Tripping the Light Fantastic, by D. Jonathan Brudie

The rain had been steadily falling for most of the night and into the very early morning. Dark wet streets glimmered uncharacteristically as the occasional taxicab swooshed by through the puddles. The rain was a relief that Manhattan needed after two weeks of dry summer heat, and the cement and black top were drinking the water greedily. Lightning flashed in a rather lazy and inconsistent way, illuminating the buildings of the Upper West Side. Then finally, as if an orchestra were playing the crescendo to some strange movement, a loud crash of thunder sent a tremor through the city scape.

Caroline sat up quickly in her drenched pajamas and breathed exhaustedly for a few moments. She felt as though her chest was about to explode due to the rapid beating of her heart. Another bad dream, she thought to herself, and looked over at the night stand. She picked up a notebook and pencil and set it on her lap. Remembering her dreams was difficult to do, because they so often faded into obscurity the longer she thought about them. Writing them down made the terrifying visions much easier to cope with. Caroline held the pencil in her shaky hand while the lead tip hovered slightly above the paper.

It was one of the scariest nightmares she had ever had, and it wasn’t the first time she dreamt it. The situation always seemed so real and seldom varied much, but she needed to write about it again. Caroline wondered if other people had dreams like these, the vivid kind where you can almost smell and feel everything that was happening. She started to write as if her hand was possessed by an outside force, and suddenly the words just seemed to flow from her mind.

I never knew that I had actually fallen asleep, when the nightmare started,” Caroline wrote. “I was eating a bowl of cereal as I watched television with all the lights out. A scary movie was on and I was feeling a bit paranoid because of the film, and the storm that was going on outside. I turned the TV off and walked into the bathroom to brush my hair before bed. As I stared at myself in the mirror it seemed like my normal appearance had changed somehow. I saw stunningly white teeth, long gorgeous auburn hair, and my skin was a smooth and beautiful brown. I looked so radiant and healthy, not at all like the average person I was in reality.

When I was done I switched off the bathroom light and made my way, in the dark, to my bedroom. Every time the lightning flashed, it lit up the apartment just for a second. When it did I could swear that I saw these little shadows moving out of the corner of my eye. I was getting worried and I started to experience a cold prickly feeling on the back of my neck, as if there was a load of static electricity in the room. I climbed into bed fast and threw my feet under the covers. I knew I was acting like an imaginative child but I couldn’t help it. There was just an uncomfortable feeling around me, like something was there, just out of sight.

The storm continued to pour down on the patio which is connected to my bedroom and I tried to find some sort of comfort in its rhythm. I needed to think of it as a lullaby, because sleep would never come unless I made friends with the things that frightened me. The lightning flashed again and it overpowered my eyes. I blinked rapidly, trying to get my vision back quickly.

Then I heard the creaking sound of my bedroom door begin to close. I knew it was impossible for anyone to get inside my twenty second floor apartment, but it terrified me anyway. I raised the bed covers over my face, and again there was a bright flash of light in my eyes. I didn’t understand how the light could penetrate the sheets and blanket I was hiding under, but it did. I felt confused and out of sorts temporarily, and when my incoherence passed, I was laying flat on my back, unable to move a muscle.

My sight had finally returned fully and I was shocked to discover what was in the room with me. At least six of these awful little grey creatures had gathered around my small bed. I was scared out of my wits but I couldn’t scream, and as hard as I tried, my legs and arms wouldn’t move to defend myself. The aliens looked at me with their dark soulless eyes and one of them reached out to touch me. I didn’t want that repulsive thing to put its long fingers on me and I went into a silent hysteria. I had the feeling of warm tears dripping down my face, as the cold rigid fingers touched my stomach and then moved down to my feet. My heart pumped, and I held my breath unable to tolerate any more of the awful sensations that I had. Right then, the thunder woke me up.”

When Caroline had finished writing in her journal about the dream, she closed the book and put it away. It had been months since she had this particular nightmare, and she honestly thought they were over with. According to her logbook, the ‘flashing lights’ that she kept experiencing had started late last year. She wondered what they meant. Maybe it was a metaphor pertaining to an inability to help herself. Her dreams, previously, had always revolved around the abuse she suffered as a child; the indecent things her stepfather would do to her. Although she was grown now, the thoughts and fears he instilled never stopped plaguing her mind. She wondered how long she would have to be victimized by these horrible monsters and memories.

