Nick was suddenly in a hallway of what appeared to be a hospital. People were rushing by him pushing hospital carts. He went to ask a nurse where he was, and the nurse paid no attention to him. He then asked another nurse, but got the same response. He continued to ask; yet no one paid him any heed. Was everyone preoccupied with what they were doing, or was it just a dream? In the past, Nick had experienced lucid dreaming, so he attempted to lift himself up into the air. It was a trick he had learned while studying lucid dreaming. If he was able to pull himself up in the air without jumping, it was a signal that he was in a dream. Sure enough, he lifted himself off the ground, and therefore he knew he was dreaming.
Secondly, he needed to take control, so he attempted to change the scenery. However, the scenery would not change. This was rare in Nick’s experiences of lucid dreaming, so he concluded that this dream was “meant to be.”
He felt compelled to continue down the hall, and ended up in the maternity section of the hospital. He noticed a couple of men leaving with a baby; both dressed in black suits. He thought he recognized one, but couldn’t place the face. There was a scar across the man’s right cheek. The scar was prevalent on his face, and even though Nick thought he recognized the man, he did not recognize the scar. The other man, about the same height and same colored hair was not looking in his direction, so Nick didn’t get a good look. It almost seemed as if he was seeing double. He found it awkward, but soon passed it off as meaningless and continued on.
From the same room that the two men came from, emerged a young doctor, and Nick had to do a double take. He had known Dr. Fritzspringer from when Lisal birthed Natalie. However, this man looked like a younger version of the doctor, perhaps his son. He appeared to be about Nick’s age, but Nick knew that the Dr. was nearing 60 in real life. He appeared nervous, and quickly entered a room down the hall.
Nick came to the conclusion that he somehow appeared invisible to those around him. Then his blood ran cold. Flying down the hall was a gigantic bat-like creature. It gave off a stench of rotting death that caused Nick to almost vomit. The creature seemed to be able to see Nick. He gave Nick a snarl and flew pass, appearing to vaporize through a door at the end of the hallway.
Another creature flew down the hall. The creature looked at Nick with his penetrating red eyes, and Nick recognized this beast as being the same type he saw in the hall when he was looking at room 27A. This creature seemed to take the same path as the younger version of Dr. Fritzspringer. Nick believed these creatures were manifestations of negative energy in the astral plane. Normally. Nick was able to banish them, but this dream seemed to be revealing itself whether Nick wanted it to or not.
He wanted to run, but something drew him on, as if there was something he needed to see. He moved up to another window and peered in. This was the room that the young man who appeared to be Dr. Fritzspringer’s son had left. He noticed a woman weeping bitterly. Nick felt he knew the woman, but couldn’t get a close look due to the fact that her head was buried in her hands as she wept. He felt a strong compassion for her, even though he did not yet understand the situation.
Right near the window he was peering through, there were two bassinettes. One held a beautiful baby girl. The baby looked healthy and looked at him with a glow in her eyes. Strangely, the baby he was viewing looked almost identical to his daughter, Kiere, when she was born: not exactly, but close. Another thing that took Nick by surprise was that it seemed, unlike the rest of the people in the hospital, the baby could see him.
He moved his finger back and forth, and the baby’s eyes followed, as she giggled. Through the window, Nick saw a calendar on the wall. He about jumped out of his skin when he saw that the year was 1985, the year he was born. He began to notice that the hospital equipment, which was being used, was very outdated. He realized that he was over thirty years in the past.
The second bassinette was empty. The emptiness troubled Nick, because it seemed like there should be a baby lying there. It was then that Nick remembered the two men leaving the hospital with the infant. They were kidnapping this poor woman’s baby. No wonder she was crying. It made sense to Nick why he held such compassion for this woman. He had to stop them. Nick dashed down the hall, as a few people got in his way. He braced himself for a crash, but none came. He went right through the people and, in fact, went through the door without opening it. Nick always wondered why in dream world he could go through things, but the ground beneath him always felt solid. The images blurred to his sides, and he felt himself running faster than normal.
