The Dream Rider by Ernest Dempsey @ErnDempsey

Chapter 3

Heavy bass pounded from subwoofers on an enormous porch above and beside me. I’d never seen a poured concrete deck before. The host of the party had turned the entire thing into a big dance floor, and it was packed with drunken revelers, blowing off steam from their week of study. The guy throwing the party had produced four kegs of beer, all of which were being used at various spots on the property.

There were no houses next to the home so, playing the music at full volume and having four hundred guests was no problem.

Nate had done exactly what I’d said he would. He’d offered me a few beers early on in the evening, which I turned down, before he wandered off. Some people thought it odd that I didn’t drink. One friend from high school had asked me how it was possible that I was half Mexican, half Irish, and didn’t drink alcohol. I told them I’d just never acquired the taste.

For the most part, I was relatively invisible to the partygoers, just like in the rest of my life. I’d been sitting on a log near one of the bonfires for the last hour, the only person who’d said anything to me was Nate, right before he stumbled away yelling something about the greatest night of his life.

I didn’t mind being alone. But I did mind being unimportant. My whole life, I’d always lived in other peoples’ shadows. Everyone always paid attention to people I hung out with. I was always the sidekick. It was like that with girls, too. They all went after the guys who were older, stronger, richer.

My train of thought returned to the present. Why had I even come to this stupid party? Nate always talked me into doing things I didn’t want to do. I stared into the fire, gazing into the orange coals, getting more annoyed the longer I sat there. I decided to leave before I got any angrier. No one would notice. Well, Nate might when he sobered up. But the campus was within walking distance. He’d be fine.

Just as I was about to stand up, I felt someone sit down next to me. I turned my head to see a young woman beside me on the log. She was gorgeous, wearing a black vinyl jacket and skin tight, matching pants. Long, curly brown hair framed a pale face with a gently sloping nose. I couldn’t see her eyes until she turned to face me. When she did, they were greener than the fields of Ireland.

“Hello, Finn,” as she spoke I was instantly locked into her deep, mesmerizing eyes.

“Hello?” I struggled to get the word out. I panicked. Who was this beautiful girl and why was she talking to me? Me? I started to say something that was probably going to be cheesy or cliché, but the words never made it past my mouth.

“Don’t talk. Just listen,” she ordered, motioning me to be quiet with a delicate finger. I frowned, confused. But I obeyed. A pretty girl wanted to talk to me and all I had to do was listen. No problem. “They’re coming for you, Finn. You may not have much time.”

“What?” I asked. “Who’s coming for me?”  I laughed as I said it.

She grabbed my leg just above the knee, and I suddenly felt a horrible numbness surge through my entire body. I couldn’t move. I was completely paralyzed. All of the things going on around me, the party, the people dancing, students stumbling around, everything became a blur. All I could focus on was the girl and her hypnotic eyes. What was she doing to me? Wild thoughts of demonic stories and witchery came back from my childhood.

When she spoke, it was if her voice was coming from inside my head. “You know who they are, Finn. They came after you last night. They will come again.” 

The men in the trench coats? She nodded as if hearing my thoughts. How could she know what I was thinking?

“They will come after you again,” she repeated. “And they will keep coming until they finish what they have started.”

“Finish what? What have they started? Why me? And what have you done to me?” I asked, fairly certain my lips weren’t moving, though I could hear the sound of my voice.

“Because they are afraid,” she said. “Soon, you will realize who you really are, Finn.”

“Who I am?” I asked. “Who are you? And what do you want with me?” My voice had to sound panicked. “Are you some kind of witch? Let me go!”

“You are far more important than you think, Finn,” she said in a calm, even tone.

“How do you know my name?” I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t.

She looked deeply into my eyes. “You are meant for a glory you couldn’t possibly imagine. You will save the lives of millions of people, and lead them to a life they never imagined.”

“Glory? What are you talking about? I can’t save anyone. I’m nobody.”

“You do not yet know what you are truly capable of, but soon you will see, Dream Rider.”

She let go of my leg, and I was immediately able to feel my extremities again. It all came back so quickly that I felt a little dizzy for a moment and had to brace myself by putting my elbows on my knees. After a few seconds, the vertigo dissipated and I sat up. Everything was clear again. No one was looking at me, like I was afraid they might. The party continued as if nothing had happened. I looked around frantically; a million thoughts swirled in my head. And the girl was gone.

