Chapter Three of The Eye-Dancers

Well, if you’ve come this far, that means you’ve enjoyed the first two chapters.  Thanks!  I hope you enjoy Chapter Three as well!

Copyright 2012 by Michael S. Fedison

**************************************

Deep in the bowels of the previous night, as Mitchell Brant and Joe Marma dreamed of the girl with the blue, spinning eyes, Ryan Swinton felt two small hands shake him, rousing him from a sleep that had been anything but restful.

“Hey,” he said.  “What are you doing?  What’s goin’ on?”

He opened his eyes, blinked several times as he adjusted to the light in the room.  The lamp was on.  And staring at him, hair messed, cheeks red, was Tyler.

“What’s the matter with you?” Ryan said, brushing his bangs, wet with perspiration, from his forehead.  “Get off of me!”

His brother backed away.  “You oughtta thank me.  If I didn’t wake you up, Mom or Dad woulda come in here.  Like last night.  And they woulda got mad, I bet.”

“Mad?”  Ryan sat up.  Across the room, he saw Tyler’s bed, sheets all in a heap.  “Why would they get mad at me?  What’d I do?  I . . . I just . . .”

“I bet you were having a dumb nightmare again,” Tyler said.  “You were yelling, you know.  Screaming.”

“I was?”

“Yeah.  What’d you dream about?”

Ryan hadn’t told Tyler, or his parents, the details of his dream last night.  He still didn’t want to tell Mom and Dad.  But he needed to get this off his chest.  He’d tell Joe Marma about it later, for sure.  But Joe wasn’t with him now.  Tyler was.

“There was this girl.  She was just a kid like you,” Ryan began, and then paused.  How could he possibly explain any of this?

“Wow, that does sound like a real bad nightmare,” Tyler said.  “I can see why you screamed your head off.”

“Hey, you want me to tell you what happened or not?”  The little smart aleck.

Tyler pouted, his face scrunching up.

Ryan tried to corral his thoughts.  “You know, this didn’t just start last night, either.  It started the night before that.  But I didn’t yell or anything in my sleep a couple nights ago.  Did I?”

Tyler shrugged.  “If you did, it wasn’t loud enough to wake me up.”

He bit down on his thumbnail, then pulled his hand away from his mouth.  He’d bitten his nails ever since he could remember, and he was trying to stop—without much success.  “This girl.  She has these real crazy eyes.  It’s almost like they’re alive, you know?  And she wanted me to look right into ‘em, and it’s like they were trying to hypnotize me or something.  And I knew if I looked into ‘em long enough . . .”  He shuddered.   “I think she wanted to take me somewhere.  I don’t know where, but I didn’t wanna follow her.  She was kinda see-through.  Made me wonder if she was a ghost or something, but I don’t know.  And you wanna know the craziest part?  I fell down, in my dream.  She was tryin’ to grab me, I think, and I tripped or something tryin’ to get away from her, and I hurt my wrist.  I guess you musta woke me up right after that, but . . .”  But his wrist still throbbed, worsening by the second.

“Do you think it’s broke?” Tyler said.

Ryan clenched his fingers into a tight fist, rotated the wrist.  “No.  Probably just a sprain or something.  Hurts, though.  And, I mean, how did it happen?  I was in bed the whole time, wasn’t I?”

“I guess so.  But maybe it’s like Nightmare on Elm Street.  Maybe that girl was Freddie Krueger’s kid.”

“You’re just lucky you’re not the one havin’ these dreams,” he said.  “You’d probably be wetting the bed.”  Tyler scrunched his face up again, and Ryan chuckled.  But it didn’t make him feel any better.  Why did the same girl haunt his dreams, for three straight nights?  And how had he injured his wrist, if it had only been a nightmare?  This was completely whacked.  He felt like the punch line to one of his jokes.  Yeah, he thought.  I’ve got a million of ‘em, too.

He stood up, biting his nails again.

“Where are you going?” Tyler said.

“I don’t know.  I can’t sleep.  And I’m kinda hungry.”  Nothing like a recurring nightmare to stoke an appetite.

He headed for the kitchen, his brother in tow.

“If you’re gonna have a snack, then I wanna eat, too,” Tyler said.

