Enigma I:


In a vision of the dark night, I have dreamed of joy departed––
But a waking dream of life and light hath left me broken-hearted.
                                                                                                               (Edgar Allan Poe)

I could feel my legs moving. I wasn’t sure if I was thrashing on the floor or else I was on my feet and trying to run as fast as I could. But I sensed I was in a frantic state, and I was physically exhausted. Fragments of images passed through my mind––an old car; a wicked and winding road crossing a wasteland of depressing and desolate scenery; a mysterious and brooding mansion perched high above a creepy old cemetery; then a haunted feeling that someone or something was watching me from the other side of its dark, tapered windows. There was something familiar about the images, yet I resisted all of them, as though I fought for my life, indeed, to keep my soul from being claimed by an ominous presence I couldn’t identify.

But my mind would not let go, or something wouldn’t let go of me. I felt more spasms in my body. My eyes rapidly fluttered, and I was trying to rouse myself. But something kept me from doing it. Suddenly, the scene changed, and now there was someone chasing me. I was running for my life, and I could not understand why my legs felt like heavy posts. My pursuer was close, too close, and I expected he would reach out and grab me at any second. I had to get away, but I was lost in a long, dark passageway. I wasn’t sure where I was, but he seemed to know the place. I could hear his heavy pounding footsteps behind me. Nearly exhausted from the chase, I looked for a way out of whatever place I had entered into. There were many doors on either side of the passageway. I thought they might be bedrooms and maybe I was in a corridor of a hotel. If I could gain enough distance from this person behind me, then I could sneak into one of the rooms and hope he didn’t see which room I had entered. But he was too close for me to try this ruse.

I kept running and kept my options open. I concentrated solely on the movement of my body. I realized I was running at breakneck speed, yet I couldn’t explain why I felt so sluggish. I had no recollection of anything connected to my past. Consequently, I questioned my existence. I wasn’t even sure who I was––that is, the “I” I kept referring to. And who was it was behind me that sat in silence? I could feel someone staring at me. But who was it? And I could hear his breathing and gnashing sounds that he made with his mouth. I was afraid to turn around and find out. Very afraid. He sounded outraged, and I didn’t know what I did to provoke him like this. I also wondered if I had hurt my head or something, for I could not get access to anything other than what was taking place in this strange, dimly lit place I was in. “Run!” I heard myself say; “run as fast as you can. Your life. . .my life is in danger. Run, run away as fast as you can!” The command was curious as it was compelling. I answered, “Yes, I know; but where––where can I go? Why am I hearing these thoughts in my head? Isn’t it already obvious?” There was no further reply. There was only the sound of heavy footsteps in the passageway. It really was as though I was in a void, a hellish and silent void. It was then that I sensed imminent danger. I had to run. He was mere inches behind me and getting closer all the time.

I could feel my heart insanely pounding inside my chest cavity. The sweat poured from my body, and I was nearly out of my mind with an explosion of fear that consumed me. “Where can I go? What can I do?” I kept saying to myself over and over. But there was no answer. I didn’t even know where I was, except there was something familiar about the place. It crossed my mind that I was at home and may have been dreaming in a semi-conscious state. If I was at home, then I couldn’t identify with the surroundings. I needed to find a secure place to rest and put my mind back together. Then I might be able to unravel some of the mystery that confounded me, including what this wild chase was all about. More importantly, who was this enraged person behind me? He sounded angry. I could hear his breathing, his gasping, and his strange gurgling sounds. I didn’t dare stop and see who it was or what he looked like. Every second counted and I knew it. From the sounds of his heavy footsteps, I knew he was determined to catch me and he might have been a mere one or two steps behind. Given this notion, I let out a scream. Somehow the primal fear I felt in that instant made me go a little faster. Finally, I was able to outpace him. At least for now.

The long, dark corridor continued. I kept running for my life, I had to run because I knew to stop and face this person would be ruinous to my health, if not altogether fatal. It was no longer a matter of why this person chased me. Rather, it was his intentions when he caught me that mattered the most. All of a sudden, I slowed down again and berated myself for doing it. He closed the gap, and I could hear his breathing and the strange gnashing sounds that he made. That sound, that awful sound he made with his mouth, was debilitating. I almost lost my nerve and was about to turn and face him, then take my chances come what may. I might be able to plead for my life if only I knew why he was after me. I might even be able to beg for forgiveness for whatever trespass I was guilty of, but when he suddenly let go a loud wailing sound that pierced my ears I wasn’t about to face him and ask for forgiveness. It sounded more like an animal than a human, and now I was horrified that some creature of the night had entered this place and I was its prey.