I stood up, cautiously, making sure I could still use my legs, and walked around for a few minutes to see if I could find Nate. There was no sign of him anywhere. So, I left and walked quickly through the crowd of reveling students to my car. I plopped down into the driver’s seat and sat still for a minute or two, trying desperately to process what was going on. My hands shook on the steering wheel. Too many weird things had happened over the last twenty-four hours. I shifted the car into gear and steered it out onto the road back to the dorm.

The building was quiet when I arrived. It was like the entire campus was at the party. The only person I saw as I walked through the lobby was the resident assistant at the desk who never looked up as I passed.

It was past 1:00 in the morning by the time I crawled into bed. I was tired but my eyes were wide open. The experience I’d had with the strange girl was still fresh in my mind. It was like she’d used some kind of spell or black magic on me. For a few minutes, I thought that I might have been dreaming. Somehow, though, I knew that wasn’t the case.

After lying there in my bed for what seemed like an hour, my eyes finally started getting heavy. Just as I was about to fall asleep, I heard a knock at my door. The noise startled me, and I jumped out of my bed. I looked around for a weapon, anything I could use. Weapon? Why would I need a weapon? It was probably just Nate. But why would he come to my room?

I found my baseball bat conveniently sitting next to the door and hoisted it onto my shoulder. “Who is it?” I asked.

No one answered so I spoke louder the second time. “Hello? Who is it?”  Nothing again.

I stepped closer to the door as quietly as possible, careful not to make a noise and unlocked it just as cautiously. I swung it open quickly, hoping to surprise whoever was there. But I was greeted by an empty hallway. I looked down both ends to see if there was anyone lurking, but the corridor was empty.

“Hello?” I said again. “Nate, stop screwin’ around.”  I hoped it was my friend messing with me in a drunken stupor. Maybe he was pissed that I’d left him at the party. Doubtful. He wouldn’t care. He probably wouldn’t even remember.

I stepped out into the hall, still holding the bat, and walked a few dozen feet in one direction, double-checking to see if anyone was hiding in the recesses of the other doorways. Nothing. Resigned, I turned around to return to my room, but was horrified at what I found blocking my way.

The bald-headed man from before was standing in the middle of the area. He wore a long, black coat that hung down to his calves, making him more intimidating than I remembered. He still had on the sunglasses I recalled from the dream, but there was no gun this time.

Wait. It’s a dream. I know it’s a dream. He’s the guy from the night before. I can wake up. The thoughts flooded me with relief. Only problem was I wasn’t waking up.

“Hello, Finn,” the man’s voice boomed through the passageway as he took a step towards me.

“Who are you?” I managed to blurt out, trying not to sound terrified.

He laughed wickedly and shook his head as he continued moving towards me. “My name isn’t important,” he replied. “But my mission is.”

“Mission? What mission?”

“To kill you.”

I shook my head. “I don’t know what this is about. Just leave me alone,” I said, holding the bat up menacingly.

He cocked his head to the side, giving me a look that made me feel pathetic. “Now what do you think you are going to do with that?”

The stranger was within range now so I swung as hard as I could at his head. Unfortunately, his right hand shot up quickly and stopped it, just inches from his temple. His hand had moved so quickly, I hadn’t even seen it.

He shook his head and made a clicking sound with his tongue. “You should have died yesterday. We shot you. I watched the bullet go into your brain. I saw you die,” his voice was laden with contempt. “No matter. You’ll die soon enough.”  He yanked the bat out of my hand and tossed it down the hall in the other direction.

I wasn’t going to wait for him to say anything else. I turned and took off, running towards the stair well at the closest end of the building. When I reached the door I barreled through it and flew down the steps towards the main floor, taking them three at a time.

I burst through the door into the lobby of the dorm, but no one was there. The resident assistant on duty wasn’t at his normal spot behind the information desk. I could hear the bald man coming down the stairs so I sprinted through the front door and out into the courtyard.

Outside, the air was freezing. I stopped to look around for the briefest of seconds. When I looked back, the man was walking calmly through the door. Only he didn’t open the door. He literally walked through the glass and metal, as if it were an illusion.

I darted towards the center of campus and through the quad, making my way through a little park area. I passed a large stone fountain in the middle of the quad and noticed that lights were on in the girls’ dorm lobby. It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I figured I just needed to find someone, anyone who could help me.

