Inspector Brandt and Officer Ziegler were out on a routine night patrol through town. Both of them knew that these patrols were a waste of time. Nothing ever happened in their small town. The worst they’d ever ran into was a few drunk teenagers making a ruckus.

This night it was different.

As the two of them drove down the main street, they suddenly saw a figure standing in the middle of the street. It was a partly naked, long-haired young man. He looked scruffy, dirty and covered in something dark. When the headlight of the car illuminated him entirely, it was clear in an instant that it must be dried blood.

The moment the man noticed the police car he started running. Brandt and Ziegler gave chase, and within a couple of minutes, they caught the man.

As Brandt handcuffed him, he demanded to know where the blood was from. It was evident that it couldn’t be the man’s own. There was way too much of it.

At first, the man stayed quiet. The moment Brandt shoved him in the back of the police car, he gave a simple statement:

“The girls,” he murmured without any noticeable emotion.

The inspector kept asking more questions as they drove back to the station, but the man stayed quiet.

While Ziegler sat down to write a report, Brandt led the man to a cell and soon after decided to question him.

The man was sitting on the bench in the cell when the inspector returned with a chair and sat down in front of him. Before Brandt could even say a word, the man asked him a single question:

“Do you believe in dreameaters?”

“The hell are you talking about? I am not in the mood for any of this crazy shit.”

The man smiled a bit before he continued talking.

“So? Do you believe in them?”

Brandt sighed. Got another crazy one, he thought.

“What did you mean when you said ‘the girls’?”

The man was quiet for a moment as if thinking about something.

“They are evil spirits,” he rambled on, “they enter your dreams, give you nightmares and make you do things while you are asleep. They are small, slimy things, got no arms, no legs, just tentacles. And one, single eye. They use it to stare directly into your dreams… and your soul.”

Brandt couldn’t help but be crept out by what the guy was saying. It took a special kind of crazy to come up with stuff like that.

“What did you do to the girls? Is it their blood?”

The man looked at Brandt with those, empty, emotionless eyes. For a moment his mind seemed to drift off to whatever crazy reality he was living in. Then he spoke again.

“It is theirs?”

It was more a question than a statement. Brandt took a deep breath. This way he’d not get anywhere.

“Okay, asshole,” Brandt started and got up from his chair, “we found you covered in blood, we know it’s not your own, and you were mumbling about ‘the girls’. So how about you fess up?”

The man lifted his head and looked at Brandt’s face.

“I, myself did do nothing. I did lots of shit, but I didn’t kill them, no.”

Kill? Jesus, what had he stumbled upon here, Brand thought. He’d left the city behind to get rid of those types of cases and now that? Freaking hell, he cursed to himself.

“If you didn’t do anything, why are you covered in blood?”

At that moment the man looked down at his own body and seemed to be puzzled. Then he looked up at Brandt again.

“How about I tell you a bit about myself mister inspector? I am sure you’ll understand what I mean afterward.”

Brandt was about to yell at the guy again, but then he yielded and nodded. Might be the only way to get anything out of that guy, he thought and sat down on his chair again.

“Well, as you can guess, I am not from around here. No, I grew up in eastern Germany. Our city was stricken by the reunion. My parents lost their jobs, and we ended up in poverty. Life wasn’t too bad though, we have been poor, but we were happy enough. All that changed during the burglary. Dad was stabbed and mom, well, she got it worse. All the while I was hiding and saw everything.”

“I’m not interested in your damned life story,” Brandt couldn’t help but murmur.

Right as he said this the guys head jerked forward. His eyes were wide open, and he was staring straight at him. Brandt couldn’t help but inch back as far as his chair allowed.

“But this is important, inspector,” the man said with a penetrating voice.

Crazy, Brandt thought, the guy’s a total nutcase. The way he spoke, the way he moved, everything about this guy was unnatural. It was almost as if he wasn’t a real person, but an overdrawn caricature of a man.

“Make it quick, then,” Brandt spat out.

For a moment he thought he saw a grin wash over the man’s face.

“They never found the guys, you know? Put me into an orphanage, but soon enough I ran off. I was driven out into the streets, you could say.”

At that moment the guy paused and looked at Brandt again. It felt to the inspector as if the guy was probing him for… something. Then the guy shook his head and continued talking.

“The shit I saw, you have no idea. The streets can be a terrible place. Had to resort to quite a few fucked up things to get by. Worst was when I joined this one local group or gang. That was a real shit fest. The things I was forced to do during that time. I really don’t wanna think back to it. If I wasn’t insane after my parents were killed in front of me, I was after those years on the street, you know?”

“So you are saying it wasn’t you who ‘killed the girls’, but what your time on the streets made of you? That its societies fault? That all those things you had to go through turned you into a monster? Don’t give me that shit, asshole.”

At this point, Brandt started to laugh. This guy was too much. This story was so cliched, there was no way it could be real.

