I met a man in my dreams the other night. His name was Doug Manning, and I had killed him. I know that sounds weird, and you might think I’m crazy for saying it Mr. Journal, but it’s the honest truth.
I haven’t had any strange dreams in quite some time, and it has been nice. Other than my overall chest discomfort, I’ve been getting fairly good quality sleep at night. No weird dreams have contributed to that.
The night I took the Ambien I sort of… came to in my dream. Lucid is the word I think. The dream I was having at the time was half a nightmare. I was back in the house downtown that now serves us as a safe house, reliving the day I was shot, and I became aware of the dream right at the point where I saw the man’s silhouette in the mudroom.
Unlike what actually happened, the man walked into the kitchen, and was ear to ear smiles instead of scared shitless and pointing a weapon at me. I felt my heart race, and my palms get all sweaty, but in all actuality, he wasn’t threatening at all. The man with the ratty, dirty beard, and the worn clothes walked up to the other side of the island across from me, and produced the revolver he shot me with almost with a flourish, like it was a magic trick.
He spun the weapon on his finger a few times, and sat it on the Formica countertop in between the two of us. I was frozen solid. I knew I was dreaming, but it felt so real, and I was sort of confused as to why everything was happening different than what I recalled in my memory. It felt like going into your head to recall something familiar to you, and finding a much different memory than the one you expected to find there. Unnerving.
That’s when he started talking, and I knew something… more was happening.
“Adrian, my name is Doug Manning. I had to make an effort to speak with you. I don’t know how long we have. I hope you don’t mind too much that I’m bothering you like this.” His voice was clean, calm, and apologetic. I imagined he worked in marketing, or maybe management. If he cleaned up, I could totally see it.
I shook my head at him, smiling, “okay Doug, um, aren’t you dead? Aren’t I dreaming? How are you talking to me?”
Doug looked up at the ceiling, then back down to me and nodded twice, “yeah Mr. Ring you are dreaming. And yeah I died the other day. That’s kind of what I’d like to talk about.”
I don’t know why, but I got defensive, and a little paranoid, “you’re here to fucking haunt me aren’t you? Punish me for killing you right? Like I need more fucking guilt over killing someone that didn’t have to die.” I recall now that I unconsciously put my hand on the Glock in the holster on my thigh. Like a gun would help me fight a ghost in my dreams.
“No, no. It’s not like that at all Mr. Ring. Quite the contrary. I needed to tell you that I understand what happened, and that I had as much a role in my death as anyone else did. I wish things had gone different, especially now that I know…” And he cut himself off. I don’t know why he did, and for whatever reason it didn’t occur to me to press the issue. I won’t lie Mr. Journal, I felt a lot of relief about what he said.
“Doug the last thing that I wanted to do that day was shoot anyone. But after you shot at Patty, I had to take my shot. I couldn’t risk you hurting her. I don’t think I could deal with another person I care about dying on me.”
“It’s completely understandable. To be honest sir, I think dying the way I did will turn out to be for the best. But that’s too long story a story for today. I needed you to know that I fully understand why you shot me, and I want you to know that I forgive you.” Doug looked at me with eyes so sincere I couldn’t help but FEEL his honesty. It was as palpable to me as the warmth of the sun’s rays on my skin.
I choked up. It felt so good to hear someone forgive me, even if it was for something that I knew I had to do. I think about it now and I wish I could talk to all the people whose deaths I had a hand in during my years as a trigger puller in the sandbox. I’m sure most of them wouldn’t forgive me, but I wonder deep down inside if we could share a warrior’s moment with one another. Sometimes you want to know what’s in the other guy’s head.
I nodded at Doug because that’s all I could manage for a bit. I did the whole macho bullshit and staved my emotions down inside to prevent me from crying. I felt like I had to represent strength for whatever reason. Doug just nodded, he knew.
“Thanks Doug, I think I forgive you as well. I mean I hold no ill will, and I understand you were scared, and things went badly. I wish it had happened differently and I’m sure if it had, you wouldn’t have shot me. I’m not angry, and I hope you really do understand.”
He nodded again. Then his eyes drifted off, glancing over the things in his house. The house in my dream at least. I knew he had more on his mind, so I pressed him gently, “Doug is there something else you want to talk about?”
Doug licked his lips, and nodded once more. He took a deep breath, and told me what I knew all along, “my family.”
“Yeah. Where are they? Do you know? I had a feeling Doug, I’m so sorry.” I was dangerously close to cracking again. The thought of his family being abandoned like that was not pleasing. Imagine that.
