Read a free excerpt from Mark Slade’s anthology Dark Dreams.
Through the dark recesses of the dreamworld come strange stories of horror, terror and wonder, with a mysterious question: how can so many people have the same dreams?
Read Emerian Rich’s “Vampire Therapy” in this anthology of dream terror, Dark Dreams from Rogue Planet Press
Here are the stories from the minds of: Mark Slade, Thomas M. Malafarina, D. S. Scott, John C. Adams, Emerian Rich, Jason Norton, P. J. Griffin, Mr. Deadman, David Ludford, Joseph J. Patchen, Mark Tompkins, E. S. Wynn, Shawn Clay, Kevin Rees.
Cover and Art by Cameron Hampton
Read a free excerpt from Emerian Rich’s story, “Vampire Therapy” below.
by Emerian Rich
“And how’s work?”
“Crap, as always.” Amy sat back on her therapist’s couch with a definitive slouch.
“And the dreams? Still the same?” Dr. Whitefield studied her with the same non-judgmental, impartial serenity she always did.
“Yes,” Amy answered. “I mean mostly, yes.”
“How do they differ?” Whitefield shifted in her chair and leaned forward. Perhaps interested in the change, or just interested to hear something—anything—different after three years of therapy. Maybe grasping at a straw, a small sliver of hope that she’d helped.
“Well, it still starts with Thomas. He’s in the park, it’s snowing as always and he is happy, walking through the winter wonderland. But he realizes the snow falling is ash and he runs. What’s different is now, when he turns the corner in the path to go through the tunnel, you know, where I am and he can’t ever get to me, there is a bed. One of those royal beds with curtains and all done up in red velvet.”
“And I’m there on the bed and there’s a man looming over me. He’s got long auburn hair and these eyes that…Well anyway, he’s good looking and he keeps covering me so Thomas can’t see.”
“And that’s it. I wake up.”
“How does Thomas respond?”
“I don’t see his reaction. I just feel the man hovering over me.”
“Well, Amy, I think this is progress. I think your dreams are telling you, you are ready to think about dating someone new. As if your subconscious is telling you it’s okay to move on.”
“Yes, I do.” Whitehead sat back, a self-satisfied grin on her lips. “The next step for you, however, is to allow yourself to explore the possibility that there could be someone else in your life.”
Amy smiled even though she had no hope of shedding her grief. She wanted to tell the doctor that when she wakes up, she sees the man’s face in front of her. He looks her in the eyes and she feels herself lose all willpower. Those prismatic golden eyes. Then he plunges to her neck and disappears.
A chime from Whitehead’s desk signaled the session over and she stood to shake Amy’s hand.
“You’re doing very well. I’m proud of you. You’ve turned a corner, and I’m excited to see where this breakthrough will take you.”
“Me too.” Amy shook hands and stood, moving to the door.
“See you next week. And good news, soon we could be meeting less frequently.”
Amy smiled and turned on her heel. It had been three years since Thomas… Her nose started running before tears streamed down her face. Well, that was new. Usually her tears were the first to come. Thomas was gone. Passed away when terrorists targeted his law firm’s building in an attack. Everyone kept giving her the same line. She should be happy, they caught the bastards. But where did that leave her? Just because the criminals were caught didn’t mean her pain suddenly disappeared. She hadn’t even been able to bury her husband, there wasn’t enough left to recover. It was almost like Thomas would walk through the door at any moment. Like he left to pick up milk and just took the long way home.
“Sweet-ums, I’m home and I brought cookies!” she could hear his voice in her head as clear as day, but it was just in her head. Thomas was gone.
As she readied for bed, she remembered the first night without him. It had been horrible sleeping alone. Her therapist suggested a full body pillow to make it seem like someone was there, but no one was there. Dating or finding a new man was out of the question. Thomas had been her soul mate. They met in their thirties, both knowing they had never met anyone like each other.
“One of a kind,” he used to say. How would she ever find another one of a kind?
Amy stared up at the ceiling for thirty minutes, forty, fifty. The clock ticked by. When she hit the hour mark, she turned on the light and switched on a meditation CD her therapist suggested to calm her nerves.
Lights off, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The sounds of flute and ocean waves did, if not calm her, give her something to concentrate on besides the fact the only person who made her life worth living had died.
The waves reminded her of the summer before Thomas’ death when he took her to the beach off the coast of Mendocino. They walked the sands, held hands, and at sunset, he took her in his arms and kissed her. She felt a tear run down the side of her cheek. There was no reason to wipe it away, it would have brothers. Perhaps the only children she would ever have, the tears of her grief.
She heard someone breathe and her eyes flew open, staring blindly into the darkness before her. It was just her own breath.
She reached over and turned on the light. She’d leave it on. No reason to worry about the electricity bill. She had nothing extravagant left to spend her paycheck on anyway. She closed her eyes and thought about the ocean again.
“Enough, Amy. Remember…focus on the future, not the past. The future not the past. Future not the past…”
She floated into a light sleep. She didn’t want to overreact, but this was the earliest she’d been able to sleep yet. As soon as she began to relax, she felt the heaviness from her dream. A kind of pressure and coldness came over her.
Her eyes flew open and before her was a man’s face, so close she couldn’t focus. It was blurry, but it looked like the man from her dream, the one who was always kissing her neck.
“You’re real?” she asked.
His eyes widened and he drew back, sitting so quickly in the chair next to her bed, she thought she must still be dreaming. Yes, he was there, real, and she was awake. She stared at the man.
You can see me? He had a British accent.
“Who are you?” She drew the covers up to her neck, feeling more naked than she was. She had on Thomas’s Giants T-shirt, it wasn’t like she was nude. But there was a man in her bedroom! “Why are you…how did you?”
