Daymare

It's just like a nightmare, but during the day.

The words festered in Billy's mind like so many ants on a carcass, but he brushed the thought of them away and focused on his work.

Mr. Tims, his humorless boss of the last nine years, didn't like his employees daydreaming. He'd sneak around the warehouse, just itching to catch someone not doing their job. Once, he fired someone on the spot when he saw him sitting on some of the furniture on the storage shelves.

It's just like a nightmare, but during the day.

The words squeezed their way back into Billy's head. They refused to be ignored, reminding him that despite being spoken decades earlier they still hadn't lost any of their potency.

But why did he remember them now?

Billy shrugged it off (after all, what else could he do?) and started wrapping the next shipment of furniture for loading.

"What was that kid's name again?"

Chad looked over at his coworker. "Say what?" He was holding a roll of plastic wrap like it was a gun.

Embarrassed with himself for thinking out loud, Billy shook his head. "Sorry, Chad," he said. "I was just wondering about something."

"Oh really?" Chad replied, and after glancing around for Mr. Tims, asked: "About what?"

"Just a creepy kid who freaked me out once."

"Do tell."

"I was like ten years old and this kid…"

Nathan. Nathan Burloin.

"Nathan, Nathan Burloin was his name. He told me that he had such a bad nightmare once it leaked out of his subconscious and into reality."

Chad grimaced. "That's screwed up. Who was this kid?"

"I don't really remember. He lived in my neighborhood, but I never hung out with him." Gradually, the memories came back to Billy. "We were standing on the corner waiting for the bus one morning and I could tell he was upset about something, so I asked him what was the matter. He looked at me and said: 'It's just like a nightmare, but during the day.' "

Billy took a deep breath to steady the growing sense of unease he was feeling. He shuddered when he recalled that a few days after that fateful morning at the bus stop Nathan had vanished. His mom said he got into trouble with the Law and she sent him to his grandparent's house. Billy had no reason to doubt the story so he merely continued on with his life, never thinking about the strange kid and his cryptic words again.

That is until now.

"Billy, it's Tims!"

Billy spun around and caught a glimpse of his boss lurking around a corner. Fluorescent light reflected off Tims' shiny head, making him look like a human flashlight.

"Just stay busy and he'll leave us alone," Chad whispered while wrapping a sheet of plastic around a small table.

Billy nodded and continued with his work. He could sense Tims still watching him from his partially-hidden vantage point but the man wasn't doing anything else. He simply stood there, just behind a China cabinet, staring.

After ten minutes both Billy and Chad felt uneasy about their boss's behavior. Tims was a jerk but a predictable one. It wasn't like him to spend so much time in one place. He always liked be on the move, constantly trying to catch someone goofing off. If an employee was actually doing their job then he'd leave for greener pastures.

A shrill cry cut through the monotonous background noise of the loading dock. It was a woman's voice, laced with an undeniable air of horror that spoke volumes above and beyond the mere volume and intensity it possessed.

Billy and Chad looked at each other for a fleeting moment before dropping their tools and running in the direction of the commotion.

Christine McQuade, the newly-hired secretary for Mr. Tims, stood in the doorway to her office. She'd went to the lunchroom to get a new coffee cup (she had dropped hers and it cracked) and when she returned noticed the door to Mr. Tims' office was ajar. Since he never left it open she became suspicious, and after calling out for him with no reply, entered his office.

Mr. Tims was splayed out behind his desk. What was left of his head painted a section of the floor red, and his arms were stretched out above the mess, as if he had tried to defend himself. His computer monitor was still on, a spreadsheet of figures and charts across the screen.

Billy moved quick, stumbling into boxes and carts as he went. He saw Chad behind him, but he ran into a group of other people, slowing him down.

When he reached Mr. Tims' office Christine was standing in the doorway, sobbing uncontrollably. Streaks of makeup ran down her face.

"He's dead. Mr. Tims. I left…how did someone get in? He's dead."

Tiffany and Sarah from Accounting pushed their way through the others there to console her.

It's just like a nightmare, but during the day.

Billy felt a lump form in his gut. He knew deep down that what Nathan Burloin had said all those years ago was true. Something had attached itself to his dreams, turning them into nightmares.

And now that thing, whatever it was, was leaking into the real world. Or perhaps, and the thought made Billy shudder, it had been in the real world all these years. When it escaped from Nathan's dream it killed him and then vanished into the night, possibly surfacing periodically in the form of various guises and committing terrible crimes. Who knew what it had done during those years?

Now it had come back to him.

Billy turned to see Chad trudge up behind him. His face was flush and he panted for breath. "What happened?" he asked through a worried expression.

Billy grabbed his arm and nudged him away from the office. "Tims is dead. His secretary found what was left of him. Something murdered him." He didn't realize he said something instead of someone, but Chad did.

"What do you mean, something?"

Billy pulled Chad to the side. "I don't think that was really Tims we saw watching us back in the loading dock. I think that was the thing that killed the real Tims."

Chad looked at his coworker. "The thing?"

"Yeah, it's not human, and I think it came from a nightmare, and…"

The words died in Billy's throat when he saw the look Chad was giving him. It hung somewhere between disbelief and embarrassment.

But what stopped Billy cold was something else, something disturbing in Chad's expression that dwelled just below the surface…something evil.

Billy backed away from his coworker, never taking his eyes off him.

A look of confusion slid over Chad's face. "You need a vacation. You're talking crazy."

But Billy wasn't listening. He turned and sprinted away. He needed to get help. He had to find someone who would believe him, otherwise the police would be spinning their wheels looking for a killer, a human killer, and would undoubtedly cast their attention on him and the other employees. But the thing wasn't human. Surely it would be able to avoid detection, changing its appearance so it could continue to murder innocent people.

"You're crazy," Chad called out behind him. "And I'm sure the police will want to talk to you."

Billy ran through the warehouse and headed for the back door. All he wanted was to get as far away from it all as he could.

Chad stood there, watching Billy run like a frightened child. "That guy's crazy," he mumbled to himself.

"Yes, he is," a female voice said.

Chad spun around and came face-to-face with Christine McQuade, Mr. Tims' secretary. Her makeup was smeared beneath her eyes from her tears, but she was smiling.

"No one will believe him," Christine continued. "They will think that he murdered Mr. Tims."

Chad forced a smile. "Yeah, maybe."

"And by then there will be more of us, many more."

"Yeah, maybe," Chad said and smiled impossibly wide, a forked tongue poking out between his serrated teeth.

The two of them then locked arms and sauntered away.