“My God, help me!” I cried out, “what is that awful thing behind me––a man? Is it a man? Or is it some kind of creature that walks upright like one? Jesus. What’s going on here?” There was no way for me to find out unless I stopped and turned to face it or him. My legs kept moving, and I wondered how much longer I could stand the suspense. I was totally exhausted by this time and had to rest. “But where?” I asked myself; “which door in this passageway can I enter?” I was alert enough to sense my chance to escape this maniac, creature or human that he might be, was to slip into one of the doors and take my chances by barricading myself inside the room. The hissing and gurgling sounds I heard ringing in my ears told me there was no time to stop and find out if any of the doors were even opened. This thought had no sooner passed through my mind when I felt a hand reach out for my shoulder. I yelled, raised my arms over my head, and then tripped over my feet. He was sure to collapse upon me, and I knew it. Something unexpected happened just then, for I rolled to the right, clamored up the side of the cold wall, and my pursuer could not stop his momentum and kept going. Instantly, I turned around and headed the other way. I had gained more time and distance from him, and I wondered if he even knew what happened. It was then that I ran to one of the doors, turned the knob and to my surprise it opened. I quickly stepped inside and quietly closed the door behind me. I could only hope he did not see me enter whatever room I was in. Standing with my back to the door I waited for my eyes to penetrate the inky interior of the room. I could barely make out anything. But then I began to see shapes here and there: a large bed, a cabinet of some kind, a chair. It was a bedroom, and I wondered if I would be safe climbing beneath it and hiding until the danger passed. I moved toward the bed and quickly decided it was not safe to conceal myself in this room. But there was another door and possibly it was a closet. I opened it to see if I could hide inside but discovered it was an adjoining room. I stepped inside and closed the door behind me. My breathing was less erratic, and my mind was less traumatized, although the fear remained and kept my senses alerted.

There was an assortment of furniture in the room, but no bed. I felt my way in the darkness and stood before another door. I presumed it opened to the passageway where I was just a moment or two before. There was a heavy piece of furniture near the door, and I thought my best chance was to try and barricade the door by moving it in front of the door. I had to risk the noise it would make and slide it halfway across the door. Suddenly, the door I had entered into the room burst open, followed by a piercing wailing sound. It was the man or beast, and I was now trapped inside the room. I heard its hissing and gurgling sounds loud in my ear. I backed away from the door and stepped into a heavy pool of dark shadows. I could barely make out its outline as it moved toward me. Its breathing sounds were labored, and it knew I was close by. But did it know precisely where I stood and feared for my life?

Side-stepping away from this relentless thing or person, I worked my way to the other side of the room. Again, it released a growl, like a whine that quickly rose and fell. I reasoned that it had to be an animal, for no human made noises like this. Being close to it, and now that it was no longer running after me, I heard the sound of a foot dragging, followed by a louder noise as the other foot hit the floor. Perhaps it had injured itself by pursuing me. If so, I still had a chance to escape. I had to work myself behind the creature and run back into the other room, then out the door and into the passageway. It would require diligence and split-second timing. I forced myself to stay as calm as possible and prepare to make a run for it. All I could see closing in on me was a large moving shadow that seemed to wobble back and forth. The creature was large, terribly large, and it might have a bear. Whatever it was it made my blood freeze in being so close to it. One thing that I knew I could not do was to yield to its superior strength and size and try and reason with it.

When I figured I might have enough distance between it and myself, I lunged for the door, pulled it behind me, then raced out the other door it had entered. I was racing down the passageway again and heard its raging sounds cry out. This time, I didn’t want to take a chance on its catching up with me and entered into another room. Whatever spaced I had entered it was much smaller than the last room. Also, darker. The only difference was a faint light that filtered from an opening somewhere above me. I tiptoed toward this source and discovered I was at the base of a staircase. At the top of the stairs, the teasing light played in the shadows. and I thought it must be an attic. I paused and wondered if I should risk going up there, for if my pursuer entered the room. I might be trapped.
Deciding that it was my only option because I no longer heard any sounds coming from the other side of the door, I crept up the winding stairs. Halfway up, I chided myself for not locking the door that led into the room. But it was too late to go back down and secure the door. At the top of the stairway, I paused and let my eyes adjust to the milky light and shadows that combed the landing. There was a round window not too far in front of me, which I moved toward as though it was a portal for my imminent escape. Outside the window, I saw a nearly full face of the moon just emerging from a bank of dark clouds. The opaque pearl light that emitted from its pocked surface began to change to a reddish tint. I wasn’t sure what was happening but thought it might be an eclipse in the making. I don’t know why that pale light appealed to me, but I had hope of getting outside whatever house of horror I was trapped inside. From there, I could escape the danger and take my chances without being in proximity to the person or creature I had encountered.

Just then, I heard a loud noise from the floor below. The explosive sound of the door bursting open was followed by the same growling and other disturbing noises I heard in the other room. My heart pounded in my chest, and I thought I would pass out from the excessive adrenaline that pumped through my veins. The next thing I heard was heavy thud on the staircase, which was followed by another. Step-by-step, my assailant advanced toward me. Its loud and heavy breathing was close by and I was positive that it knew I was up here. I could see no exit to flee toward. The creature on the stairs was in my way, and it was smart enough to know that I was trapped. I moved toward the window and tried to open it. At first, it would not budge. After struggling with all of my strength I was able to lift it, but only just a few inches. It seemed to be stuck, and I cursed my luck. Pivoting on my feet, I turned to face the explosive snarling sound approaching the top stair. I waited for my assailant to finally reveal himself in the dim light that showed more dimension to the room. Again, the snarl rang out, followed by a definite sound of its feet that crashed down upon the floor. There was someone or something that stood across from me. It was motionless and seemed to study me. I listened to its raspy breathing sound that aggravated the tense silence between us. My assailant just stood there in a meditative silence, although I half expected to hear him or it say something to me.
The silence and suspense were unbearable. Cautiously, I whispered to myself, “Help me, someone, please help me!” But there was no one who could help me. It was just myself and this man-like thing across from me. I raised my voice and cried out, “Who...I mean, what are you? Why are you after me? Have I done something wrong to you? Tell me. I must know.” But there was no response. There were only the horrific breathing and other throaty sounds that continued to emasculate me. The longer it stood there, the more I tried to come to a conclusion what I was faced with. I wasn’t sure if it was a bear but from its slouched posture it seemed that it could be such a creature. It might even be a human, which the more I thought about it, the more I reasoned this presence in the room or attic with me was human. If so, there was something foul and evil about his dark form that towered above me; something also familiar, as if I had previously seen this person or thing in one of my dreams. 

