The Smoking Gun

by Mark Figueroa

A twisted creature with backwards arms stretches its mouth open. Its head quivers as it stretches his face wider and wider. Cackles project from its throat like a witch circling victims on Halloween Night. The monster’s jaw cracks, snaps and breaks as the laughter from its throat continues. After a loud pop, the creature falls to the ground and a pair of eyes look out of its gaping maw. Then a green arm shoots up and feels the ground around the collapsed monster’s over-stretched head. 

This is a nightmare.

Like many nightmares, it haunts the minds of sleeping children and adults without prejudice. 

Regardless of where they say the mind and soul goes when a person sleeps, or whatever scientists pontificate occurs in the brain, the fact remains that nightmares exist. 

They exist, occur and run rampant when the sun sinks over the horizon and the moon flashes her grin over the darkness. Moreover, without these nightmares, the world would sleep easy, but Detective Bane Bogey Gunn, or BB Gunn, would be a bored desk sergeant.

As the witch feels her way out of the oral cavity, BB, pulls his cellphone from its holster, like a gunslinger after 20 paces.  He quickly dials 223#37326. A robotic voice responds, “Received,” and the screen flashes red. Gunn smiles, then rotates his phone so that the bright red screen faces the mouth-dwelling menace. “Another one down,” he thinks to himself, until a child giggles behind him.

“No!” Gunn screams, leaping up from his desk. Printers stop, phones drop and voices flatten to whispers as Captain Wakefield roars, “Goddammit, Gunn! Again?”

Captain Wakefield marches out of his offices, his sweaty sleeves rolled up over his slightly rotund, hairy arms. He pushes his dated glasses as he stomps toward the detective’s destitute desk. He slams his hands down. “Jesus H Christ, Gunn, would you care to explain how and why you couldn’t contain a friggin’ level 2 nightmare?”

“Captain Wakefield, sir, could we possibly continue this conversation in your office.”

“Could you possibly do your damn job, Detective?” the captain asks. His pause invites Gunn’s quick inhale, open mouth and raised finger, but he cuts Detective Gunn off before he can get a word out. “That was rhetorical!” Captain Wakefield shouts, his chubby face beet-red. “No, you obviously can’t! So, no, we can’t discuss this in my office. Tell me what the hell happened, now!” He barks, wagging his finger in the detective’s blushing face. “And, I swear, it better not be another thing about the man-boy creature you’ve been preaching about.”

Gunn bites his lip, shuts his eyes and contains himself. “I fucked up. Won’t happen again,” he says, sighing heavily and slicking back his hair in submission. 

“Damn right. The chief is gonna’ have my ass if these Nightmare Murders keep piling up,” the Captain mutters. He clears his throat and lights a cigarette. “Yeah, I’m indoors. Sue me,” he says taking a long pull of his B and H lights. “I haven’t seen my family in weeks because I’ve been doing reports and overseeing investigations when I’m not sleeping the beat.” The Captain pauses. “Don’t you want to return to normal crime like guns, drugs and homicides, or anything that isn’t a dead, naked geriatric with snakes for nipples, crying kids for fingers with dog-sized, shrieking tarantulas on leashes?” He asks, revealing an exhaustion deep within his soul. 

Gunn holds his tongue, but ultimately acquiesces himself to agreement. “I suppose so,” he mutters, soft and defeated. If it wasn’t for the nightmares, I’d never become a cop, let alone a detective, Gunn reflects. 

Captain Wakefield pats him on the shoulder and stomps back to his dimly-lit office. 

The rest of the station goes on about their business, exchanging stories, information and bragging rights. 

Lt. Sophia Sadida suddenly stands over Gunn’s desk. “If it isn’t the best detective of Baltimore’s Western District. Coffee, partner?” she asks, sarcastic but somewhat crestfallen.

