Veronica didn’t understand why they looked for the monsters in her head, that’s obviously not where they were. Instead of listening, the doctors stuck pads with wires to her temples and increased the dosage of an IV that dripped into her veins.
They also told the nurses to tie her down with thick, leather belts every night.
The tethers didn’t matter though, because when the monsters came, she wouldn’t be able to move anyway. The only thing Veronica could ever do was scream.
The doctors called them “night terrors”. The pudgy lady who talked funny –– she told Veronica it was her accent –– said they were “spirits”. Mommy used the term “shadow people”. Veronica just called them “monsters”, and wished they’d stop scaring her when she slept.
They wanted her. Deep inside, on a primal level, Veronica knew the monsters –– or whatever they were –– craved her, and if given the chance, they would do something very, very bad to her.
The little girl tried to explain this to the doctors, the nurses, the accent-talking lady, and her mother, but none of the adults really listened. Instead they argued and shouted at each other, and huffed in and out of the room –– but the thing that frightened Veronica the most, is when the adults would simply shrug their shoulders, and admit that they really didn’t have any idea what the monsters were at all.
It was almost ten o’clock –– shift-change time. The night staff would come now. The nurse on duty was a plodding and lazy lady who would only check on Veronica at the beginning of the shift, and then abandon her in favor of the nurses’ station and a VHS tape of the day’s soap operas. Veronica didn’t like her. Sometimes it would take “Nurse Lazy” a full five minutes before she’d respond. She never came fast enough.
Veronica tried to tell the doctors that the nurse was too slow, but the complaints of a ten-year-old weren’t taken seriously against the word of the lazy nurse who smiled sweetly and said, “Poor dear and those dreadful night terrors. I always come running as fast as I can!”
Veronica cringed as the television automatically turned itself off. It always happened at ten o’clock; it was on a timer. She wasn’t sure why, but she felt it protected her and wished more than anything it could stay on. The noise, the pictures, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, there was something inexplicable about the TV that kept the monsters away.
Veronica’s pleas to leave the television on all night were never honored by the adults. Nurse Lazy actually once told her, “Oh, we can’t leave the TV on, it’ll give you bad dreams.”
Ha! Little did she know the TV prevented the bad dreams.
The door opened and in walked Nurse Lazy. Her metal nameplate actually read “Lucy”. She handed Veronica a little paper cup with a green pill inside and waited with a thin, forced smile. The longer Veronica took to take her medicine, the longer Nurse Lazy would have to wait until she could watch her soaps.
Veronica slowly picked the pill out of the cup. “Aren’t they ’sposed to be yellow?”
Lucy flared her nostrils ever so slightly as she replied, “No, your new doctor prescribed the green ones. Hurry up and take it.”
Veronica studied the pill closely, holding it inches from her nose. She looked at it slightly cross-eyed. “I don’t think I like the green ones though. Yellows are better.”
Lucy’s trembling hand clutched a Dixie cup of water. “That’s for the doctors to decide. Now eat it up! Time for sleep.”
Veronica painstakingly laid the pill on her tongue and grunted for the nurse to hand her the water.
Lucy thrust it forward. “Here, drink!”
Veronica pouted, even though she knew the cute face wouldn’t work on ol’ Lazy.
“Thanks,” she muttered as the nurse buckled down Veronica’s arms and legs and pulled the covers up to her chest.
“Goodnight,” Lucy grumbled. She snatched the mermaid doll that sat by Veronica’s side, and tossed it on the nightstand before careening out the door.
Random acts of meanness like that weren’t uncommon for Lucy. Veronica sniffed as the silence left in the nurse’s wake permeated the room.
Then familiar, tinny tunes from a transistor radio wafted through the air. It hung from the janitor’s cleaning cart. He always blared it while mopping the halls. There was that song again. Some stupid radio station played it almost every night right around this time. Veronica stared at her doll on the nightstand, just out of reach, as the lyrics began:
Dream the dream that only you can dream
Sing the song that only you can sing
Dance with me, we’ll start slow
Clasp my hand, now lose control
Bite the monster only you can see
And dream the dream you only dream for me
Veronica tried to squish her head into the stiff pillow so her ears were covered, but it didn’t work. The heavy metal song’s pounding chorus kicked in.
Spirits in the maze
Like a dream within the haze
Deep inside malaise
Force your screams to blaze
The song frightened her. It seemed to always precede a particularly bad episode. She really wished she had the yellow pills. She felt defenseless as sleep consumed her. The green pills would be no help if one of the bad ones came…the real Bad Ones, that is.
She twisted her head and glared into the large mirror on the wall across the room. People watched her from inside there. Veronica wasn’t sure if they were the doctors, the accent lady, or maybe even her mother, but every now and then someone would move, the light would catch just right, and she would see a figure behind the glass. Dimly, she watched them watch her. They studied her and talked about her and wrote notes about her on clipboards. Knowing they were there gave Veronica little comfort because they weren’t there to help; they were only there to watch.
Her sleepy eyes narrowed at the watchers and she whispered with dopey lips, “What, no popcorn? You gonna stare at me all night and you got no stinking popcorn? You’re all a bunch of stupid heads, ya’ know that? Stooopid heads...”
Sleep quietly took over while Veronica cursed the stupid heads behind the glass. She jerked her drooping neck with a quick snap to force herself awake, but the green pill was powerful. It pushed her into the darkness where the shadow people waited.
Veronica, here we are!
Veronica, time to steal your dreams.
Time to let us steal your dreams and break your bones and slip your soul right out of your slimy sack of skin…Veronica!
She fought to wake up. With all her might she tried to scream, but the green pill seized her motor functions and paralyzed her. She was like a petrified slab of meat laid out on a table –– unable to move, unable to cry out, unable to defend herself.
Do you know the evil that you dream, Veronica?
Do you know the song that only you can sing?
In the limbo between sleep and lucidity Veronica sensed their heinous presence with crystal-clarity. She was hyper-alert and instinctively knew these were the real Bad Ones. Without looking she saw one crouching in the far corner of the room. It glared at her intently and oozed animosity. It waited patiently, almost casually, for Veronica to succumb.
With a sudden surge of intense willpower she cried out — just a little — it was a tiny whimper that was barely audible. It wasn’t loud enough to scare the shadow people away though, and it definitely wasn’t loud enough for anyone living to hear.
Another Bad One pulled itself onto the foot of her bed. This one was small and hairy like an animal. Scrooching under the blanket, it crept slowly along the side of her bare leg. It felt for a nook to burrow — a soft place like her stomach or side so it could squirm and writhe itself into her flesh — where it could rip her apart from the inside out.
“Help,” Veronica whispered one last time before falling into the dark depths of sleep –– deep, down, spinning ‘round, until the darkness took a hold…
As an adult Veronica can barely remember the monsters that once haunted her dreams. But they remember her.
Lured to France by the job offer of a lifetime, Veronica decides to risk what little she has left to save her struggling interior design business.
As she becomes hopelessly tangled in the sordid whispers from the depths of the oubliette, Veronica must decide how much she’ll sacrifice for others, for her sanity, and for her life.
This is a story of sacrifice. This is Veronica’s Story.
Prologue to Veronica’s Story
Veronica likes mermaids. She collects them. They remind her of a time in her childhood when she was safe—a time before the night terrors.
Read the prologue to Veronica's Story...
Oubliette — A Forgotten Little Place copyright © 2016 by Vanta M. Black.
Website, art, cover, and jacket design copyright © 2016 by Black Château Enterprises.
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