Good God! She can see me and she’s wondering how I got in? He laughed. Priceless.
“Hey, buddy, you can’t just… I’m calling the cops!” She reached for her phone, but he was at her side in a moment and grabbed her hand. Or tried to grab her hand. She felt a cold breeze as his hand passed right through hers. She drew in a big gulp of air. “You’re a…a ghost?”
Damn it all to hell! He turned and paced the room.
It was her turn to laugh at him as he attempted to kick the garbage can, the chair, and the bed. None of his effort caused the items to budge. He whipped around and came close to her, the look of fury causing her laughter to stop. Her breath caught in her throat.
Don’t you dare laugh at me, do you hear me? Or I’ll…I’ll never let you sleep!
“You can’t threaten me.” She scowled as he backed away. “You can’t do anything to me! You can’t even touch me!”
Oh yes? How’ve you been sleeping lately, eh? Had any good dreams?
“You! You’ve been causing my insomnia?”
Well it’s not Thomas, whoever the hell he is.
“Shut up! You don’t know anything about him.”
Happily. He rolled his eyes.
“How dare you speak of my deceased husband like that! Get out!” She grabbed her lotion from the bedside table and hurled it at him. The lotion flew right through him and landed on the floor. “Get out!” She picked up a magazine and it joined the lotion on the floor, never touching him.
Now who’s frustrated, love?
“What do you want?”
I’m really just here to steal your energy, but now you ask, I do have a message for you.
“You’ve seen Thomas? Where is he? Is he here? Why can’t I see him?
No. Cease your needless mourning. If he’s gone, he’s better off, believe me.
“Bastard! He loved me!”
Sure he did, but anyway—
“Shove it up your—”
Careful now. He stood close to her again, giving a serious threat stare. She felt a coldness emanate from him and pulled the covers up.
“This is my house. You need to leave and find someone else to keep up at night.”
Ah, but you’re the only one who can see me, so you’re the one that will do an errand for me.
“You mean, you steal others energy too?”
What, are you hurt? How quaint. Little Amy’s dead husband left her and now she’s being two-timed by her resident ghost. What do you care if I suck a couple of zaps off Mrs. Murphy?
“Mrs. Murphy down the hall? Yuck! No, not really?”
Yes, and Pam and Stella downstairs, and a few of the girls in that college apartment, you know the one with the strapping young buck who beds them and makes them get their own brekkie? Now he’s a man after my own heart.
“Why don’t you go suck from him, then.”
Him? No, no. My tastes have never run to the male persuasion. Plus, his little conquests come so full of energy, I nearly have my fill every time.
No. I’m dead. And don’t have a choice. I’m trapped here.
“How are you trapped?”
I can go about town, but every evening I wake in the spot I died.
“You died in my apartment?”
Not technically. In the hall, in front of 6B.
“This must have been ages ago, I never heard of a murder in this building.”
It was but two months ago. That brat Sammy did it.
“Sammy Olsen killed you? I don’t believe it. He’s seven years old.”
He’s a slayer. He used a common everyday Number 2 pencil, the blighter.
Keep up, love. He smirked. Not the sharpest nail in the box are you?
“You’re talking nonsense.”
I’ll spell it out for you. I was a vampire. He opened his mouth and tapped a fang. Sammy punctured me, stabby, stabby, yeah? With a bloody pencil. Now I’m stuck outside your door for eternity.
She stared, unsure she was really awake. Was this some kind of elaborate dream?
Hello? He snapped his fingers in front of her face. “Jesus…what a waste. You know, you aren’t bad looking, but this dense stare has got to stop. You’ll never get a new husband if you—”
“I don’t want a new husband. I want Thomas.”
Clearly, he’s gone.
She just stared, he was right. Thomas was truly gone.
Blimey, she’s gone rigid.
“What do you want from me?” Amy asked, defeated. “Oh yes, energy.” She laid back spreading her arms out as if on the cross. “Go ahead, get it over with.”
Just what a guy likes to hear. You take all the fun out of it. When I come back to flesh, I’ll be sure to kill you first so you can be with your beloved Thomas. You are truly a waste of life, you know that?
“You’re dead. There’s no coming back.”
Watch me. I did it once, I don’t see why I can’t again. I’m getting stronger every day. Why last Thursday all I could do was sway the curtains, now you can see me and I knocked over the plant in the hall. Soon, I’ll have enough power to kill the slayer and return to my throne.
“Kill little Sammy?”
Why not? He killed me didn’t he?
“You’re right. He can defend himself. Perhaps he’ll have his pencil with him again.” She smirked, happy for once she got a cut in on him. He looked burned. She’d really hurt him. He swished to her side and stood very close, still intimidating in his translucent, ghost form.
He won’t have another chance. His voice rattled out from the grave. Coldness wrapped around her like a glove, sending a chill up her spine and causing goosebumps to break out all over her body. Before her teeth chattered, she clamped them shut, trying to think of another jab that would piss him off enough to go away.
“The way I see it,” she said, her voice shaking despite her attempt at control. Her breath puffed out before her as if it were the middle of winter. “You weren’t a very smart vampire if a seven-year-old could outsmart you.” Amy saw a flash of anger on his already enraged face. Fire burned in his eyes and his jaw clenched. A sudden whoosh sound signaled him entering her body and she felt a pressure in her brain, as if it were too full, like a sinus infection, hangover, and being underwater all at the same time. His echoing voice came from her lips.
Listen here, you dimwitted, widowed, sadsack. I am Jamison, Baxter, Antonio the Third, King of Vampires, and I will suck you dry. Suck you dry!
The pressure in Amy’s brain reached an unbearable level and just as she gasped for breath, blackness overtook her.