Gunn curls his lip, shakes his head and gestures no with his hands. “Nope, I’m on the clock. If I don’t sleep, I can’t do my job, Lieutenant. You of all people should know that,” he declares with a hint of scorn.

The lieutenant shrugs. “Don’t blame me for getting promoted. My nightmares don’t keep me from doing my job,” she responds. The reality of their differing ranks eclipses her sense of pity for her ex-beatpartner.  

Gunn inhales, shakes his fists and then exhales. “Your right,” he says. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be pissed you got promoted. Truth be told, I don’t actually know what happened to me in there. I heard a kid laugh and then I was awake, and scared shitless. I was Somnium Circuitus, Dream Patrol, near the university.”

“What’s cross streets?” 

“Mcculloh and West Preston. As you know, it’s normally extremely quiet there, but there was a shitload of activity in the Dreamscape tonight. There has been for a week now. It feels like all I’ve been doing is sleeping,” Gunn declares. He reclines in his generic office chair and places the backs of his palms over his forehead. 

“Well, what’d you see, Detective?” Lt. Sadida inquires, attentive and concerned. She is and has always been concerned for Gunn. She’d avoid non-work-related sleep to prevent having nightmares of his death. In fact, the only reason Sadida pursued lieutenant was the belief that Gunn might follow. Unfortunately, the chasm her ascension created prevents them from having the open and intimate connection they took for granted. “Are you going to tell me, or do I need to pry it out of you, BB?” the Lieutenant asks again, more sternly. Both officers stand their ground with a staredown, until Gunn finally speaks.  

“There were the obvious nightmares… gremlin-like professors screaming ‘You fail,’ ‘You can pass, if you show me how bad you want it,’ or something like that. Then, there were those general nightmares, infidelity, aliens, demons, etc., nothing lucid or vivid,” Gunn responds, fidgeting with his thumbs. He shakes his head and says, “I just don’t understand it. I never see anything out of the ordinary, at worst there are multiple level two nightmares, but those are generally harmless and easy to contain.”

“What about your wake-ups? Word is they’ve been more frequent. What can you tell me about that?”

“I’m sorry, Lieutenant, I didn’t realize you were investigating me.”

“Jesus, BB, I’m not. I’m just trying to help figure out what the hell is happening. You don’t think I’m feeling any fire from the Nightmare Murders? Maybe your sudden wake-ups are related. They only happen just before – ”

Violent shrieking erupts from an officer’s cubicle. There’s a loud thud and heavy, erratic wheezing, then gibberish. The officers surround Martiano’s space, horrified at their discovery. 

They look on as Martiano lays sideways on the ground, clutching his knees in the fetal position. Papers, pens, scissors, tape and other stationary scattered around him. Drool dribbles down his right cheek and tears trickle toward his ear. Gunn reaches out to help him. Martiano looks at him and whispers, “Somnium Viator.” He snatches nearby scissors and plunges them into his eyes until he passes out.

After some commotion, Officer Martiano is picked up by an ambulance. The rest of the Dream Department resumes their activities. Martiano isn’t the first and won’t be the last to lose his shit on duty. Meanwhile, Detective Gunn is ordered to stay off the beat and rest for a week to regroup.

“It’s bad enough you’ve been unable to sleep on duty, but this, no way, Detective. I give you shit, but we aren’t going to lose you. Take your ass home, get drunk, go to a strip club – hell, go to a brothel, or call one of those political escorts. Just get your mind off of this. Make sure you turn your Station-Issued Cell Phone in. You are not doing any work while you’re gone.”

Detective Gunn does as he’s told. He wraps his cliche tan trencoat around his body and fastens the waist belt. He makes his way out of the station and into the reception area. Peevish parents, weeping women and mystified men crowd the reception area, complaining a day late and one-too-many wrong words later. 

Automatic doors slide open and Gunn’s boots crunch the snow, his breath visible in the crisp breeze.

