Nightmare November : Night Terrors by Daphne Strasert – Part 3

Night Terrors by Daphne Strasert

I don’t go to work anymore. I didn’t even call in. They might have fired me. That’s probably why my phone was ringing so much yesterday. It doesn’t matter; I threw it in the garbage disposal.

I can’t sleep. Not even if she isn’t in the house. I still hear it. Scuttling. Scurrying. Like rats on the ceiling. I turn to look at it and it’s gone. I don’t close my eyes. Not if I can help it.

Miela wants me to go to the hospital, see someone in the psych ward. She’s worried about me. As if I’m the one that wakes screaming, hoarse in the middle of the nig ht. As if I’m the one with bruises in the shape of handprints all over my arms. She thinks I’m the crazy one.

“Next Tuesday,” I assure her. “I’ll go next Tuesday if you’re still worried.”

“You said that, but it is Tuesday.”

It’s because I don’t sleep, she tells me. Because I’m not even trying. She begs me, she pleads. Go to a friend’s house, go to a hotel. She can go if I want. What would be the use? The shadows are following me.

It is following me.

When I thought it was a delusion, I was sure that the sleeping pills would work. But they didn’t. I couldn’t relax. Now I realize. My body knows what my analytical mind refuses to accept. There is something in the room. And if I go to sleep, I am at its mercy.

I pretend to fall asleep at night. Miela watches me, not sure what to do. When she finally drifts off, I sit up again and wait. It’s coming. It comes every night. For her. For me. I can’t be sure in the pitch darkness of the room, but the shadows move. They change places.

And then… it touches me. I can’t see it, but I can feel it. It’s not warm, but not cold either. It’s lukewarm, the same temperature as the room. All I feel is the pressure of its body as it passes over me and crawls to her. My heart pounds, first in panic for my own safety, but then in alarm for hers.  It moves over me as if I am unaware, as if I were the nightstand or the lamp.

She shudders and jerks away as it crosses from my body to hers. The air seems to thicken around her and she wakes in earnest, fighting against it. My shock chases out repulsion and for a staggering moment, I am clear of the haze of my insomnia. I grab at her wrists, feel the creature’s body slide through my hands as I try to pull it off. It’s like sinking my hands in mashed potatoes. Everywhere I think I gain purchase, it remolds around me. I am doing no good in this fight. She screams and struggles until it coils around her neck. She fights for air, dragging a hissing breath through her closing throat. I still try to pry the creature, the barely visible, insubstantial assailant, from her body. I do no good. It is unhindered as if I didn’t even try.

And then it leaves, pulling from her body and retreating again into the shadows, into wherever it first appeared. She gulps down air by my side and slips back into sleep.

The creature grows more clear each night that I see it. The shadows no longer hide its form from me.

It advances to the bed, its body white like sun-bleached bones. Each movement is a shaky jerk forward. It seems to be made of interconnected spores, like a cross between moss and cottage cheese. It has no face, at least none that I can discern. It sticks to the wall as if helped by millions of tiny suckers, like an octopus that’s escaped onto land. It does not try to hide or slink from my gaze. I am nothing for it to fear. It crawls across me, passing over my body in its path to her. I don’t breathe as it passes, and it doesn’t acknowledge my presence.

The affect its touch has on Miela is immediate. At the first brush of its tentacles, she grimaces. The skin around where the creature touches grows pale. Her mouth twists and her eyes squeeze more tightly shut. She moves her arms, as if brushing away an insect, but the action is ineffectual. The creature clings to the hand she would have wiped it away with.

She writhes in its grasp, flailing against its innumerable limbs. They bind tighter around her, creeping like vines, like mold growing over her like the steady march of decay.

As the creature reaches her chest, she jerks awake, screaming, and claws at her skin. Each scrape of her nails is ineffectual against its hold. It grips more tightly around her and she descends into panic, her eyes bulging out of her face. The creature slithers in through her open mouth and she gags as it forces its way down her throat. Tears stream down her face as she fails to scream. Her eyes fall to me and, for the first time, I know that she can see me. Really see me. We are sharing this nightmare together. Her gaze pleads for rescue. The creature brightens as she grows pale. The life is sucked from her. She gags against the body filling her throat, but is losing the strength to protest.