But this was no dream. This scenario was all too real and I had nowhere to run. The room very well might be the last place I would ever see. I glanced back at the moon. It had turned a deeper stain of red and reminded me of blood. I began to sob. I didn’t want to die like this. I didn’t want to feel this person’s hands on me and experience my life draining away second by second. I was exhausted, and I knew I could never survive the attack when he decided to make his move. Then his posture changed, and he slowly advanced toward me. He snarled and hissed, and I backed away. As he stepped forward, first came the sound of a footstep on the floor, followed by a dragging sound with his other foot. He moved deliberately slow and little by little his features were captured in the wan light. I didn’t like what I saw glaring at me from the shadows and was more horrified to see what he looked like. It was that dreadful sound that he made with his mouth that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I felt paralyzed and could not move. But I had to do something and moved obliquely to his left. I wanted nothing more to do with him, and my instincts told me I was no match for his size and strength.

Suddenly, he stopped. He turned and followed me with his eyes. Then I heard something that chilled me to the bone. At first, it sounded like a siren, which soon turned into a sustained howling. Steadily, the pitch rose and tapered off into a faint whisper. It was a beastly sound that curled my blood. Then the silence returned, and I thought the room suddenly felt smaller. It then occurred to me that he had made his move, for he lunged at me. In less than a second, he was all over me. I screamed at the top of my lungs. The stench of death was on his breath and I felt his bony fingers reach for my throat. His hands were upon me in an instant, and he slowly lifted me off the floor until my feet dangled. The room started to spin, and there was a ghastly blue outline of a face mere inches in front of me. I saw his piercing red eyes glower at me. His ears were pointed and stood out from his elongated face. But it was the way his head came to a tapered, dull point that made me think his cranial features made him look more ghoulish than a human being. Man or beast or ghoul, he was certainly invincible. As he held me above the floor, he seemed to delight in my capture. I was his quarry, and he knew I could not escape.

I continued to struggle and attempted to break free. But it was no use. My feet and legs merely thrashed inches above the floor, and his hands tightened around my compressed neck. It was nearly impossible for me to breathe and at any second I would pass out. Again, he bellowed, followed by a deep, gurgling sound that came from his distorted mouth that revealed sharp, pointed fangs that he bared. It was a victorious scream, and I knew what it meant. In that dusky light that streamed through the window behind me, I saw my executioner, and I knew what my fate was. I just didn’t know why I should die like this, much less how I wandered into this dreadful place where such a ghoul lived and had finally captured me. Whatever he was, he was hideous beyond compare. He was also taking his time in snuffing the last breath of air from my lungs. The uncontrollable affliction that had overcome me should have imploded my heart. But it didn’t. There was just a prolonged moment like an eternity in the passing. This creature of the night would keep me on the edge between death and life for as long as it wanted and it finally made sense to me why this horror was unleashed upon me. He would have his way with me and keep me from passing through death’s door and taking refuge in whatever was on the other side.

Abruptly, he reached toward me and yanked my body closer, then raised my body over his head. He held me in this position for a second or two before slamming me hard on the floor. In an instant, he was sprawled on top of me and held me down by his powerful hands on my shoulders. I felt his ponderous weight on top of me and there was no way I could slip out from beneath him. Slowly, he lowered his face toward me. I screamed again, only so loud that it hurt my ears to hear myself protest his advances. The hot stench of his breath was mere inches from my face. Then I felt his dagger-like fingers on my neck as he turned my face the other way. My eyes shot sidewards and I wanted to see what he was about to do. Then I knew what he was about to do and I didn’t want to see. “No, no,” I called out; “this can’t be real. You can’t be real. Oh God...oh God...please help me. Save me from this ghoul. Why is this happening to me? Why?” But it was no use. My body suddenly lifted up, only to be slammed hard on the floor. Crouched over me, he did this to me several times and every bone in my body ached. I tried to slip out from beneath him, but there was no way I could escape. The pain was excruciating. I wanted to communicate with whoever it was and beg him to stop torturing me. But it was no use. Fear had paralyzed me and my entire existence came down to this one moment in time. Everything was so intense and time seemed to have altogether stopped for me. That was when he lowered his face toward my neck, and I could feel his hot breath on my flesh. But he stopped just before biting into my skin, for I felt the teasing jabs of his sharp teeth about to puncture my vein. I squirmed to try and get away from him but he held me fast. My body went limp, and my mind nearly folded back on itself when I heard him speak for the first time. The tone of his voice hissed and snarled, almost like a whisper in my ear––Youuuuuuu...belonggggggggg....tooooooooo...
meeeeeeeeeeeee...Leiddddddd...Kamuuuuuuu...not God for youuuuuuuuu.” 

