Appearing in "The Awakening"
- Teddy Remsen (First appearance)
- Dr. Lita Mercado (First appearance)
- Dr. Lucian Ballad (First appearance)
- Tullius Ballad (First appearance)
- The Dulles Airport bomber (Only appearance)
- Gnome (Horst Kleinmann) (First appearance)
- Dr. Frey (First appearance)
- Hospital Director (Kate) (First appearance)
- Nurse (First appearance)
Synopsis for "The Awakening"
In his dreams, Keith Remsen runs naked through endless darkness. Dreams never bothered him, not even his worst nightmares -- he and his sister, Teddy even used to play guinea pig from time to time for their parents' research -- but this dream seems to go on forever. Although he seems alone, Keith knows there's something in this darkness, and if he doesn't keep running, it will find him. Keith's dreams are interrupted by a piercing bright light, and Keith realizes there are things worse than darkness. He tries to run, but when he hears his sister's voice, he defies his fears and leaps into the light.
Back in the waking world, Dr. Lita Mercado rushes into Keith's hospital room, where Keith lies in a coma and the wheelchair-bound Teddy is left dazzled by the blind flash of the White Event. Just as Dr. Lucian Ballad rushes up from the psychiatric ward with radio news about the White Event, all present notice that Keith has finally come out of his coma. Not \ noticing that his sister is in a wheelchair, Keith asks about his parents, saying they can't have gone back to work so soon after...
It is only then that he remembers the last time he saw them, when they were all at the Dulles International Airport, seeing him off as he flies to his summer internship at the Kleinmann Institute in Zurich. Keith has gotten an internship at the world renown dream research center run by Horst Kleinmann -- and the place where his psychologist parents met -- straight out of high school. None of them paid much attention when a man set a heavy bag down beside Keith's luggage. As he recalls the exploding terminal, Keith realizes that terrible memory was what he had been running from throughout his coma. Keith breaks down, believing that if he had only handled his own bags his parents might be alive today instead of him. Dr. Ballad consoles him, saying it's the terrorist's fault, and no one else's. Keith knows he is suffering from survivor guilt, but it still hurts all the same.
Later, at the rehabilitation center's pool, Teddy is telling Keith about her life since the accident, but Keith can't focus. When Teddy tried to joke about his last remaining scar -- a moon-shaped crescent on his forehead -- Keith tells her most of his scars are on the inside now. Teddy says she used to feel the same way, but that it's so good having just one of her loved ones "back from the dead" that she can't possibly stay angry or sad. Keith comes around a bit, and says might brighten up if the dreams didn't keep haunting him. Lita breaks up the pity part by tossing Keith in the pool; the last bit of shrapnel -- the one that gave him his scar -- is now known to be stable, and it's time to start his physical therapy.
As he dreams later that night, Keith again finds himself back at the airport... only this time it's also the hospital, dusty, deserted, and covered with cobwebs. Keith realizes the dream has never been like this before, and then hears a voice sobbing in the distance, muttering "no escape". At the top of a dirt-clogged escalator, Keith calls out to the man, only to see him being grappled by monstrous red tentacles climbing out of the darkness below. Keith tries to rip away the tentacles, but more thrust back up as fast as he can tear them away. The stranger says that the Gnome will never allow him to escape; he will have to die to protect the Gnome's treasure. Keith refuses to let any more people die, dream or not.
When he manages to free the stranger, the man is left in disbelief. It is then that the man recognizes Keith, and the scene changes around them, becoming as he was the day of the bombing. The stranger is revealed to be the bomber! As Keith recognizes the bomber, he shouts in rage, but the man is too terrified of what lurks behind Keith. Large, hairy, inhuman hands grip Keith's shoulders as a rasping voice addresses him. Keith is awakened by Teddy's screaming, his heart pounding and his head about to burst. And that's not all: the scar on his forehead had glowed.
Teddy also reveals that she had experienced the same dream. She had been having the same dreams ever since he had come out of his coma. At first she thought they were both dreaming of the event they both experienced, but now she was convinced that that they were the exact same dreams. Since she came to watch over him, the feeling had only gotten stranger; it was like she was in a trance, aware of both Keith's dream and the body she was watching in the waking world. She had screamed because Keith's body seemed to be having some sort of attack. A commotion draws their attention to the hall; another of the victims from that blast at Dulles, who had been next door to Keith, had just had a heart attack.
The next day they talk to Dr. Ballad. Ballad believes that commotion of the man having a heart attack next door probably guided the pair's dreams, while the belief that this man had been the bomber smacks of simple wish fulfillment. Teddy and Keith remain firm, though, and Teddy suggest that perhaps she was somehow naturally tuning in on Keith's dreams, similar to the way their father had been working to cybernetically tune in on people's dreams. Ballad says that sounds even more like wish fulfillment, trying to carry on their father's work while finding their killer. Teddy shows Ballad a drawing she made of the man in their dreams, just as Dr. Mercado with a folder from records. The folder contains an enlarged copy of the man's passport photo (the only way they could identify the horribly burnt victim), that Teddy had asked for, which matches the drawing she had made perfectly.
Another dream, this time of a cruise ship under a green night sky, sailing across an orange, glass-smooth sea. On the brightly-lit deck, a blindfolded orchestra plays impossibly romantic music for the dancing couples, all black and white as newsprint. In reality it is all for the benefit of one dancer, Lita Mercado, who is about to kiss the man of her dreams when Keith accidentally knocks over a tray of champagne glasses. Teddy pulls Keith out of the dream, though not in time to escape Lita's furious, penetrating stare. Keith awakens at his father's testing lab at the University of Maryland, where he hopes Lita remember she volunteered for this experiment when she wakes up. While Keith worries about Dr. Mercado's fury, Dr. Ballad is more concerned with the fantastic, and disturbing, readings from the E.E.G. and C.A.T. scans.
As they all drive back to the hospital, Ballad explains: something in Keith's mind has been unlocked, perhaps by the fragment pressing on his brain, something that allows him to synchronize his unique brainwave patterns with those around him...
"I can enter their dreams!" interrupts Keith. "Wow! Lucian, that's..."
"Dangerous," Ballad cuts him off. Keith syncs up to the subject's physical reactions as well. If the dream becomes too intense, he may not be able to break free. Who knows what happens if the dream end violently, or even dies, the shock could be devastating. Teddy swears she'll always be around to bail him out, and Keith is grateful, because he can't quit on the guy in the hospital until he knows more about the bombing. Ballad states, that if that man really was the bomber, his recognition of Keith may have triggered his attack. If he re-enters anyone's dreams, he must take care to try and mask his appearance. All are surprised when Keith passes out, again drawn into a dream (though they must all wonder, whose?).
Keith falls through darkness, and finds himself in a cold cemetery. he enters a skeleton-filled mausoleum, though it may have been a hospital before the specter of death came through. He hears a familiar, rasping voice from behind a heavy door, the voice of the Gnome! The room looks like a meat locker, with sides of beef hanging on hooks from the ceiling. The Gnome brings down his hammer on side of beef as he chastises a man bound by tubes to life support. The Gnome states he can't help but feel he want to kill the man, but that it is more important that he live. "This evading will stop, yes? You will calm yourself... forget these thoughts of death. Your failure can yet be erased. The bomber states that the error was not his: he tried to do the job correctly, but the Gnome had messed with the timing mechanism, so he was still in range when it went off. Killing the family to protect the Gnome's treasure was one thing.... "It was unfair. And short-sighted, yes? I still need you... my treasure is still threatened. Even though Adam and Lenore Remsen are long blasted to nothing -- and their brats too badly injured to be a nuisance."
Keith forgets himself, and the noise is heard by the Gnome. With a single swing of his hammer, the Gnome sends animal carcasses flying toward the half-hidden Keith Remsen, piling them on top of him. Now the bomber had served his purpose: it has drawn the dreaming Remsen back. "Now I learn who walks through this region I meant to be mine alone. Walks here for the last time, yes?"
"No!" Keith yells out, springing from the pile. He has found a way to hide, transforming himself into a figure every bit as dream-like as the creature he faces; a black-clad figure with a white burst of light on his chest, and a large black mask that does not cover the glowing scar on his forehead. He want more than to hide, though. He was to destroy he who destroyed his parents. For the un-athletic Remsen, this proves to be a mistake. The two struggle, but the Gnome manages to press his massive hammer lower and lower, until he is choking Remsen.
That point, says Keith as he relates the story to Ballad, is when Teddy brought him out of it. Ballad lectures that the pair's symbiotic link is not something that should be abused. Though he only suffered mild shock this time, it could be worse next time, and their no guarantee that Teddy wouldn't suffer some pass-along effect. Lenore and Adam Remsen were Lucian Ballad's friends, and he doesn't want Keith to stop any more than Keith does. He suggests that they work in lab conditions, under medical supervision to minimize the risks (and that Keith keep up his "training" with Lita to make sure he knows how to handle himself in dreams). The Gnome's power comes from the dreamer's fear of him, and the key to the Gnome's true identity are probably buried somewhere in the dreams itself. The conversation is cut short when Dr. Frey, the bomber's attending surgeon, comes in to protest (very loudly) the pulling of his patient's records.
From that conversation Keith learned two things: first, the bomber was still alive; second, that there was no way Ballad was going to allow Keith to enter his dreams if he could die at any second. Teddy reads over a book of mythology that Lita gave her, thinking it may help them find the answers they seek. "Gnomes'...: Dwarf-like beings given to protecting treasure hoards. Generally found in Germanic legends such as the... the Nib... The Nibble-something Saga. Keith finds that interesting in light of the Gnome's German accent. The conversation is dropped when a nurse comes by with Teddy's medication for the day. Teddy starts to refuse the sedative, but Keith says they'll both take it. Keith disposes of his, knowing that whatever happens to him, it won't also happen to Teddy.
In the Hospital Director's office, Lucian and Kate discuss the Remsen's. She's not so mad about Dr. Frey's complaint as she is worried that the constant tests and therapy are going to leave the Remsen children "very well-adjusted paupers". Since Ballad is now their legal guardian, it's time for him to start thinking of their life beyond the hospital. As he leaves the office he's grabbed by a frantic Lita, who says that Keith has disappeared. In a quite wing of the hospital (closed for renovation), Keith lays with a German/English dictionary beside him, and waits for the dream. Eventually his scar begins to glow, casting shadows over him that become the Nightmask costume. He is slowly drawn into...
...The end of the World. A dream of a blasted, arid, ruined cityscape, devoid of life except for a few circling vultures. He follows them, and finds the bomber crawling through the sand, while the Gnome eggs him on. "Crawl! Move! I will not let the carrier have you!" The Gnome spurs him on, driving him to a flowing fountain. "See, Taste. It is life, yes? You are not going to die. You are not going to --"
"Yes, he is," interrupts Keith. "He's going to die. Maybe we all are. I wish he could be saved. I'd like to have him tell the real world who you are and how you paid him to kill. But since the doctors say he'll never regain consciousness, there's no hope of that... so I'll settle for this way." The Gnome retorts that he has survived long enough to provide a final chance at the intruder, and that this time there is no chance of escape. "I've no intention to. Only of making certain you don't -- Doctor Kleinmann!" The Gnome is shocked into stillness. "Your assassin told me. Though fear of your ability to strike at him in his dreams -- made his disguise it. Remember the cemetery? Lot of German names there. And in German, your name literally means 'small man' -- That's what a gnome is. A small, wizened creature given to protecting his treasure hoard." As he speaks, the Gnome shrinks. Loosing his armor, dropping his hammer, he shrinks to the size of an ordinary man in a technically-advanced suit. "Only being a big threat to the assassin, he saw you as large. Is that how you saw my parents, Horst Kleinmann? A big threat to your treasure?!"
It is only then that Kleinmann recognizes the young man "You are... the son?! The one they were sending to the institute to spy on me...! To learn my secrets of moving in dreams!" Unable to take it, Remsen lashes out, calling Kleinmann a paranoid madman. At the same time, a rumbling comes from the distance, and a mushroom cloud grows on the near horizon. "It is you who are mad! Look! While you rant and accuse, the end is upon us!" Kleinmann start to forbid the bomber to die, but the man, standing at the fountain, says he can forbid nothing, for he has grown beyond the Gnome's wrath. He falls forward toward the water, and it becomes a swirling abyss. The two run as the world is sucked into the abyss, symbolic of the man's death. Keith saves Kleinmann from the abyss, determined to see the killer face justice. "If you truly believe that, Remsen, why do you avoid the abyss... why do you not drop me into it?" Keith says he doesn't know, by Kleinmann does. "Your parents! They wouldn't have you throw away a gift such as you possess! Not for revenge!" Keith hates the man he holds from the abyss, but knows he's right. Kleinmann begs Keith to use his gift to save them both, but without Teddy he isn't strong enough. Kleinmann is pulled into the abyss, but Keith awakens with a start.
Keith is amazed and grateful, but surprised. The sedated Teddy shouldn't even be able to awaken. Teddy tells her that ever since Keith tricked her into eating a caterpillar sandwich as kids, she's never taken anything from Keith before he took it first. Keith says he may have seen too many Death Wish flicks, but one thing he isn't is a killer. Kleinmann was a bitter, crazy old man, and it was pitiful to see him die, nothing more. Ballad says that, since Teddy broke the dream world's hold on Keith, it may have saved Kleinmann too. That, however, is a question for the future. What matters right now is that Kleinmann was right about Keith's gift, and the most important thing now is that He and Teddy consider the best way that gift can be used.
In Zurich, two technicians speak amongst themselves. Kleinmann's life signs have stabilized; he will recover. As for the equipment, blown up in the strain of recovering him, Kleinmann will surely insist that they rebuild.
- Keith's flight was TWA flight 619, departing from Dulles International Airport.
- Keith mentions "Death Wish", a 1974 Charles Bronson movie.
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- 3 Images from Nightmask Vol 1 1
- ↑ First and only known appearance to date besides flashbacks
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