Ryan ignored him, opened the fridge.  He was in the mood for something sweet, and, thanks to Dad, he had a few things to choose from.  Dad had come home from work the other day with a store-bought carrot cake, a German chocolate cake, and a lemon meringue pie.  “Thought I’d surprise everyone,” he’d announced.  Mom hadn’t been pleased.  “I think one dessert would’ve been enough, don’t you?” she’d said.  “And besides, don’t you know I’m on a diet?”  Dad responded that he was sorry, but he couldn’t decide which item sounded the best, so he decided to splurge on all three.

Now, looking at the partially eaten leftovers, Ryan could relate to his dad’s dilemma.  Which one should he choose?  And if Tyler wanted some, too . . .

“You just gonna stand there at the fridge all night, or what?” Tyler said.

“Keep your pants on, Tyler.  I’m still lookin’.”

The carrot cake had raisins in it, and he didn’t like raisins.  But Tyler did.  The German chocolate cake was moist and chewy—very good.  But so was the pie.  He’d had a piece of that after lunch, and it was tangy and creamy, with a great aftertaste.

With the back of his hand, he brushed more rogue bangs from his eyes.  Making decisions had never come easily for him.  Deciding on a firm course of action was a daunting task, one full of hidden pitfalls and land mines, just waiting for you to step on them and set them off.

Maybe I should shoot Joe a text, he thought.  But that was absurd.  It was the middle of the night!  And all he was trying to do was decide what to eat.

Joe would’ve been able to pick out what he wanted without any hesitation.  Maybe that was one reason Ryan had always gravitated toward Joe’s company.  He could count on him to take the lead, make the choices.  Of course, some of those choices didn’t always sit so well with Ryan.  But he knew what Joe would say to that.  “Too freakin’ bad, bud.  Tough.”  It was easier to just go along.

“Ryan, come on.”  Tyler again.

“Okay, okay.”  He knew if he didn’t make his move soon, Tyler would resort to full-scale whining.  “Um, what do you want?”  He should’ve thought of that before.  Put the onus on the kid.

“I want the chocolate cake.”

“German chocolate,” he corrected.

“Whatever.  That’s the one I want.”

That was good enough for Ryan.

When they went back to their room, Tyler flicked off the lamp, jumped into his bed, and turned over.

Well, there’s gratitude for you.  I give ‘im a piece of cake . . .

Ryan climbed into bed, reluctantly.  It hadn’t been the most peaceful place to be of late.  But why?  What was going on with him?  Was he delusional?  Seeing things that weren’t there?  No.  He couldn’t believe that.  The dreams he’d been having were all too real.  The girl had been there, urging him to come to her.

He sat back against the headboard, pulled his knees up to his chest.  “Yeah, and I don’t think it’s real smart going up to a ghost,” he whispered.  But then he stopped himself.  Had she been a ghost?  With her semi-transparent state, she certainly looked like one.  But maybe she was something else.

Like what?

He didn’t know.  The girl was creepy, there was no doubt about that.  But hadn’t there also been something vulnerable about her?  She’d even asked him to help her, and who had ever heard of a ghost needing help?

He rubbed his eyes.  Every time he asked a question, another question, another mystery, surfaced.  In his nightmares, the girl always appeared to be alone.  There was never anyone else he could see.  Isn’t she enough?  If he had to deal with multiple ghost girls, he doubted he’d ever be able to fall asleep again.  Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling that others had been there, too.  Hadn’t he sensed another presence?  A friendly presence, a familiar one?  He remembered wanting to find it, join up with it, but he hadn’t been able to.

He sighed.  This wasn’t getting him anywhere.  Maybe he should follow his brother’s lead, try to get some sleep.

He got under the covers, but then just as quickly flung them off.  It was too hot for blankets.  So he just lay there, on his back, his hands locked together behind his head.  Not long after, he heard the first faint hints of Tyler’s snore coming from across the room.

“You’re lucky, Tyler.”

He tried turning over, onto his left side, hoping that would help.  It didn’t.  His mind wouldn’t stop whirling and searching, and remembering.  He tried thinking of new jokes, but he couldn’t come up with anything good.

Finally, not long before dawn, he slept, fitfully.  But at sunup, he stirred, the brightness of morning shooting through the window.  Normally, on a summer day like this, he would bury his head under the pillow, and not get up for hours.

But on this morning, he kicked away the sheets that had gathered around his feet during the night and slowly rolled out of bed.

When he went out into the hall, he realized he was the first one up.  He’d even beat Mom, which he couldn’t ever recall happening before.

“Do I win a medal?” he asked the silent, slumbering house.

There was no answer.

