I am dreaming.
I’m in the bland horror of a conference room, set up with a regulated amount of metal tables and chairs, equally spaced, ready for a lecture perhaps or some motivational talk.
The hard, razorball in my gut tells me neither’s on the agenda.
And something else – I shouldn’t be here. I am not welcome.
A variety of people and ages sit at the table – older women, young men, middle-aged mums, geriatric men. They all have something in common – they share a look of anxious longing, bordering on desperation. Their eyes keep moving, they seem nervous – hands fluttering from mouth to table.
And there’s something else which unites them.
All of them are sitting with a child. The oldest is five, the youngest a baby in a pram.
I look at the table where I sit. There is no child.
I’m not the only one who has noticed. Necks are craning and eyes are focusing on me – lasering in, judging me. The atmosphere – already strained – begins to sour and I realise I am in danger.
Then there is a crackle in the air and I look beyond the tables and chairs to the front of the room.
This is where there would usually be a chalkboard or whiteboard – but there’s neither.
Instead there is a ragged hole in the wall – an opening at least five feet across and the same deep. There are bricks jutting out of either side like broken teeth. I look through and my breath catches in my lungs, turning to dry ice.
I am looking at something that can’t possibly be there.
Through the gaping maw of ragged brick there is red, porous rock, billows of steam and what looks like a cave of some kind. I become transfixed by it – too terrified to look, too terrified to look away.
Because someone is coming.
Someone or something.
Around me the people have become obscene with excitement, filled with a ravenous craving. I feel afraid of them, but not as afraid as I am of what is coming to the hole in the wall that cannot be, but is.
If I see what I dread is coming then I am certain I will lose my mind – feel it tear loose of its moorings. But I cannot look away – it is a horrible, empty longing – a dark whirlpool.
Abruptly, a stern hand on my shoulder pulls me to my feet. I am being strong-armed from the conference room, to an exit on the far left. As I pass by the tables I notice, with a sickening lurch, that the adults sitting at these tables are drawing life from the children – like one would draw water from a well.
Ice floods my veins and prickles every hair on my head as I realise they are draining the children to power whatever darkness is allowing that window into another realm to exist. I begin to scream, but no words emerge and I am thrown into a concrete corridor.
I look back to catch one final glimpse of the room and then the door closes.
I know with a sinking, frozen heart that I will spend the rest of my life looking for a way to get back in.
The dream changes and I am with an old friend – a fellow journalist – I am telling him about a hidden cult, who meet in secret, in bland, innocuous conference rooms around the world.
But always, at one end of the room, is that ragged hole into a world which no living thing should ever see.
It is a viewing bridge powered by the souls and the life-force of innocent lives.
He tells me he has a terrible secret to share. We decide to move to a hotel room and that is when it happens.
Somehow he loses his footing and plunges down the stairs, snapping his neck instantly. His face is turned at a grotesque angle.
He never told me the secret, but I realise with a chill what I must do.
I must find that room.
I wake up.