“You still don’t get it, do you, inspector?”

“What’s there to get?” Brandt asked, now serious again.

“Well, whatever. Things got better though. Did my time, got into the social program and soon enough I had a shitty job, a shitty place and even met a girl. Can’t say it was heaven, but life wasn’t too bad. There was just one thing, the memories and worst of all, the dreams. Every night I was back out there, doing the same thing again, hurting people and cutting them up. Guess that’s what drove me to the bottle eventually.”

“Heh, can’t blame you for that one,” Brandt said with a chuckle.

“Needless to say, things with the girl didn’t work out. I got drunk quite a lot, and she didn’t have any of it. Bitch ranted at me, I got angry. One night, when I was out of it, I beat her half to death without even knowing. I left after that, both for her and my own sake.”

At that Brandt looked up. For a moment this part of the story hit a bit too close to home, and he thought back to his marriage with Sarah. As he looked up at the guy, he thought he noticed a hint of a smile yet again.

“Cut the crap,” Brandt yelled at him, “enough with all that backstory shit. What did you do, tell me!”

“Oh my, getting a bit antsy inspector? Did I say something you didn’t like?”

That was enough for Brandt. He jumped off his chair and swung his fist right at the man’s face. The man’s head jerked back, and when he looked up at the inspector again, his nose was bleeding heavily.

He didn’t make a sound. Instead, he turned and looked at Brandt again, while the blood was dripping from his nose and running down his face.

Brandt slumped down in his chair again. Man, he thought, felt good to hit this bastard.

“Clean yourself up,” he finally said and threw a dirty rag at the guy.

While the man pressed the rag against his nose, Brandt kept questioning him.

“What did you do?”

“Well,” the man started, “I think it’s about time I told you. You know about the dreams, right? Can’t sleep most nights. Today, it was different. The dream was different.”

“So what did you dream about? Did you dream about those girls next door? That what it was?”

The man burst out laughing, and for a moment Brandt had to calm himself down to not hit him again.

“How’d you know inspector?”

For a moment Brandt took the man seriously until he saw his face. The moment he got up, the man rose his hands.

“Now, now, inspector, I am talking, alright? I stayed in a hostel. Real shitty place, real cheap, but after a few nights of hitchhiking and sleeping under the sky a bed is a bed, you know? Fell asleep the moment I entered the room, must have been early evening. In my dream I wasn’t on the street again, this time it was about the night my parents died. There were no burglars though, it was just me and them, no one else.”

Brandt said nothing.

“It was me who was holding the knife and me who did everything. Couldn’t do anything but watch every last, bloody detail. I woke up screaming, but wasn’t in my room anymore. I stood in the middle of a bloodbath. There were two women on the floor, laying in their own blood, mutilated. I didn’t understand what was going on, but then I saw the blood on my hands, on my body, and I felt something else.”

“Was it remorse, was it shock?” Brandt asked with sarcasm.

“No, it was something on my shoulder. I was still stunned, in shock, but when I looked over, I saw it. It was nothing but tentacles and one huge, giant eye that stared straight at me. I screamed and threw the thing aside. For a moment I stood there looking at it in disbelief. Then I remembered a story that an old homeless dude had told me. There are evil spirits out there that influence your sleep and feed on your dreams. What was lying there was what the old man had described as a dreameater. I couldn’t believe that something like this was existing. Soon enough, the thing was gone and had vanished into thin air. At that point, I heard a commotion outside and before the door to the room burst open I jumped out the window and ran.”

Brandt shook his head in utter disbelief. Was this what he’d been waiting for all that time? That’s why he’d listened to the ramblings of this man for half an hour? Demons? Evil spirits? The inspector looked at the guy in front of him and wasn’t sure if he was truly insane or just plain stupid. He couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

“Man, you must be a goddamn idiot if you think I’ll believe something like that. Evil spirits, you got to be kidding me.”

The man shook his head and smiled once more.

“You still don’t get it, do you, inspector?”

“Nothing to ‘get’ here,” Brandt cursed and got up.

The guy was out of his mind, Brandt thought, as he stepped towards the cell door.

“Not so fast inspector, there’s one thing I’ve been burning to ask you.”

When Brandt turned around, the man sat there, a big grin on his face, leaning forward in anticipation.

“You shivered when I talked about certain things. The one about the girl I bet up and when I talked about murdering my parents. Why?”

Brandt didn’t say anything, he couldn’t.

“Did I hit a soft spot? I did, didn’t I? Could it be you are like me? Could it be you beat your wife, too? Did you kill someone as well? That’s all true, isn’t it? We are exactly the same, aren’t we?”

With that, the guy burst into loud laughter. Brandt stood there, shivering. What the hell was going on?

“Was it your parents, too? A relative maybe?”

“Shut the hell up!” Brandt yelled.

The man didn’t react. Instead, he looked away, pretending to think hard.