Each word was drawn out, as though he wanted me to savor everything that he said. His message had wrapped itself around my brain like a vice. I then realized it was no accident that I stumbled into this nightmarish ordeal. There was something prophetic about this horrific drama. My executioner, whatever or whomever he was, clearly wanted me to know what my fate was. I was aghast and powerless to stop him from doing what he intended to do. With his dagger-like hands pressing into my body, he began to laugh. From the corner of my bulging eyes, I saw his fangs grow larger in the glimmer of moonlight that fell on the floor and accented his features. He was about to puncture my skin and deliberately took his time in this unholy ritual, here in this unholy place I had wandered into. I couldn’t remember anything about myself or how I even got here and what I had done to this creature of the night that had sealed my fate. It was like deja vu, only in reverse, and there was something altogether familiar about this loathsome scene; something I previously knew but was now experiencing for the first time or the tenth time. I couldn’t be sure what I was trying to tell myself, except the horror of this entire episode was archetypal and deeply implanted in my subconscious.
Because he was so powerful and had me helplessly pinned down, I just laid there and sobbed. I could not fight him off, any more than I could endure the searing pain when he finally ripped into my throat. I could feel the enlarged carotid artery pulsate in my neck. He was about to drain the blood from me like some vampire of the night. With the last ounce of energy I could muster, I rose up and tried to fend him off. But it was no use. He growled and bit into my neck. “Fuck!” I yelled out at the top of my lungs. The pain was searing, and I felt the spasms of my blood pour into his cold mouth. He pressed harder and buried his face into my neck. Shock set in and my eyes opened wide. “Ouch, Christ, ouch. Damn it, you’re hurting me. You're hurting me, I said. I can’t take this any longer. My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The room began to spin slowly and I wanted to pass out, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t shut my mind down to this fiendish act that I was forced to witness. I cried out, “No! Please don’t do that. Stop! Don’t let me die this way. Please dear God, what did I do to deserve this? Why is this ghoul taking my life from me?”

It was only then that I noticed a new and subtle change had overcome me. I saw a vague outline of someone’s form on top of me. It was beginning to soften, and the darkness wasn’t near as dark as it had been. I looked backward and stared at the moon’s eye. It had turned a deep crimson color and seemed to be closer to the window than what it was a moment or two earlier. I had the feeling I was leaving my body or I was just awakening. Then I heard that horrific howling sound again. This time it sustained itself and seemed to go deeper into my mind, as though meant that I should forever hear this scream. I knew what it was. I just couldn’t believe that such things exist.

I couldn’t be sure what was happening, except the change that came over me felt like I had just exited a horrible dream, a lurid nightmare, and now something new mingled with my senses and distracted me.

At first, I felt a rhythmic movement, then caught the scent of something. It reminded me of crushed velvet. There was also a dank, musky odor that I couldn’t identify. Combined, the overall effect reminded me of something time-worn. The blackness that had wrapped itself around me slowly yielded to a modicum of light, faint yellow light that I noticed off and down to my left. What had happened to the assailant who was just on top of me, I couldn’t say. I still wasn’t sure I had just been dreaming but if it was a dream, then it was the worst kind––a living nightmare. Whatever it was that just ran riot in my brain it was over, or I assumed that it was. Now something else took its place, and I awoke to find myself in a strange and terribly uncomfortable position. My body felt like elephants had trampled upon it. No dream could do that. I was sure of it. I figured I would bide my time and wait until my mind cleared and then find out what had happened. Otherwise, I felt sluggish and altogether out of sorts with just about everything. There was also that disabling and realistic image in my mind that would not completely go away. The ghoul, or whatever it was that had finally captured me, had burrowed itself deep into my subconscious. Even in the disenfranchised state. I was in I knew I had a lot of mental house cleaning to do before I could assure myself this particular stain could be entirely wiped out.
Slowly, my senses came back to me one by one. I checked in with myself to make sure I was fully conscious and alert. The only sense that was missing was cognitive. I simply couldn’t remember where I was, much less what caused the slight jostling sensation I felt every now and again. I decided to wait for my memories to come back before doing anything further. I just sat in the uncomfortable position I was in and waited for the right time to snap out of whatever mental fog that still obscured my senses. About the only idea that made sense was the fact I might have been in a deep sleep for a long time. Perhaps I had even passed out from too much drinking. However, one thing that did raise my spirits and that was the recall of what I just went through was more than likely a bad dream, and I was safe. The dream certainly left its telling imprint on my mind.

I don’t know how much time had already passed since I woke up, but the longer I sat or slouched wherever I was, the more I sensed I still might succumb to the horror of the dream. It felt as though I was trapped between two mental floors: the subconscious and the conscious state. I saw the word, hypnagogic, float in my mind, which confirmed, by way of description, the state of mind I thought I was in. Another peculiar notion came to me that time seemed to be running very slow or else it had altogether stopped. The thought was arresting. Certainly, my mind seemed much slower in its operation than it should be. The peculiarity of time coming to a halt, or even slowing down, had something to do with the gripping suspense of the scenario I was just in. I was almost sure about this likelihood. 

So far, the puzzling mental fragments that passed through my mind and tested my senses were just that––teasing. I had to know more. But the feeble mental and physical state I was in pretty much told me I was literally and figuratively in the dark about most of what I needed to piece together at this time. I felt frustrated. First, there was the nightmarish chase and capture, and now I had awakened into a completely different scenario sans the trauma that had just scared the hell out of me. I forced myself to concentrate more on what my senses brought back to me by way of data. There was the odor in the space where I was, the dim, yellow lights, the movement that rocked and bounced my body at times, and now came the sound of something mechanical. I focused on it and gave this sense top priority. In the background, I heard the din of what sounded like an engine. It was followed by a harder sound, like tires thumping beneath the wheel wells, or else it was the chassis that took a periodic beating. Gradually, the sounds grew louder, as the vibration and jostling turned more severe. 