As I watch, a glimmer of hope brightens in my chest. Perhaps it will kill her. I don’t try to stop it this time. I’m so weak, anyway. All my fight would be ineffectual. Maybe, this will be the end of it. No more screaming, no more midnight waking. Just peaceful, uninterrupted sleep, uninterrupted by the faceless creature that comes at night. Perhaps this will be the last time.

She falls limp, now supported only by the creature tangled around her. It pulses – once, twice – then grows dim. It relaxes its grip on her, sliding from around her. She takes a great shuddering breath as it retreats. Her head lolls to the side and she falls limp against the mattress. It slithers away, each erratic movement of its body mocking me with the knowledge that it will be back. It will always be back.

It won’t kill her. It will just keep coming back. It will come back night after night as it has always done. And she will keep screaming. A vision of my life stretches before me, an unending series of nights, all blurring into each other without the punctuation of sleep. Just unending terror that will be mine alone to bear.

As the white tendrils of the creature slide away from her, I replace them with my own fingers. Each lovingly strokes over her skin, tracing the scratches where she had tried to free herself. Gently, I place my hands over the bruises on her throat. I feel her throat under my palms, so fragile, the unprotected circuitry of the body. The life force flowing through a single, undefended point. I squeeze. Her throat convulses under my palms. How little effort it takes… just a small application of pressure. She chokes, unable to get air, but all the fight has left her. Her eyes open and she stares at me, the whites wide and terrified.

There will be no more fear, no more struggle. She won’t scream anymore. As the last spasm leaves her body, I collapse, my eyelids drooping as my body falls forward onto the pillow, a smile crossing my face as I slide into sleep.

Nightmare November : Night Terrors by Daphne Strasert – Part 2

Night Terrors by Daphne Strasert

I think there might be a problem with the lights in the house. I never see them flicker, but the light isn’t constant the way that it should be. It’s worse at night, though I can’t figure out why. All the lights are off, there’s nothing that should be coming in. No streetlamps through the curtains, nothing through the living room pane doors. Why do I keep seeing shadows shifting across the room?

No, not shadows. The shadows just react to it. Something else is there, something that pushes the shadows aside like a gauzy, black veil. Miela shifts beside me, not a terror, just a normal repositioning in her sleep. I sit up in bed – I don’t try to sleep anymore – and stare at the wall of the bedroom, watching the darkness ripple like lake water when something massive passes beneath. How am I supposed to sleep when the lights keep moving where there is no source? The longer I watch, the more I see. My eyes adjust to the darkness and forms take shape. Not forms, not really. They only seem to be in the corner of my eye. When I focus on them, they sink back under the shadows.

But there are sounds. Sounds that don’t belong in a house. Rasping, like sandpaper on the stairs. Or a rattle, like dice on a table. I slide from under the covers, pursuing the sound. If there are mice in this house, I swear to God…

As I get closer to where the sound emanated, it seems to shift position, coming from somewhere else, coming from everywhere in the room at once. I twist to follow it, but can’t get a bearing.

Miela jerks in the bed, jack-knifing in the covers. The shrieking starts, muffled by the pillows. I watch, bile rising in my throat. I won’t go to her this time. I don’t care if she does bruise her hand on the headboard.

In medical school, I studied hallucinations and delusions. I read studies and attended lectures on the effect that sleep deprivation could have on the mind. By all accounts, that must be what’s happening to me. It can’t be real, the form that slinks around the room at night, always just outside my line of sight. But it’s there. I can feel it, hear it, smell it. Like baby powder… or dried paste. Too sweet to be healthy. A toxic sort of sweet.

Perhaps it’s better that I can’t see it. Who knows what horror my mind would conjure if I did? Maybe I don’t want to see the thing that rattles in the room, that vanishes when I fix my attention on it.

It can’t be real. I can’t see anything in the inky darkness of the bedroom, so I shouldn’t be able to see the subtle shift of the shadows against the wall, like the branches of a tree dancing through their reflection in the window. But there are no trees in our yard and no light comes from outside the window. And yet the shadows move.

They are real. They are moving. Miela says she can’t see them. But I can. I always can. The scratching and rasping of something moving along the wall. The way reality seems to bend around a monstrous something that comes out from the wall.

I had one of the doctors in the ER prescribe me sleeping pills. I’ve taken three. I should be out like a light. I should sleep through the next week. But I can’t close my eyes. Whenever I think that I will be able to, Miela moves. Or the shadows move. What is it that moves them?

Nightmare November : Night Terrors by Daphne Strasert – Part 1

Editor’s note: Daphne Strasert is a writer of horror, science fiction and fantasy who works out of Huston, Texas.  In 2017, she placed third overall in the Horror Addicts’ Next Great Horror Writer Contest. She offered the following tale of horror for our November Nightmares feature and we thought it so suspenseful that we decided to give it to you in three weekly episodes for your reading pleasure! Enjoy!

My wife doesn’t remember the night terrors.

After all, Miela’s not even awake, not really. Her eyes are open, but unseeing. They aren’t focused on me, but on something that closes in on her from all sides. She shrieks until she chokes on her own bile, terrified tears streaming down her face. She throws punches and kicks at an invisible assailant until she tangles in the sheets, unable to do more than thrash against the bonds.

As a doctor, I’ve treated parasomnia before, but only in toddlers. Miela is decades older than any of my other patients. Medically, I know that the terrors are nothing to worry about. They’re just changes in her brain chemistry as she switches from one deep stage of sleep to another. It triggers the release of adrenaline and a fright response. They’re scary for me, but they don’t hurt her. But when she wakes with a shriek at three in the morning, that’s impossible to believe. Her few minutes of panic are agony for me as I try and fail to console her. The helplessness is the worst of all, holding her hands to keep her from clawing at her neck as if something is wrapped around it. And as abruptly as they start, she falls asleep again. When she wakes in the morning, she doesn’t remember them.

But I do.

Miela warned me, I suppose, before we got married. I was so busy finishing residency, we never had time to move in together. I could hardly ever stay the night. She told me about her troubles keeping a roommate, rounds of medications she’d tried to ease them. Maybe I thought she was exaggerating. Maybe I thought the sleepless nights at the ER had prepared me, that I could sleep through them somehow. I’m a doctor, for Christ’s sake – I’ve had more sleepless nights than I can count. I thought I’d seen sleep deprivation. I thought it couldn’t faze me. Holy hell, was I wrong.

I haven’t slept for weeks, not since our wedding night. I catch a few minutes or so, but each shift of her body jolts me awake. The creak of the house as it settles seems to be the precursor to a scream. Every sigh, every murmur heralds the coming fright. My body refuses to rest, too closely tuned to every movement of hers. Waiting. Waiting for the terrors to start.

And they always do. I can see them coming now. She doesn’t frighten all at once. It begins as a low moan, twitches of protest. She pulls away from something. Then she wakes. Or she seems to. She jolts upright, hands tearing at her clothes and hair. She rakes her nails against her skin hard enough to draw blood. And she screams. Long, unearthly sounds, nothing like what they record for horror movies. It’s worse than that, like something in the clutches of death itself.

Weeks of this. Weeks. She’s tried everything: pills, therapy, hypnosis, acupuncture. Nothing has worked.

I hold her against my body, stilling her as she shakes in my arms. Her screams rebound off the bedroom walls and rejoin to create a maniacal chorus. She struggles against me and pushes me away far enough to punch me in the nose. I let go, clutching my hands to my face. She scrambles across the bed on all fours like a wild creature and I retreat to the far corner of the room, watching her through the pain that throbs in my face. After a few minutes, she stops screaming and falls into an exhausted sleep, a peace I can’t reach.

I take deep breaths, my adrenaline coursing in response to her. The pain in my nose dulls. It’s not broken, but it will be bruised. As I go back to bed, something moves against the headboard. I think it’s my shadow, at first, but it shouldn’t cast that way. Light shifts along the paint, like the reflections of a car’s headlights against the wall, except there is no window there. I squint a little harder, but the effect is gone. All that’s left are the shadows, waiting where they should be.

 

Nightmare November : Dare to Dream from the Horror Seeker

Dreams are one of the most mysterious functions of the human mind, and we all have them. Many we can’t remember, but of the few we do, dreams are nothing short of an amazing experience in all their form and splendor, and none so profound as a vivid nightmare that wakes you out of a sound sleep.

Growing up, I became a fan of Nightmare on Elm Street at 3 years old, thank you, Aunt Liz, ha! But it has always been a foundation of inspiration for my writing. Could something like Freddy actually exist? As any fan of the franchise knows, one of Wes Craven’s inspirations in creating NOES was one of the many cases known as Asian Death Syndrome, or more commonly referred to as Night Terrors. These were only called Asian Death because during the 1980’s a sudden wave of sleep-related deaths had occurred amongst a number of healthy middle-aged Asian men in the Chicago area.  Much of the details we see in the movie are direct from his life, according to Wes; Nancy hiding a coffee pot to stay awake, the notion of some real entity trying to kill him, the screams and thrashes during sleep. Though, I think it’s safe to say nothing was brought out of a dream. Ha, oh what a life if that were a possibility! But I digress.

In my continual search for material, I keep a notebook at my bedside in case a potent dream manages to stick long enough for me to write down. However, it is the dark ones I hope to catch, and unfortunately, as we get older, I feel that nightmares become few and far between, but they never stop completely.

So, what are dreams? Well, they are attributed to the processing and organizing of the thoughts of the day, and they are vital in our brain’s ability to recover and recharge. One of the best ways I’ve heard it described is, imagine your brain is a warehouse. On one side all the material (thoughts, etc) are coming in and being shipped from one side to the other. As your day wears down your brain begins to process the material. Now, when you fall asleep its as if a door dividing the warehouse in two closes and our awareness is left on the empty end of the warehouse. Whatever the process is that organizes our brain’s activities we can not see, we can only listen. Dreams, as it is told, are our brain’s interpretation of those sounds. A loud bang, say, could have been anything really, but the experience is subjective to us all, perhaps influenced by our own unique programming. This description has stuck with me for a while, and really, it’s the one that excites the most intrigue. That being said, I’d like to leave you with the last memorable nightmare I have had in recent times.

Like many dreams begin we simply just happen into them with no real awareness of a beginning or an end. See Inception. In this case, it “began” in my car, dawn or dusk, I’m not really sure which, but it was stark, blue, like the fading or coming of a summer sun. Almost immediately I was aware of a presence next to me in the passenger seat. I say presence because, well, you’ll see. There were no words exchanged, no real movement. Only when I was aware, as if it could sense as such, the figure turned and leaned in as close to my face as it could without touching me. It was a faceless thing, dressed normally. It’s head cast in a hooded sweatshirt as Death would look if he were a skateboarder, ha! It said nothing, it did nothing, but it felt as though it was looking into my soul, deep and invasive! I remember being as terrified as ever, indescribable, and dangerously hyperventilating. The most horrifying thing was, I was aware of this on a conscious plane as if I were awake and asleep at the same time and unable to scare myself out of it. Only when my girlfriend at the time who had been awoken by my hysteria, shook me violently for several seconds did I snap out of it.

“Was it the shadow man?” She asked the next morning.

I hadn’t told her a thing up until that point, and yet somehow she knew what I saw. I could think of no better way to describe it. It was A Shadow Man. Having experienced that, I can say it is exactly the kind of dream I hope for and the exact kind of dream I never want to experience again!

Do you remember your dreams, your nightmares? If so, please share. I’m always on the lookout for a good tale to tell. Thanks for reading!

Book Review: It’s Alive: Bringing Your Nightmares to Life

It’s Alive: Bringing Your Nightmares to Life
Ed. Joe Myhnardt and Eugene Johnson, Crystal Lake Publishing

4/5 stars

What If? That’s how this collection of essays opens. What if some of the best authors in the business decide to pass on their expertise to those following in their path? Answer: You get this book, an invaluable selection of hints, tips and sometimes, demands on everything from character creation to plotting to submission. For me, as well as the writing tips, I enjoyed the sections dealing with creating and editing anthologies and also how NOT to speak to an editor.

Advice is given and yes, some conflicts as writers have different methods, eg plot v character, one or two drafts or multiple. It’s up to you to take what you want from this – or not, although there is one golden rule that ALL promote – show not tell.

With each essay, it was as if the author(s) were sat in the room with you, chatting about their craft as to an equal. All remember where they came from in writing terms, there is no superiority, no patronising or condescension. They are us and hopefully, those who read this will one day become them.

Guest Blog : Where Nightmares Come From by Drunk Dracula

In this Guest Blog, Drunk Dracula wrote about nightmares. Check this out, and if you want more Drunk Dracula, check out his site at the end of this blog entry…. enjoy the nightmares 🙂
Where Nightmares Come From

My daughter once asked me where nightmares come from, so I told her the story my father told me and his father told him.

Long ago, there were no nightmares, only memories. Memories of the things men do and the things men see. Then sometime around the 5th Century, during the migration of Germanic tribes into what would become most of Western Europe, there was a Lord. And like many Lords of the time, he acquired land. He acquired this land the way everyone acquired land then, he conquered it.

It was in the aftermath of a particularly brutal battle, near the edges of a deep crevasse, that the Lord found a pale child wandering among the littered corpses. It was a girl, blackened by smoke and stained with the spattered blood of the fallen. She had dark eyes and a misshapen body with deformities that made even the bravest soldiers avoid her gaze and step from her path. Now this Lord was a generous one, loved by his men and his people, and he felt pity for this impish girl and he took her in, raising her within the confines of his castle.

He named the girl Nocturne for her dark eyes and her peculiar habit of avoiding sleep and staying up late into the night, seemingly for days and weeks at a time. Despite her appearance, Nocturne soon showed a Jesters talent for making the Lord and the neighboring aristocracy laugh and enjoy themselves at her stories, tales and tricks.

This Lord also had a handsome son, a Prince who would one day inherit the throne, the castle, and its lands. The Prince, like the others, also enjoyed the antics of this new girl who was always by his Fathers side, telling stories and riddles to delight the crowd. But each night, the Prince would watch as Nocturne would whisper into the Lords ear at days end, leaving the Prince to question this girl jester and the way his father seemed enthralled by such a grotesque and deformed comedienne who never seemed to sleep.

Soon, the Prince was of age and he prepared to leave the castle for his studies. He embraced his father tightly, knowing they would not see each other for years. As he rode away, leaving the only home he knew for the very first time, he glanced back at the castle and the people surrounding his waving Father. The last thing he saw before the castle slipped from view was Nocturne, there at his Fathers side, whispering her whispers in his ear.

The stories reached the Prince in the final year of his studies. They seemed fantastical at first and claimed that his Father had become a monster, a bane to his own land. It seemed the Lord had begun taxing his people harshly and imprisoning any who could not pay, condemning them to the bowels of the castle to await some form of trial and eventually, a horrible death. There were tales of lavish sin-fueled parties where the Lord would fly into rages at others, often baiting guests into heated debates, only to shackle them in chains for disobeying his view or command. Neighboring Lords and land-owners avoided the castle, fearing the tales of torture, and staying clear of the screams that lasted well into the night. And within each chilling account, what each witness never ceased to mention, was that the girl Nocturne was there, with her strange whispers for only the Lord’s ear. It seemed that Nocturne was either immune to the Dukes blood rage, or the very cause of it. Now, with this madness consuming his Father, the Prince was told that neighboring Lords were preparing to siege the castle and divide its lands among them. As the Prince rode quickly for home, he knew that any such battle would be short, since recent tales told that much of the castle had been abandoned and now only the Lord and Nocturne lived within its bloodied walls.

As the Prince neared the castle, he galloped past the villages he remembered as a young man. Once vibrant and alive, they were now shells of towns, filled with the starving, the desperate, and the dead. The castle road was littered with bloated corpses and the creek he once played in as a boy ran red with blood.

The Prince burst into the castle, sword drawn, and called for his Father. From a splintered bench in the corner of the throne room, the Lords feeble voice replied. The Prince’s Father was now thin, with sunken eyes and trembling hands, but he stood feebly and reached longingly for his son. The Prince embraced his Father and asked if the stories were true. The Lord nodded, shame washing over his pale face. The Prince gripped his sword tight and roared for Nocturne, vowing to end this damnable reign of madness. She appeared behind him, whispering a welcome to the Prince. She was seated on the Lord’s throne, her small crooked body dwarfed by the immense gilded chair. The Prince lunged at Nocturne but his sword was halted inches from her throat by the call of his Father, who cried NO.

In labored gasps, the weak Lord told his son that Nocturne was no girl, but a witch raised from Hell that day on the battlefield. It was her whispers, her foul and tiny voice in his ear that spread the madness, a rain of nightly tales of horror that he himself would in turn make real by day. The Lord said he kept Nocturne here in the castle, fearing that her tales, should they spread through the land, would inflict the very same horrors that happened here at his home. With this, the Lord gripped his sons hand and looked deeply into Nocturnes black eyes and let out his last cold breath. The Princes eyes filled with tears seeing his dead Father. As for Nocturne, she laughed. It was a tiny laugh, but a laugh that filled the Prince with rage. He stood and stared into that small witch’s eyes and in one swift motion he sank his sword through her down to its hilt. Nocturne’s laugh went silent and her eyes bulged black, dark blood seeping from her mouth. A watery, bubbling sound crept up from deep within her, traveling up her throat and past her bloodied lips. It was one last whisper. An evil sound that echoed throughout the castle, past its gates, past its lands and into our world.

Years went by, and the Prince was eventually killed in battle, the castle divided among the aristocracy. The tale of Nocturne, the Lord and the Prince was almost lost to time and the long shadows of a growing and aging Europe. But some still share the tale of the sleepless Nocturne, the girl who was something altogether not human, a creature beyond the grip of sleep, or night or day. For what the King said that day to his son was true. When Nocturne was killed, she was released from that castle and into the ether, adrift in the world. She is now free to whisper to more than just one old Lord. Her whispered stories and tales and riddles can now reach us all while we sleep. Gone are the Kings, Dukes and lands of old, now there are factories, industry, automobiles, and airplanes. But Nocturne remains, creeping silently into the bedrooms of men, of women, and especially of children. Like she did with that long dead Lord, she whispers into your ear while you sleep, and breathes vile tales of terror, of dread, of lifes poisons witnessed throughout her days on this Earth.

Maybe she’ll whisper in your ear, or maybe she already has. Because she, my dear daughter, She is where nightmares come from.

More Drunk Dracula here

Bedtime Stories by Joslyn Corvis

 

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Bedtime Stories  by: Joslyn Corvis

    Based on true events…

 

I woke up, my body feeling as if rigor mortis had set in when I saw the creature taunting me from the corner of the ceiling. There was a faint noise that sounded like cicadas on a summer evening which rose to ear-splitting  ecibels. I wondered if the sound was the creature laughing at me as it sneered in mockery of my fear. I tried to scream for help, but could only muster faint cries, which—thank God—woke my husband who put his arm around me. That broke the spell,  and just like that, everything went still and silent as I gained control over my body and my breathing regulated. I was no longer frozen in that horrifying dreamworld. I was safe in my own bed. That was the first night terror for me, and the beginning of many more.

Sometime after that first incident, I dreamt I had gotten out of bed and opened the door of my second-floor apartment which overlooked the parking lot. The parking lot was designed something like a courtyard, and I noticed a figure in a long gown with long hair on the far side of the lot. I watched her through the small crack, but something didn’t seem right. I closed the door, and against my better judgment, opened it once more but only a crack. She was closer this time. I knew I shouldn’t have opened the door that third time, and when I did, I found her crouching near the top of the steps, snarling like a rabid animal before rushing for the door and pushing it as wide as the chain lock allowed. I tried to close the door completely on her, but she was too strong. I snapped out of it in, adrenaline coursing through my body. The whole episode—from getting out of bed and looking outside to the absolute fear—was so real, but I told myself it had to be a dream since I woke up in my bed, next to my husband. Not long after that, the plague of night terrors became so common that it haunted me, even in my waking hours. I felt as if something unseen was following me, feeding off my fear and waiting until I was asleep to wage a full-on attack. Needless to say, I wasn’t sleeping well. Exhaustion had set in by this time, and I made the mistake of falling into a deep sleep in the dead of night.

On this particular night, I was on my back for some reason, which is strange in itself because I never sleep in that position. I felt a burning sensation on my leg, and at first I thought maybe a bug or snake had crawled into bed with me. In a panic, I looked up and the same “demon” I’d seen before was crouching over my legs, burning me with a hot poker. She raised the poker from my skin granting me a moment’s relief, then came down on my leg yet again, sending pain signals to my very core. With every downward motion, her mouth upturned in a triumphant, wicked smile, and her soulless eyes glinted with joy with each infliction of agony. I was at its mercy. When everything went back to normal, I got out of bed and checked my leg for bites: nothing. Even sleeping next to my husband couldn’t keep me safe from my dreams. I didn’t wake him up to comfort me and instead curled up next to him, if only to give myself a false sense of security.

Throughout my married life, and after the divorce, the dreams continued to come and go. Some dreams were more intense than others, and once they started, they would become frequent until running their course, then giving me a few months of peace before kicking in again. I experienced a long span of relief from the dreams when I moved in with my parents after my divorce. They welcomed me home and put me up in my childhood bedroom. As much as I hated to suffer the indignation of moving in with them, I knew I was going to need more support than I wanted to admit. It was a rocky start, but soon enough, I fell into a routine and my life was going great. I didn’t have a care in the world, and things were going better than I could have ever imagined. That’s when it started again, as if to remind me that I was never alone.

I was in my old bed and woke up to something restricting my breathing. A pressure exerted itself around my chest and back like a boa constrictor. I couldn’t open my eyes, but I could hear those cicadas all around me. Whenever I tried to scream for my dad, unintelligible words formed in my throat which manifested as feeble groans. But I didn’t give up. I fought against it so hard, and finally a gurgling scream rose just loudly enough in my throat that it broke me from the fit. I coughed and gasped. But at last, I could breathe! I felt relief until my eyes fell upon my bedroom door. Standing there guarding my exit was a three-dimensional figure. It was transparent, but strangely reflective. I studied it for a while, trying to figure out what I was looking at; I was no longer in my dream. It had a wispy human form, but no facial features. I made a plan in my head then followed it through, making a break for the door. I struggled to find the doorknob in my frenzy and ran to the kitchen. I was shaken, but still able to save face with my parents under the pretense of grabbing a midnight snack.

I kept telling myself they were just dreams or maybe manifestations of stress or imagination. Whatever they were, it didn’t matter, because they weren’t real; they simply couldn’t be. I didn’t want anyone to think there was anything more to it than there was, so for a long time, I kept my night terrors secret.

My stay with my parents had been extended mainly due to comfort and convenience, and I had yet another dream, except this time I know I wasn’t asleep. I spent the entire night running to the bathroom to splash my face in the sink, hoping it would bring me to my senses, and getting sips of water from the kitchen just so I wouldn’t have to be in my room. It felt evil in there, and I couldn’t lie down for more than a few minutes at a time without something disturbing me. The next morning, I grabbed a seat across the table from my dad and stirred my coffee.

“Couldn’t sleep last night, huh?” he asked casually.

“How could you tell?” I asked sarcastically.

“Because you look like hell,” he laughed “and because I could hear you all over the house last night.”

“Yeah, well,” I hesitated. “It’s going to sound weird, but I felt like something was in my room. Every time I got into bed, I could swear I heard weird noises. I even thought something touched me. I must’ve been dreaming,” I said at a loss for another explanation.

He gave me a strange look. He thinks I’m crazy, I thought to myself.
“I didn’t sleep well, either,” he said in his deep, calming voice. He stared into space and took a sip of his coffee. “I don’t want to scare you, but something was in my room last night,” he said.
We stared at each other for a moment or two, and a chill rose over my body. They weren’t dreams, after all