JJ STOOD CENTER stage, half-blind, in a bright circle of filtered red light. Looking around franticly to locate its source before his eyeballs melted out of their sockets, he found the source of the brilliance. A Leko spotlight glared harshly down on him from above. Confused, JJ tried to focus his dazzled eyes beyond the unyielding sanguine illumination. JJ tried to piece together what he could see. Soggy orange and black crape paper festooned the riggings, while confetti and two liter bottle caps littered the otherwise empty Faygo soaked floor.
Am I standing alone onstage in Saint Andrew’s Hall, puzzled JJ? I am, was his horrific conclusion.
He looked back up at the glaring spotlight. JJ thought he detected the slightest of movements behind it. Not but a flicker of dark mobility within the gloom, beyond the radiance of blinding light. Shielding his poor eyes with his hands, JJ peered deeper into the darkness and instantly regretted it. Thick, inky-black tentacles began to form behind the spotlight, thrashing madly about. This has got to be a dream, JJ thought. Fully formed, the tentacles slowly engulfed the spotlight, crushing it like an empty beer can, snuffing out its blinding brilliance.
At the same instant the spotlight died, a wave of earsplitting feedback came blaring out of every speaker in the house. Fearing his eardrums would burst; JJ clasped his hands over his ears and clenched his teeth. Thankfully, the assault of feedback was brief; however, to JJ’s utter horror, a familiar forlorn tune broke through to take its place.
JJ still couldn’t make out any of the lyrics. It sounded to him as though the words were German or Russian, but since he only spoke English he couldn’t discern one from the other. Suddenly the floor below him was covered stem to stern with pale black-eyed children. Hundreds of black eyeless sockets boring straight into JJ’s soul. The cheerless crooning died. What replaced it however turned JJ’s blood to ice. A deep guttural sing song voice raged:
“Safe you slumber in your bed,
I come to take your precious head.”
Wake up JJ, wake up! JJ pleaded with his subconscious. Terrified, JJ tried to flee only to discover that his shoes had unbelievably melded with the stage. Frantically, he tore at the shoelaces in a vain attempt to free himself. The laces held firm. JJ’s fumbling seemed to alert the writhing, murky tentacles to his presence, and they swiftly proceeded to plunge toward him with deadly intent.
“Plead and snivel for your life all that you can,
You can’t hide your skull from Boogeyman!”
Sonofabitch I wish I had my hatchet! JJ screamed in his panic-stricken mind. The next moment—to JJ’s astonishment—the very same hatchet that he’d stashed under his pillow was miraculously there, in hand. Even more amazing was that the etching of the winged tree appeared to be radiating a preternaturally blue glow. Instantly, all panic and fears were driven from his mind, and were replaced by courage and self-confidence. Having rapidly closed the short distance to their prey, whipping wildly to and fro, the terrifying tentacles halted mere inches from JJ’s now sneering countenance.
“What’s the matter, asshole? Are you afraid of this?” JJ asked the mass of tentacles writhing before him, confidently brandishing his hatchet.
In response, one of the tentacles reared up and lashed out at JJ’s head. As quick as a whip crack. JJ, tapping into some otherworldly ability—and faster than perception could fathom—brought his weapon up in a smooth arc and cleaved through the tentacle a moment before it collided with his grill. With a shriek, the nub of tentacle recoiled, spraying black ichor across the stage, as the severed piece thudded to the floor. This elicited a roar of applause from the ghoulish, coal eyed audience.
JJ attempted to take a step back. So as to avoid the spewing black fluid, and was only slightly overcome with happy astonishment to find he was able to do so. His feet were unfettered.
In a moment of unbelievable cockiness, JJ cocked his leg back to kick the severed piece of tentacle off the stage and paused in disbelief. The tentacle was no longer a tentacle, but a severed hand—of massive proportions. JJ inhaled deeply to scream, when a booming bellow—emanating from everywhere and nowhere simultaneously—forced his own to catch in his throat. Then a familiar guttural voice addressed him.
“You punt my hand you puny boy, and you’ll become my brand new toy.”
JJ fixed his gaze intently back upon the tentacles, both fearing and swearing that’s where the voice came from. He couldn’t help but notice the audience of ghostly children had vanished. The mass of tentacles morphed before his eyes into a muddy vapor and from its murky depths emerged a huge, monstrous manlike form. JJ stared in astonishment as the giant lumbered forward, snatched the severed hand from the stage, and miraculously reattached it to the bloody stump where a hand had recently been. Then, with an agility and grace that should’ve been beyond such a hulk, the giant leapt upon the stage, to stand towering over JJ.
“So it is you; you are the one,” the behemoth croaked. “Taking my toys; spoiling my fun. I shall have back what is rightfully mine. If you refuse, on your flesh I will dine!”
Against his better judgment, JJ peered up into the titan’s face and was shocked to realize that he recognized the horribly scarred, onyx, and alabaster face glaring back at him. Stringy hair framed the leering two-toned countenance glowering down at him. A deafening boom resounded from the back of the Hall, as blood began to gush from the speakers. It was the face of the tree-thing; the face of the maggot-spewing arsonist; the face of the Boogeyman.
“I, I, I’m not a-a-afraid of you.” JJ lied, stumbling back a few steps to put some distance between him and—he couldn’t believe he was actually admitting this—Boogeyman.
“The air is rank with your sickening fear,” Boogeyman cackled. “You cannot hide it, I taste it quite clear. Now hand it over Joey-boy, I’ll ask not a third time. Or, retrieve it I shall, after I drown you in slug slime.”
Immeasurable, gut-wrenching terror froze JJ in place. He couldn’t seem to wrap his mind around what was happening. How did it know my name? Was the Boogeyman actually accusing me of jacking him? JJ mused, finally making his brain squeeze out lucid thoughts. This is ridiculous. I’m not a thief… It all hit JJ like a Front Kick to the face: Epiphany with a side order of clarity. All the damn nightmares, the secret stash of weapons in his closet procured from said nightmares, the different incarnations of that, this, THE Boogeyman! It was all so suddenly clear to JJ. For some cosmic reason he would never be able to comprehend, JJ was connected to this hideous creature. He could burglarize Boogeyman! With this foul fiend’s very own weapons he could hurt Boogeyman! He, Joseph Bruce Douglas, could end Boogeyman’s reign of terror.
JJ decided to give his theory a field test.
“You want this hatchet, big homie?” JJ asked, astounded by the steel in his voice. “You can have it when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.”
That being said, JJ again tapped into some preternatural swiftness he seemed to possess here in dreamland, and buried the hatchet deep in Boogeyman’s neck. Only, Boogeyman was no longer towering before JJ, but looming behind him with a look on his face, that would curdle milk still in the udder. JJ spun to face his nemesis once more and was greeted with an enormous backhand across the side of his nugget. Brain-addled, JJ crumpled to the blood-soaked stage floor.
With a sickening smirk on his two-toned face, Boogeyman stepped forward straddling JJ. He reached down and slammed JJ’s head violently against the stage with one powerful thrust. JJ’s eyelids fluttered as eternity swam at the corners of his vision. Struggling to remain alive, JJ tried to speak a word of reason when a huge hand clamping around his throat prevented his feeble attempt. Choking to death in Boogeyman’s vice-like grip, mind overloaded with pain and despair, JJ finally blacked out.