For the first time, I heard a voice in my head, “Am I in a closet? A trunk of some kind?” It was my voice that I heard and recognized. Finally, I was getting somewhere. I encouraged my mind to deliver more information to me, especially to feed me something from my past so that I could begin to piece together the present. These missing links were stubborn to recall, however. Just about the only thing I could manage to do was decipher some of the data my immediate senses carried back to me.

The pummeling continued as before. This time I heard the voice inside my head say, “If I’m in a closet, then why is it moving?” I quickly deduced I wasn’t in any such place but may have been in the trunk of someone’s car. “A car?” I shot back. It made sense to me. It was certainly dark, and the movement felt like I was riding in a car. But where were the lights coming from? I wasn’t sure what to say about this lone sense and what my eyes saw in the near distance. I made another assumption at this point and decided I may be in a car, all right, but I was sitting up front, and therefore not stowed away in the trunk. The thought was both comforting and unnerving to me. For one thing, whose car was it? For another thing, how did I get here? I simply couldn’t remember anything that went before the awful dream.

Time continued to drag on, or else it had altogether stopped. My mind was feeble as it was slow to tell me too much of anything. It seemed I was under a deep spell and only then did I give in to panic about the possibility of suffering a mental relapse due to an accident, or else a transient ischemic attack. Just after this latter notion passed through my mind, I heard myself cry out, “A stroke? I had a goddamn stroke?” I wasn’t sure how I even knew the medical term for a stroke, but I was keen enough to know what a stroke was. It was another arresting thought. This time, it was powerful enough to cause me to rouse from whatever position I had fallen into, even to the point part of the mental stupor I was in gave way to renewed mental energy. Instantly, I righted myself and realized I had been leaning over in the seat.

Now that I sat upright I probed the darkness of the car’s interior. Hardly anything made sense to me, except it was a car, and the metallic din and its steady cadence I heard in the background was, indeed, the engine. I also felt a draft, even to the point I took note of the twin oscillation of sound that swept the cold interior. But it wasn’t the car I was in that I fixated on; it was the possibility of a stroke that warped my thinking. I even thought of the possibility that I might have been injured by some other means and now someone was taking me to the hospital. If so, then who was driving, I wondered.

Turning my head to the left, I tried to discern who was sitting behind the wheel. At first, I could not see anything or anyone. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, however, I noticed a large form sitting behind a steering wheel. It was the driver, and he seemed hunched over a large steering wheel. In fact, the distance between us seemed exaggerated. Either I was riding in some kind of limousine, or maybe it was a station wagon, or possibly a truck. The make and model didn’t bother me, however. It was the fact that someone sat across from me and was reticent to speak or move.

I turned my head and looked outside the windows. The glass was in two separate panels, and I gazed down a very long hood that came to a rather pronounced point at the center. On either side were two large headlights. But for their size, I noticed they hardly penetrated the thick dark veil of night that had enveloped the car. The lights were also yellow, like old-fashioned lamps. I thought that it might be an older model station wagon or a panel truck. Whatever it was, the stranger’s vehicle was quite large and ungainly as it plowed into what had to be the darkest night I had ever seen.

I heard a voice in my head ask, How do you know this? How do you know this isn’t the first day of the rest of your life, only it's nighttime? The response was puzzling and bizarre. I ignored what I heard or thought I heard and concentrated, instead, on the harsh pounding and jolts of the car. I heard every alarming sound and felt the violent shimmy beneath the floorboard. How the tires bounced and thumped in the wheel wells! Now that I was awake it seemed the driver had suddenly accelerated. I asked myself, Yes, but are you awake? Or is it a lucid dream––a nightmare that I cannot escape

Along with everything else, the darkness was confounding, both inside the car and the scenery beyond the dark windows. I turned my head and looked behind me. It was just as dark back there, only I caught a glimpse of something back there that attracted my attention. For a second or two, I thought I saw a long oblong box just behind the front seat. If so, then it made sense I was riding in a station wagon, perhaps a panel truck, and there was cargo onboard. What was in the box I could not say. I still had to make an announcement to the driver that I was now awake. Once I made contact with the taciturn stranger, I might find out more of what I was looking for in the way of answers. 
Meanwhile, the amnesia continued to vex me more than the strange surroundings. It even crossed my mind that I might have been drugged, which would explain the slowness and confusion of my mind. On that thought, there quickly passed another. I heard myself say, “Yes, and what if this stranger seated across from you was the one who drugged you? What if he captured you and you were now his prisoner?”

This time, and with this disturbing question that bottled up my brain, I recognized the voice as my very own. I just didn’t have a name to go along with it, much less the personal history behind the name. Still, the idea, as perturbing as it was, made sense. Suddenly, my concern turned to worry, and from there I watched the floodgates of apprehension and fear open up. I was in trouble until I found out, otherwise.

