Nightmarish Reality (Vol.1) Chapter 2

Zander Russell suffers from constant nightmares. He doesn’t know what is causing them and why his nightmares seem so real, resulting in cuts and bruises all over his body. Seemingly, an average student, Zander goes to a typical high school where he’s constantly bullied and teased. The nightmares occur more frequently in the day, blurring the lines between reality and mere illusions.



11/4/2021 15 min read


NIGHTMARISH REALITY contains graphic and disturbing scenes. Content may be controversial in nature and may not be appropriate for younger readers; therefore, you must be eighteen or older to continue.

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First Phase

  • June 30, 1997

Dear Journal,

I’m going to miss Bridgewater, Somerset County. Loft Drive has many lavish condominiums and I went to several schools in Bridgewater, such as the Adamsville Elementary, Hillside Intermediate, and Raritan Middle School. I only stayed there for three two years in middle school though, since we had to leave due to Mom losing her job.

Mom quit after she discovered the manager, Mr. Henderson had been arrested and charged with fraud. The dealership closed down because of bankruptcy. We have no other choice but to move to another state. Mom can’t support us anymore with no income and the little bit of savings she has leftover.

“It’s better to start fresh in a new place.” Mom always says.

However, I don’t feel the same way. I don’t want to leave my old town; I still have a few friends here…or what’s left of them. I’ll surely miss Chris, ‘cause he was my best friend, my childhood friend. I knew Chris since I was in Kindergarten. We met on the first day of school; we were the only two students that came in early and had nothing to do.

In the beginning, we sat at different tables from across the room afraid to talk to each other. But then, I stood up and said, “Hi.” After that, we had an instant connection and we’ve always stayed together. Every day at recess we went to the playground to try to catch as many dragonflies as possible. I was the expert, sneaking up on unsuspecting dragonflies, and (without harming them) I’d catch them by their wings with just two fingers.

We’d marvel at their interesting patterns and colors. Then, we’d release them back into the wild. We did this for three years, until Chris went to another school in fourth grade. f̶o̶r̶ ̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶w̶h̶o̶l̶e̶ ̶y̶e̶a̶r̶ We kept in contact and often wrote letters to each other. He didn’t live very far from where I lived, so we hung out once a week. Now, that’s all about to change.

Grandma tells Mom to come on over and stay for a while. Mom needs to get back on her feet and find a job to support us. We won’t arrive at my Grandparents’ house until a few more days; Mom’s packing all our suitcases, preparing for the big move. Anyway, I tell Mom how I feel about the trip down south, and yet it’s not good enough to convince her to stay otherwise…


“At least in New Jersey it’s too cold for the bloodsucking pests to run amuck in the swamplands. And I hear the smell of marshes reek of salty ditch water,” I said, chewing on a piece of gum.

I sat in the passenger’s seat of my mom’s white Camry, peering out the window and viewing the scenery of a crowded highway. Lots of rigs and semis were on the road, carrying huge shipments of supplies. One red semi had large cases of metal rods tied together in bundles as it zoomed ahead of us. I saw the grasslands and even the coastal areas of sandy beaches nearby. I rolled down my window. Smelled the air.

Everything had the scent of the ocean. Isa was one years old, wide awake in the back seat, hugging her teddy bear. She was still in a world of her own; she glanced at the other cars on the road, and pointed at some object she didn’t know.

“Wat that?” Isa asked.

I told my sister what certain animals were, since Mom ignored us.

“It’s a bird.” I looked behind the seat to talk to Isa.

“Haven’t you seen a bird before? And that’s the ocean. We won’t see snow anymore––not where we’re going.”

Mom heaved a sigh; she seemed occupied in her thoughts, and focused on the road ahead.

“Don’t complain when we get there, Zander. I’m doing the best I can and we can’t afford to live in a condo. Besides, your grandmother hasn’t seen you in almost ten years,” she added.

“I’m not complaining…I wanted to tell Isa we won’t be seeing snow anymore. It’s no big deal.”

I blew a pink wad of gum into a bubble and it made a pop; I chewed faster, so I could make more bubbles for Isa and show off my special skills.

“Look Isa, can you do this?” I made another large bubble in front of Isa, and she watched in amazement.

The gum exploded in my mouth, sticking to my lips as if it were Scotch tape. I grinned like the Mad Hatter.

“Maybe in a couple more years I’ll show you how to make your own gum bubbles.”

Isa laughed and giggled. “More.” She clapped her hands.

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.” I peeled the sticky, gooey gum from the corners of my mouth. “I present to you the largest bubblegum bubble in the world.”

I took out the neon pink, plastic container from my coat pocket, and then tore off another piece of gum. I threw it into my mouth and chewed. As I blew the bubble, Mom stuck her finger out and popped it.

“Hey.” I narrowed my eyes and pouted at my defeated ego. “I was just about to show her how to do it.”