Dad doesn’t come back. Ever.
Doug rubbed his eyes to hide the crying, and after a minute, he gathered himself. “I know they’re not dead. When I went into the house that day they were hiding in our truck down the street. If I didn’t come back, they were supposed to try my wife’s sister’s house. They might be there.”
“Where is that?” I focused on his words, I wouldn’t risk forgetting this when I woke up.
“114 Park Street here in town. Right off of Main. Green ranch with an attached garage, on the left side of the street.” Doug looked hopeful.
“We’ll look for them Doug, I promise you. What can we do for them? What can we do for you?”
Doug thought about his answer, “my wife is smart, her name is Lindsey. She can help you. She knows a lot about electronics and building things, she worked in a factory. My oldest daughter’s name is Madison. Maddie’s just nine, and she’s all you could ask for in a daughter. My littlest girl is Andrea, she’s just six. If you can make sure they’re safe, maybe take them back to Ba-, back to your school, or maybe even just helping them find a safe home. They can grow food if you give them some help, they won’t be a burden Mr. Ring.” He seemed almost desperate.
It didn’t occur to me to ask him what he was about to say before he said “back to your school.” I was so fixated on the idea of his family. I had to make them safe.
“We’ll try and find them Doug, I’ll see to it. You have my word man.”
The last thing I remember before waking up was Doug coming around the island in the kitchen, and taking my hand to shake it. He looked at me with the strangest expression on his face, like he was… shit, like he was almost proud to be shaking my hand or something. I want to say he was about to cry too. Maybe it was appreciation over my promise to try and take care of his family.
The last thing he said was weird. But cool. He said this, “Mr. Ring have faith man. Be strong. We have faith in you, and we aren’t giving up on you.”
And then I woke up.
I don’t know what to say. I am still digesting all of it. I am certain it was real. Positive.
After I woke up yesterday from that dream I felt significantly better physically. I almost want to say uncannily better. The bruising had gotten noticeably better, and my overall level of pain and discomfort had gone down. It was still sore, but much less so.
Abby and I were together all of yesterday doing shit around campus. Both of us are on light duty, so helping Ollie and Melissa was out of the question. Abby probably could have, but I really wanted to spend some time with her, and I don’t she was cool with me being on my own moving around doing shit.
Our project for the day was weapons maintenance, and armory work. Putting all our eggs in one basket is stupid, obviously, so after we broke down and gave everything a good once over, we set up a second gun storage area down in the maintenance garage. Back in… shit a long ass time ago I set up a quick bail out bag with a .38 and some food down in the garage. We amped that up and set up one of the lockers as a small armory. We put a .270 bolt action, a 12 gauge, one of the 9mm pistols we’ve accumulated, and a fair amount of ammo for each in the event we need to get the fuck out of here in a hurry. There’s rope, mirrors, matches, a hatchet etc. Enough basics to start again if we need to gtfo in a hurry.
We also made sure that each of the occupied halls had one shotgun, one rifle, one handgun, and sufficient ammo for each in the event we had to fall back or re-arm during an assault. This way, each home/hall has a small armory. Security really isn’t an issue, even though the Hall E main armory is under lock and key. All of the Halls lock on exit, and campus is never unoccupied now, so it’s not like it’ll be easy for anyone to break in to steal guns.
I built up the nerve over lunch and told Abby about the dream. She thought I was bat shit crazy, but I explained it to her, told her about how it made me feel, and I related to her the night of the dream I had about Cassie. The same night the horde of undead arrived here inexplicably carrying books. March 3rd. Once I said that, she was convinced that at the very least, we had to swing by 114 Park Street to see what was there.
It was nice to spend time with Abby. The more time I am with her, the more I cherish her. She is like the little sister I’ve already lost to this… bullshit. I do miss Becca. Abby’s almost like my daughter. I don’t even know what that means, I’m not a father yet. All I know is that she makes me smile, she makes me laugh, and I feel her joy as if it were mine. I can only hope that my joy, and my experiences with her are giving Charles some satisfaction, wherever he might be.
Abby and I played stupid about the dream conversation last night when everyone came home from their downtown work. The three musketeers are on slow down work while we’re shorthanded. Primarily we’re looking at fence removal, and building supplies. If they see an easy house to clear, they hit it. With all the people returning to town, we’re debating the wisdom of just taking all the food. I mean… what if these people really need the food?