“Wait!” Lt. Sadida calls out, chasing after him. She catches up and hands him his dream device. “I know what the Captain said, but I think you’re in danger. Take it.”

“Yeah, in danger of getting suspended or written up if I do take this without authorization. No thanks, lieutenant. I’m sticking with what the captain said. If that bothers you, take it up with him,” Gunn says, firm and resolute. He gets into his car, unaware that the dream device has been stowed away in a pocket of trenchcoat. Gunn’s tires crunch the gravel in his driveway. With a stretch, he gets out of his car and walks into his 1-story home.

After a shower, Gunn rests on his couch, igniting a joint while staring at the ceiling fan. “What the hell was that about?” he asks himself, thinking back on Martiano’s episode. “Somnium Viator,” he mutters. Gunn ashes his joint, pours himself a glass of water and dives back onto his couch. He flips on the television and cycles through shows on “NextFlick”. 

..That’s the signpost up ahead…

..You just crossed over into..”   

Like curtains after a play, Gunn’s eyelids slide shut. 

Beep

“Dream Device Active. Welcome to the Baltimore Dreamscape, Detective Gunn.”

The Dream Device appears in his palm. He sighs and leans over his sleeping body. “Dammit, Sophia,” he says under his breath with a slight smile. “Time to get to work.”

Gunn runs through his living room wall and waves his hand to summon a blue and purple cloud. He sits cross-legged on top of the purple haze, hovering over the Baltimore dreamscape.  Gunn gawks at a wandering woman with a buzzcut, “Make your calls! Make your calls! Hit the top! Hit the top! My promotion! Your promotion! Our promotion depends on it!” A man in tattered clothes covered in syringes paces around a small house screaming, “Come on, let me in! Come on! We’re family! Let me in god dammit!”

“God damned, class ones,” Gunn says, gliding over a preschool. 

“Level four disturbance. Multiple theta waves detected. Collective nightmare identified,” the Dream Device declares, as children’s screams erupt from the nearby school building. He flies in through the roof. The blackboard ripples like water, resembling a portal. Crying children sit restrained in colorful plastic chairs. Several of the kids look at him, pleading for help. “Please I’ve been having this dream for 20 years! Help me!” a little girl shrieks. 

Gunn identifies the children who are dreaming from the children who are part of the collective nightmare. The dreamscape children have no faces, despite being restrained and mimicking the fears of the real ones. 

Gunn’s eyebrows twitch and his jaw drops. In one of the seats, he sees his younger self climbing out of the portal while a girl screams. A teacher with no face rushes in to console her. “It’s alright, honey. It’s alright,” she says. Her attempts to calm the children breaks the chains. 

The teacher turns to the boy who just crawled out of the chalkboard, then faces the class. “Everyone, I’d like for you to welcome your new classmate, Bane Gunn.”

Astonished, the kids say nothing, until a boy raises his hand and asks, “Mrs. Gunn, is he your son?”

“Yes,” replies Mrs. Gunn, the faceless teacher. She encourages the children to play together and the nightmare downgrades into a dream. 

Detective Gunn paces around the cheerful children as they play, paint and pilfer through toy bins. “So, you’ve had this dream for 20 years?” Gunn asks one of the dreamers.

“What are you talking about?” she responds, gluing macaroni onto a floating piece of glass. “This is Mrs. Gunn’s class. This is no dream.” In seconds, she completes a macaroni picture of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

“I see that,” Gunn says. “What’s that he asks,” pointing at the colorful portrait.

“Starry Night,” the girl responds. “It’s by Van Gogh.”

“How do you know about it?” Gunn asks, remembering dreamer lucidity tactic number one: make the dreamer realize it’s a dream without telling them.

“I don’t know,” the girl says, shrugging. She ages slightly. “I think I saw it somewhere.” The glass panel begins to take the shape of a wall. The girl ages again into a young woman in her teens. Her Oshkosh overalls change into a white tee-shirt with blotches of paint and a pair of faded jeans. A piece of macaroni in her right hand morphs into a brush.

