It was October 30th, the day before Halloween. William carried out his plan of showering in the morning, and his parents didn’t suspect anything out of the ordinary. He knew he would have to think of some excuse as to why people would be here later tonight, but he had all day to figure that out. He ate his breakfast and was getting ready for school when he heard the phone ring. He didn’t think anything of it because the phone rang all the time with calls from telemarketers or for his parents. After he was dressed and ready, he went downstairs and found his mother with her hands on her hips and an angry look on her face.
“William Lewis Adler, do you know someone named Ms. Norton?”
The name was not familiar to William, and he felt somewhat relieved. Then all the relief was re-exchanged for worry when he realized that he never got the name of the woman who drove him home. She must be Ms. Norton. He began to say “Um,” when his mother cut him off.
“Let me help you out. She drove you home last night from Warwick Field at four o’clock in the morning. You didn’t take your medicine, did you?”
Sleep walking was a common thing for William, along with his night terrors, before he started taking his medicine. The furthest he had ever gone was the other side of the Tree Tunnel, never as far as Warwick Field. Since he started taking the medicine, the walking and terrors had pretty much ceased. Then last night he walked the furthest that he ever walked in his sleep and had such bad night terrors, that his own screaming woke him up.
William felt ashamed and looked down at his feet, “No ma’am.”
“Ms. Norton told me that you said it was alright for her and some friends to come over tonight and talk to you about your dreams, is that so?”
His mother got down on her knees right next to William and positioned his face, so he was looking directly into her eyes. Beautiful brown eyes. Comforting and familiar eyes. At this point in time, they were strict eyes.
“Don’t you ever lie to me about not taking your medicine again. I know you don’t like it, but you have to take it, or things like this will keep happening. I said it was alright for Ms. Norton and her friends to come over, but your father and me are going to sit in on your little meeting.”
His mother then pulled him in close and gave him and great big hug. William returned it. He felt so safe and warm in his mother’s arms. It was as if, for that brief moment, all the troubles that ailed him were gone. Nothing could hurt him, not with his mother there. He knew she would always look out for his best interests and make sure nothing, not Mister Fumplestink, or Wimbelwoan, or those strange things that came out of the moon would ever touch him. He wished he could stay in that hug forever, but sadly…
“Alright hon, time for school.”
School was almost as bad a nightmare as William’s actual nightmares. All the kids just talked about Mister Fumplestink and how great he was. They were all jealous of Betty, and some even talked about joining her in Dreamland. Mike and Neil had pretty much stopped hanging out with William. All they did was talk about what games they were going to play at the emporium tonight or how much they missed Mister Fumplestink and wished he was here now.
William sat by himself in class and at lunch. At recess he walked laps around the playground, eyes on his feet. Occasionally he would take a glance into the forest behind the playground at a bird or squirrel before continuing his lap.
After school, Mrs. Hutchinson gave William and Mike a ride home as usual. William told Mrs. Hutchinson he wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t play. He went to his own house and sat in the backyard. The doors were locked, so he couldn’t get inside. Sitting out there alone was better than having to listen to Mike praise Mister Fumplestink every second.
Eventually his mother got home and let him inside. He did his homework and patiently awaited Ms. Norton and her friends’ arrival. His father got home, and his mother filled him in about the people coming over to talk to William. His father agreed to sit in on the meeting with her. They ate an early dinner, so they would be ready for the arrival of their guests.
The doorbell rang. William’s mother went and answered it. William and his father sat at the kitchen table. They had pulled more chairs around to account for their guests. His mother came back to the kitchen, followed by three formally dressed people. Ms. Norton, another woman with a briefcase, and a short man.
“Hi William, this is Mr. Gantry, and this is Ms. Wong,” Ms. Norton introduced her two associates who gave William a friendly smile and wave.
William’s mother sat on the other side of William, so that he had a parent on either side, while the three guests sat across the table from them. Ms. Wong was the first to speak.
“You don’t mind if we record this conversation, do you?”
Ms. Wong nodded at Mr. Gantry, who retrieved a pencil and pad of paper from his coat pocket as well as a small rectangular recording device that he set on the table and pressed a button on. Ms. Wong smiled and turned back to William.
