Do the dead dream?
Dive a wreck that was never there, in the waters off Bimini . . .
Meet a young girl who debates with rooftop monsters . . .
Dine at a tiny café teetering on the edge of oblivion . . .
Take refuge from a downpour in a gas station from nowhere . . .
Discover the real reason behind migraines . . .
Encounter a love gone bad before it ever existed . . .
Explore the emotional remains of a woman’s not-quite-dead past . . .
Follow a WWII airman plummeting through flak-filled German skies . . .
Not quite right.
These are but a few of the surreal, the weird, and the peculiar you will encounter in a realm few willingly tread…with or without the lights on.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when you must face the music.
To think back to your childhood . . . when you were basically not held accountable for much. Those were the fun times, happy times! Happy and carefree. Life was your amusement park!
You had no real responsibilities, aside from school and a few chores. If you had a bike, you were mobile and that meant freedom! The world was literally at your feet! And the challenges! Nothing went unchallenged! Everything was suspect, from your home to your school. You’d try to get away with as much as possible, testing the system. You’d steal that candy bar just to see if you could get away with it . . . stay out later and later on dates.
It was all part of being a kid.
The excitement of being a kid!
But then things begin to change about mid-way through high school.
Slowly but surely more responsibility was layered into your life. No longer did things remain just mere “unaccountable challenges” . . . and if you later became one of the few to go to war, you witnessed the atrocities of mankind. Things that seared your soul with an intense anger and hatred.
It was an anger at the cruelties and callousness of conflict. At how the Human Condition could inflict torture—mental or physical—upon another. You wondered how could such things be? How could—can—people be driven to perform such atrocities—horrible, unspeakable acts upon each other.
How God could allow such things.
But it was and is real . . . and won’t ever go away.
The worst part is that it isn’t just confined to wars: it breeds . . . finding other ways to manifest . . . unleash itself. War (you find) just becomes a convenient excuse.
And while you’re in the middle of it all, you may find yourself thinking back to a particular girl you knew . . . before you left and everything went crazy. You think back to when you and her were an item.
You think back with a sadness that bites deep. You think back to when you told her not to worry . . . you’d be back.
She says, well what about all the others who’ve said the same? You look her in the eyes and tell her—with all seriousness—that you’re different.
Yes, you think back to that time . . . and how you began to doubt your own words. She was the one you really cared about.
You remember that when that night was over so was your relationship. No one said anything, but you both felt it. And it wasn’t that you would necessarily never come back . . . no that wasn’t it. It was the waiting . . . and what you might become . . . .
She never wrote you and you never wrote her—well, maybe once. You did write her that one time just to let her know you were okay. But that was it. When there was no response, you knew why.
There was no animosity. It was just something that had to be.
But you did come back . . . all limbs and mentality intact. At least you think so. Maybe you are a little rougher around the edges—there was no part of your being that was not bruised from your “experiences,” “they” call them—but you were still you.
That boy who’d gone off to war.
So you found your way to her place, that lone porchlight still on the way you remember it. You knock at the door . . . her father opens it. Looks outside. He looks right through you as you stand before him . . . then he solemnly turns around without saying a word and reenters the house, head slumped miserably forward.
You, however, straighten yours up more.
Couldn’t be more prepared.
You turn back to the street . . . your thousand-yard stare catches you off-guard . . . recall the fire fights . . . the carnage . . . the smell of death and destruction . . . but also the life you had before the war . . . before . . . before you’d changed . . . .
It seems you stand there for an eternity.
Then a hand reaches out for you.
She stands before the door, face to face with you.
You’re knees buckle.
Something inside you unhinges.
Tears . . . pain . . . in both sets of eyes.
You weren’t the only one who’d changed.
You thought you’d forever lost her . . . and she you. Sure, she had her “experiences” (“they” call them) while you were gone . . . but she’d always held you closest . . . never really wanted to let you go. You see it in her eyes. Feel it in the electricity between the both of you.
You were back . . . and so was she.
Back for you.
Gently you take her hand. Together you both turn . . . and hand-in-hand step off the porch . . . and vaporize as your feet hit the path leading away from one life . . .
F. P. Dorchak writes gritty speculative fiction. Frank is published in the U.S., Canada, and the Czech Republic. His novels are Voice, Psychic, ERO, The Uninvited, and Sleepwalkers, and his first anthology, Do The Dead Dream? won the 2017 Best Books Award for Fiction: Short Stories. His short stories have appeared in the off-the-grid The Black Sheep; You Belong 2016, Words and Images from Longmont Area Residents regional anthology for 2016; The You Belong Collection, Writings and Illustrations by Longmont Area Residents regional anthology for 2012; Apollo’s Lyre. Frank can occasionally be reached in séances, and his website is www.fpdorchak.com.