“What’s your name, kid?” Gunn asks.

“I’m not a kid. I’m probably as old as you,” responds the young woman, aging again. This time, her black hair is slicked into a tight ponytail. A lone pink bang hangs over her face. She wipes a new brush on her black tank top and squeezes the bristle dry her denim skirt. “My name is Juniper. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish my work.”

“Oh, and what’s that? Well, restoring this painting. How do you think the MOMA keeps its paintings so…” Juniper mutters. She pauses then shakes her head. “That’s not right.” Juniper looks around. She glances at Gunn and her eyes widen.

Gunn grabs her. “Breathe, like me. Inhale. Exhale. One. Two. Easy. Easy,” Gunn says. “That’s it. Just breathe.”

Juniper mimics Gunn. Her eyes flickering with a newfound awareness. “Is this a dream?” She asks, lucid.

Gunn nods. “Detective Gunn, pleased to meet you, ma’am,” he says, reaching out to shake her hand. After some formal greetings and introductions, Gunn gets to work. “So, Juniper, you were, and still are, dreaming. Do you remember anything that just happened?”

Juniper speaks, but her voice and appearance flicker like a bad television signal. 

“Remember, breathe. Stay with me. What do you remember?”

After a heavy sigh, Juniper relaxes. Her wardrobe changes into a lab coat with surgical gloves. She adjusts her asymmetric, shoulder-length black hair. “I was in preschool. Chained to a rug with a bunch of other kids, except some of them were actual people and the others were part of the dream, if that makes sense. I remember some kid crawling out of the blackboard. Then, the teacher introduced him as her son. God, what his name… Brian, Brandon, Brain… No. Um, Bane!” She exclaims. “That’s right! Bane Gunn.”

“I see,” Gunn says, his curiosity piqued. “You mentioned having this dream for the past 20 years.”

“Well, I have. I mean I’m having it now, except not like just dreaming. I’m like, completely awake now and stuff. But, I have this dream at least once a week. I’ve had ever since that kid showed up.”

“Any ideas why?”

Juniper shrugs. “Nope. I just, like, think that maybe it was the shock of him just appearing one day. I remember the teacher saying she wanted to have a baby, but that she couldn’t. I don’t remember why, obviously. I was like five, so yeah. Anyway, it wasn’t just me. I still have a friend from those days and she has the same dream too. In fact, she’s probably here somewhere. But, like, I know it was just weird to have this kid show up. He was weird too.”

“Weird how, Juniper?” Gunn asks, recording the conversation with his dream device.

“He just didn’t belong. Like, you know when you see someone, who isn’t strange, but just seems like they don’t fit in with the surroundings.”

“Not sure I follow, Juniper.” 

“It’s like if the entire world was super colorful, but then someone in black and white just showed up, you know, or like seeing a picture with clashing perspectives. He just didn’t seem real. I mean, like, he obviously was, but he wasn’t either. It’s hard to explain, but I’ve only seen one another person like that. This cashier at a random store. He wasn’t creepy or weird or anything, he just seemed different. Like he was and wasn’t a person. It was like he was here and not here at the same time. Kind of like those portraits at a haunted house where the picture seems like a real person staring at you, following you with its eyes, but it’s still just a painting.” 

Gunn scratches his chin and tilts his head. Feeling exposed, Gunn ends the conversation and thanks Juniper for her time. Even without a face, he recognized the dream version of his mother. What’s more, he has always felt like an outsider in the waking world. Despite the nightmares of the Dreamscape, it’s the only place he’s ever felt a sense of belonging. 

As he walks toward the other children, a familiar giggle stops him cold.  

Disturbance detected. Nearby dream escalating. Level one nightmare.

He turns to see Juniper staring at the ceiling of the classroom with terror in her eyes. 

