- A Serialized Novel -

Sorting out Carson's legacy only leads to more questions.

Author’s Note: Back to the same nightmare…

Never a Useful Nightmare

Mackenna pulled on her robe as she rose, going to the door and looking out at the hall. She didn’t know that she’d been sleeping, she didn’t manage more than a doze most of the time, but if she had, that disappeared the moment she heard Carson screaming in the other room. She heard Mac moving around in his room, and she winced. He should be sleeping. He was too old to be woken in the middle of the night. Carson was her guest. She’d take care of it. She crossed over into the other room, going toward the bed.

What was that the experts said? Don’t wake people in a nightmare or a fugue? Or was it always wake them? Which was best?

Carson’s screams had stopped, fading into whimpers and one repeated word. “Don’t…”

Oh, hell, she didn’t care what the experts said. Maybe waking him was wrong, but maybe it would mean that he’d be able to remember something more for a change. Maybe it would just make her feel better because there was no way she could watch him like that.

She knelt next to the bed and gave him as gentle a shove as she dared, not wanting to startle him and hurt him, but she also wasn’t going to waste time getting him out of that nightmare. She couldn’t stand to see him like that, couldn’t take knowing that he was suffering, even if all of that happened years ago.

That didn’t make the pain fade in far too many cases.

“Carson. Hey, come on, now, you need to wake up,” she said, shaking him, trying to bring him around. After a moment, his eyes opened, and he blinked before shuddering and closing his eyes again.

“I woke the whole house again.”

“I wasn’t sleeping.”

“That makes it so much better,” he said, rolling over. He pushed himself up to a seat, legs tangled in the blankets. He grimaced, trying to free himself. “Damn it.”

“It’s okay. Mac’s gotten used to this sort of thing. I used to do to him every night. Trust me,” she said, sitting down next to Carson. She gave him a smile, but he didn’t return it. “Did you… remember anything this time?”

“No. It’s always gone when I wake up,” he said, kicking off the sheets. “Why? Did I say anything that could help? Or was it just babble again?”

“Screams, whimpers, and ‘don’t.’”

“That could be anything,” he said, sighing. She nodded, unable to disagree. “Could be me begging the killer not to hurt my father, could be me begging my father not to do something to me… It’s too vague. Why can’t I ever get something useful from the nightmares? It’s not too much to ask, is it?”

“Nightmares are only useful when they show you what you fear. You overcome that fear, and then maybe you can say the dream helped. Most of the time, they don’t,” Mac said. He gave Carson a long look, appraising him, and then turned, leaving the room without further comment.

Carson groaned, putting a hand to his head. “I don’t get it. I mean, I just… don’t. It’s not like we haven’t found the worst case scenario, right? My father molested me, and I killed him. So I accept that, and my mind can stop hiding it from me. I know what happened, I don’t need to keep it locked up anymore.”

“You still don’t know that is what happened. You don’t know that either of those things happened. Maybe the reason you’re afraid of it is that you don’t want to face the person who did kill him. Maybe you trusted that person too much.”

“I’ve been wondering if Grandpa did it for years. It’s always been my first assumption, and he’s the one I trusted the most. I don’t know, Mackenna. I’m so frustrated with myself, with my inability to look at what happened and see what it was. I keep saying I want to know, but I must not want to because I refuse to let myself do it.”

“Did you ever get checked out by a doctor?”


“Maybe the trauma’s not just emotional or mental. Maybe you were hit on the head or something. You have a problem with your memory from then because something got damaged when you were hurt. Did anyone ever look into that? Did they scan your brain or just put you on drugs and assume you were crazy?”

“I don’t think anyone did, no. I don’t remember any scary machines doing brain scans.”

She touched his hand. “That’s another thing to look into, then. Just have them see if you have any old scars that might relate to when that happened that could be physically impairing your memory. You don’t have any unexplained scars around your head, do you?”

“Only scar I’ve got on my head is right here, and that’s from when Nick hit me in the head with a shovel. It was an accident, but I had to get stitches. It’s not some random mark I’ve never known about or had an explanation for. I remember when it happened.”

“Okay. I could be wrong. I’m just throwing out ideas.”

“I know. I’m grateful, really, I am. I know I keep saying this, but… I need you. I don’t have anyone else. If I knew when it happened, maybe I could go back to trusting my brothers, but right now… I don’t know how to trust them. To trust anyone in my family.”


“You trust Mac, right?”


“It’s good you have him.”

“Yeah.” She shrugged, not wanting to go anywhere near her past. “So… since we’re awake, more cards? If, of course, you can stop accusing the winner of cheating. Just because they’re winning doesn’t mean they’re cheating.”

Carson rolled his eyes. “You only say that because you always win.”

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