Every night for the past month, I've had the same dream. I'm in a dark tunnel, and I hear a noise behind me. It's quiet, faint. It always draws closer. Shuffle tick tick. Shuffle Tick Tick. Such an innocuous sound, but the slow creeping of it towards me terrifies me. I run as fast as I can away from the sound, panting, gasping for air. The tunnel echoes, and I hear it getting closer. I wake up, just as it reaches me.
Another night passes with the same nightmare. My eyes shoot open, and I'm in my bedroom, nothing special. I look over at the window, and sigh. It's bright out this morning. I smile, the terrors of the night banished once more. I make breakfast for my son and myself, put on my suit, got in my car. I checked my mirrors, no big deal, but I swear I could hear the sound behind me, shuffle tick tick. I snap my head towards the sound, and see my neighbor sweeping her driveway. I have a little chuckle. It's just a dream, and I'm getting paranoid over nothing.
I pulled in to the office, and stepped out of my car. Another day of crunch for a web development company. We had to turn out a product soon, or we'd be in trouble. I took the elevator up to my office, and I heard the sound again…shuffle tick tick. I looked around, and noticed one of the elevator buttons blinking. Must have just been a bulb popping. Nothing important.
I sit down at my cubicle, and started working. Code segments, debugging, the usual. I put in a good four hours, before getting up to go to lunch.
Lunch was good today for once; burger, fries, shake in the cafeteria. It was great, and I looked forward to picking up my son from school, having a quiet night in front of the tube or something. I turn off my computer, and walk out of the office. I hear a sound behind me though…Shuffle Tick Tick. Shuffle Tick. Shuffle Tick. I turn around quickly, and see a blinking street light, making some kind of noises. I guess it was only my imagination. Maybe I should talk to my brother-in-law. He's a psychiatrist or something like that.
I pick up Stephen, and take him home. I ask him about what he learned in school today. Division he says. Smart kid. I start to make dinner for the two of us. Chicken breast, broccoli spears, rice. I put Stephen to bed after watching the Raiders get thoroughly wrecked by the Steelers. Before he goes to sleep, I ask him if he's had any strange dreams lately. He told me he's only had dreams about me. I asked him what he meant, and he said that he was having dreams that daddy was a superhero. I smiled, and gave him a kiss on the forehead.
Changing into a pair of shorts and a tee shirt, I slip under the covers, and fall asleep almost as soon as I hit the pillow.
I'm in the dark tunnel. All I can hear behind me is Shuffle Tick Tick. Shuffle Tick Tick. But now, a new noise. A throaty growl, almost an animal sound. I break out into a run. The terror is a lump in my chest, and I can't run fast enough. The sound gets closer and closer, the echoes growing louder, and I hear an inhuman scream from behind me, and something crashes down on my back. I scream out in terror, and my eyes shoot open. I look around the room, and see nothing out of the ordinary. I rush to the bathroom, and throw up into the toilet. I'd never been so scared in my life. I look in the mirror, and for a moment I see almost a ghost of an image behind me in the mirror. I turn around, my hands up defensively, and see only the shower curtain behind me. Nerves. Just nerves.
I can't shake the feeling of being watched. I quickly push Stephen to get into his uniform for school, and get into my car to go to work. He says something about breakfast, and I reach into my wallet, handing him a couple of bills. He could buy breakfast at School I think. I don't remember. I almost forgot my tie in the rush, but I strung one around my neck with shaking fingers. I hear from behind me…Shuffle Tick Tick. Shuffle Tick Tick. I turn around, frantically searching for the sound. I see a kid carrying a trash bag, dragging it along the ground, and trying to tug it along every few seconds. I'm not crazy, just overworked, nothing to worry about. The crunch at work would be over soon, and we would return to the normal stress level.
I drive to work quickly, above the speed limit. Something's following me, I'm sure of it. I get into the office, and hold my head in my hands. I hear a quiet shuffle, and look up, realizing its just the door opening. My friend John asks if I'm alright. I give him a shaky smile and try to temporize that I hadn't slept well. Nothing to worry about. I barely got any work done. I couldn't think straight. A knock at my cubicle wall, and John says it's time to go. I didn't even notice the day. There's no code on my screen. What was I doing again?
Stephen is at a friend's house I think…I can't remember. They picked him up from school, right? It doesn't matter, I've got to keep my mind focused. I can't let them get to me. That noise isn't going to get me. Not me. Someone…someone needs me, but I can't remember anymore. That damn noise is in my thoughts, every last thing I can think of. If only the damnable noise would stop! My eyes swiveled around the room, looking for the source…Shuffle Tick Tick. The VCR is sticking again. Of course, it's nothing. Just the VCR. I stay up as long as I can, but eventually head upstairs to my room, laying down, and drifting off to sleep.
