Nightmare: The Plot

Nightmare was the title of comic book series intended to be E. Christopher Clark’s follow-up to the five-issue series Blood Red. But despite Clark’s efforts to complete this passion project over the course of three-plus years, the series never saw the light of day.

 

However, in the grand tradition of previous collaborations with his younger self—“Augustus Might” chief among them—Clark is here to finish the story some twenty-eight years later.

 

This is a story of superheroes and shape-shifters in the mid-1990s of Earth-668 America. Enjoy.

Structure

Exposition

Issue #1—written and illustrated between November 12, 1993 and March 26, 1995—begins on July 4, with the return of seventeen-year-old Michael Silver to his parents’ mansion. Young Michael arrives with the hope that he’ll be able to help his parents sort things out after a recent spate of fights.

 

He’s too late.

 

Michael arrives just in time to hear a gunshot ring out from inside the house. He rushes inside and finds that his mother Jasmine has shot his father Jack—and that she’s smiling about it!

 

Heartbroken by his father’s last words—“Don’t let the dream die with me.”—Michael’s untapped potential explodes out of him and tears a hole in the mansion’s roof.

 

The Silvers’ private security team exchanges gunfire with a fleeing Jasmine Silver, who manages to murder one more person before she disappears into thin air.

 

The security team doesn’t have time to mourn, however. They have reports that there is another hostile in the house and they run to “take out the target [with] extreme prejudice.”

 

Little do they know that the “target” is Michael Silver, still raging inside a field of pitch-black energy that makes him altogether unrecognizable.

 

It takes the whole team, plus late arriving reinforcements from the mansion staff, to take down Michael. But once he’s subdued, he returns to his normal form and the assembled crowd stands in shock over the cooling corpse of Michael’s father.

 
*****
 

News reports indicate that the kíndallan terrorist group The Cult of the Lord has claimed responsibility for murder of Michael’s father. But in the aftermath of this horrifying news, Michael gives a moving eulogy on nationwide TV and reassures the public that he and his younger brother will continue their father’s quest for world peace.

 

Meanwhile, in an undisclosed location, The Cult’s leader Loosofer Sétahnoos watches the chaos play out on a wall of TV screens. And just when it seems he can’t get any happier, a scantily clad Jasmine Silver walks into his lair and presents herself as a trophy to him.

 
*****
 

Days later, while looking for information on his transformation, Michael uncovers communications between Sétahnoos and his mother. Michael, confiding in the family’s butler about this newfound information, suspects that the man isn’t telling him something.

 

The butler, Robert, tells the story of the day Michael’s father found a crashed Kíndallan space craft and the frightened Ríxtahnian symbiote which was the only survivor of the crash. The Ríxtahn, it turns out, fled into the family’s home to feed off the latent potential within a young Michael. And seeing as this symbiotic relationship didn’t seem to cause Michael any harm, the family allowed the Ríxtahn to take refuge in their home.

 

The Cult of the Lord, arriving on Earth soon thereafter, did not take kindly to this. They began an organized campaign against Jack Silver, his family, and his associates. And then, when Silver still refused to turn over the Ríxtahn, the Cult went bigger: they decided to dismantle the thing Jack had been working toward his whole life.

 

World peace.

 

Over the course of this story, Michael grows angrier and angrier. Frustrated at all the secrets that have been kept from him, he asks Robert if there’s anything else he’s been hiding.

 

It is then that Robert realizes that the Ríxtahn, which had been feeding peacefully off of Michael’s excess potential, might be starving now that Michael has manifested such spectacular abilities.

 

Michael, horrified at this prospect, rushes to the basement and asks the cowering Ríxtahn if there is anything he can do. Reaching out to it, he feels a bond form. By the time Robert arrives in the basement to see what’s happened, the symbiosis between Michael and the Ríxtahn is complete and the superhero Nightmare is born.

Conflict

Issue #2—written and illustrated between April 1995 and March 1996—picks up with Michael Silver and his Ríxtahnian symbiote patrolling the streets of The City.

 

Michael, marveling at how fast he flew from the suburbs to the city, discovers a mugging in process. Confronting three men who have cornered a woman in an alley, Michael makes quick work of the one perp who shoots at him. As the others run away, we see the first demonstration of Michael’s true power: dream manipulation. Michael grabs hold of the shooter and injects a nightmare into the asshole’s mind, causing him to run off believing that he is covered with spiders.

 

Alone in the alley with the frightened woman who’s just been assaulted, Michael offers his help. Sadly—but quite understandably, given the terrifying sight of Michael in the uniform the symbiote’s created for him—the woman recoils and tells him to “Get away.”

 

Hurt by her reaction, Michael retreats into the shadows, saying that “since [he] looks like a nightmare…that’s all [he’ll] ever be.”

 
*****
 

Days later, Michael visits a hospital room to see a comatose member of his family’s security team who was injured during the battle with him in Issue #1. Michael is frightened he’s losing everything, and can only take comfort in the impending arrival of his girlfriend Jen.

 

Jen’s plane lands and we are privy to her thoughts as she worries about how much Michael is hurting. We are also made aware of a group of strangers following her.

 

The action cuts to Michael and Robert waiting for Jen outside the Arrivals Gate. Michael debates how much of what’s happened he should share with her. Robert advises that Michael not overburden the girl, but Michael chafes at this advice and slips into a flashback.

 

Months earlier, we see Michael and Jen say goodbyes. Jen is headed to Africa with her mother and Michael is worried she’ll fall for some other guy while she’s there. She swears that he’s the only guy for her, and they kiss while the sun sets.

 

We then cut back to the airport in the present, with Robert telling Michael that he’s spotted Jen on the escalator—

 

—which is exactly when the creeps we saw earlier strike. They make their move and abduct Jen.

 

Michael, even without his Ríxtahn to protect him, leaps into action. He even manages to knock out one of the creeps with one punch. But soon enough he’s shot in the shoulder for his efforts.

 

The kidnappers pull Jen through a portal they create by veil pulling, and disappear.

 
*****
 

Michael, recovering from his wounds, dreams of an interaction between two versions of himself: him in the armor, and him out of it. In a scene which parallels his interaction with the girl in the alley at the beginning of the issue, he recoils in horror from what he’s become and utters the girl’s line. The retreating “Nightmare” then speaks the line Michael spoke to the girl.

 

Michael tells Nightmare to stop copying him. Nightmare swears that he is there to help Michael, then tells the boy to “use me and your power.”

 

Realizing now that this is the Ríxtahn communicating with him subconsciously, Michael finally listens.

 

“You have the power to control dreams,” says the Ríxtahn, "surely Jennifer must dream. Use her dreams.

 
*****
 

Robert and Tayna, the commanding officer of the Silver Family’s security team, discuss what happens next. Then, in a final-page splash page, Michael arrives with his Ríxtahn in hand to say that he knows how to find Jen, but that “it isn’t going to be easy.”

Rising Action

Issue #3 was laid out in 1996 in thumbnail sketches, but only the first page was ever fully illustrated and a full script was never completed.

 

The issues opens with Loosofer Sétahnoos confronting Jen inside the fortress of Dab Tíknéfíg, telling her that she has “one of two choices.” But before he can fully explain what these two choices are, Jen tells him to kiss her ass.

 

“I’d love to,” he says. ”That’s the point.”

 
*****
 

Outside the castle, Michael (now in his Nightmare armor) scopes out a group of guards who Robert identifies as Cultists. Tanya is with them too, ready to spring into action.

 

Of course, she doesn’t have a chance to do anything once Michael flies into the group of Cultist cronies and makes quick work of them. But as she and Robert joke with their young charge about how unnecessary they are, a voice calls out from behind them which stops Michael dead in his tracks.

 

It’s his mother, Jasmine, flanked by two much more ominous-looking Cultist foot soldiers.

 
*****
 

There is a quick cutaway to the hospital room Michael visited in Issue #2. Michael’s younger brother, Jack Jr., tries to speak with the comatose girl. But when she says nothing, he tells her goodbye.

 

Then he flips a switch on her life support, and walks away.

 
*****
 

The action returns to Michael’s confrontation with his mother. She taunts him, not realizing who he is, and asks him what he wants with Jen. But Michael can’t answer; he can’t speak at all. He’s worried that anything he says or does will give him away.

 

It’s only when Jasmine mocks Michael for being the “strong and silent type…like [her] late husband” that Michael lets loose. Consumed with anger, he knocks his mother out with one solid punch. And it is as he looks down on her unconscious form that he makes his biggest discovery yet:

 

This isn’t his mother, after all. It’s one of the shape-shifting kíndallans, as evidenced by the body shifting forms between Michael’s mother and father and several other strangers.

 

Before Michael can fully process what he’s just seen, he’s called back into action by a pinned-down Robert and Tanya. He flies to their rescue, takes out their assailants, and confronts one with the most burning question on his mind: “Where is she?”

 

As he asks it, Michael realizes he could be asking about two different women now: Jen or his mom.

 

Unfortunately, the foot soldier says he doesn’t know and Michael knocks him out in frustration. And when he’s confronted by even more of them, he’s got enough anger and frustration in him to take them all out single-handedly.

 
*****
 

The issue finally cuts back to the scene between Loosofer and Jen. The Lord of the Cultists asks Jen if she knows what he could do with but the snap of his fingers, what he has already done. And then, like any good supervillain, he monologues and explains everything he’s done to the Silver family over the years.

 

He then threatens Jen with all he will do to her if she doesn’t give in and go to bed with him. When she presses for details on why he doesn’t just take what he’s after, given that she’s all chained up, Loosofer says that it will hurt Michael far more if she submits to him willingly.

 

An explosion then rocks the room and Michael walks in. Loosofer, mistaking Michael for a Cultist clad in Ríxtahnian armor, asks him what he thinks he’s doing.

 

Michael tells Loosofer he’s there for the girl.

 

Loosofer’s hand lights up with red energy as he tells Michael “You can't have her.”

Climax

Issue #4 was never written or laid out. Though Clark recalls brainstorming ideas of the years—many, many times—none of those ideas were committed to paper or computer, at least not in any way that survives to this day.

 

And so, this is where the 44-year-old takes over and tries to honor the imagination of the 16–19-year-old he used to be.

 
*****
 

We open on the Great Hall of Dab Tíknéfíg some years ago. Elven soldiers are walking through aisle upon aisle of smoking birthing molds—the sacred receptacles used by kíndallans to reproduce. They are talking about an attack on the Warring Wall, an Elven outpost at the edge of the galaxy, and are talking about how the energy of these unborn kíndallan children was used in the attack.

 

“Will he stop at nothing for his revolution?” one elf asks another, as we cut to:

 

Present Day. Loosofer Sétahnoos with a smoking red fist, energy pouring off of it, is confronting our hero in his armor. Off to the side, Jen Worthing wonders who her frightening-looking rescuer might be.

 

As if he can sense Jen’s thoughts, the headpiece of Michael’s Nightmare armor melts away to reveal his face. He tells her it will be alright, that he’s going to get her out of there.

 

He does not notice Sétahnoos smiling at the revelation.

 
*****
 

Outside the castle, Robert and Tanya confront the still-recovering kíndallan who had been masquerading as Jasmine Silver. They ask the alien what has become of the real Jasmine, but she won’t talk. So they begin to frog-march her toward the castle, in the direction they saw Michael fly.

 
*****
 

Back inside, Sétahnoos taunts Michael. He tells him the insecure teenager that Jen was about to succumb to his charm, and that’s all it takes for Michael to forget anything he might know about tactics and to fly into a berserker rage.

 

Sétahnoos uses Michael’s overreaction against him and blasts the boy off his feet—an attack which is more effective than Sétahnoos could have imagined it might be.

 

Why? Because the source of Sétahnoos’ powers are the lives of unborn children, and unborn children are full of unrealized dreams. Michael’s powers, which draw upon the energy of dreams, make him feel not just the force of Sétahnoos’ attack but the stolen lifetimes of every child who made the blast possible.

 

At this point, we get a double-page spread of Michael on his knees, trying to cope with this overwhelming burden—all while Sétahnoos clutches at Jen’s arm and laughs maniacally at the pain he’s caused.

 

As Michael continues to struggle, his Ríxtahn slips off of him and shapes itself into a floating orb. We get a close-up on Sétahnoos, who stops laughing straight away and focuses his attention on the Ríxtahn.

 
*****
 

Flashback to the Capital City of the Kíndallan homeworld of Gadalla. A younger Sétahnoos and his Cultist cronies are watching Kíndallan High Command take delivery of a shipment of Ríxtahns. They complain that these things, which have been developed by studying kíndallan DNA, are an abomination.

 

Flashforward to The Cult of the Lord exterminating Ríxtahn as part of the Ríxtahnian Genocide, and of Michael’s Ríxtahn escaping on the ship we saw in Issue #1’s flashback.

 
*****
 

A livid Sétahnoos shoves Jen aside and attacks Michael’s reeling Ríxtahn. Jen rushes to Michael to see if she can help him, but he’s still overwhelmed the blast he took from Sétahnoos. As the two of them look on in horror, Sétahnoos pours every bit of energy he has inside of him into a blast to kill the Ríxtahn once and for all.

Falling Action

Issue #5, like Issue #4, was never written. Here’s 44-year-old Clark’s attempt at starting to wrap up the story of the series, while honoring the intentions of his younger self.

 
*****
 

We open on Robert and Tanya frog-marching Imposter Jasmine into a dungeon. As they illuminate the faces of captives with their flashlights, they are horrified to find that dozens of prominent Earthling leaders and celebrities are being held here—replaced, presumably, by Cultist sleeper agents.

 

They think to radio the government and warn them, but then remember that they are light years away on another planet. And that they still have Michael and Jen to find and save.

 
*****
 

Jen is trying to convince Michael to get up and fight to save his Ríxtahn, but he is lost in the dreams of an unborn kíndallan who might’ve grown up to be a priest of their faith. The child is consulting the five moons above Gadalla, tending to the sick, and giving to the poor.

 

Then, just as that dream ends, Michael is struck by another. Here is a young kíndallan in love, pursuing that love, winning their affections, and then settling down to sculpt a child of their own.