Caroline didn’t have any friends, and no longer had anything to do with her dysfunctional family. She was literally afraid of going outside and avoided it as much as possible. At least she didn’t have to worry about money; she had plenty of it due to a car accident lawsuit. Money can’t buy happiness, she often thought to herself, and loneliness was a friend she spent a lot of time with. It was probably the reason why she was depressed so much. The doctor she had seen in the past called it post traumatic stress disorder, bi-polar disorder and schizo-affected disorder. Of course, there was a convenient pill for all of these maladies, except the disorder that Caroline suffered from the most; guilt. At the age of thirty-three, she wondered if this was going to be the best her life would ever get.

Gently, Caroline slid out of bed and walked to the patio door. She opened it and stepped out into the rain. How she so dearly wanted it to wash all the guilt and pain from her body, as the raindrops flowed down her face and hair. She looked out at the beautiful view of the city from her balcony, and fantasized that she was its master. Even though she knew that it was all a lie.

“Witness the queen of fools,” she shouted into the early morning distance.

Caroline held her hands up to the tumultuous sky, as if she were summoning an army of pathetic minions, and then bowed her head in Shame.

The day had been completely uneventful, as most days were, and Caroline soon found herself sitting on the couch with a cozy blanket on her lap. She had just started reading a new murder mystery novel called “Cold Logic”. The words she read intrigued her and at the same time made her very uneasy. Caroline’s eyes darted through the sentences.
“He stood in front of her with his arms crossed, waiting for her to say something,” Caroline read. “He had been through this so many times before that he knew exactly what his victim would ask first.
“Why are you doing this to me?” She blubbered while trying to remain calm.
Slowly uncrossing his arms, he bent way over so he could look her in the face, and said, “Because I can.”
Quickly he stepped back a foot or two and cracked her across the skull with a wooden board. She started screaming as blood ran from her wound. The killer pulled her up by the hair and replaced the burlap sack over her head. He tied the drawstring and walked away. Bag Face was kicking and trying to get loose and she called on God to help her.
“Don’t bother,” he yelled. “God doesn’t come around here no more.”
The man then turned and walked over to his make shift tool rack and pulled out a portable CD player.
“I really hope you like Jack Wells, because this is one of my favorites,” he told her. “The song is called Please Don’t Be That Way, and it’s from nineteen thirty-four. It runs exactly two minutes and thirty nine seconds.” He paused as he looked over at Bag Face again.
“This is exactly how much time you have left to live.”

The killer pressed the play button and picked up the wooden board once more. The lively jazz tune began to play as he positioned himself directly behind her and waited for the music to end.”

Caroline slammed the book closed, hard. She was frightened to read it any further, and knew something gruesome was about to happen. Why do I read these kinds of books? she thought to herself, this will probably give me more nightmares. Caroline laughed quietly and laid the book down. As she rubbed at her tired eyes there was a dizzying burst of pure white light, like that of a camera flash.


Three little girls sat at a plastic table and fussed with their beautiful Sunday dresses.

“Is the tea almost ready, Caroline?” The petit, blond haired girl asked.

“Not yet,” young Caroline replied. “Just wait, Erin. My delicious tea takes a long time to make because it’s special.”

“Can I jump on your bed?” asked the little black girl that sat next to Erin.

“No!” said Caroline. “My Dad would get very mad at me.”

“You mean your Stepfather,” Erin teased, and both of Caroline’s friends began to giggle.

“Will he do sick and disgusting things to you if I jump, Caroline?” the black girl asked with a mischievous smile.

Caroline tried to ignore them the best she could while pouring the imaginary liquid into her toy cups.

“Tea is ready,” she said to her friends, and pushed the cups over to them. “Here is the sugar bowl, and here is the milk.”

Caroline raised her teacup and pretended to sip at it, holding her dainty pinky finger in the air.

“Emmm, this is good,” she said, and looked up at her friends.

Both girls sat and stared at Caroline with a sad expression on their faces.

“Don’t you want your tea?” she asked them.

“Yes,” the two girls responded.

“Well, why don’t you drink it?” Caroline huffed.

The two little girls held their bloody stumps up to show her.

“Because we don’t have any arms,” they replied.

Caroline jumped up from the table and accidentally pushed it over. Her two friends sat on their chairs unmoving, and she could see that they also had no legs.

“Help us, Caroline. Help us,” they begged.

She released an ear-splitting shrill from the shock of it and covered her eyes with both hands.

The dream then abruptly changed, and she heard an elderly man’s voice speak to her.

“Please sit down,” she heard him say.

Her hands dropped from her face and she could see that somehow the bedroom had disappeared. Caroline was grown up now, and stood inside the tent of an Indian sweat lodge. A dozen people were gathered together and sat in a semi circle around glowing red-hot stones. The elder tribesman, once again, asked her to be seated. She looked throughout the crowded tent for an empty piece of ground. As she sat, the men and women began to utter a sacred Native American prayer, one which Caroline knew by heart. This was her tribe, and she had been raised to know this chant.

