Author’s Note—What’s up, guys. First of all I just want to say I thank you all for reading my novel, and I hope you all like it. And to all the haters out there, like Kevin and Jesse—you know who you are. And you know what I say—if you can’t beat ‘em, fight ‘em. And if you didn’t know I say that, I guess you’re lucky you’re reading my novel, Nightmares of Hell.
In the beginning, all I wanted was to get inside. I was inside and my cousin was asleep on the couch. I didn’t know that yet. I didn’t know anyone was home. I could feel the place was warm. Like either a fire was going, the furnace was on, or bodies had gathered.
I couldn’t imagine it would be the bodies. Those were the days.
I went inside. I heard the dog. She came all up on me. But she looked not the same. Like not the Labrador I knew. She looked older than the dog I knew. Later I would ask my cousin to explain the dog’s age.
Of course I’d have to figure out that he was on the couch first.
I pet the dog, that cooled her out. I said, “Hey big dog.”
I couldn’t remember if her name was Kailey exactly or something else, like Kiley or something. My cousin doesn’t come around very often. He’s old but earlier, when we had gathered, when the living bodies had convened at the table, he’d sat on the shortest chair. He looked like a bald kid with a gray goatee. Like some weird kind of baby. I thought if I called the dog the wrong name it would growl. I’d seen two deer outside. I stood between a baby and a mom. I knew the lore. One could say I walked briskly thereafter.
You probably want to know where I was coming from.
But first we’ve got to skip ahead.
I pet the dog. I bent down. I said, “Hey big dog,” and that cooled her out.
Nightmares of hell.
I stayed down there and kept petting her. My cousin’s a short bald child. The dog was friendly and young looking again. My cousin was asleep on the couch. The fire had burned down to embers. I put my hand up to double check. It felt good and warm, like red embers should. What did I know. I waved my hand around anyway, I batted the night. Why’d my cousin sleep on the couch? I wanted to know the same thing. He’s got a bed. Let’s save some stuff for later.
The second chapter of Nightmares of Hell is available here.
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.