I knew my eyes were open, but there was nothing, nothing at all. My numb mind could only repeat the obvious, that it was dark, pitch black. I started to take a step, but stopped, feeling dizzy, disorientated. Where was I? My eyes began to catch glimmers. I saw that there were windows and some stray beams were entering through them. As my eyes adjusted, I could tell where I was.
I was in the old mill.
With visual cues, the feelings of vertigo washed away. I started to walk, being drawn forward, like a moth to a flame. I felt heat and for a second saw a very different mill, one that was a working place, but it was in flames. The clichéd analogy of the moth felt too close for comfort, yet I couldn’t stop myself from moving into those fiery tongues. Luckily it was just a second, and I was back walking in the dark across cold, hard wood.
How did I get there? I didn’t remember entering. Did I sleep walk?
My eyes were adjusting and I could make out more details. Some of the ancient beams had been burnt. I was following them into the heart of the fire, to the most burnt out place off all.
In another flash, I saw and felt the flames, heard the screams of the men locked in Thomas’ office. I saw a man as a shadow against the bright backdrop of fiery sheets. He was carrying a body to dump into the flames.
It was just a flash, and I was back in the stripped-out mill of the present, walking towards where the screams had come from in the earlier, echo of a mill. I was walking into the center of that fire that had happened so long ago.
I finally reached the epicenter and came to a stop. The mill of 1821 flashed back to life, but there were no flames, no screams, no people burning to death and no Thomas.
It was evening. I was in a large room dimly light by a single lamp and the last beams of the setting sun streaming through the window.
I heard a floorboard creak, a footstep. Someone was behind me.
I turned. The man, Thomas, was swinging a heavy iron bar at me, baseball bat style. I instinctively raised my arms defensively and cowered back, screaming. The bar struck.
I woke up, still in the cowering position. My alarm went off.
I got up and took my morning shower. I needed one worse than usual since the dream had left me drenched in sweat. I figured it must have been brought about by all of the stories, the ones about Thomas and the mill combined with the agitation of not talking to Lyndsey. A picture of Thomas at the mill came back to me. Did he use an iron bar to do his dirty work? Mike never said. Did anyone even know? Mike told me that there was no proof Thomas ever killed anyone. Did he just have some weird anti-Midas touch, that everyone he touched ended up dead through no fault of his? I couldn’t believe it.
When I got out of the shower, the mirror was foggier than usual. I tried to wipe it with my towel, but the air was just too damp and it fogged back up again.
A shadow appeared behind me in the mist covered mirror. I couldn’t make it out clearly, but I knew it was the black man that I often saw around the mill.
“In a few days,” he said, “the chess pieces will be in place for the endgame. You’re both a pawn and a king. When they finish playing you, you’ll say ‘check’, but they will answer ‘mate’.” He started to laugh.
I turned around, but obviously, nobody was there.
I shook the night and the visions out of my head. I already knew it was going to be a long day, but the start didn’t bode well.