Her voice perked up and she began to sing along. The tent was getting ungodly hot and the men and woman were dripping from the heat. Caroline stared at the smoldering rocks and was becoming so mesmerized by them that her vision started to go dark. All she was focused on were the red stones. She felt a hand upon her shoulder as the elder whispered.

“You must cleanse your body as well as your mind,” he told her. “You must become strong of spirit to

learn the truth you seek.”

Caroline softly chanted while she listened to the shaman.

“I will help you latinaskwa…. Prisoner! I will help your mind find your body, and become one”, the old man said to her.

His voice rose as he chanted and stepped onto the glowing hot stones. Instantly his bony legs began to burn and his skin bubbled. The elder sat down on top of the rocks, all the while never showing fear or pain. The tremendous heat inched up his bare back and started to curl and shrivel his long grey hair.

“Once my body dies, I will lead you to freedom. You must follow my spirit and let it guide you,” he told her. “You will be able to fly with me like an eagle, as long as you let go of your mortal body. Let it dissolve and reveal your soul.”

Caroline began to feel weightlessness come upon her and without effort she was hovering above her body. She watched the elder as his physical presence slumped over into the fire. No one else within the tent seemed to notice. Finally, she saw the old man’s spirit leave, and it glided over to hers. His essence was a vague white shadow and it showed no human features whatsoever, and when it spoke to her it did so with the power of its mind. Caroline wondered if her essence looked the same way.

“Follow me, latinaskwa,” the man’s soul projected to her.

She didn’t know how she was doing it, but her spirit was soon flying alongside of his, and the sights she encountered were nothing short of heavenly. They flew just above the treetops and looked down upon a clean blue river and its beautiful rushing waters. For a few moments, Caroline knew how wonderful it must feel to be a God. All of nature’s secrets and grandeur were spread out before her eyes. The rural Wisconsin landscape, with its farmland and lush green forests, showed themselves in a bold and stunning way. Deer scampered playfully in the meadows, undisturbed by the ghosts flying above them. Her soul dipped down to the ground and pleasantly circled between the animals, undetected.

Then, in the blink on an eye, the two of them changed direction and shot straight up into the stratosphere. Caroline was now witnessing the awe and splendor of the entire Earth, as the shaman took her even further into deep space.

“You are lost out here, latinaskwa, and you may never come back,”

the shaman told her silently. “Awaken from your sleep, let go of your guilt and pain, and be at one with yourself again: Awaken!”

Caroline’s eyes popped open and they looked around the room. She was lying on her bed fully dressed, and she could hear the sound of curtains flapping from the wind that was rushing in through the open patio door.

“What the hell?” she spoke out loud.

Was I walking in my sleep? she wondered to herself in total bewilderment.

It was at that point when Caroline came to the reluctant conclusion that she needed to see her doctor, badly. Between the flashing lights, and now the sleepwalking, she felt like her mind was coming unglued.

As she ran the dream back within her mind it started to become harder for her to recall. Caroline grabbed the notebook and started journaling about what she still remembered, as best she could.


The crowded city street, outside of her apartment building, smelt like exhaust fumes as Caroline waited anxiously for the taxi she had called. She hated to leave her apartment, especially in this brutal heat, but she knew that seeing the doctor was the only way to get help.

People were walking back and forth on the side-walk, and Caroline found herself moving around to avoid being bumped into by them. Everyone seemed so self absorbed and oblivious to her and she started to become angry. She felt like screaming her lungs out, but she was far too timid.

The taxi finally arrived, and she slid into the back seat. The thick, bulletproof glass between her and the driver made it almost impossible to communicate, but she yelled her destination to him anyway. In an instant they were gone.

“No hurry,” Caroline yelled to the cab driver as the car raced and maneuvered jerkily through traffic.

The driver proceeded to speed anyway, taking daring chances with the oncoming vehicles. She was getting nervous, and even though she realized that this was typical New York City driving, there was a strange sensation in her stomach, a gut feeling that began to progress into a sickness. Something bad was about to happen, she thought.

“Stop!” Caroline shouted at the top of her lungs just as the cab ran through a red light and was violently struck by a city bus.

Breaking glass and crunching metal were the only sounds she could hear before the screaming began. The taxi was a complete wreck and Caroline tried to peer through the thick glass divider to see if the driver was okay, but she couldn’t see past the blood that was splattered on it.

“Are you alright?” she called out to him, but there was no response.