He sat on the front step, in the shade of the elm tree that grew, like a sentinel, in the middle of the lawn.  He’d always liked that tree.  Whenever life seemed fractured, it reminded him that some things remained stable, even in the midst of turmoil.

He was surfing the Web on his mobile phone, waiting for Joe and Mitchell to arrive.  Joe had texted him a short while ago, letting him know that he and Mitchell Brant were coming over.  They had something they wanted to talk about.

“Yeah, so do I,” he’d said when he read the text.

He pressed a key on his phone pad, then made a fist, rotated his hand counterclockwise.  His wrist felt better.  He was surprised about that—it had really stung after Tyler woke him up—but he wasn’t complaining.  If only his nightmares could fade away so easily.

A chirp from the elm tree caught his attention.  Four sparrows were perched on the bird feeder that hung from a low-hanging limb.  His mom enjoyed feeding the birds, and always made sure the feeder was well stocked with black-oil sunflower seeds.  Beneath the feeder, poking around for spilled seeds, was a chipmunk, his cheeks puffing out, his paws busily moving about so fast they were a blur.

“Stashing those away for winter, huh?” he said.  Ignoring him, the chipmunk continued to hunt for spilled treasure.

“Talk about your OCD.”

Every spring, as soon as he surfaced from his underground burrow, where he’d spent the winter tucked away from the snow and the cold, the chipmunk would look to gather food.  Not so much to eat as to store away.  Always worried about next year, thinking ahead to tomorrow.

But then, was Ryan really so different?  As soon as the bell rang on the last day of school, letting him out for the summer, his thoughts projected ahead to the fall.  Would he be ready by September?

It had become something of a tradition.  The other students expected it.  Every year, on the first day of school, he’d perform his own one-man comedy show.  It began almost by accident, three years ago.  He’d been telling jokes to a small group of students in the cafeteria when one of them said, “Man, this is great.  More people gotta hear this.”  And before Ryan knew what had happened, there were close to fifty students huddled around.  It felt wonderful that day, but as time pressed on, the pressure increased.  He couldn’t disappoint.  He couldn’t return to school in just over two months without at least two dozen new jokes.  From the moment summer vacation started, he searched the Internet, jotted down notes, continually on the lookout for humorous situations—anywhere he might find them.  It was his personal three-ton albatross, the nagging feeling that wouldn’t let go: You don’t have enough new jokes, Ryan.  You gotta get thinking.  You gotta come up with good, fresh stuff.

There was nothing worse than delivering a punch line and having no one laugh.  But the flip side was also true.  Few things could match the high he felt when he told a joke and people cracked up.  It was the greatest.  Winning their approval.  Winning their favor.  It sometimes felt scary, how important that was to him.

Beneath the elm, the chipmunk stood up on his hind legs, nervously looked at Ryan, and darted away, surely to stash the seeds he’d found in some secret subterranean storehouse.  Ryan watched him run off, then switched off his phone.  He needed to think.  How could he explain to Joe and Mitchell what was going on with him?

“Hey, bud, scoot over, willya?”

“Huh?”  He quickly glanced to his left.  Joe and Mitchell stood there.  He’d been so intent on watching the chipmunk flee in the opposite direction, so lost in his thoughts, he hadn’t even noticed them approach.

He moved to the side, allowing them room to sit beside him.

“Hey, you hear the one about the blonde and the tree?” Ryan said.  “It’s narley.”  Telling a joke to get a conversation started was as natural to him as breathing.  And he always made sure to have at least a few dumb blonde jokes at the ready—mostly because he had blond hair himself, and he’d learned a long time ago that if people thought you were poking fun at yourself, they tended to like your jokes all the more.

Joe just rolled his eyes.  Mitchell looked at him, expectantly.

“Okay.  Why was the blonde in the maple tree?” he went on.

“Gee, Ryan, I don’t know.  Tell us,” Joe said.

“’Cause she was raking up the leaves.”

“Bro-ther,” Joe groaned, but Mitchell laughed, and that made him feel good.

They sat there in silence for a moment, and Ryan thought, as he often did, how odd it seemed seeing Joe and Mitchell hanging out together.  It had been more than a year since Mitchell and Joe had become friends, and he still was adjusting to the idea.  Not that he disliked Mitchell.  He seemed all right, though he never got together with him unless he was with Joe.  It was just, he’d always pegged Mitchell as the kid who told ridiculous lies, and the kid who couldn’t talk right.  He’d even mimicked his speech problems once behind his back at school.  At the time it seemed funny.  Now, looking back, Ryan just felt ashamed.