I'm in a dark tunnel, a loud noise is coming from behind me Shuffle Tick Tick, and something is calling out in the most ghastly voice I can imagine, something unintelligible. I run as fast as my legs will take me, until finally, I fall to the ground, tripping over an errant rock. Something pounces on top of me, and grabs my foot between powerful jaws. I can almost hear the sound of its jaw muscles contracting, as my eyes slam open.
I scream at the top of my lungs, and throw the covers away. My foot is fine, and I get up, running into the bathroom again, vomiting out the contents of my stomach into the toilet again. What the hell is happening to me? I've never been this terrified in my life. I don't understand what's happening, and I hear a noise behind me…Shuffle tick tick. I look around, trying to find the source of the sound, but there isn't one. Nothing. Just that horrible noise. It's all around me. I hold my hands to my ears to try to block out the sound, but it doesn't help.
I throw on the first clothes I come to in my closet, a pair of rumpled sweatpants, and a tee shirt, and run out the door. I get into my car, and start to drive off in the opposite direction from work, coming to a stop light. I take a moment to think. I can't miss work, they're depending on me, I've got to make sure I don't miss work, it's important to…someone, I can't remember anymore.
I get into the office, and my boss is at my cubicle wall, asking me why I didn't turn in any work yesterday? He takes a look at me, and shakes his head, telling me to go home. I stood up, and struggled out, while the rest of my coworkers looked on. Their eyes looked so hollow.
I got into my car, and started driving. I had no idea where I was going. Was I being haunted? Was there something that I couldn't see? I couldn't remember, but something was tugging at the back of my mind. It doesn't matter anymore. All that matters is getting away form that noise, that tunnel, whatever it is, was.
Time didn't matter anymore. I stopped at a convenience store, and bought a bunch of NoDoz. The attendant looked at me, and asked if I was alright. I snarled something at him, and walked out. The noise was all around me now…Shuffle tick tick. I screamed out into the night at nothing, and got back into my car, pulling off. My tires squealed, and the next few hours pass in a blur.
It's too much, I need to sleep. I know I can't, if I do it'll find me. But I can't anymore, I'm so tired, I'm out of pills, and my hands are shaking. I think my car is running out of gas, and I pull in to a seedy motel on the side of the road. I stumble into the office, and slap down my credit card. The clerk hands me a key, and when she does, it makes a noise on the table…shuffle tick tick. I scream, and run out, running down the doors, panting. I find the door that goes with my key, and turn it in the lock.
The room is dirty, smelly, but I didn't care. I sat down on the bed, and stared at the door. I got up, and moved the dresser in front of the door, and put the desk with the television on it in front of the bathroom door. Nothing is going to get me tonight.
A manic grin spreads across my face. Nothing is going to find me here. It can't. I'm too far away! My eyelids grow heavy. I'm safe here though. I fall back, and pass into darkness.
I'm in the tunnel again. No, no! I scream into the darkness and start running, but that horrible noise echoes all around me! Shuffle tick tick…shuffle tick tick. It's getting closer! How can it get closer! I can hear a horrible moaning, groaning sound. Like the voice of some horrible creature from beyond death, reality. Something is right behind me! It lands on my back, and I feel powerful jaws close around my foot.
All I hear next is a snap, and feel a tear, as my body goes into shock. The thing jumps on top of me, and grabs me by the throat with its teeth. I wake up with a jolt, to see blood all over the bed. My foot is gone, my throat is raw, and torn. I stand up in a panic as best I can on the nub of bone left of my left leg. I shuffle over to the door as best as I can, and I shove everything out of the way with strength I shouldn't have. My jaw itches. I throw the door open, and run out, eyes streaming tears, throat weeping blood. I run out into the night, and I can't see anything. It must be midnight. I see a light in the distance, and I start to shuffle towards it. I see something on each side of me. I'm in a dark…tunnel? My eyes go wide, and I surge forward with renewed terror. I hear something in front of me, a person.
I move as fast as I can down the dark metal tunnel, towards a sound in front of me, but the only sound that comes out of my mouth is a horrible moan from my mangled throat. I'm trying to call out for help, but something's wrong with my jaw. It comes out a throaty moan, almost a groan. My feet make an odd sound…a shuffle of one foot…a tick, tick as the bone touches the floor. I try to call for help, but I already know what's happening…
The bored scientists look up at the screaming man in the bed. "D-344 has broken down into total psychosis. Note it, and bring in the other D-class marked for Object 845 imprinting. Then terminate the subject." In the corner, a rather old clock with a stuck second hand makes a shuffle sound, as the second hand scrapes against the top of the face, then two quick ticks as it catches up with the correct time…
Shuffle Tick Tick…