He exited the hospital and looked around. He quickly spotted the horrid creatures flying away from the hospital. Underneath them was a car leaving the parking lot. There was no way Nick could catch them, for the dream wasn’t allowing him. This all had to mean something, and Nick told himself that he would write the dream down upon awakening.
Nick heard a ring and noticed a payphone near him. The second ring was louder, and the third sounded like it was held right up to his ear.
He jolted out of his sleep and picked up the phone by his bedside. “Hello!” His voice was raspy from just waking up.
“Hi, yes, Nick?” The loud voice was jarring after just getting up.
“This is Doug, could you come to my office ASAP?”
“Yeah, just let me get up and get ready.” Nick quickly wrote down the dream and threw some clothes on. He wondered what could be so important that Doug would call with such urgency. Perhaps he had a lead of some sort. It would be the first lead, but Nick didn’t allow himself to get his hopes up.
A light rain filled the air outdoors, and the overcast sky did nothing to lift Nick’s dreariness. He could feel his head still spinning from the alcohol the night before, and he did everything he could to shake it off. This convinced him to stop at the store to grab coffee and a few donuts for breakfast. Nick had not been paying close attention to his diet ever since Lisal went missing. Normally, he would have a fruit salad and some eggs in the morning, but he had lost focus on that.
He arrived at Doug’s “office.” Doug obviously had not had a quality breakfast either, since the house didn’t smell of freshly cooked food as it had when Nick visited for the first time. The only scent was a lemon odor from Doug’s wife dusting off all the wooden furniture. Doug called him in quickly and told him he had a few things to discuss. Nick’s adrenaline was rushing from a mixture of fear and hope. Fear probably the more prominent emotion.
Doug delved right to the point; “First of all Nick, did you know that one of the church leaders at Lisal’s church is a member of the Enlightened Dawn?”
“No why? What’s that have to do with anything?” Nick asked, thinking the question was rather strange.
“How much do you know about the Enlightened Dawn, Nick?” Doug seemed sincerely concerned, which only troubled Nick more.
“All I know, is that they do things for the community and help people out.” That was the truth. Nick had witnessed members of the Enlightened Dawn delivering food to the needy, setting up charity events, and so on. They never seemed like a threat to anyone.
“So, in other words, you know virtually nothing about them.” Doug boomed.
“I…guess not.” Nick replied a little hesitant.
“All right then; I’ll explain them to you a little bit. You are correct in that most members of the Enlightened Dawn hold meetings and do things for the community. Many of them are sincere honest men. However, there are higher degree initiates like the ninth and tenth degrees, which tend to be highly secretive.”
“So, what does this have to do with anything?”
“OK, OK, I’ll get to my point.” Doug went on “Deacon Boomhower is a ninth degree member. What’s so unusual about it is that Christian churches in the area are mostly a little iffy on putting a member of the Enlightened Dawn in leadership. At least the Christian churches with good and honest intentions. So apparently, Lisal’s church either doesn’t do good background checks, or something else is amiss.”
“My question is, what’s this have to do with my wife?” The frustration showed in Nick’s tone. He wasn’t looking for a lesson on the Enlightened Dawn. He wanted to know where his wife was.
“I’m sorry, I’m just trying to puzzle it all together. I mean your wife did disappear after that night at the church. Deacon Boomhower is a ninth degree initiate and a leader of the church, which I believe is a contradiction. Did Lisal ever talk about Deacon Boomhower?”
“A little, she never particularly cared for him, and said that sometimes it seemed like he was hiding someth…” Nick paused, putting two-and-two together, and finally Doug’s point made more sense.
Doug smiled, “I believe we are onto something.”
“I don’t know still. Just because someone acts secretive doesn’t mean they would set out to harm someone.”
