tickle of water weeds, but no arms or legs to grab onto. J began to panic, how much time had passed? When the moon broke through again, he was able to see more clearly. But there was no trace of Danny.
J was standing right where Danny had sunk into the water, but the older boy had disappeared without a trace. He scanned the lake’s surface all around while his bleak feeling escalated. There was nothing to be seen. Apart from the ripples that his movements were making, the lake was smooth as glass and silent.
‘Silent as the grave’ was the ghoulish phrase which popped into his head.
J’s electronic alarm blurted which jolted him awake. His body felt stiff and cold and, as he swung his feet out of bed, he saw they were scratched, scraped. His feet were sore, the toenails were encrusted with dirt. He’d need to get showered before his Mum saw the state of them, but first there was something he had to check.
J tiptoed onto the landing and put his head round Lulu’s bedroom door. His heart lurched with relief. His sister was sitting on their mother’s lap, arms wrapped around her neck, talking softly. His Mum looked up and, catching his eye, she smiled.
“Lulu would like boiled eggs and soldiers for breakfast.” she told him.
He grinned and backed out of the room. Around the lump that was suddenly in his throat, he called downstairs to his dad with the food order. Next minute Dad thundered up the stairs to join Mum and Lulu in the bedroom. J smiled and rubbed his head, padding carefully to the bathroom to grab a shower, a bubble of joy lodged in his chest.
Sunday rolled around, sunny and mild. J was clipping the lead onto the dog’s collar, preparing to take her for a romp in the woods and fields, when Lulu dashed into the hall. She skidded to a halt by the rack of wellies and outdoor shoes.
“Can I come?” she asked, looking at him with pleading eyes. She began sliding her toes into pink glittery boots.
“OK,” said J – everyone was spoiling Lulu this week, they were so pleased to have her back to her normal, cheeky self.
“I hold the treats J,” she told him firmly, reaching up for the bone patterned tin where they stored bacon flavoured bites that the dog loved.
He smiled to himself and grabbed bags and a tennis ball before they set off. The dog was excited to get going and fairly dragged him along the paths towards the wood. Lulu kept up a stream of little girl chatter, J listened, but an answer wasn’t required very often. When they came to the fork in the path which led to the lake, their dog dragged them towards it. She loved to paddle round the edge of the water.
J approached the lake with great trepidation. It was the last place he’d ‘dream’ encountered Danny, yet nothing had been seen of him since. J felt guilty to play any part in the boy’s disappearance, but he was glad the danger he presented was removed. Not only had his sister returned to normal, but he’d seen Katie Thompson around school, back to her bright, perky, pre-hypnotised self.
The dog pulled to be let off and scamper about, but J couldn’t shake a feeling of foreboding. Lulu sneaked her smaller hand into his.
“I don’t like this place,” she said and sidled up close.
“Nor me Lulu,” he replied, calling the dog back. “Let’s take this crazy hound to the fields, shall we?”
He called and tugged on the lead, while Lulu held out a treat which the dog vacuumed from her fingers with enthusiasm. Casting one last, wary glance at the surface of the lake and the dark secret it hid, J and Lulu walked away.
Mystery solved, or was it? Maybe all a dream? I think the key was entering the dream at 2:58 a.m.