Anna lay next to her husband, watching with satisfaction the effect the nightmare was having on him. His face contorted, he thrust his legs out straight, kicking at something. Occasional whimpers slipped from his lips which pulled back from his teeth like leeches recoiling from a flame.
Anna could understand why he was so terrified. She knew that in his dream Kevin was staked out in a starlit desert with an enormous black snake taking meaty bites from his thighs, making its bloody, painful way to his crotch.
It was not a recurring nightmare that Anna’s husband was experiencing, something he had confided to her through their speedy courtship and single year of marriage. No, this was a completely new nightmare, and it was going to kill him. His heart rate was going to escalate. It was going to stop in his chest as the snake finally opened its jaws and ripped his dick out at its root.
Anna knew all this because she had sent the Cruisers to her husband’s sleepworld to do her bidding.
The next morning Anna took great pleasure in calling Kevin’s assistant, Casey (the slut), to report his death. Nothing but silence on the other end of line. Perfect.
And then Anna began making her plans for Casey’s bad dreams that evening.
The first time they had come as spiders, their hard, black legs pushing through the plasterboard in her closet. Twelve year old Anna heard them scratching and clawing at her clothes. The hangers rattled and fell to the floor. The door bulged and she saw the spiders tumble out onto her white carpet, hissing, the size of dinner plates, hundreds of them. And she had sent them down to her father’s sleepworld. She had often wondered how she had been able to call them (and what were they, really?). But since that time she had grown more adept at controlling them, and they had served her many times. Always hurting the hurters.
Anna got the impression they came from far away. She didn’t know how she knew that, but deep inside she felt that was right. She called them The Midnight Cruisers, because of her impression that they traveled far and wide and she was only one of many beings in the universe they visited. And they only came at night. Mostly, she simply thought the name was cool.
Through the years, the Cruisers had come as shiny slugs with vicious human faces (for the gym teacher) a lion with a dirty mane and bloody teeth (for her mother), a twisted bare tree that whispered terrible truths (to the Greek fucker at the dry cleaners who always leered at her).
When she had discovered that Kevin was screwing his secretary, she debated whether to do him first, or start with the slut. Anna felt the cruisers were keener for Kevin, so she sent them down to his sleepworld last night where they knew exactly what form to take to stop his heart. They were spectacular and, as the years had proven, reliable and loyal.
By the time the morticians had carted off Kevin’s carcass the sun was already sinking, sending shadow fingers up her lawn, reaching for her doorstep.
Anna downed a nice glass of merlot and savored the thought of Casey in the grip of the nightmare the cruisers would manufacture, just for her. She thought of that first night, the night of the spiders, when she’d sent them down to her father’s sleep world. Never again would she have to lie awake, dreading the squeak of her bedroom door.
From that night on, whenever there was justice to be done, a hurter to be hurt, Anna could stare into the darkness and call the Midnight Cruisers to turn her enemy’s sleepworld to hell.
Easy on the merlot, girl, she told herself: lots to do tonight.
She went to the couch and laid down. A few minutes of rest before calling them. It had been a fulfilling but long day.
When she rose from the couch, she went to her room and put on dark clothes. It was easy enough to get the slut’s address from Kevin’s computer. She felt it was now late enough. Casey would be sleeping and Anna didn’t want to miss the show. She could call the Cruisers from here, but then she would be deprived of watching Casey writhe in terror as they scared her slowly to death. What would they choose for the bitch? Anna could never know beforehand. Only when the nightmare was underway did the Cruisers allow her to dip into the sleepworld to see them at their work.
Parking under a linden tree, Anna sauntered to Casey’s house, a pale, yellow ranch set back behind a six foot hedge. The wind was cool on her back as it blew dead leaves across the street. She circled the small house, judging few people would pass by at this hour. Casey’s bedroom window lay at the back of the house. Moans came from the bed.
Anna walked quickly to the window to see what was happening, too excited now to be careful.
Casey writhed under the duvet, saying something Anna couldn’t quite make out, but she was sure they were words of entreaty to whatever hideous aspect the Cruisers had presented to her.
A twig snapped directly behind her.
She spun around and screamed. Her father, worms and spiders spilling from his eye sockets, grasped her and pushed his green tongue into her ear.
And then Casey was speaking to her through the bedroom window screen. “I knew you were acquainted with the night things. After you called about Kevin, I was sure of it. I call them darklings, but I’m sure you have your own name for them. We all do. Of course, you realize you’re sleeping on your couch back at home right now? Your dear father is simply the demon the darklings felt you should be sharing your sleepworld with tonight.”
Anna was getting sick from the stench of her dead father. “How?” she asked.
“The darklings feel you’ve been abusing your power. You’re the hurter now. They are not allowed to kill those they serve, so I was called in. I’m what you could call a cleaner. Enjoy your death.”
And then Anna was no longer in Casey’s back yard. She was back in her childhood bedroom, in the nightmare.
The hinges squeaked lightly.
A silhouette appeared in the doorway.
“It’s just the Cruisers, only the Cruisers,” she said to herself and closed her eyes.
Her heart was a dying slab in her chest. Pain shot down her arms.
Knowing what she’d see, she slowly opened her eyes anyway, and she screamed until her heart stopped.
And then the Cruisers were on her.
I was browsing Flickr and found this arresting photo of a young girl lying in bed, thinking some deep thoughts. She got me wondering what in hell she was thinking and what type of adult she would become. I had Steely Dan’s “Midnight Cruiser” blaring into my headphones. The title of the song and the photo gave rise to this strange little story. Written on a gloriously sunny, post-blizzard Sunday morning with a cuppa good joe at my favorite market. The idea of cruisers to do one’s bidding is appealing, but who could ever control that level of righteousness?
Image by Alyssa L. Miller