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Southern Storm excerpt

The nightmare


The flames from the burning cross leaped upward into the hanging boughs of the trees, illuminating the forest and nearby meadow. With no hesitation, the Klan leader stepped forward. From beneath his robe he pulled his revolver and placed the muzzle against the elderly man‘s forehead. The loud report of the pistol echoed among the trees and faded as it reverberated across the river. With the back of his head gone, the preacher fell limply to the ground. Then, when the Klansman shot Rufus, the force of the blast slammed the black man’s face against the tree to which he had been tied prior to his brutal beating.

      A wisp of smoke drifted from the barrel of the revolver. The Negro’s upper torso fell backward and he hung like a skewered animal from the ropes that bound him to the tree. The scent of gunpowder mingled with the pungent scent of the burning cross.


      Nick Parilli was trembling when he suddenly awakened and sat up in bed. His heart was beating so rapidly it felt as if it might leap from his chest. For a long while he sat in his bed reliving the terrible dream, the recurring nightmare that had become so familiar. His recollection of the violent event was even more terrifying than the ghosts that continued to haunt him after the horrors of the Korean War.

      He glanced down at his wife, Lauren, who was lying beside him. Upon his first glance at her, his nerves began to calm. She stirred and rolled over onto her back. He watched her as she slept. Strands of disheveled raven hair half-covered her forehead and her open mouth expelled a gentle snore.

      With an abrupt snort, she awakened. In an attempt to identify her surroundings, her sleepy blue eyes explored the room before a gradual recognition dawned in her expressive eyes. She brushed away the stray strands of hair from her forehead and turned to face Nick. She was aware of his terrible memories and always tried to help him overcome them. She looked up at him. “What’s wrong, Nicky?” she asked. “Can’t you sleep?”

       “No, I can’t sleep.” he answered. “I had that horrible dream again—the same nightmare that continues to haunt me…Damn it!”

      “Do you mean your memory about the Klan killing?”

      “Yeah, that’s the dream. It keeps coming back to me. I can’t seem to get it out of my mind.”

      She hugged him tightly. “Would it help if you talked about it?” she asked. “I’ll listen if it will help you.”

      “No, I don’t want to talk about it, but thanks for asking. I want to try to forget it and go back to sleep.”

      She reassuringly hugged him. She told him goodnight and continued to cling to him until she once again fell asleep.

      Nick slowly pulled away from her and turned over in bed. Because he was still shaken from his terrible nightmare, he continued to tremble as he lay beneath the covers. Hours of terrifying memories haunted him before he finally slept.

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