“I’m sorry but I don’t see much hope, Kathy.”
She turned from the neurologist to look down at her husband. He’d been in a coma for five weeks now following the car accident and still wasn’t showing any signs of brain activity. The machines and drugs kept his lungs breathing and his heart beating, but as much as she didn’t want to believe it, her husband of thirty-five years died when the garbage truck ran a stop sign and crushed the driver’s side of his car.
“I just need a minute alone with him, Doctor Schiavo.”
“Sure, I understand. I’ll be right outside.”
Kathy heard the door close behind her. Except for the usual medical monitor noises the room was silent. She was alone. It was a horrible decision to have to make. Their four children, spouses (three out of four had married and Lizzie had just gotten engaged) and eight grandchildren were right outside. How could she take their Daddy and Grandpa away from them?
She hadn’t locked the sliding door from the back patio. Normally her husband did that, but he was at a business conference for the next few days. He’d been a little worried about leaving his wife, their four-year old twin boys and their two-year-old daughter alone with the so-called “Vampire killer” still on the loose in Orange County, but he hadn’t struck in five weeks, so maybe he’d moved on. He hoped so.
And then he woke up. Jonathan Cypher watched Richard Chase climb over the back fence of the house. It backed up into a main highway and Chase had been walking nearby after cutting through the High School sports field across the street. Then he saw the police cruiser coming. They were looking for him. If he were caught, they’d lock him up with the UFO Nazis. He had to get away.
Chase managed to scramble over the cinder block fence and landed in a planter. No lights on in the house. He scrambled up and around the swimming pool heading for the sliding glass door. Jonathan was standing next to the door but he wasn’t really there, so the fugitive wasn’t aware of him.
“What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I wake up?”
This had never happened before. He was groggy, listless. His legs felt like they were about to collapse under him. He knew Richard Chase was the man they called the Vampire killer. He’d already murdered five other families, drinking their blood and partially consuming their body parts. The details of his acts were nauseating, revolting. If he got inside this house, a pregnant mother and three children would die horribly. Jonathan could stop him, he could save those people. What was wrong with him? Why couldn’t he move?”
“Doctor, you said there was a chance to bring him back, that new medication you told me about yesterday.”
“It’s really a long-shot, Kathy. It’s shown some promise in severe cases like your husband’s but frankly, I wouldn’t hold out hope.”
“I want you to try it.”
“Kathy, there are no guarantees. The treatment could be fatal.”
“Damnit, I don’t want guarantees and he’s going to die anyway. If there’s even a ghost of a chance that he can come back to us, I want you to try it!” The long weeks of waiting, watching one treatment after another fail had drained her of strength and will, but this close to life and death, her usual dynamic spirit flared up.
Schiavo sighed. Twenty-seven years as a neurologist, the last five as Chief of Staff, told him this wasn’t going to work. She was clinging to a false hope and when this last chance failed to work, it could completely crush her. But who was he to deny her hope, false or otherwise.
Kathy’s eldest sons understood. They knew their Dad wasn’t the kind of man who would want to live like this. It hurt them, but it would be better to let him go rather than forcing his body to continue after everything he really was had long since vanished.
“Alright. I’ll go out and write the order.”
“I want you to do it yourself.”
“Okay, Kathy. This’ll take a little bit.”
“I’ve waited five weeks. I can wait a little while longer.”
Chase pulled on the sliding door and it moved open with a small metallic squeal. He believed that locked doors meant he wasn’t welcome but an unlocked door told him he had been invited in. The vertical blinds softly clattered as he moved them aside. It was dark and quiet. The bedrooms were upstairs.
Jonathan staggered after Chase. The glass and blinds were meaningless to him since the world around him was a hologram, or the world was real and he was the projection. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that in this state, he didn’t have a hope of stopping Chase from committing his heinous crimes on another four people.
“No. Raven. What’s wrong with me? I have to stop him. I have to. Why can’t I walk? Why can’t I think?” Cypher dropped to his knees just inside the family room. He could see the killer creep toward the staircase. The two boys shared a room at the top. They would be the first to die.
Lizzie and Janine’s husband Chris volunteered to stay outside with the grandkids while everyone else was in the room. Kathy decided she didn’t have the right to keep this to herself. If their Dad could possibly come back to them, they should be here to see it, one way or the other.
“It’s been fifteen minutes since I administered the injection.” Schiavo looked at his watch, an expensive looking analog in a world where most people depended on their smartphones for the time. “If the medication is going to be effective, we should see some signs within the next few minutes.”
He made himself look at Kathy, her sons Ben and Mike and her daughter Janine. They ignored him, gazing longingly at husband and father. The doctor turned to the duty nurse who was checking the patient’s vitals. “Pulse is increasing, Doctor,” he said.
“I see that. Respiration’s increasing as well.”
“Doctor?” Tears were streaming down Kathy’s face as she looked over at him.
“We’ll see, Kathy. Just give it a few more minutes.”
Chase was halfway up the stairs. It was impossible but Jonathan felt like vomiting. He knew he really wasn’t touching the floor with his hands and knees but it certainly felt that way. He was going to be doubled over with cramps while two little pre-school boys were cut open and still living, have a monster start drinking their blood.
“Raven, please! You said…I could do anything. I can’t even stand.”
“You have a choice to make, Jonathan.” Her voice was coming from behind and above but he didn’t have the strength to turn around.
“Yes, Jonathan. You can stay here or go back.”
“Go back where?”
Once he thought it was all he ever wanted, to go home, to take back his life, his name, whatever else there was, whoever he was. But not now. Not when he could save them.
He could hear voices, a woman’s voice. Others. Who was she? Why did he long to be with her?
Chase was at the top of the stairs. He listened at the first door. Jonathan knew he could hear breathing, children’s breathing. He smiled as he slowly placed his hand on the doorknob and started to turn it.
