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The Death Dream – Norman A. Rubin
Night was still heavy in the sky when an elder tossed and turned on the damp sheets of his bed; his puny and haggard body covered in sweat. Hidden shadows rose from every corner of the darkened bedroom and covered his body of aging years and danced to a tune of the damned. His half-shaded dim eyes were smarting for long want of sleep as his thoughts brought into his mind thoughts from the past in the likeness of an accusing image; a continued image of an endless march of the innocent coursing through guilty reflection. He shuddered in accusation to the faint sight of a tiny figure raising its thin arms and falling from the line of marchers.
Then after an hour or more of partial wakefulness his aged head swam, and he felt a sudden tiredness. The blessing of sleep finally overcame him and his veined arms fell down on the soft woolen blanket; his head slowly turned to a needed rest, but rest was denied, as a pleasant dream wasn’t to be his blessing. Only a terrible nightmare entered the mind of the elderly man in his slumber, causing reflexive movements in his body; it was coupled with unbidden moans from his cracked lips and the mumbling of strange feverish words.
There were strange reverberations that entered into his deep troubled sleep, weird and mysterious; all around him he heard a monotonous sound that sighed in a sound of the rustling of faded leaves. The elder wanted to lift his head to see what if was, but his efforts proved in vain, however much he tried. Then with a near conscious effort the elder almost succeeded, but the power of the sleep overcame his attempt
“What was that sound? ’ he thought in his deep sleep. Moaning, crying, screaming, guttural curses and commands were the cacophony of terrifying sounds that overwhelmed him in his troubled sleep.
Then everything seemed to loom so large round him in the throes of his nightmare, the ceiling of the room seemed to be quite high up, and the centered light was pale in color, like that of a distant wan moon, misty in sight. There along the far wall of the chamber stood rows of beds with dirty torn sheets and rough tarpaulin tucked in tightly, and beneath the cloth lay human forms, stiffly stretched out.
Now and then a few moved and they raised their heads with sightless eyes. They called beseeching prayers with heart-rending voices of doom and cries of terror, heard as an echo from a distant aura.
But no one heard and answered their pitiful cries. Their calls of prayer to the eternal god were muffled by the sound of jackboots tramping and harsh guttural calls. Screams of terror were heard over and over again as they tore through the mind of the elder..
By the side of high narrow door opposite to the row of wooden pallets stood a shadowy figure with bound hands in a long dark shining robe, fastened to the gray wall by a thick hemp rope which was twisted tight around his waist. The eyes on the face of the figure were wide open but had no pupils, but the whites of the inner eye were large and protruding. Horror was in his nightmarish sight as he saw the huge mouth, which hung a long black tongue, black as pitch.
The elder wanted to rise, but he was unable to move a limb, as he was numb in the grip of his nightmare. Stiff with terror, he stared hard and long at the door. In a few bounds he would be able to reach it and flee to safety. But his mind trembled as it thought that the door would be locked. Yes, it was locked to his sight and there was no key. Within a moment the elder saw the deadly accusing image faintly receding away slowly, slowly.
The nightmare crept in the terror of the elder’s deep sleep. He then felt himself become like a paralyzed mass of flesh and bone, and began to shift his body reflexively back and forth on the hard sheeted mattress, causing the bed to squeal and creak in his movements. But just at that moment the door opened noiselessly and four shadowy figures entered silently into the room. They were robed in the dark of brown and hooded that hid their shadowy features.
The four were carrying a large pine coffin with rusted iron decorations dedicated to the forces of the underworld on the sides of the box. As they paced towards him they chanted softly a monotonous rhythm of a mournful dirge.
The opening near the top of plain wooden casket was covered in front by a pane of clear glass sprinkled with the red of blood. Through it the elder saw a hoary head lying sideways with an emancipated, lifeless face, the color or which seemed dark gray lead color as it lay on a hemp rope knotted on a noose. Lifeless faces by the score stared accusingly at the form within and called out a rhythm of guilt at the raised head.
Following their solemn procession the Grim Reaper appeared once again; ready to reap his grisly harvest. He was holding an hourglass in his skeletal hand; the sands slowly trickling away in the bottom of the glass, grain by grain.
Struggling to make some sound, the elder gave out a horrible shriek, and woke up with a start. He sat up immediately on the bed, perspiring in the remembrance of the passing nightmare. When the sounds had arisen with the shadows and remembrance came out of their lurking place in his guilty and trouble thoughts, he saw naked figures faceless to his eyes. Then another face of the past appeared from the deep gulf of his mind. A cruel face grim and threatening that reminded him of things that happened and that was real in his mind, always wandering to that period in time.
When the deep thoughts brought into the mind of the elder the true image of the features and showed it in a different form within his waking realm. Then in a moment the elderly man knew it was an image of himself that was seen in that strange coffin; a dread feeling shivered through his body.
“Orders, I was only following order,’ he screamed hoarsely.
Norman A. Rubin