The haul yesterday for them was moderate. Some lumber in a garage, a little bit of food, some decent supplies. Nothing to write home about.
I did ask Gavin and Patty an awkward question, which I needed the answer to before I moved any further on the whole, “Doug Manning” dream thing. I asked them what happened after I blacked out that day.
They answered immediately. Doug was dying, and he knew it. They knew it. He didn’t want to suffer, and he knew that he’d come back as the undead if he wasn’t, you know, dealt with. Gavin said that Doug begged him to kill him, but he didn’t have the guts to put a barrel to Doug’s forehead and finish him, so after they got Doug to the backyard out the door he’d come in through, Patty put the AR to the back of his head, and did him.
She said he was calm at the end, and she said that she shot him with little warning, so he didn’t get nervous about it. I could see clearly on both of their faces that the whole thing has fucked with them badly. I can’t recall, but I think that’s the first time Patty’s had to kill someone like that. Shooting a dead person in the head is a lot different than pulling the trigger on a living, breathing, crying human being.
But it needed to be done. She knew it, Gavin knew it, and every one of us sitting there listening to their story knew it.
What is necessary is rarely easy.
I’m glad he died quickly. I hope Patty is okay with all of it down the line. Losing a husband and son is bad enough. Killing those about to die is just terrible insult after grievous injury.
Today the crew went out to do more of the same. Fence accumulation and house clearing. While they were out Abby and I searched campus for a digital camera to give to Blake, and found one buried in one of the girl’s dorm rooms. Abby knew just where to look. I guess it pays to be a kid when you’re looking for kid stuff.
When the “out and about crew” returned, they had some interesting information to share. They’d cleared out two houses today, and both of them had a fair amount of stuff inside, which was great. However, right as they were wrapping up they heard a long series of gunshots from what Gilbert guessed to be about a mile from their location. They sat low, and about fifteen minutes after the gunfire stopped, they saw a large diesel box truck drive by, heading south on one of the side roads in town. They all said they saw three or four folks crammed into the front.
Scary stuff. No idea what that story is all about. More survivors moving around town. I should be excited, but I’m not. I’m also a little surprised we haven’t heard any radio traffic from the safe house walkie. I had hoped that we would’ve gotten word from someone, but alas, silence.
After dinner I got up and turned off the radio. We’ve all gotten into the ritual of listening to cd’s and itunes or whatever while we eat. We try to keep the music low key, and relaxing. It’s weird I know, but it works for us.
Me turning off the music was enough of a sign that something was up that I didn’t need to quiet everyone. It just so happened that everyone was at the table in Hall E tonight too, which made it easier. Gilbert was just wrapping up eating his last few bites of the quiche thing we had when I sat back down to speak my peace.
I told them I needed them to do something for me, and that I needed them to trust me. Everyone nodded, and I remember now that Abby reached across the table and took Gavin’s hand. She knew what I was about to say already, and I think she wanted some grounding in Gavin. He looked at her and smiled.
I told them about my dream of Doug. I told them all about his family, and where he said they went, and I plainly told them I thought it was real. After the dream I had about Cassie, and the weirdness of how we only seem to be dreaming of the dead, everyone seemed to understand where I was coming from. I didn’t have to fight hard to convince them.
From there I asked them if they could check on them tomorrow, and see if I was crazy. The house is a little off the beaten track from where we’ve been thus far, but it should be fairly good. If they announce themselves, and tell them our story, I think we’ll be okay.
We agreed that first thing tomorrow, Abby, Patty, Gilbert and Gavin would visit the Manning family at 114 Park Street. No one put up a fight about it. After that, we all did what we normally do after dinner, which ranges from go to bed, to watch a movie, to write on our laptops talking to a fictional person.
Gilbert hooked my arm just I as I was about to retire up here to write this. He looked me straight in the eye, and said this to me, “Adrian, I don’t doubt for a second that we’ll find that wife and those two girls tomorrow. I have a feeling you’re seeing a truth that the rest of us aren’t meant to. But son, what’re we gonna do if they’re there like your dream friend said? That’s three more mouths to feed. And two that can’t work? Shit son, you just shot their father. How do you think they’re gonna receive us? We look a lot less like help, and a lot more like we’re coming back to finish the job.”
He shook his head, let go of my arm, and walked away.
He’s right of course. Once again I could be sending my friends to their death tomorrow by asking them to do this.
But really Mr. Journal, how will that be any different than any other day around here?