“Tell me something, bud,” Joe said then.  “Do I look crazy to you?”

“Huh?” Ryan said.  Was this a trick question?

Joe ran his fingers through his short black hair.  “Look.  This is gonna sound stupid, but hear me out.  It’s me an’ Mitchell.  We’ve been havin’ some dreams the last few nights.  Bad dreams.  Hey, no biggie, right?  Just a couple ‘a nightmares.  Guess that’s what I’d think, too.  But the thing is, we just found out we’ve been havin’ the same dream!  The same freakin’ nightmare, three nights in a row.  You got that, bud?  ‘Cause I ain’t sure I do.”

“Um, what was your dream about?” Ryan asked.  Surely it couldn’t have been about the girl with the blue, hypnotic eyes.

But it had been.  Impossible as it sounded, the details of Joe’s dream, and Mitchell’s dream, mirrored those of his own.  He tried not to look surprised, but he’d never learned the art of a good poker face.

“Freaks you out, don’t it?” Joe said.  “But c’mon, Ryan.  It’s not like this happened to you.”

“Well . . .”  Ryan suddenly felt unsure that this conversation was actually taking place.  Perhaps it was an extension of his own dream.  Could that be possible?  He remembered Tyler waking him up last night, remembered eating the cake.  But hadn’t he later fallen back asleep?  Maybe he’d never got out of bed after that, as he thought he had.  Maybe he was still in his room, sleeping, dreaming.

In the street, a gray Dodge with a dented passenger door and a loose, rattling fender drove past, shattering the fleeting illusion.

“You guys aren’t gonna believe this,” he said.

“He had the same dream!”  Ryan looked behind him.  Tyler was standing there, his grinning face pressed against the inside of the screen door.  “I hadda wake ‘im up last night.  He was yellin’ and stuff.”

“Hey, shut up!” Ryan said.

Tyler ran off, laughing.

“Little turd.”  Ryan looked at Mitchell and Joe.  Their mouths had dropped open.

“It’s all true,” Ryan said.  “I didn’t mean for my big-mouth brother to be the one to tell you.  But it’s like he said.  I’ve been havin’ the same dream you just told me about.  Three nights in a row.”

“You sure the girl in your dream had spinning eyes?” Joe said.  Ryan nodded.  “Were they blue?  Like, real freakin’ blue?”  He nodded again.

“And did she look like a ghost?” Mitchell said.  “Like, part of her wasn’t even there?”

“Yeah,” Ryan said.  “It was the same dream.”

Joe swore, swatted the step.

“I wonder how many people are havin’ this dream,” Ryan said.  “I mean, if the three of us . . .”

“Well, I know my sister didn’t have it,” Mitchell said.  “Or my mom.”

“And Tyler definitely didn’t have it,” Ryan said.  “Wish I coulda downloaded it into him, though.”

Mitchell stood up.  “I wonder if it was everyone in our class who had the dream, then.  Maybe it was everyone who’s gonna be going into seventh grade in the fall.”

“Aww, that’s retarded, Mitchell,” Joe said.

“But something like that happened to The Fantastic Four once, and The Thing had to go into—”

Joe held up a hand.  “Can it, Mitchell, willya?  This isn’t a comic book.  We gotta figure this out.”  In the elm, the sparrows chirped, pecking at the seeds and each other, until one of them flew away.  “I can’t believe this.  This is freakin’ psycho.  All three of us havin’ the night sweats with this rugrat?  I don’t know about you, but that’s way too screwed up for me, buds.”

“Yeah.  Me, too,” Ryan said.  “But what can we do?”

“Maybe we should call Marc Kuslanski,” Mitchell said.  “He might know what to do.”

Joe snorted, swore again, but Ryan had to admit, the idea didn’t sound half-bad.  Marc Kuslanski was the biggest geek in school, it was true, but he also knew more about science and the ways things worked than most of their teachers did.  Rumor had it that he’d already been approached by a couple of Ivy League schools, though Ryan doubted this.  Kuslanski may have been a scientific powerhouse, but he was quirky, too.  He had even failed English one semester because he wouldn’t turn his essays in on time.

“Anyone know his number?” Ryan said.  “I’ll send him a text.”

Mitchell shrugged.