She went to reach for her door handle, and saw that it was mangled from the impact. Caroline turned her body to the side and kicked at it, finally jarring the door loose. She climbed out of the smoking vehicle and looked around at the horrendous scene. Victims of the bus crash were crying and screaming, as the few who were able to, staggered out into the street. Half of the bus driver’s grisly, flesh stripped remains, were hanging from the broken wind shield.

Bystanders came running across the street in order to help, and soon Caroline was surrounded by onlookers. People were trying to gain access into the wrecked cab in order to free the driver, but when the door was finally opened they realized it was a lost cause.

There were so many people and it seemed to Caroline that no one appeared to be concerned with her at all. She checked her body for wounds or injuries of any kind, but there were none. How did I escape without a scratch? She wondered, and approached one of the people standing in the street.

“I was in that cab,” she told the pedestrian, “and I’m not hurt at all. I should be dead!”

There was no acknowledgement from the man, as he glanced at his watch and started to walk away.

“How can that be?” she hollered at him, but he didn’t turn around.

Caroline screamed again, so that everyone could hear her.

“How come nothing happened to me?”

No one responded or even paused to look at her.

A tremendous jolt of pain fired from her stomach and radiated down to her feet. She dropped to the ground and tried to catch a breath. The bright lights began to flash in her eyes with a pulsating rhythm, and she could suddenly feel the strange pressure of something invisible stuck to her face. Caroline’s sight went dark and she shook her head back and forth, vigorously trying to dislodge whatever it was that blocked her vision. She knew something was there but she was unable to touch it.

Her head jogged from side to side with frenzy, and she finally threw the device off of her face and sent it tumbling to the metal surface beside her.

Caroline’s eyesight was now unrestricted and she could see that her body was laying flat on a cold metal table. Tubes and wires ran down from the ceiling and were attached to her naked body. She turned to look at what had been over her eyes, and saw an instrument of some kind.

It was like a strange pair of goggles, and inside the darkened lenses she could see the flashing lights.

Caroline felt the stomach pain once again and reached with her hands to grab herself, but everything from her elbows down were missing. She raised her stumps up near her face, and lifted her head to see. The nubs of her arms showed healed scars from where they had been amputated. Caroline tried to cry out but no intelligible sound came from her throat because her tongue had been removed. Sweat began to bead up on her forehead as the pain in her abdomen grew worse, and when she lowered her arms back down to the table she got a clear view of her pregnant stomach. The realization became apparent that she was about to give birth.

The hideous grey aliens, from her nightmares, began to emerge out of the shadows and walk into view. They gathered around the examination table as a pole, holding two leg straps wheeled itself into place. One of the creatures lifted each of her dismembered legs, which had been severed below the knee, and put them into the stirrups.

The robotic apparatus then constricted tightly, and spread her legs wide apart. Carolyn tried in vain to move but it wasn’t possible. Above her head, she could see another alien administering some type of fluid into her tubes. The monster leaned over the table until its face was directly over hers and stared into her watering, terror filled eyes, with a heartless gaze.

She could feel the long fingers of an alien hand roughly probing her vagina, and the pressure down below had become unbearable. The baby was coming soon, and the only thought in her mind was, Why her? Why had they done this to her?

Caroline felt the intense pain again, but this time it was much worse. Her belly moved oddly and the skin started to squirm. The over-sized child stretched her uterus incredibly as it crowned, and the orifice started to tear and bleed.

The human-alien crossbreed snaked out of her womb, leaving a bloody and torn-up mess behind. One of the creatures quickly carried the new born away before Caroline could lay eyes upon her child. Then, all at once, the beings moved back into the dark shadows and disappeared, leaving Caroline to bleed to death. A cold feeling came over her, and she finally understood what had been happening ever since the alien nightmares and flashing lights began.

They had abducted her nine months ago and brought her here to be impregnated. All this time, they had kept her under some sort of hypnotism, whilst those things butchered her and waited for the baby to be born. Now they didn’t need her anymore. Now they would leave what was left of her body to die.

With her last few moments of life, Caroline felt a sudden calm fall over her. She looked out across the huge unearthly room where her examination table stood. In the distance she focused on something that staggered her mind. Hundreds of tubes and wires streamed from the massive roof of the alien laboratory. They connected to just as many pregnant and limbless women, each of them occupying their own table. Attached to their faces were the hypnotic light devices.

Those monsters are creating children for some purpose, Caroline told herself, and before dying she accepted the fact that she would never know the answer, why.

With her final breath she looked back over at the sleeping bodies of all the other women, and wondered what they were dreaming about. She only hoped that it was something beautiful.

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