These thoughts prowled around my mind and obviously I needed to find answers. I then thought the best thing for me to do was to ask the driver what had happened to me and where he was taking me. But when I tried to speak my mouth and throat felt so dry that I could hardly speak. It was as though I hadn’t spoken in a long time. I wet my lips and let the saliva work its way into my mouth before trying to speak again. Then I spoke to the driver and asked, “Where am I?” At first, I hardly recognized my voice, since the one I had been hearing was the one that spoke to me inside my head. The shallow, raspy voice I just heard, however, seemed ghostly, as though it sounded far away. There was no response from the driver, not even so much as a glance. I assumed he didn’t hear me and asked again, “Mister, where am I?” I hastened to add, “And where are you taking me?”

After a long moment or two had passed, which, again, I could only guess at the time, the driver still didn’t hear me. Either that or he chose to ignore me. When I asked him the third time, my request was more demanding. This time I raised my voice and called out, “Do you even hear anything I’m saying?” Again, the driver kept his eyes forward and said nothing. My internal voice took over, and I heard myself say, “Either he’s a rude son of a bitch, or else he’s deaf.” I was about to find out one way or the other when I noticed the car accelerate. This action of his also puzzled me, for the road had worsened, and was now somewhat sinuous. When I spoke to him next, however, I wasn’t concerned about the other matter he chose to ignore, if he heard me. It was the apparent neglect of safety that bothered me, as well as the harsh ride the car endured. I stated, “Mister, will you please slow down! You’re driving way too fast for this crummy road. Do you hear me?”

Even this concern of mine was not met with a reply, civil or otherwise. Instead, the car pummeled dangerously down the road and the racket the shocks and springs made, along with the pounding the chassis was taking, told me this singular person across was me was either obtuse, deaf, or both. He was also driving out of control, and now I worried about an impending crash.

In spite of my concerns for safety, the driver would not slow down. Sliding this way and that, I thought at any instant we would go off the road and crash. And then what? Would I survive? Beyond the black windows of the car, the headlights scantly illuminated a homogeneous roadside background that was as dreary as it was disheartening to see. I thought the dark side of the moon must have had more features than the naked landscape we drove through. I drew this comparison from a mind that apparently had some knowledge about many things, both noteworthy and prosaic. Still, it gave up nothing more than seemingly isolated bits and pieces of information for me to ponder, and nothing personally essential that directly tied me to the misery of this passing scenery, such that it was, and this person beside me who may have commandeered me.

“This is nuts! This is fucking crazy!” I murmured to myself. “It's like I don’t even exist. How that even possible? Something’s awry. I don’t know what’s awry, but something is definitely freaky beyond belief. I should have had all of my mental engrams in place by now. What happened to me? What happened to my life as I once knew it?” 

The questions I posed sort of made sense to me. Then again, without a way of knowing anything about my personal history it was impossible for me to draw any conclusions here and now. There really was nothing for me to do at this time except to try and relax and wait until my cognitive senses were fully restored. But I was cold and could not stop shivering. It dawned on me that there was no heat inside the stranger’s car and I called out to him, “Mister, whoever you are, would you at least turn on some heat? It feels like a rolling morgue in here. Like, I’m cold and need to warm my body.” I waited for a response but wasn’t surprised by the stranger’s silence. I then took it upon myself to find the controls myself and warm myself. I leaned toward the two round lights and was careful not to touch the man. My fingers came in contact with the dashboard, and I immediately searched for the heater. When I touched what felt like what I was looking for, I slid the bar to the right, then found another knob and turned it in the same direction. Then I waited. After a few moments of waiting, the chilled interior did not change one iota. I wondered if the heater even worked or if I had found the right lever and knob. I was about to ask the driver to operate the controls when all of a sudden a name floated out of my subconscious. It was a name I thought I heard before, Leid Kamu, only it was a name that thing, that ghoul, hissed at me. Either I was recalling pieces of that dream, or else my name really was this person, Leid Kamu.

I then said to myself, Is that my name––Leid Kamu? If so, where is my personal history? Just then, the car bounced and slid sideways before the driver turned the wheel and managed to correct the turn. At that point, that road was deteriorated, and I wondered if it even was a road. For a second, I thought the driver was going to lose control and destroy both of us. Suddenly, the car recovered, then continued to bounce and sway. I went back to the, and, this time, I said to the driver, “Leid Kamu. Is that my name, mister? I’m having trouble remembering anything at this point.” Once more, the car slammed hard on its chassis and rocked violently, this time swerving to the left, then to the right, and finally back to center again. I shouted, “Hey! Are you trying to kill us both? I said slow down.” Then under my breath I whispered, “Unless that's what. . .” but I didn’t  finish the sentence. I couldn't finish the sentence.

I reached down toward the seat and tried to anchor my body and keep from sliding so much. It was obvious to me the driver cared nothing about anything I had to say, nor did he seem to worry about the sloppy ride that continued to aggravate me. I plundered my mind to give up its secrets, especially to tell me more about the name, Leid Kamu. The amnesty, however, it was caused, was resistant, however, and I seemed only to catch floating phrases or bits of information here and there. My senses were fully alerted, all except my cognitive powers having to do with a peculiar loss of memories. What the future held for me, I really couldn’t say. But here, I thought to myself, is where my past is more important to me than what I’m headed toward. At least then I might discern what this baffling mystery is all about, including the reason for my being with this strange stranger in the first place.