“Doctor, his eyes are fluttering. It’s working. He’s going to wake up.”
Kathy didn’t realize how tightly she was grasping onto the metal rail of her husband’s bed. Ben put his arm around his Mom’s shoulder while Mike and Janine hugged each other. The nurse continued to look at the monitors while Schavio opened first one set of eyelids and then the other. Were his pupils reactive?
“It doesn’t matter. I can’t let them die. I’m the only one. I’m sorry. I’m sorry whoever you are. I wish I could go home but I can’t, I just can’t. Not and let those babies die.”
“This decision can be made only once, Jonathan. Once made it is final.”
He managed to swing his head in her direction. “Then let it be final, damnit. He’s inside their room! He’s inside their room!”
Chase considered them a gift from God. Two sweet little boys in side-by-side twin beds. He opened his filthy windbreaker and took one of the knives from an inside pocket. He salivated anticipating the thick, salty liquid pulsing through the veins in their throats. He pictured himself lapping at puddles of blood the way a kitten drank from a saucer of cream.
“Fixed and dilated.”
“Respiration rapid and shallow.”
“We’re losing him, Doctor.”
“Do you want us to revive him? There’s barely time to call a code.”
“Not this time you son of a bitch.”
Chase felt a strong arm close around his throat and a hand clutch the wrist with the hand holding the knife. He was strangling. He tried to scream.
Jonathan had to get him out of here. He’d done this before. All he had to do was dream it.
Then they were out back again but Cypher had lost his hold. Chase was running across the yard and leaping at the brick fence. Jonathan was here, really here, flesh and blood. He ran after the Vampire killer as he saw the monster slide over the wall. Chase dropped his knife on the concrete on the other side and bolted into the street as the Jonathan landed on the sidewalk behind him.
A flash of headlights, a horn blaring. “NO!” Screeching breaks, the thud of a body being struck by the front of a car. Jonathan watched Richard Chase get thrown forty feet by the impact. When the killer came to a stop, he was resting face down in a rapidly growing pool of his own blood. Jonathan didn’t have to walk over to him to know the Vampire killer was dead.
He looked back at the two-storey house behind him. They had disappeared out of the bedroom before Ben and Mike knew anyone was there. In the next bedroom over, two-year-old Janine still slept soundly as did their Mommy at the end of the hall.
The lights from the police cars and ambulance woke Kathy up. Some sort of traffic accident, a bad one by the looks of it. She went downstairs to get a glass of water and noticed the sliding glass door was open. She closed and locked it, then grabbed a heavy metal flashlight from the laundry room closet and checked the house.
No one there. She’d been careless and thank God no one took advantage of it. Her twin boys and little girl looked so innocent sleeping in their beds. Kathy put her hand on her tummy and smiled thinking of the tiny life growing inside of her. She couldn’t wait for her husband to come home.
Schiavo held the sobbing Kathy gently by the shoulders. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I know this is hard, I told you…”
“I know.” She tried to compose herself. Her husband was gone and now she was the only one her children and grandchildren could look up to. “I know. Thank you for trying. I know he’d have wanted a fighting chance.”
He let go of her and she turned to her children. In a moment they’d go back out and tell the others. It was time to say good-bye to him. He would never come home again.
Jonathan Cypher found the scene all too familiar now. It was always night. He was standing on a grassy plane dotted with an occasional tree here, there, with rolling hills beyond. A far too large moon was rising behind her, behind Raven, the woman with the flowing dress, the woman who wasn’t real.
“What do you remember, Jonathan?”
“Enough. Enough to know I can never go home now.”
“Is that all?”
“I remember them, a little anyway. I remember if I hadn’t saved them, there would have been no family to go home to.”
“They’re alive, Jonathan. Take some comfort in that.”
He looked at the moon. It wasn’t the one he grew up with but then he was no longer on Earth if this place existed anywhere at all.
“I love them, Raven.”
“Will I ever be able to see them again?”
“In a world of dreams, there are always possibilities.”
He looked back at her. He looked into the deep pools of her eyes, at her hair and dress softly swaying in a breeze that he couldn’t feel, as if standing in right in front of her, she were still living in a different world.
“It’s time, Jonathan.”
“It’s time to wake up.”
And then he opened his eyes.
We last saw Jonathan and Raven in the story The Kepler Tomb set on another planet in the future after humanity has perfected faster-than-light space travel.
This story pretty much “cuts to the chase” as far as telling us who Jonathan Cypher is or rather used to be, and the fate of he and his family, both past and present (if Jonathan can be said to have a stable “present” in this “dream world”).
On a whim, I visited the Wikipedia page for the year 1978 and found a link to a page for Richard Chase who was also known as the “Vampire of Sacramento.” You can click on the link but I warn you the details of his crimes are horribly graphic and not for the faint of heart.
Although I used Chase’s real name and some of his history, the vast majority of this tale is purely fictional, including his death, however I wanted to use him to generate a certain amount of horror with the readers knowing he was going to commit terrible acts upon small children while Jonathan was seemingly helpless to stop him.
In the end, Jonathan has to make a choice to go home or to save his family (which he doesn’t realize is his family until afterward). If he had chosen the former, there would have been no wife, children, and grandchildren to wake up to.
All of the stuff about his coma and the treatment are made up, but I needed to put him in a state where he could either recover from the coma or perish based on what choice he made in his dream.
The action in the past is in 1990 and I used the floor plan for the house I lived in at that time. The other time frame is the present however you choose to define that.
I did a little bit of research on comas and came up with this interesting article.
Now that Jonathan made his choice, he can never wake up at home again, but then where and when will he awaken next and without a living body or brain, who is dreaming?
His previous adventures include: