Dreams. The thing about dreams, is that they that come in different types. There’s the type you can never recall, in fact, are not even aware they existed in the first place. They are the ones that keep you calm when you sleep, keep your mind at rest with pleasant thoughts and distractions. The ones that help you rest.Then there are the few that dance on the edge of your mind when you wake. That pirouette through the dregs of sleep, giving you a tantalising glimpse into a world of wonder that you can only, quite literally, dream of. A place that you can never hold in your hands, or in your waking mind, one that is always out of reach. These are the dreams that make you wish you could fall back into that wonderful state of imagination, or perhaps its not imagination, perhaps it’s a place of quiet, gentle yearning for a state of grace in a place of wonder, an escape from the stress and strain of daily struggle to gain a new place in the rat race.
Don’t forget the dreams that you can remember briefly, if only for as long as it takes to get down to the breakfast table to tell the family about your nocturnal adventures, only to be gone for ever just as you start to describe them. These are the teasers. The dreams that make sleep seem like a place worthy of another visit.
Then, of course, there are the semi-memorable dreams, the repeating dreams that seem to make no sense. The one where perhaps you are in a building full of stairs. Where it doesn’t matter if you open a door or climb through a window, all you are going to find is another staircase. Where you are constantly aware that someone, (thing), is chasing you, but it will never catch you, ever. Or perhaps the long corridor, the constant run, or even the feeling of falling. These are there, some believe, just to make you aware that dreams are real and that anything can happen in them. That you can fall 20 stories and survive, that you can run down an infinite corridor, never reaching the end and that stairways don’t always lead to heaven.
And of course lets never forget the nightmare! Where would we be without them? The dreams that inspire terror, fear, loathing and sometimes hatred. Would we be better off without them do you think? Would life be simpler if we could drift away into sleep every night without the ever present threat of a dreamscape capable of inspiring such insipid, crawling, horror? Yes! Or perhaps no? For nightmares are there for a reason as well. To give release to feelings and fears that we are not able to convey to others or even think of during the daytime. The skeletons that we keep hidden in the closet during the hours that the sun shines and daylight brightens our way. Anyway, they nearly always dissipate on awakening, or at the very worst a few moments later. The worst part is the sudden shock, the coming awake with a muffled scream in a darkened room, not knowing, immediately, where you are. Covered in a cold sweat caused by a horror so un-imaginable, that you can no longer do so. Dare not do so, for it would surely drive you mad.
This dream, this particular dream, had been nothing like any of these. Although it was, obviously, a nightmare. It did not dissipate on awakening. It did not disappear a few moments later. True the terror did subside a notch or two after a few minutes, once the darkness had been forced back by the bedside light, once the room could be checked, quickly and from the safety of the bed, to make sure nothing lurked in the room. But it was never going to go away, not this time. This time it was staying, of that he was sure. This time it meant something. Something portentous.
All he was aware of was the dark. The dark and the fact the room felt as though it had more people in it now than when had gone to sleep. He was also aware of the fear. A deep seated internal fear that was making him sweat. Cold rivulets running down his face and dampening the pillow and quilt. Butterflies were flying in circles in his stomach, making him wish he hadn’t had a chilli for his evening meal.
He looked around in the darkness, moving only his eyes so as not to make it obvious that he was awake, trying to gauge if anyone else was hiding in the dark.
At the side of the bed? Waiting, waiting for just the right moment to jump out of hiding and slash at him in his bed with a long knife? Or maybe to grab the pillow his head was resting on and smash it into his face. Force his weight down on it and suffocate him slowly?
Waiting, with a gun round the corner? Waiting to pounce and fire. The bullet smashing into his face and tearing it apart before it rips into his brain and puts him back to sleep for eternity.
Waiting in the shadows at the end of the bed with a baseball bat? Waiting for him to move or breathe so that his position could be marked in the darkness. Waiting to jump up onto the bed and pound his resting body mercilessly with the wooden bat until his own mother wouldn’t be able to recognise his lifeless carcass.
No, no that wasn’t it. There wasn’t a psychopath hiding in the darkness waiting to remove his name from the list of the living and add it to St. Peters list of souls due to arrive at the Pearly Gates for judgement. There was something though, something he couldn’t quite see, couldn’t quite perceive, couldn’t quite pick out from the dark.
His fear stepped up a notch and he had to concentrate on his breathing so he didn’t start to pant or gasp and reveal that he was awake.
The butterflies in his stomach had undergone a miraculous transformation and now felt as if they had grown to the size of bats.
Wait, the dark! That was it! The dark! He looked around the room again. The darkness was uniform all around the room, not even a glow from the street light on the other side of the road lighting up the window. Once more he let his eyes roam around the room. Towards the left where his wardrobes stood, although he couldn’t make out even an outline. Straight ahead towards the window. Was the light outside working? He wasn’t sure. Even so, he should be able to see something, shouldn’t he? He been in the dark for several hours, been asleep. So his eyes should have adjusted enough to see at least the outline of the furniture in the room, surely? He looked to the right, towards the closet built into the wall with a chest of drawers in front keeping closed, and then past it to where the mirror hung on the wall.
Was there a subtle difference? There, in the corner? By the closet? He let his eyes drift slowly back in that direction. Sweat was now dribbling into his left eye, stinging. Fear wouldn’t let him move his hand to wipe it away, unless the movement revealed that he was awake. Stinging or not his eyes moved back towards the closet.
The fear was growing deeper. The miracles in his stomach continued as the bats had now become birds, starlings perhaps, flying around his insides, churning worse and worse.
There was a difference! The darkness in the corner was deeper, more defined, more… solid. And it seemed to almost glow, if that was possible with darkness. It darkled.
Then it moved!
Not like a person or animal would move. It didn’t walk. It simply flowed from one area to another. Slowly, insidiously, sliding from one spot to another.
The stomach miracles continued as the starlings grew into crows and his fear was joined by a newer more elemental fear. A fear that he would lose control of bowels.
Still he refused to gasp or pant afraid to let “It” know he was awake. Strange how easily he had stopped thinking of it as “Him” or “Them” and it was now an “It”. But “It” it was. No doubt.
It moved away from the corner towards the window sliding across the wall, moving slowly, cautiously almost, or perhaps stealthily would have been a better word. Slowly but surely it made its way across the wall until it was level with the footboard of the bed and directly in front of him. He expected it move up and across the ceiling like the shadow it imitated. But when it detached itself from the wall and moved out into the room towards the bed he finally gasped. A small sound, insignificant really, barely audible at all. It heard however! It knew he was awake! It knew he knew it was there. And it stopped. Just hung there in the room. And watched! His bladder gave way, not all the way, just enough to release a small warm stream between his legs and dampen the sheet under him just slightly.
The first BANG made him jump completely off the bed and enter the airspace above for just a second. The second made good on the promise of his bladder from a few seconds before and he flooded the bed. The third was louder and he froze once more, not caring about the wetness between his legs and under him. Suddenly aware that he could see again. Not well, just enough to make out the edges of things around the room!
It just hung there as the banging grew louder and more insistent!
As the room grew lighter he could make out the edges of his furniture and was not at all surprised to note that the banging and crashing was coming from drawers and doors opening and closing in rapid succession. The crashes got louder as the doors swung more and more violently, the drawers opening and closing faster and faster until it seemed that they must break.
He looked back towards It, hanging motionless in the air between bed and window. As the darkness receded he was stricken that he still couldn’t make out any detail of what It was. It just hung there, doing nothing. Knowing. Watching. Waiting?
Lighter still. He looked wildly around the room, not caring that he moved his head now, or that It knew he was looking. The drawers in the chest where slamming open and shut with growing intensity and the din was reaching the point of pain. Even the closet door behind the chest of drawers was trying to open. From right to left he swung his head from chest to wardrobe. The doors slamming faster and louder. That’s when he noticed his wife in bed next to him. Laying still. Not aware of the cacophony all around her.
As suddenly as it started, the crashing stopped. The wardrobe doors stopped, the drawers ceased. Both finishing open. The silence was as ominous as the noise had been frightening. In his shock at the silence he looked back towards It. It was gone. Where it had hung there was nothing, making him wonder if it had ever been there at all.
Then all at once the wardrobes and chest of drawers expelled their contents into the room in a sudden explosion of haberdashery. Just one sudden act. One moment all hanging neatly or folded away in the drawers, the next all over the room.
Silence. He lay there panting, sweating and stewing slowly in his urine. Looking around the now almost dimly lit room. Searching for the thing that had caused this chaos and fear. Looking for It. It was nowhere to be seen. Reaching out he switched the bed side lamp on and flooded room with almost blinding brilliance, causing him to squint until his eyes adjusted properly. With his other hand he reached out towards the recumbent form of his still, unbelievably sleeping wife, and gave her a nudge. She rolled away from him as he pushed and then rolled back into the dent she had made in the mattress without resistance, but with a heavy ness he wasn’t accustomed to. Scared again, he turned to look at her sleeping form and nudged again. Again she moved with his touch and rolled back into her spot. He moved his weight on the sodden mattress to get a better look at her. She was still, very still. Covered in her own clothing that until moments ago had been hung in the wardrobe. Once more he reached out to her, but this time with his other hand so he could pull not push. Gripping her arm lightly just above where the quilt lay he pulled. Gently at first, then when she failed to move with more force. She turned slowly, limply, resisting his pull with nothing more than her own weight, until all of a sudden gravity and physics took over and she flopped onto her back staring at him with cold dead eyes!
The shock of his wife’s lifeless gaze forced him from the nightmare and back into the waking world, where there were no clothes lying on the bed, the street lamp outside burned brightly enough to cast shadows on the curtains and his wife snored quietly next to him in the, thankfully, dry bed.
She wasn’t dead, he hadn’t pissed himself and the world was as it should be.
It remained that way for a total of three days after his nightmare which, unlike most dreams, good or bad, hadn’t faded away with the new day, but had instead, remained firmly in his memory. It remained that way until his wife asked him to sit down at the kitchen table when he walked in after a not particularly hard or interesting day’s work. It remained that way until she told him of her visits to the doctor. Until she told him of the tests she had recently been subjected to at the hospital after the visits to the doctors. It remained that way until she shattered his life with the results of the tests.
Such a simple word.
A world of pain.
She had tested positive for cancer! It had started in her ovaries they said, but had been rampant and had now spread to other organs, and it was now in her liver, which meant her time left was limited. No more than six months, probably only three.
In fact it had taken her four months to die. Four horrible months as he watched her fade out of his world. It had also been the first time he had been warned like that in a dream.
The second had been a similar dream and his old friend from school had died in a car accident less than a week later. It was only a few days after that he had realised that in amongst the clothing had been motorcycle leathers and a jacket that was unmistakably Johnnies, the friend who had died
The third had been his mother, she had been dead by the time the call had connected. A heart attack. This time he had registered the walking stick and scarf as his mothers and had the made the call within minutes of waking.
Not all death? Need someway to add an element of hope here. A way to say that he had managed to avoid something. Not a death. To easy. A friend ruining a marriage perhaps?
Now as Jack sat at his kitchen table after being woken by the latest nightmare with his head in hands, he wept as he remembered the woman he married. Life had never been the same after that. He never fully recovered from his wife’s demise and then the sudden deaths of friend and mother so soon after had nearly destroyed him. The last dream, the one that had presaged his mother death had occurred just over three years ago and, thankfully, he hadn’t had anything even closely resembling them since.
Until tonight that is. Tonight had been the worst ever. This time it wasn’t in his room that the dark apparition had appeared. This time it was a different room. One he didn’t recognise. No flying clothes exploding from a wardrobe either. Just the dark apparition moving around the room until it noticed he was awake. This time it didn’t stop though. This time it came right at him and didn’t stop until it was floating right above him. He could feel the cold and dark radiating from it. Feel the menace, the hate and the fear.
This time in the dream, he hadn’t just pissed himself, this time he had gone all the way and shit himself! This time he felt no shame in the act either. The fear had been absolute, all encompassing and complete!
Always before, something had followed within days. So form of bad news. Someone had died. This time it felt different. Sure, it was bad, it was always bad. But this time he wasn’t worried about his family or friends. This was omething entirely different. Something new. Something worse? Worse than the deaths of family and friends? Maybe, just maybe.
If he was honest with himself he didn’t really have any friends. Not since he started hitting the bottle after the first round of dreams and the deaths that followed.
He looked at the bottle in front of him and reached a hand towards it, ready to pour a second shot into the chipped mug sitting in front of him.
“Fuck.” He said to himself as the hand shook more the closer it got to the neck of the bottle.
Was it shaking from shock caused by the return of the dream, or more likely because of the alcohol leaving his system from his earlier binge, not yet replaced by the new hit? He decided he didn’t care and just grabbed the bottle and pushed the neck into his mouth, tipped back and drank deeply. The burn of the whiskey hitting his throat nearly made him choke, but he made himself drink more swallowing 3 more manly mouthfuls.
He placed the bottle back on the table and belched loudly, noting somewhere that his hand was no longer shaking quite as badly. The bottle hardly rattled as it hit the table. Jacks hand slid slowly down the sides of the bottle jerking slightly as a sob wracked his paunched frame. He raised the other hand to his face and rubbed the stubble on the side of his face.
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