Violently, the car continued to shimmy and bounce, sometimes sliding, only to straighten out until the next near crash that I expected to happen at any instant. Down the gloomy road we drove, the insane driver and I, and there was nothing I could do to save myself. For an excessively large car, it seemed as possessed as the driver. I was still not sure what kind of vehicle I was in as if that even mattered, but something told me it did matter. There was more than enough ample room over my head, although, at times, the jolts were so forceful I felt the top of my head touch the roof. I tried to brace myself with both hands on the dashboard, except the seat was too far back for me to hold on. I grabbed the side and bottom of the seat and did the best that I could to keep from suddenly sliding into the driver, for that dreadful thought crossed my mind a couple of times. Why he felt he had to go as fast as he did I really couldn’t say. But if I was injured and en route to some medical facility, then he had his reasons to drive like a maniac. Then again, to risk a sudden crash by careening off the road, or even to tip the car too much one way or the other and risk a roll-over, this didn’t make any sense to me why he would risk this plight. 

Occasionally, I glanced at the drive to see if I could see what he looked like. But the shadows kept his physical features from me, although I noticed there was something strange about his tall, gaunt outline. There was something about him that I didn’t like, or eve it was a sense of fear I had about him that bothered me. His driving was the pits, which was the most worrisome thought I had about it. He never so much as gave me a passing glance. Instead, he continued to drive hunched over the steering wheel, which like everything else in the man’s car, was quite large.

Was it a few minutes that passed, or a hundred minutes? I wasn’t sure. Nothing felt right anymore. Everything seemed to be out of sorts, and for reasons I could not begin to discern. For one thing, the setting and drab scenery we passed, the excessively large vehicle, the mysterious driver, including my reaction to circumstances. Everything I noticed was accentuated as though to get my attention. If I had entered into a time warp, then reality as I knew it was no longer a reliable space-time continuum that I was part of. Instead, some other fluke and weirdness had happened. I turned just then and studied the driver, this time, with more scrutiny. He had something to do with this midnight charade. Of that, I was certain. It also occurred to me that perhaps the state of amnesia I was in, whether it was drug induced or by some other means, might turn out to be a prank.

A prank? I asked myself. Is this is a goddamn prank or something? Tell me. Is it? Disbelieving what I heard myself say, I took the query one step further and asked, Yes, but who’s playing a trick on me if this turns out to be the case? I angled my body in such a way that I leaned hard against the door, kept my eyes on both the driver and the sinuous road ahead, and thought to myself, “If he’s part of the deal, then he’s good, damn good to continue the role that he’s playing.” The more my eyes cut through the veil of darkness and shadows that separated us, the more I thought I saw a kind of bluish glow emanating from his facial features. I blinked my eyes several times to try and focus on the image. Each time, the pallor of his skin, if my eyes weren’t deceiving me under the duress I was in, was what I initially thought I saw - a blue tint. It could have been makeup, I determined, or even a mask. I wanted to call him on his costume if that’s what it was, but I didn’t know how to break this news. Still, there was something both foreboding and familiar about him, like I knew him from some other place, some other time. Where and when I couldn’t answer. Perhaps he thought his secret was safe and that would make the game he played even more suspenseful. But the question remained: why was he driving so reckless and fast? Was this also part of the ruse? I could only wonder.

At this point, I demanded answers to some of the important questions I had asked. First, I recalled everything that brought me to this very moment, that is, what I could recall. I concluded I must have been knocked out, definitely sound asleep, then suffered the pangs of what had to be the worst nightmare of my entire life. Then I awoke and found myself being taken to some, as yet, undisclosed location, as well as not being told why or how I got in the car in the first place. The name I heard earlier, Leid Kamu, may or may not have been my real name. I assumed nothing at this point, for without my past personal history intact, then everything was suspect. The idea of my experiencing a TIA still ranked supreme among my worries, since this would explain why my mind simply didn’t work the way that it should. But the other perturbing thought was the ominous vibrations I got from this stranger inside the car with me. It wasn’t just his careless driving, either. There was something else that I feared, something that he represented beyond his being the secretive chauffeur and possible owner of the vehicle. I simply had to get to the bottom of this sad business. Whether or not he found me injured alongside the road, or I volunteered to come along, then passed out soon after, none of that mattered. What mattered was why this dark journey into the black night continued. Only the road and car noises, along with an invasive draft, accompanied my thoughts. But my thoughts were far more disruptive than these other distractions. 

“What the fuck,” I cried out loud––carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide poisoning, mister. Maybe that’s why my mind won’t work. Maybe you’re in trouble to.” I said this to him and turned to face him and hear his response. But it was the same as before: he ignored me. I lost patience with him, though, because I reached out and grabbed his arm. I shouted "Do you know what carbon monoxide is,  you maniac? It means we both might die of these noxious deadly fumes that cast off no odor. Are you even a sentient being? Deaf? Stupid? Why don’t you acknowledge me? Are you mad?”

This time, my stronger reaction got a reaction out of the driver, but only slightly. For the first time, I saw him turn his head and stare at me. Even though I couldn’t see his eyes, and not too much of his face, it was how he looked at me that told me he did, in fact, understand what I said. The car continued to track its way down the road in spite of his not keeping an eye on the road. Now I was even more nervous, for the road turned this way, then that, like a ribbon that wound its way through the barren scenery. Finally, after some time had passed, I heard or thought I heard the man’s voice hiss at me. He said something to the effect, “Keeeeeeeeeeep quietttttttttttt,” only the words were drawn out as before. Then I thought I heard him snarl. Afterward, he faced the road again, and I climbed into myself as far as I could, just to try and hide from him.