I bounded up the steps when I reached the five-story building and leapt through the entrance. There was no one around. How could the place be empty? A quick look back revealed the bald man was still stalking towards me. I wondered how he was gaining on me when I was sprinting at full speed while he was just walking. It didn’t make sense, but I didn’t have time to think about that.

I flung open the nearby stairwell door and started racing upwards. My leg muscles burned more and more with each floor I ascended, and became heavier with every successive step. By the time I’d reached the top, they felt like lead weights. I opened a door that had the words “roof access” on it and staggered through it, out onto the top of the building. Something wasn’t right, though.

The door slammed shut behind me. I lunged back and tried to open it, but the thing wouldn’t budge. More alarming than the sealed portal was the fact that I wasn’t on the roof of the girls’ dorm. I was downtown in the city on the roof of a much taller building. Off in the distance a thunderstorm was moving in my direction, flashing and rumbling as it rolled quickly through the sky. Cold droplets of rain began to patter the hard surface of the roof. Lightning flashed again, crackling through the sky like an electrical spider web. My breathing was still coming in labored gasps and my leg muscles still ached from the run.

I heard a sickeningly familiar voice come from around the corner of a tall, metal antenna in the center of the area. “Where you gonna go now, Finn?”  The bald man appeared from behind a block wall at the base of the tower. He walked slowly towards me. His eyes had turned dark, almost completely black, like onyx orbs set in each socket.

“That’s impossible!” I yelled as I stumbled backwards, tripping over a hump in the roof. I guess I thought that if I screamed it loud enough, the man would disappear. He didn’t.

“What’s not possible, Finn?” he asked as he drew closer. “That I’m here? That we are on this roof?”  The man displayed his arms out in grand fashion. “All of this? The fact that we are on the roof of a building nowhere near your campus?”

I kept moving back as he spoke. I didn’t know where I was going or how I could get away. Then I felt something terrifying hit my heel. I looked back and saw that I’d reached the end of the rooftop. My foot had struck the edge. The vision of the empty street far below caused me to waver momentarily. It was a dizzying height, and heights were something I’d always been afraid of.

A gust of wind whipped around me. Flashes of lightning seemed to be getting closer by the second as the storm moved in quickly. Dark, rolling clouds blotted out the stars above leaving the city in shadow.

When I returned my attention to the bald man, he was only a few feet away from me. The rain was coming down harder and my jeans and jacket were already soaked. They sky was scorched for a second with an explosion of lightning. I was cornered with no way to escape. The hard wind blew the man’s coat up wildly. I saw his silver gun, strapped to his side.

“Who are you?  What do you want with me?” I demanded.

His eyes scanned me as they would a strange animal he’d never seen before. I risked another quick glance back at the street below. It was still empty. I didn’t know which was more terrifying, the possibility of falling or the apparition before me.

He shook his head slowly, peering into my eyes with his black orbs. Without warning, he jumped into the air in what seemed like slow motion and rose high above the ground. Lightning cracked again through the sky behind him. Suddenly, everything sped up and he thrust a black boot into my chest. The blow sent a sharp pain through my ribcage. The force was like a wrecking ball and I sailed over the edge. Everything slowed down again. I saw him land on the lip of the roof as I tumbled through the air toward the sidewalk.

Falling is a horrific sensation, one of the worst things I have ever experienced. It’s something I’d always feared, and with good reason. The air blowing against my back was cold as I fell through it. The windows of the building rushed by with a swooshing sound that continued to speed up the farther I fell. But the worst part about falling is the anticipation, the nauseating uncertainty of when your fall will end. Every second you think you’re going to stop and hit the ground, but you just keep going. At first, the things that come to mind are panic. Death is something most people fear, especially at a young age. I had my whole life in front of me, an endless array of opportunities, kicked off the top of a building. Next, my past life came into my vision. I hoped I had been a good person. I wasn’t sure if I had always been the most generous, giving soul, but I couldn’t remember ever doing horrible. Still, the fact that it was ending was terrifying. I cringed, looking up at the top of the building that seemed so far away. I closed my eyes tight, knowing what would surely come soon. The last thought I had before I felt the sudden, jarring, crunch of my body against the concrete was of the strange girl I’d met at the party. Then everything went black the instant a quick pain shot through ever inch of my body.


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Genre –  Science Fiction

Rating – PG13

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