“Ms. Norton tells us you have been having interesting dreams. Is that right William?”
“And how long have you been having these dreams?”
“As long as I can remember ma’am.”
The three guests looked around at each other.
“Are the dreams different? Or are they always the same?”
“They used to be different, but lately they have been the same dream with the tent and Mister Fumplestink. The dream I had last night with the red moon was new. I have never had that one before.”
“Have you ever seen this symbol?” Ms. Wong reached into her briefcase and pulled out a photo. She handed it to William, and his parents leaned over his shoulders to get a glance. It looked like the stone wall of a cave. On the wall was a painting. A large black space with a red circle in the middle. The middle of the circle was black, just the edges were red. There were six more similar circles surrounding the middle one, three on the top and three on the bottom. The surrounding circles were smaller than the middle one. William had not seen that exact symbol before, but the way the red edges surrounded the black interior in a circular shape felt familiar. It reminded him of the horrible eyes of Mister Fumplestink and the moon right before it exploded. As he stared at the symbol and thought about it more intently, he felt that buzzing in his head.
“No ma’am I have not seen circles like that in that pattern,” he passed the photo back to her, and the buzzing left, “I have seen a circle like that in the eyes of Mister Fumplestink, and in the moon before the monsters broke it and made it explode.”
At this, Mr. Gantry scribbled intently on his paper, and Ms. Wong and Ms. Norton exchanged amazed glances.
“And you say this Mister Fumplestink is responsible for the disappearance of Betty Smith?”
“Yes, ma’am I know he is. He also has a friend named Wimbelwoan who won’t let Carl Harris leave his room.”
“How long has Mist...”
“Now wait a second,” William’s father cut in, “My son has been answering your questions, and you haven’t told him anything that may help him. Who are you people? What was that symbol?”
“Of course, I am terribly sorry. I got ahead of myself,” Ms. Wong seemed genuinely apologetic, “We are members of an order of scholars who seek to find the truth of the universe and existence as a whole. We rely on individuals with unique gifts such as your son. We call these people, prophets, and their gift is known as prophet’s sight. It allows them to really open their eyes and see the truth. To see things beyond our reality, and not only to see these things, but even to interact with them. Through the visions of the prophets, the truth is revealed. That symbol in the photo is known as the Isilinga. Every prophet of our order has seen that symbol at least once in a vision.”
“So, you’re saying that William’s dreams are actually visions into…into what, into other dimensions?”
“It’s a bit more complicated than that, but basically yes.”
“This sounds more like a cult than an order of scholars.”
“Yes sir, sadly in the past our order has been viewed as a cult, and some chapters of our order have even enjoyed treating it as a cult, burning effigies and dressing in robes. But I assure you, the majority of us are just normal people with different beliefs. I’d say it’s more like a religion than a cult.”
“Well what do you call your order?”
“We are formally known as The Culbreathian Order of Cosmotology.”
“Cosmetology? Like skin care?”
“No sir, like in the study of the cosmos. We are Cosmotologists, not cosmetologists, though many refer to us as Stargazers.”
“Wait a moment,” William’s father stood up, “I remember hearing something about the Stargazers. You were a part of some kind of organized crime scheme down in Georgia! It was all over the news some years back. All about how a cult was responsible for some international human trafficking scheme. Most of the town was involved. That investigation went on for years. I don’t want any of you near my son. How do I know we can trust you?”
“Sir, please. What happened in Sam’s Creek twelve years ago was very unfortunate. That was a small, isolated chapter of our order. Please don’t let their actions get in the way of helping your son.”
William’s mother turned to his father, “James, let’s hear them out at least,” William’s father sat down and crossed his arms. His mother turned to the guests, “How can you help our son?”
“The same thing that has been happening to your son lately, these visits by this Mister Fumplestink character, this isn’t a new occurrence. Other prophets of our order have…”
William’s father cut in again, “Please stop talking about William like he is one of your prophets. We are a happy Catholic family, and none of us plan to become Stargazers or whatever.”
“Yes sir, of course. I’m sorry about that. There are prophets in our order who have had similar interactions. The founder of our order, Prophet Thomas Culbreath, had visions of an entity he referred to as the Tormentor, who commanded other entities, which he called Pursuers. The Tormentor and the Pursuers harassed Prophet Culbreath for the final part of his life, right up to his execution by King Charles the first of England in 1642. We believe that Mister Fumplestink is this entity, this Tormentor, and this other character, Wimel-Whym,” Ms. Wong looked to William for assistance.
She smiled a friendly smile at him, “Yes this Wimbelwoan must be one of the Pursuers. Another prophet named Makoto Kobayashi, who lived in Japan during the 12th century, drew out many of his visions, including this one,” Ms. Wong handed William another picture. This was a painting that depicted a man clutching his head and screaming in the foreground. Encompassing the background behind him was a large man wearing a purple robe with many yellow and green wrappings. The face of this man was round and white. The mouth was a large smile that took up half of the face. The eyes resembled the circles on the symbol, red outlines with black on the inside. There was a strange purple wrapping on his head, and yellow wrappings around his outstretched hands.
“Th-that’s him,” William said as he handed the picture back. His hands were shaking, and he felt scared. He was happy to know he wasn’t the only one who experienced something like this, but he felt all the more scared because this confirmed everything that was happening was real and not a dream.
“Prophet Culbreath also said this picture depicted the Tormentor that harassed him, though in different clothing.”
“Well what is this thing? How can we stop it?” William’s father asked. He had become angry now. He was scared, and the only way he could hide his fear was behind anger.
Ms. Wong took a piece of paper from her briefcase, “This is an excerpt written by Prophet Culbreath in his private journal two days before he died,” she cleared her throat and began to read, “My colleagues try to give me sedatives to free me from what they call, ‘just a dream’. The fools. Sedatives would only weaken by mind, and I need to stay sharp more than ever before. The Pursuer has been following me for three days now. Wherever I go, whatever I do, it is there. The mangled body has become commonplace in my day to day. I manage to avoid it but for how long? The intentions of the Tormentor are unclear to me. At first, it treated me as a friend and even shared knowledge with me. I deemed it a friendly arbiter. More and more now, the attention it asks of me is draining. I tried to reason with it. I tried to turn it away, and that is when the Pursuer came. Follows me wherever I go, vision or no vision. The Tormentor must desire my ability. The prophet’s sight that gives me my power. It targeted the Mad Prophet Makoto Kobayashi for the same reason; I’m sure of it. Ever since the Tormentor came, the crown has placed more and more pressure on me to renounce my beliefs. It won’t be long now, I know it.”
Everyone was silent for a moment. William’s face was white. The final words of the excerpt kept repeating in his head. It won’t be long now. Ms. Wong eventually broke the silence.
“Prophet Culbreath believed it was after him because of his prophet’s sight. He believed that is the same reason it appeared to Prophet Kobayashi. They possessed a power that other people did not have, and it wanted them because of it. Prophet Culbreath believed he may be able to beat it with the power of his mind. You aren’t taking any medication are you William?”
This time it was William’s mother who cut in, “He has to take his medicine! When he doesn’t, he sleepwalks or has night terrors. Sometimes both.”
“Okay I have had enough of this,” William’s father piped up, “You people need to leave our home right now. I will not let you poison the mind of my son with your lies any longer. Get out!”
“Mr. Adler, please,” Ms. Norton began.
The three guests packed up their belongings and headed towards the door. Ms. Wong turned around and said, “The other prophets didn’t have visions or encounter the Tormentor until much later in their lives. William must have an exceptional gift. Maybe someone in your family also had the gift. Please don’t make him take any medicine, it could be the difference between the life and death of your son,” then she turned and walked out the door, closing it behind her as she left.
“William,” his father turned to him, “Listen to me son…”
“Who were my real parents?” William interrupted his father.
His parents looked at each other, and his mother spoke.
“The truth is we don’t know. We tried to find them, but it seemed no one had any idea who they were. The only information we ever received about them was that they died when you were very young.”
“I need to go to my room,” William got up from the table and ran up the stairs to his room. He jumped into his bed and started crying.