Did he just say that to me? I asked myself; or did I only imagine I heard those words in my head? I waited for an answer that would never come. It was simply my mind that I had to convince was not part of what I thought I heard. If the driver would have said something further, then perhaps I could be sure that he did tell me to keep quiet. Instead, he drove on in silence and now the taunt silence and suspense were much worse than before. It was as though I had awakened a sleeping dragon, only this dragon was in human form, and he preferred the cold instead of breathing fire from his nostrils.

“I have to get out,” I said to myself; “I have to get out of this creep’s car. I must escape.” I told myself this several times and finally considered the only option I had was to take my chance and open the door, then jump out. It would be dangerous, perhaps even lethal to escape this way, but I was pretty sure he wasn’t about to stop the car and give me a chance to get out and walk away from this ongoing drama.

Feeling around for the door handle, I soon found it, then pressed downward. I wasn’t sure if it released the latch or not, but when I leaned on the door nothing happened. I leaned harder this time, even to the point I use my body to ram the door. It would still not budge. “Unlock the door,” I cried out to myself. “Yes,” I replied, “I’ll do that.” But I couldn’t find the button anywhere on the door; not even a latch. “Damn it,” I cursed myself; “I’m trapped. There must be a secret latch, and it’s on his side of the car. What do I do? What the hell can I do? Nothing’s going right for me. Nothing.”

I felt a damn of emotions break just then and I was about to break down. But the voice came again, the driver’s voice, and this time I heard him say, “Youuuuuuuu cannnnnnn nottttttt escapeeeeeeee meeeeeeee nowwwwwwwww.” It was the same drawn out words that came with a hiss and were followed by what had to be a snarl. It sounded like a wild animal. 

Jerking my head toward him, I fired back, “You mean I’m your prisoner? Is that it, goddamn you? Why am I your prisoner? I demand you tell me where you’re taking me.”

“Beeeeeee quietttttttttt! Sitttttttttt Stilllllll.” That’s all he said to me. I was about to argue with him when he added to these words, “Yesssssss. Yourrrrrrr nameeeeeeee issssssss Leidddddddd Kamuuuuuuuu.

I didn’t even have to ask him who I was, but he must have known this name had been on my mind all along. This macabre journey was preposterous beyond belief. Now I had a name, or so he just told me. But there was still no personal history associated with it. The driver knew more than he let on. Whether he was an actor or someone real and dreadful in all respects, I found part of what I supposed I really didn’t feel too good about knowing. It was clear that I was his captive, and for all I knew he might even turn out to be my executioner. Alarmed at too many possibilities all at once, I began to sob and whispered to myself, “My God, this can’t be happening. Why is this happening. Help me! God, angels, saints, anything, just please protect me.”

Again, the stranger said something to me without my having to quiz his further. He hissed, “Noooooo oneeeeeeeeee cannnnnnnn helppppppppp youuuuuuuuuu nowwwwwwwwww. Nottttttttttt evennnnnnnn Goddddddd.

My head swooned after that remarked, and I could scarcely believe what I heard. I felt lousy about everything but more than that I felt intimated, also very, very frightened. This evil presence in my midst was no actor. At least he gave me the impression he was serious. Compounding things was how the mental stupor I was in made me feel tired like I could sleep for centuries, yet my mind raced on, while my body seemed to drain of energy. A mini-stroke or some drug overdose slipped to me, weighed heavily on my mind. But what if this captor was the cause of my feeling this way? What if he really did intend to do me harm? On that thought, it crossed my mind what if he was merely the bailiff and I was being taken against my will to the real judge and executioner?

Each question only got worse and made me more depressed than I could possibly bear. I had lots of questions, few credible answers, if any, and way too much speculation that continued to spill out of whatever remained of my mind, such that it was. There were so many missing pieces to this mystery I hardly knew where to begin to try and solve any of it. 

I turned and glared at the driver. I wanted him to know how pissed I was but not altogether powerless. I needed him to think I had some kind of an edge except something told me that I didn’t. Still, it was time for me to try and be the actor in this macabre scene; it was time for me to take back the power I had obviously given away, simply by way of how enfeebled he and this situation made me feel. After this thought had passed through my mind I heard the distinct sound of laughter, a wicked sound that saturated my mind, and I knew it was meant to deride me. His head turned toward me, and the notion shot through my brain, “Oh my God, he hears everything I’m saying. How can he do this? Tell me it isn’t so. Please tell me it isn’t so.” The only thing I heard following my mental outburst was the same sinister sound of laughter. But the stranger who controlled both the car and my fate didn’t say another word. With my hands touching the side window I could only look out at the darkness and wonder how I could conceal my thoughts and make plans to escape from this compelling madness I simply could not deny was real and taking place in this weird void and trap I had fallen into, and through no fault of my own, I surmised.

I was on a bad road that was sure to end up at a bad place. This disturbing thought I could not deny or get out of my head. The gloomy forecast I pondered was also an imperfect match for the tedious ride and the portentous night that had engulfed me, along with this secretive retinue who spirited me away to some strange and foreboding destination I was en route to, much less why I would be a passenger in this driver’s lumbering vehicle.

And this creepy story and mystery continues for hapless Leid Kamu who is utterly trapped and has no idea what the hell is going on, except he very well may be in hell!