“Somnium… Viator…” she says in a trance. “Somnium Viator.” She looks at Gunn and points. “Somnium Viator. Somnium Viator. Somnuim Viator,” Juniper chants walking closer to Gunn. “Dream Traveller…”

Gunn taps a button on his Dream Device and Juniper disappears from the dreamscape. Twisted silhouettes surround him, giggling and chattering in unison. 

“What do you want?” Gunn demands, waving his Dream Device. 

Anomaly detected. Minimizing threat level. 

Repeat. 

Anomaly detected. Minimizing threat level.

Nightmare analyzer, offline.

Nightmare catcher, unauthorized.”

Multiple voices respond in a cacophony of whispers:

“To live.”

“To wake.”

“To wander.”

“To touch.”

“To taste.”

“To smell.”

“To love.”

“To be!” they say in unison.

Gunn’s hand quivers as he points his Dream Device at the encroaching shadows. 

Unauthorized use detected. Trigger override?”

“Override sequence, November one Oscar two Whiskey three!” he yells at the Dream Device. “Stay back. Stay the fuck back!” Gunn demands as the ephemeral beings get closer.

Override initiated. Override- Override- Over- Unauthorized use detected.

Override key malfunction. Override not available. No credible threat detected.”

The silhouette of an infant runs up to him, then halts several feet away. “Like you, those do not work on us,” it declares. Black goo bubbles underneath Gunn. Hands launch up and grab at him from all directions as he screams for help.

Kicking and screaming, Gunn launches from his couch still high from his joint. He checks the time and realizes he’s only been asleep for an hour. Gunn makes his way to the fridge, visibly shaken from his experience. He grabs a six pack of high abv stouts, then plops back down on his couch. “What the hell was that?” he asks himself, shaking his head. “What did he mean, like me?”

He marathons an old, black and white science fiction series while popping open one bottle after another and hitting his joint in between to calm his nerves. Beer bereft and jointless, he finally passes out on the sofa. 

Humming and the smell of breakfast lures Gunn back into the waking world. 

“Coffee,” a woman says.

“Mom?” Gunn asks.

“You wish,” Lt. Sadidas says, placing a bag of food on the living room table.  “My shift’s over, so I figured I’d stop here and check up on you. I still have my copy of the keys, so I let myself in. I hope that’s cool.”

“Sure. What time is it?” Gunn asks, yawning.

“Noon,” Sadidas responds, sipping her coffee. “Go brush your teeth and let’s eat. I’ll wait for you partner. I mean ex-”

“It’s fine,” Gunn declares, shuffling to his bathroom. He brushes his teeth and washes his face, then hops into casual clothes.

“How long did you sleep?” Sadidas asks as Gunn sits next to her.

“Long enough to avoid a hangover,” he replies, digging into the paper bag. “This is going to sound crazy,” he begins between bites, “But…”

“Chew first, Gunn.”

Gunn swallows. “You ever feel like you don’t belong? I mean, does it ever feel like you don’t remember things in your life, like being born or being a kid, or just strange little things like that?”

“Yeah, it’s called being lonely. It happens when you’re around the wrong people,” Sadidas snaps back, calm and collected. She unravels her hair bun and gets comfortable. 

“That’s not what I mean, Sophia,” Gunn mutters, crestfallen and defeated. “I’ve felt that way my whole life, and have always been met with the same response.” Gunn shrugs. He sits up and reaches for a steaming styrofoam cup. Gunn takes a long slurpy sip and sighs. He scratches his stubble. “The nightmare… There was a woman and several others who saw me coming out of a portal. Then, these creatures surrounded me and there was a being in the shape of a child made out of some weird space tar.”

“Space tar?” Sadidas repeats. She crosses her arms and curls her luscious lips to one side of her face. Half skeptical, but half intrigued, she urges Gunn to explain himself with a shrug, raised eyebrow and frustrated sigh. 

“I’m serious. Space tar. It’s the only way I can describe it. It was like this thick black water that existed and didn’t exist at the same time. The things that came out of it were like condensed nightmares, except they were self-aware. When I pointed my Dream Device at them, one of the creatures said that they were like me and that the device would not work on them.”

“So what, you’re some space tar goop man, Gunn?” Sadidas asked, shaking her head and smiling. Her smile turns into a short-lived chuckle. Something in Gunn’s eyes makes her hesitate. She faces away from him. It’s the most intense he’s ever appeared. They’ve handled spine-tingling, bone-freezing cases together, but Gunn has never been so serious and adamant about anything, so why now? “I’ll bite, Gunn. So, if you were a space tar goop person, what is your purpose, how and when did you get here, and what does it all mean?”

“I don’t know,” Gunn responds. “But, I know who does.”

Gunn and Sadidas head to Gunn’s mother’s house. Despite the brick faces and cheap linoleum siding, the house feels welcoming, at least until Gunn knocks. A hunched-over old woman cracks the wood door open. She does a second take when she realizes who it is.

“BB? Soph?” She asks. “Come in. Oh please, come in. I’m sorry about the mess. I wish you would have called. What brings you too here? Are you finally tying the knot, BB?”

Sophia blushes and avoids making eye contact with Gunn. “Nothing like that, Mel. Gunn–I mean, BB– is just being… well… he has something in mind.”

“Oh, does he now? Well, what is it? Obviously, it’s not marriage. You aren’t pregnant without marriage, are you?”

Gunn and Sadidas glance at each other, confused, but open to the idea. They shake their heads in unison, dissolving Mel’s fantasy of a grandchild. “No, Mom. This is serious,” Gunn says. “I need to talk to you about-”

“I know, some drinks,” Gunn’s mother says, nonchalant and resolute. She casually curses her missing cat, messy kitchen and other trivialities as she shuffles to the kitchen. “Sophia, you want water, as usual. And, BB, well, it’s not five o’clock, yet, so nothing for you. Just kidding, here’s a clear soda. The other kind is bad for your, uh, you know,” she says fidgeting. Mel’s discomfort makes Sadidas uneasy. 

Sadidas looks at Gunn as if to suggest that maybe he shouldn’t voice his concerns, but he ignores her and paces while waiting for his mother. Unfazed by Gunn’s indignance, Sadidas smiles at the decor, admiring a glass case displaying Mel’s glass animals, rare china and bejewelled tchatchkies. She scans the elaborately placed family photos in Mel’s living room. Gunn holding a large fish with his dad, standing by his first car with Mel, smiling with his date at prom, getting his degree, graduating highschool, playing chess in middle school and other heart-warming milestones. As she traces their preserved memories, Sadidas notices that despite the multitudes of frozen moments, there are no baby pictures of Gunn. She grabs an old, framed image of Gunn holding blocks.

“I was in preschool,” Gunn says, almost reading her thoughts. “It’s the earliest memory that I have. It’s the same pre-school from the nightmare I saw.”

Without a word, Sadidas glances at Gunn. She takes a deep breath as Mel walks back into the living room with a tin tray of crackers and steaming mugs. “I can grab the spreadable cheese you like, if you want,” Mel says, ignoring the tension. “If Leeland was still alive, god rest his soul, he would nudge Bo’ to put horseshoe on your stake. He was charming and old school like that. Anyhoo, drink and eat.”

“Mom, I think you know why we’re here.”

Mel squirms and hesitates to change the subject, but gives in to her only son. She looks at Sadidas. “I know, BB. I know.” Mel clasps her hands. “Remember when your nightmares started a while back? I knew this moment would come,” she begins. Mel sighs. “Your father and I had trouble conceiving. You were and still are our gift, our little miracle from God in this cold world.”

“So, what are you saying, Mom?” Gunn asks. He paces around the living room and pauses in front of his mother. “Am I some kind of abomination.”