Doug decided to lay a lot more information on Nick than he expected. “I probably should mention this. I’m sure you know that our daycare center has a problem with kids disappearing.”
“Yeah,” Nick answered, “but is our daycare much worse than other daycares?”
“Actually, it is. Most Daycare’s are pretty safe places to send your kids. In fact, most daycares across America have not ended up with one single missing kid while they have been in business. At least permanently missing.”
Nick felt a little concerned about this, especially since he sent his daughter, Natalie, to that daycare when she was younger. Fortunately, nothing ever happened to her, but there was a time she went to the daycare and one of the kids ended up missing. Nick remembered it clearly just after Natalie turned five. He picked her up, and she burst into tears.
“What’s wrong?” Nick asked.
“Isabella; she’s gone!” Natalie said in between sobs.
“I’m sure she is just sick or her parents moved.” Nick tried to reassure.
“No dada, she’s gone!”
Of course Natalie was too young to explain herself fully, but when Nick returned home, Isabella was on the news and missing. Nick didn’t realize that it happened in the morning between the time she would have arrived at daycare and lunch. Now, talking to Doug, he began to see the strange coincidence.
Doug continued, “Over the last twenty years, Nick, there have been twenty-seven kids who suddenly went missing. Not only that, but they were all females. This is not about kids who simply run away. It’s much worse. These little girls are never found; dead or alive. I’ve pointed this out to Sheriff Ralph Mckeller, but he thinks I’m full of non-sense. Derek is the only one that will listen, but neither of us have been able to get to the bottom of this.”
“So what are you thinking?” Nick asked, now craving more information.
“What I’m thinking, is there is something very sinister going on. There is a man who works there by the name of Thomas Greene.”
The name rang a bell for Nick. “I know Tom, and he seemed like a really nice guy.”
“Maybe I’m wrong, but I find it quite a strange coincidence that he is the only daycare worker who was present every time one of those twenty-seven girls went missing.”
“Good point, but the daycare is open Monday through Friday, so they would basically have the same people everyday, just like a school teacher.”
“I understand.” Doug said, obviously not buying it, “but people take vacations, sick days, and so on. I was able to find out the amount that Tom was there, and on average about seventeen out of every nineteen days. Yet, twenty-seven out of twenty-seven of those days, he was there when a girl went missing.”
“Is this all the evidence you have on him?” Nick was feeling a tad skeptical.
“Well, besides the fact that he ranks quite high in the Enlightened Dawn, ninth degree I believe.”
“And you somehow believe this is connected to my wife?”
“I’m thinking maybe. Ralph Mckeller is also a ninth degree member of the Enlightened Dawn, and he is the one who refuses to press the issue further and do a deeper investigation. Maybe your wife found something out, and Deacon Boomhower had to remove her from the picture.” Doug noticed Nick’s downcast eyes. “I’m truly sorry Nick, and hopefully she is alright.”
“Yeah, this is really upsetting. Everything seems so strange.”
“Yeah, unfortunately I only know of the ninth degree Enlightened Dawn members. I have failed to figure out the tenth degree ones. The Enlightened Dawn seems to be something only in this area. It is extremely difficult to get information on them. I can’t even figure out who founded them or when they truly began. It had to be at least thirty or so years ago.
“So you think the tenth degree ones are behind everything?” Nick asked.
Doug let out a deep breath, “Perhaps, but I don’t know for sure. I’m just trying to piece everything together.”
Doug looked thoughtful for a moment and then replied, “Nick, there is one last part to it.”
“And what’s that?”
“Your wife was there Friday night doing the bulletin, am I correct?”
“Did you know that Deacon Boomhower also goes there often on Friday nights to do some of his own work?”
“No, I didn’t know that,” Nick admitted. “Are you thinking…?”
“Yes, I am thinking,” Doug gave a pause, “I’m thinking we at least have the guilty one who kidnapped your wife…Deacon Boomhower.”