“Gotcha.” Mom had a witty smile on her face.

She blew on her index finger and pretended she was in one of those western movies with Clint Eastwood. Mom shot her pistol at the villain, saving the day. She won. I lost. It took me a few minutes to peel the remaining gum scraps from my face. After I was done looking embarrassed, I created more. The pop, pop, pop sound of every gum bubble I inflated and destroyed lasted for an hour, until my jaw was sore from chewing.

Isa, bored with my bubble blowing, began talking to her bear. Sunlight was soon replaced with darker clouds and the flash of lightning. A faint boom of thunder echoed above. Mom turned on the radio and tuned in for her favorite station, Car Talk. We soon heard nothing, except static on the other end, due to a lost antenna transmission.

Mom reached over to me and pointed at the glove compartment. “Get one of my old tapes, so we can hear some music.”

I opened it. “Which one you want?” I rummaged around Mom’s insurance papers and Atlas road maps.

“Any song will do.”

“Alrighty then.” I wanted to imitate Jim Carrey’s character from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, one of my favorite movies of the ‘90s, but Mom didn’t seem to notice my horrible acting.

I randomly chose a cassette, out of the dozens already there. My fingers pushed the tape into the slot, and pressed the start button. We listened to several songs by the Bee Gees, including Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever, and How Deep is Your Love. After one side was done, the player would eject the tape, and I’d flip it over to the other side. Mom got tired of replaying the Bee Gees’ songs nonstop for an hour straight, so I switched it to Michael Jackson’s Thriller album.

Rain trickled down as Mom drove onward. The black clouds gathered and streaks of lightning glinted across the sky, and to think this trip all began with blue skies and blazing sunshine. By the time it was midnight, Mom and I had played all twenty-five cassettes in the glove box; I turned off the radio since Mom mentioned she was getting a headache. We were both sick of listening to music––instead we listened to the sounds of nature.


  • July 1, 1997

Dear Journal,

Mom d̶o̶e̶s̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶l̶i̶s̶t̶e̶n̶ hates it when I badger her with questions. At times she takes it as a personal attack. She’ll often break down into tears if she doesn’t know the answer. I turn my head to face the dark trees; they’re now a blur due to the fog forming. I don’t know where we’re going.

Mom tells me we’re on the Florida Turnpike; I don’t doubt her skills, since I can’t read a map anyway. If she gave me directions, whether it’s cleaning or washing up the dishes, I’d probably fail. I never follow her directions. I’d do something completely opposite even if they’re simple instructions. Back home, if Mom told me to brush my teeth, I’d go watch TV.

If she told me to go to bed, I’d stay awake all night playing games on my computer. One day when I was cleaning out the fish bowl, Mom told me not to use soap, just water. Well, what happened was I took out some dish washing liquid and squeezed it into the bowl. I’d already taken out our goldfish, Goldie, and placed him into a safe container full of water, of course. It didn’t seem like such an important rule at the time.

So, after rinsing the tank about three times, I returned Goldie (our only pet fish) to his proper fishy home. The next day, I found him floating on the surface, belly side up. Goldie was dead. Mom says I have selective hearing: (whether it’s a task to be done or a warning) it will go in one ear and then out the other. Mom will repeat herself until she gets fed up. The only time I do what she says is when she threatens me with a punishment.


“You’re not sleepy?” Mom had a concerned look on her face.

Her mouth gaped open to yawn as if she wanted to hold a ball of yarn in place. Mom’s eyebrows were raised to the lines of her forehead.

“No, I don’t want to sleep right now…” I groaned, yawning and stretching my arms.

I turned around to see if Isa was all right in the back. Sure enough, she was fast asleep sucking on her thumb and clutching her teddy bear for dear life. She made a heavy breathing sound as her feet dangled motionless in her child safety seat. Her seatbelt was still strapped on, yet she didn’t seem uncomfortable whatsoever. Isa’s hair now glistened as the light outside bounced off it, and reflected in the windows while the car drove past towering lamp poles.

The highway was somewhat bumpy at certain sections of the road, because of uneven pavement and small potholes. I heard stories about sinkholes in Florida and how they could devour entire lakes, roads, and even houses. I hoped we didn’t fall into one. There was poor visibility and we couldn’t see much of the road in front of us. How would Mom feel if we were swallowed up by a sinkhole? Would she know what to do? Isa didn’t make a sound, she never opened her eyes; she was a deep sleeper. I wondered how anyone could sleep like a dead log.

“It’s way past your bedtime,” Mom said.

I heard the loud swish, swish, swish from the windshield wipers as more rain came in sheets. Hail came tumbling down. The ice chunks were the size of little cubes. I imagined going outside catching some in my mouth, like snowflakes before the blizzard storm. Wide-awake in the front seat, I shifted around to find a comfortable sitting position. It was difficult.