“No, that’s not it. You killed someone in the line of duty, right? Out ‘in the streets’? An innocent bystander maybe? Now we are getting somewhere, aren’t we? Was it fun to press the trigger? Did you enjoy it, inspector? Did-”

The man didn’t get to finish his sentence, because Brandt hit the guy once again. How did this guy know all that? It had to be random guesses, it had to be.

“Admit it already, you enjoyed it, right?”

And then he kept laughing. Right at that moment, Brandt made his mistake. He lost it and stormed forward, precisely as the man had wanted. He dodged Brandt’s attack and jumped him. Moments later the inspector was out cold.

It was an hour later that he came to. He was outside the station. There were firefighters and police all around him.

When he came to, he heard what had happened. Ziegler had been shot as had been officer Meier, who’d been sorting through papers in the archive. After that, someone had set fire to the station.

Brandt screamed at them and told them it must have been the bloody man. The one he’d questioned, but no one knew anything about that. He was out of it and had to be handcuffed and taken to the police headquarters in the city.

It was there that he told Officer Schneider about the bloody man and what had happened at the station.

It was the next day that Officer Schneider was approached by his colleague, Officer Kuhn.

“Listen to this David,” he said and handed him the recording of Brandt’s questioning.

Once Kuhn had done so, Schneider talked to him again.

“What do you think about it, David?”

“Well, you heard what Brandt said, right?”

“Yeah, but none of it adds up.”

“What do you mean? It’s obvious that the suspect, the bloody man, must have gotten a hold of his gun and-”

“Well, that’s what I thought too,” Schneider cut him off, “but that’s the problem with this whole thing.”

“What do you mean Martin? Come on, talk to me?”

Schneider took a deep breath before he answered.

“There was no bloody man.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“There’s no proof of anyone like this existing, nothing, nada. No one else saw the man. There are no fingerprints, no reports, no sign of anyone having been in the back of the police car.”

“Yeah, but-”

“No, listen, that’s not all. The thing about the girls the bloody man talked about? I looked into it right away. There are no reports of anything like that. Also, Brandt’s gun was found at the station. Only his fingerprints are on it.”

“So you’re telling me Brandt’s story is bullshit?”

“You tell me, I’ve got no clue what was going on there. There’s one more thing though. Brandt’s a drinker, a heavy one. Talked to his other colleagues and friends. All told me the same thing. Brandt’s never sober. Drinks at home, drinks on the job and often falls asleep during work. So why not yesterday? Why was he suddenly sober and out with Ziegler? How was he able to catch and question that guy?”

“That’s all great, but what are-” Right at that moment it hit Kuhn.

“You’re saying Brandt is responsible for this whole thing himself? You’re saying he was the one that killed Ziegler and Meier and set fire to the station?”

Schneider shrugged.

“As I said, no clue. Just telling you the facts. All I know is that this whole thing doesn’t add up, not at all.”

Kuhn had no clue what else to say. In the end, he told Schneider he still had some reports to finish and made his way back to his desk.

Later that day, once he was done with all the paperwork, his thoughts drifted back to Brandt’s case.

If Brandt was the perpetrator, then why this convoluted story?

He kept racking his brain for the next couple of minutes, before opening up Brandt’s profile in the police database.

There were quite a few things in there about the inspector. He’d joined the force more than three decades ago, right after he’d finished school.

When Kuhn checked his family information, he found that his father had already been dead at the time. There was a notice that mentioned that the man had been killed by a burglar.

For the longest time, Brandt had worked in the city. A couple of years ago, he relocated to the smaller town where he ended up working with Officer Ziegler.

As he read on, he found out more things about Brandt. The man had a history of violence, and the file talked about him drinking on the job from time to time. There had been multiple charges of domestic violence against Brandt. Worst of all though, was an investigation of a killed teenager.

As Kuhn opened the file, he read that there were rumors that Brandt had it out for the boy. There were some who thought the inspector was involved in something shady. In the end, though, the investigation never came to anything and was closed. It was a couple of months later that the man relocated.

Kuhn thought back to the recording of Brandt’s questioning. He played it once more and listened more carefully now.

Why did Brandt include all those details in his story? There was no reason for it. Why talk about domestic violence, and why bring up the teenager he’d shot? Why not say that the bloody man overpowered him and Ziegler?

Then Kuhn came to the part about the evil spirit again. Those dreameaters that gave you bad dreams and controlled you while you were asleep.

For a moment Kuhn started to wonder. Schneider had said that Brandt was a heavy drinker and often passed out in the office.

What if… He felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up and quickly shook his head. There’s no way.

Finally, he got up, but before he went home, he decided to pay Brandt a visit.

The moment he arrived the old inspector looked up at him. Before Kuhn could say anything or even open up the cell door Brandt asked him one, single question:

“Do you believe in dreameaters?”

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