“Don’t bother with that moron,” Joe said.  “All he’ll do is spout off some idiotic theory or something.  Remember, I hadda sit next to ‘im in Math last semester, so I know what I’m talkin’ about.”

“Maybe.  But for all we know, he’s been having the same dreams,” Mitchell said.

“Here, I can Google ‘Kuslanski,’” Ryan said.  “Maybe their landline’ll come up.”  Ah.  A hit.  Now he just needed to place the call.  “Not sure what to say, though.”

“Why not, ‘drop dead,’” Joe said.

Ryan dialed the number.  He figured Kuslanski’s mom or dad might answer, but it was Kuslanski himself who said, “Hello?”

He felt awkward.  He wasn’t Kuslanski’s friend, had probably said fewer than three sentences to him in his entire life.  So he just told him that he and Mitchell and Joe had experienced something very strange and were hoping he might be able to help them make sense of it.  Kuslanski pressed for details, but Ryan told him it would be better if they could talk about it in person.  At this point, he looked to Joe for direction.  Where should they meet?

“Tell ‘im Roman Park, down by the canal,” Joe said.

He did.  Kuslanski said that sounded good, he’d be there in a half hour, and then hung up.

“I hope he can help us,” Mitchell said.

“Don’t hold your breath,” Joe said.  “He’ll probably just study some weed with his magnifying glass and say he’s tryin’ to figure out the secret of the universe or something.”

“Or maybe he’ll be checkin’ out the girls,” Ryan said.  There were lots of pretty girls, high school girls, who hung around the canal in summer.

“Yeah, well, we better get going,” Joe said, standing up.  “Wouldn’t want Einstein to beat us there and then hightail it back home if he doesn’t see us.”

Ryan smiled.  For all his bluster, Joe was going along with this.  And why shouldn’t he?

The ghost girl had nearly trapped them in their dreams.  Her eyes were getting harder and harder to resist, and Ryan wasn’t sure he’d be able to the next time.  She would freeze him in place, the blue in her eyes spinning, expanding.  He would scream then, but it would be too late, and she would grab him, pull him toward her, pull him in.

As they walked to the canal, he stuck his index finger into his mouth and started to nibble.

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. renxkyoko
    Nov 15, 2012 @ 00:14:52

    Thank you for sharing this. I wanna know what happens.

    Reply

  2. The Other Side of Ugly
    Nov 15, 2012 @ 05:49:20

    Chapter 4 please-;)

    Reply

  3. Nadyess
    Jan 21, 2013 @ 22:43:33

    Wow! I didn`t expect that! I wish I could read chapter 4.
    🙂

    Reply

  4. Gregory Faccone
    Mar 06, 2013 @ 19:35:51

    A good amount of set-up, leading to revelation. We are not meeting this guy in the park for nothing to happen. Some insight or action is forthcoming.
    Is Kuslanski also having the dream?
    Does he offer new insight about the dream?
    Is there some physical confrontation in the park, dream related or not?

    Reply

  5. janna hill
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 15:55:10

    Honestly… I jumped straight to chapter three. I tend to do that with books as well. And you know what? I like it! 🙂

    Reply

  6. jjspina
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 23:29:57

    Great job! You have left me wanting to read more. That is the sign of a good writer.

    Reply

  7. Trackback: Welcome to a new friend: Michael S. Fedison–Eye-Dancers | Hey Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite!
  8. WordsFallFromMyEyes
    Jul 13, 2013 @ 10:40:41

    Enormously well written. It’s Saturday night for me and I’m cruising blogs. You know, I don’t buy magazines any more – not when blogs are this interesting. EXCELLENT.

    Reply

  9. ampbreia
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 20:43:21

    This is absolutely mesmerizing! Has the same sort of poetic mystic as some I’ve read by Christopher Pike. I can’t wait to read the whole book! I sure hope it will be available on Kindle because that’s my “drug of choice” these days.

    Reply

  10. Charlene Woodley
    Jul 23, 2013 @ 22:26:30

    Loved it! I can’t wait to read the rest of this awesome story. I can definitely see this becoming a movie but thanks for the great read!

    Reply

  11. Inion N. Mathair
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 04:56:25

    Voila~three perfect chapters. Ryan and Tyler are perfect! Love the fact that the friends share the same vision, dream, of the blue-eyed girl or ghost. Excellent job with character building and drawing the reader in to what seems like a thick plot awaiting to explode! Will add this to our must read and once again, job well done Michael!

    Reply

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