Mom had been driving since this morning; it was at least three and a half hours ago since we last stopped. I wanted to walk again. The lack of not stretching out my muscles began to make my whole body numb; the feeling was rather irritating like needles, percolating against the skin.

“We’ll be there soon,” Mom whispered.

I was surprised I heard her through the wind and rain pounding on the rooftop; it was as if we’re going through a loud car wash. Mom’s car took a beating.

“There’s a Motor Inn on the next turn. We’ll rest there. I need to make a phone call.”

“To Grandma?” I asked. “Does she know we’re coming?”

“Yes, she does. But I want to make sure I’m going in the right direction.”

“Why? Are we lost?”

“No. I’m just making sure, so we don’t have to stay at another motel.”


It wasn’t long until we saw a green highway sign with EXIT 85 written on it. Mom flipped on her right blinking indicator. No one was behind us; no one was even on the road at this time of night. We left the four-lane highway for a small, deserted road. I saw the bright blue sign with MOTOR INN in red letters.

The car stopped at a red traffic light. I thought the highway was desolate, but this was ridiculous. We were on a thin stretch of road in the middle of nowhere. The traffic light finally turned green, and mom’s Camry made a left turn at the corner. I heard Isa rustling in her sleep; didn’t know if my sister was dreaming or if she was just waking up.

Mom parked the car in an empty lot in front of the motel. We were the only ones there. I had seen this before in a black-and-white movie; Hitchcock’s most controversial film called Psycho. Now, it seemed like a reality. The more I thought about it, I realized how alone we really were. Mom took off her seatbelt and stepped out of the car.

“Wait here.” She left the keys in the ignition. “I’ll be right back. Lock the door, Zander, until I arrive.”

I nodded in reply. Mom wore a black dress, a brown leather jacket, and black stockings. She placed her bare feet on the wet road; Mom slipped on her red high heels before closing the door shut. I took off my seatbelt and stretched far enough to push down the lock.

Isa started to cry. The sound of the door banging must of frightened her awake.

“Mommy?” Isa began sniffling and fussing over something so small. She cried in the backseat.

“Mom’s coming back.” I stared back at Isa. “Stop crying.”

I noticed Isa didn’t have her teddy bear anymore; it was on the floor face down, since she dropped it by accident. My arm reached out and picked up the lost toy as if it was treasure in the Indiana Jones’ movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

“Everything’s fine. Go back to sleep.” I even made the bear talk and perform dance moves in front of Isa, trying to cheer her up.

Isa sucked on her thumb as if it was her pacifier while she gawked at me with a vacant expression. The teddy did some flips in the air and Isa took out her thumb; she snatched it, and then cuddled it while I was still holding on. It took some time to maneuver my hand away from her grasping fingers, yet I was able to break free without her dropping the stuffed animal. Isa stopped crying.

“Sleep now…” I stroked her hair.

Isa calmed down, hearing the sound of my voice, and closed her eyes. She was at peace; a serenity that I could never imagine. I envied her. She could drift off to a world of wonder and pure imagination, where nothing could hurt her. Pain never existed in Isa’s dreams, not even death.

The faint noise of Isa sucking her thumb made me sigh in relief. She was asleep without another fuss. It was just moments later that Mom came into view and approached the car in a rapid pace. I had waited for two minutes. Mom knocked on the window; I reached over and unlocked the car door. She opened it.

“You think you can carry Isa for me?” Mom removed the ignition key. “You know how to unfasten the safety seat?”

“Yeah…it’s not rocket science,” I replied.

“Good, I’ll get the suitcases. And don’t leave your things here.”

“Sure thing.” I got out and unlocked the back door.

My backpack was on the floor beside Isa’s fallen pink shoes; I glanced at my baby sister and noticed she’d kicked them off. Mom never tied Isa’s shoes too tight. I had to put Isa’s shoes back on her feet while she was sleeping. It was a pain but I was quick about it. I sighed at Sleeping Beauty, and then unfastened the seatbelt around her waist.

Mom heaved the trunk open and grabbed both of the suitcases, yanking them out of the car. She was the strongest person I knew; Mom didn’t give a damn about what the world thought about her, especially men. Isa put her hands around my neck as I held her in my arms. She was heavy, yet I tried not to show it as I lifted her. I kicked in the door with my foot, and somehow maintained my balance.

Mom pushed down the trunk; we walked toward the lobby as the lights flickered on and off. She went on ahead while I trailed right behind her. Mom’s thick, leather coat faded into a dull cream color; it was beginning to tear at the corners like streamers at a party. Almost forgot we weren’t living in a house anymore. I knew it would never snow here in Florida.