Mel stares at her son. “What? Oh, heaven’s no! I gave birth to you myself.”

Gunn recounts his experience in the nightmare last night. He explains what he saw in his mother’s classroom. “Tell me the truth mom,” he demands, respectful and soft-spoken.

“Oh boy,” Mel mutters. She huffs on her lenses and then wipes her thick glasses with her sweater. She scratches her thin white hair. “Well, you’re definitely human. I gave birth to you. I should know, but you have a gift.”

“A gift?” Sadidas asks.

“Yes, my dear. My little BB has quite an extraordinary gift. For a while it was impossible for us to get a good picture of him. He’s what the natives call a Dream Traveller. Except, when BB was young, his travelling wasn’t confined to his dreams. He, as I have come to understand it, lived between realities. There are many realities and each has two distinct sub-realities, a physical world and one of spirit, emotion or whatever you want to call it. It’s easiest to think of each reality like a planet, and the physical component is the land, while the spiritual one is water. The waters of all realities are connected, but the lands are not, if that makes sense.” 

Sadidas shrugs. “I guess so. I mean, I think I understand. Gunn?”

Gunn nods. He’s more relaxed than when he arrived. “It sort of makes sense. I don’t want to mansplain, but –”

“Don’t be an idiot, just explain what you understand. It’s not womansplaining if I explain something that I feel clarifies the subject at hand,  Gunn,” Sadidas interrupts, eager to grasp what’s going on.

“So, basically, there are multiple physical realities connected by some infinite spirit world… And, each reality can be reached by surfing the spirit world. Sort of. I think.”

Mel smiles. “I don’t know how we found out, but since birth, BB would slip between the land and the water,” she says. “ When BB turned three, he crossed through the part of the spirit world that belongs to our reality and stepped into an entirely different reality.” 

“So, I am human. I’m not some space tar goop baby?”

Mel gives Gunn a puzzled look. “Anyhoo,” she says, committed to not knowing what Gunn meant. “Anyhoo, yes, dear. You are 100 percent human. I am your mother and Leeland was your father. As we understood it, you used dreams as a bridge into the spirit world and then wandered until you reached the spirit world of another reality. You essentially fell out of this plane… Then, they followed you back.”

“What do you mean they?” Sadidas presses, her insatiable curiosity overriding her concern.

“I’m not sure, Sophia. I’ve seen them here and there, but I don’t know who they are or what they want. They just watch.”

“Wait, so… they’re real too?” Sadidas questions, confused. She looks at Gunn. “We need to tell the chief. We need to tell everyone. What happened to Martiano wasn’t some accident. Someone, or something, is after you, Gunn, and it’s causing more nightmares.”

“Whoa, slow down, Sadidas,” Gunn says. He shakes his head. “We can’t jump the gun yet until we fully understand what we’re dealing with. What if what happened to Martiano happens to other officers at the precinct? I don’t want to be the harbinger of chaos. Do you know anything else, Mom?” He asks, pouring himself more coffee.

Mel sighs. “That’s about it. Your father and I aren’t into all of that, but we had to be when you left this reality. We spoke to a medicine man in the Appalachians. He said the Old Ones bestowed man with a gift. The gift of dream walking. Some children obtain it while dreaming from creatures who want their souls, while others are born with it, like you,” she says. Mel reaches for a book under the coach. The binding is tattered and the worn pages are frayed along the edges.

“Somnia Comedenti,” Mel says, handing the book to Gunn. 

“Dream Eater,” Sadidas declares. She crosses her arms and glances at Gunn then back at Gunn’s mother. 

Gunn scratches his chin and takes a deep breath. “Well, I’m not sure what it all means, but I think I have an idea of what I need to do.”

Mel and Sadidias stare Gunn down, confused and alarmed. “What’s that?” Sadidas inquires.

Gunn reaches for his Dream Device. He waves it around and says, “Isn’t it obvious? I need to wake up.”

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