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May 13, 2012 / Ronald Chapman

Nightmares Again

He screamed in terror then woke to find himself standing naked beside the bed. The dogs barked in confusion as Maria Elena flicked on the bedside light and turned toward him with a look of worry on her face.

“Are you all right?” she asked fearfully.

Bewildered, Pitcairn looked around the room, still caught in the nightmare. He blinked several times then shook the haziness from his head.

“You scared the hell out of me. Are you okay?” she inquired again as her fear gave way to agitation.

“Jesus!” he swore angrily as he lifted his hands to press firmly against his temples. He toppled onto the edge of the bed then slumped over in a sitting position, elbows on knees, hands rubbing desperately through his hair.

Lucy poked her head between his legs. “God damn it, Lucy!” he exploded as he shoved the boxer forcefully toward the corner where Lincoln sat. “Stay there!”  He gestured with a trembling finger.

Pitcairn could see Maria Elena out of the corner of his eye. She kept her distance. He ground the heels of his hands into his eyes then glanced toward her.

“Sorry Emmy,” he said as a forlorn look came to his face. “The nightmare again.” Pitcairn paused as he felt the terror course through him. Maria Elena moved closer and pressed herself against his arm.

“The man stopped struggling and didn’t die. He tried to talk to me, but I couldn’t take my hand from his neck. His eyes darted up over my left shoulder, but before I could look someone spun me around and knocked the shit out of me. Next thing I knew I was pinned to the ground being choked.”

He began to weep. “I couldn’t breathe.” Sobs burst from him as he cradled his head in his hands. She held him gently. “I couldn’t see who it was and I couldn’t get loose. Somehow I managed to scream and then I woke up.”

“Cito, you’re okay now,” she whispered.

He turned fully toward her and looked into her eyes.

She gasped, “Mother of God!”

“What is it?”

She looked stunned.

“Maria Elena, what is it?” he repeated as he leaned toward her.

“Cito, come with me to the mirror! You won’t believe it!”

She stood and led him to the mirror atop the dresser.

Standing in the shadows, Pitcairn turned his head to see more clearly. His breathing shallowed. There on his cheek was a stark, pale handprint rimmed with flushed skin as if he had just been hit.

He tilted his head upward. In similar contrast stood marks at the base of his neck, a circular bloodless spot tinged by red. It was precisely where someone’s thumbs would have been pressed upon his windpipe.

“Maria Elena,” he said in a hushed, quavering voice, “what the hell is happening to me?”

She was silent but he could see her dark eyes wandering over his image in the mirror.

He reached up to touch the marks. “Have you ever heard of anything like this, Emmy?”

She shook her head slowly. “It’s like the stigmata of the Christ.”

Pitcairn snorted. “The Christ?” His voice dripped with sarcasm that failed to mask his fear.

“Well, I don’t know what else to tell you.”

“I know.  But … the Christ?” He looked back into the mirror. The imprints had faded slightly.

“What time is it anyway?” he said as he turned to look at the bedside clock. “Four o’clock,” he said aloud as he studied himself in the mirror. “Clint’s probably up. Think I’ll call him. Why don’t you go back to bed.”

He turned and she looked up at him through narrowed eyes.

“Are you okay, Cito?”

A puzzled look came to him. “I don’t know what I am. And I sure as hell don’t know what’s going on. But maybe Clint will.”

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