Not in a million years. However, the rain did make the air damp, except for the rising humidity. If it wasn’t for the cool night breeze, I’d be sweating bullets in winter fashion. Regardless of the climate, Mom didn’t break a sweat. She had to be tough. Mom had no one by her side to help––just a baby and a teenager, who couldn’t take care of their damned selves.

We walked inside an office room building. Behind the counter was a Pakistani man with black eyes, black hair, and a mustache. He sat in a chair and wore an azure uniform with no tie; his hair was tousled and super curly. Mom approached the desk clerk. She set the suitcases on the floor beside her.

“Hello. How may I assist you?” The man put a pair of spectacles on his face, so he could look at us with 20/20 vision.

On his chest was a white tag where I assumed his name would be. My main concern was that the tag faced the other way; I wondered if he had a strange name he didn’t want revealing.

“A room…for two,” Mom was out of breath, “Please…”

“That’ll be a hundred-and-fifty.”

Mom raised both her eyebrows. “For one night?”

“Yes ma’am, per night.”

Within a few minutes he handed Mom a keycard. We went through the large hallways; it led us to a small cafeteria with nothing but snack/vending machines. The motel smelled of cheap pinecones and a pack of cigarettes. The carpet felt rugged. It was a red, sanguine color.

We passed the rusty air conditioning system covered in dust, which was attached to the wall. It made a loud, mechanical moan as if it was dying. Mom saw that the room number matched the keycard and slipped it through the automatic lock. She turned the doorknob and dragged the suitcases inside. I followed her.

Isa was still asleep in my warm embrace. She held the bear’s paw while her hand drooped at one side. I felt Isa’s calm breathing down the back of my neck; her heartbeat was steady as I placed her on a comforter, the nearest bed. I removed her tiny shoes, sliding them off her feet. I placed everyone’s shoes on the floor next to the entrance.

Isa sucked on her thumb as she always did; I shook my head in frustration and took her thumb out of her mouth. Mom sat down on the second bed with quilted sheets. She sighed deeply.

“Stay here and watch your little sister. I’ll be back shortly,” Mom ordered, getting up. She patted me on the head, and then walked out of the room.


  • July 1, 1997

Dear Journal,

Mom walks out on us without saying another word. She carries the keycard in one hand, and before I can even protest, the door closes right in my face. I’m angry she left us alone – again! In order to contain my emotions, I lie on the bed. I rest my head on a pillow.

Beside me is Isa. She’s sleeping now. I don’t sleep ‘cause I’m afraid, more so for Mom. I figure she has to make an important phone call. She doesn’t have a cell. She’ll have to go to the lobby or outside to find a pay phone. It’s so late! Why does she have to go out now to make a call?

I stare upward at the ceiling. It’s cold in here. The walls are decorated a pasty color and everything looks gray. On the beds is a beige, red, and yellow plaid comforter neatly folded on the mattresses; underneath the comforter are thin, white sheets. We have a kitchen, a counter, and two miniature desks.

I turn on another lamp light beside the bed. With two lights on, I hope they’ll keep out the darkness. There’s even a small table in the center of the room and one chair. A mini-TV sits inside a wooden cabinet with scratched doors. I didn’t know at first until I checked it out.

Metal antennas are sticking out from a black box – it’s ancient technology. I read in a newspaper article that bedbugs are a common pest in hotels and motels, but for the moment I don’t really care. That’s the least of my worries right now. Still wide-awake, I try to imagine something else. I need to think of good thoughts, and yet none come to me.

I walk around in circles and grab the remote controller. Turn on the TV. Flipping through the channels, nothing interesting is on. Only two channels! What the hell? It’s an old television set, so it’s no big surprise to me that this motel has no cable.

I leave the mini-TV on the news. Channel Three had some static, yet I can still see the news anchorwoman. She has youthful skin; it’s blemish free and smooth like a mannequin. No dark, puffy bags under her eyes. Her face is well rounded with no wrinkles whatsoever; her voice sounds rigid as she pronounced certain words with ease and resolute confidence.

Her nose is thin and pointed. It’s well hidden with the blazing spotlights and the make-up. I imagine how flimsy this woman is. If she tips over in her chair will she break? She speaks perfect English though for a half-Chinese woman; her name is at the bottom of the screen: Emiko Swan.

Her name sounds beautiful and delicate as she is. I fall back on the second, empty bed, where Mom’s suitcases lean against the edge. Glancing at Isa on the other bed. She seems alright, and I pray she’ll stay asleep all day. Staring at the ceiling again.

I hear a noise and turn to see where it’s coming from. My heart is beating so fast. The door – something’s behind that door! Back to the ceiling. Don’t fall asleep. The door’s opening by itself!

Look back at the ceiling! It’s getting darker now; I can feel it coming closer. I can’t fall asleep! My eyes feel heavy all of a sudden. I can feel myself beginning to drift… I don’t want to!
















Nightmarish Reality © 2012 by W.D. Lady

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