Quickly after falling asleep he began to dream. He was in smoke, thick, swift-moving smoke, which he identified with that smoke that had filled up the van that evening. Also, there was a vile smell, which he couldn’t identify. And everything was quiet, deathly quiet.
Alone in the smoke, he faintly could hear the sound of a drum. It grew louder and louder. When Paul discovered the source of the noise, he saw a figure, dimly through the smoke. Fascinated, he walked toward it, his arm outstretched in an effort to push away the smoke. The closer he got to the figure, the more distinct it became.
When he got near enough to see that the figure stood at an oblique angle to him, it turned, fully facing him. Paul stopped in front of it but did not look at its face. Instead, he noticed that it played a drum with only one hand. The sight struck Paul as comical, but then he noticed the other hand and arm were gone. At the shoulder, there was nothing but a gaping hole. And the figure kept playing its drum with a terrifying regularity.
Paul buried his face in his hands, afraid of looking at the figure any longer, and terrified of looking at its face. When he started to back away from it, something began pulling his hands away from his face. Indescribable horror welling up within him, Paul awoke and sat up in the dark stillness of his room.
“God, what a weird dream!” he whispered aloud in the darkness. He shivered, and his teeth chattered.
Ever since he was little, Paul had always been able to go back to sleep after a nightmare. But tonight was different. He was genuinely afraid; afraid he might dream again. The figure and its terrifying drumbeat were vivid in his memory, just across the barrier of sleep. And he knew, foil well, that if he dreamed again, he would have to look at its face. Therefore, he lay back in his bed, wide-awake and alert, for the rest of the night.
The next morning Paul, though tired, was excited about taking his letters to school. He tried to put the disturbing dream out of his mind but it remained, just at the edge of his concentration. But Paul would not let it dampen his excitement.
To protect his letters, he wrapped them in several sheets of typing paper and taped them all around. Then, he carefully placed them in a pocket of his notebook. He put the tape in his jacket pocket so that he could rebind his letters after he showed them.