 

Jen tries to shake Michael out of it, but he is still lost.

 
*****
 

Robert and Tanya, having freed the other prisoners and sent them back to their starship, finally find Michael’s mother Jasmine. They free her as well, and lock the Imposter Jasmine in the cell as the castle begins to crumble all around them. Then they race for the exit.

 
*****
 

Michael is broken from his agony by a dream of his Ríxtahn, similar to the dream from the end of Issue #2. The Ríxtahn, in the form of Nightmare, shows Michael a montage of all the good they might do, then finally reminds him of his father’s dying wish that he not let the dream of peace die.

 

Michael stands tall and calls out Sétahnoos, who finally ceases his attack on the Ríxtahn. Michael taunts the villain—telling him that he and the Ríxtahn are one now, and that he’ll never destroy one without destroying both.

 

An angry Sétahnoos draws closer and closer, admitting he’s long dreamed of strangling Michael with his bare hands. And when Michael tells him to go ahead and try, Sétahnoos can’t resist falling into Michael’s trap.

 

The moment Sétahnoos wraps his hands around Michael’s throat, Michael grabs hold of Sétahnoos by the temples and then, just as he did to the would-be mugger in Issue #2, inflicts a nightmare upon his antagonist.

 

But it’s not just one nightmare this time, it’s the nightmares of all the parents who lost their children so that Sétahnoos could have his power. And this is too much for the villain, who drops to his knees, and then curls up in the fetal position as he writhes in agony.

 

Michael and his Ríxtahn reunite, and he flies Jen out of the crumbling castle.

Resolution

Issue #6 is where the first—and maybe only, considering how often teenage Clark abandoned projects—arc of Nightmare would have ended. Here’s how 44-year-old Clark thinks it might have wrapped up.

 
*****
 

As the Silver Family spaceship leaps into hyperspace, Michael and Jen talk about her trip to Africa and the amazing things she saw there—both on safari, and in the towns where she and her mother worked to provide disaster relief and to help build infrastructure. Michael smiles the whole time, loving to hear her talk. But eventually, she asks him to speak up himself and tell her how they got here.

 

Looking toward the cockpit for approval from Robert, all Michael gets is icy silence. But he decides to say the hell with the old man and his secrets, and to tell Jen everything.

 
*****
 

Inside the crumbled great hall of Dab Tíknéfíg, the Imposter Jasmine finds the defeated Loosofer Sétahnoos. As she helps him to his feet, he asks her how many of the prisoners got away.

 

“All but one,” she tells him.

 

When he asks which prisoner they still have possession of, all she does is smile.

 
*****
 

Back on Earth, news reports tell us of the outing of kíndallan imposters across the globe. We see the President of the United States meeting with the superhero called “Nightmare” and thanking him for his service. Then we cut to Michael, Jenna, Tanya, and Robert getting out of a limo in front of the Silver mansion.

 

Young Jack Jr. comes running across the front lawn to give Michael a big hug. Michael lifts his little brother up into his arms and says “It's great to be home.”

 
*****
 

Back in space, on Gadalla, deep in the dungeons of Dab Tíknéfíg, Loosofer Sétahnoos and Imposter Jasmine approach cell which looks far more reinforced than any of the others. They open a window in the door and peer in at the cell’s single occupant. Then we see Sétahnoos take hold of Imposter Jasmine and pull her in for a kiss, thankful that not all is lost.

 

The next panel, a final-page splash page, depicts young Jack Silver Jr. playing a Super Nintendo in what looks to be a perfect approximation of an Earthling kid’s bedroom. He seems blissfully oblivious to the danger he’s in, to the danger his whole family—his whole planet and species, for that matter—is in.

Plot type
Comic Book Series
Related Organizations

Comments

Please Login in order to comment!
30 Dec, 2021 06:28

Thank you for sharing this, Christopher. It's a sweet insight into what could've been a while back and I'm glad it exists in some form now. This makes me think of my past projects and I find that nice, for some reason.

Sage eccbooks
E. Christopher Clark
30 Dec, 2021 14:04

I'm so glad to hear that! I'm a big believer in honoring our past selves, even if what they created seems silly or half-baked to us now. They were doing their best, and rather than say "All my old stuff is awful," we should say "That kid I was, they really had fun with this!"

Check out my progress on WorldEmber 2022
30 Dec, 2021 22:17

This was a lovely read. I love watching you care for and support your younger self, nurturing that creativity, rather than the harsh judgements that we usually make of our younger selves. It's truly so wonderful and uplifting.

Sage eccbooks
E. Christopher Clark
31 Dec, 2021 00:00

Thank you so much! That perspective has been a huge part of my therapy and I love that it's giving joy/being uplifting to others.

Check out my progress on WorldEmber 2022
Powered by World Anvil