I had a scary dream last night… and now that I think about it, it wouldn’t be at all dramatic if I called it a nightmare.
A South Korean Army Major (?) –who looked an awful lot like Park Joon Gyu- had been called into his superior’s office. He was told that the base had received some aerial photographs of a random area that just so happened to catch something odd: smoke rising from a series of outhouses in a zone barred off to the public for reasons the major knew ‘all too well.’
The next thing I saw was a tentative Major treading carefully down a long pathway.
I want to add here that despite the distinct Korean element, the setting was typically English, which says a lot about the dreamer; uneven, barren and blocked off on all sides by spindly trees, it looked like every forest walk in England.
With each step, his expression ranged from a little fraught to just plain panic-stricken, not that his men saw. They were far too busy tagging along behind, jovially taking the piss out of each other to care or even notice.
I don’t think they had worked together before, i.e. this was their first assignment as a team. They were all a lot younger than the Major save for the medic who was just as quiet as he (though I gathered this was because his personality was somewhat humorless to start) and resembled actor Jung Ho Bin.
It makes one wonder if the steep decline into darkness said something about the events that had (in the past tense) and were (future) about to happen. Nevertheless this long walk down the secluded path was full of mindless conversation and hi-jinks until they reached the outhouses.
There couldn’t have been any less than a dozen in total, all blackened, all with the doors nailed shut… from the outside. Nothing but thin, dry grass coated the floor, not naturally but as if someone mistook the grass for hay and the surrounding area for a barn floor. The location was completely isolated, the air like a vacuum. And it had this sort of feeling to it, the kind that would cause you to look over your shoulder.
No one liked the place. But, on the Major’s orders, the team promptly split up to search the area.
That was when the dream took a turn for the strange and downright creepy.
Whilst the others ventured into the black houses, the Major stood alone amidst them. He walked so slowly it was hard to tell if he was moving at all and he eyed the outhouses in the same way a paranoid schizophrenic might eye a busy crowd. It was then that a flashback jerked the dream out of ‘reality’ and into a kind of ‘hyper-reality’ tinged in black and white and largely obscured by a lens glare. It involved gunfire and the kind of screaming that would make your toes curl.
After the horrific snapshot had passed the Major was stood frozen in place. It would appear that the outhouses had also moved in closer. That was when I saw it. An odd figure moved behind him. It was obviously human; I could just make out his or her shoulder lurching forward with each collapsing step. As the Major stiffened for a moment it was clear that he felt it, too. He knew he wasn’t alone. Yet the figure was no longer there when he whirled around to meet it.
Cut to an unspecified amount of time later and the team had opened and searched most (if not all) of the outbuildings. There were no signs of tampering, traces or evidence of squatters and/or trespassers.
A lot of time was wasted removing countless nails from the doors and window frames, including the ones to the biggest outhouse, which quickly became the ‘overnight base.’ All in all however the search had offered up very little; they had found aged, greying belongings, a few suspicious-looking fragments here and there. However, most of the day had been spent speculating what on Earth could have happened. Speculation that soon turned to what was wrong with the Major, who had been sitting alone in the darkest corner of the room for over an hour.
That was when the smoke returned.
As night fell, trails of thick smoke began snaking out of the farthest outhouse backed by a black thicket. The door had been closed and the nails driven haphazardly back. The team awoke to the stifling mist that had shrouded their makeshift quarters.
Another of the Major’s flashbacks returned –prompted by this turn of events- and I started to get this horrible feeling (as the faceless observer of this scene) that a kind of systematic execution took place in those outhouses. An incident in which the Major took part, an incident that was supposed to be kept secret. Only this secret didn’t want to be kept; it wanted to break free and seek out those responsible. Perhaps it already had and the Major was the last name on its long list. I don’t know for sure.
One thing I do know is that after I awoke from the dream, I knew it was going to be a long night for the Major and his team, and that things were going to get much, much worse. Not only that but the dark, oppressive feeling those outhouses emitted had somehow seeped into my own bedroom.
It had followed me into consciousness.
It had followed me home.
Megan E. Smith copyright 2013-01-25