I have to say, early warning, to read this blog, you must turn the lights down, and the volume up, as it were.
I used to get night terrors as a child, I had more normal nightmares, but I’d get the occasional full on terror, but I felt so much better when I seemed to stop getting terrors. Seriously, I was over-joyed. But over the years, I’ve still gotten nightmares, but thankfully, they haven’t verged back into terrors for a while.
Until last night.
I fell asleep, finally, after no horror movies, no cheese, no booze. Nothing. No reason to have any kind of nightmare, but despite my constant attempts to avoid waking up shivering, trying not to scream or fearing getting out of bed, I was hit with a nightmare so bad, I considered calling my mum. At 2 in the morning.
And I’m not ashamed to admit it.
We live on the third floor, so no back door or floor level windows for us. Which is nice, I couldn’t live somewhere ground level now, I’m too paranoid. I fell asleep with Boo by my side, curled up next to me, the best way to sleep. Nothing says ‘sleep well’ like a pet curled up next you, preferably purring.
I started dreaming, after doing the girl thing of laying there staring at the ceiling thinking of everything in the world, ever. From the birth of man through to the eventual apocolypse. Past lost socks, missing chargers and money troubles. Via world hunger, terrorism and world crime statistics. You know, the usual.
But my dream started, nice and calm, all chill. Weirdly enough I woke in my dream, laying next to Boo, and I realised the back door at the end of the bed was unlocked, weirdly, so I got out of bed, opened the curtain, and locked the door, seeing a flash of white through the window. I thought it was snow, but I was suddenly terrified, I had to get out, I had to leave, I didn’t want to check, but I had to. I didn’t even look at the door or curtain. All the while my brain was telling me there is no door there. I was on the third floor, I didn’t want to look. I had to.
I got out of bed, trembling with fear, and poked the curtain corner aside, seeing the face at the window at the same time as seeing the rest of the people further away, heading towards the window and door. The face was less than an inch from mine, her hair tattered and torn, great clumps missing from the grey peeling scalp. The lips around the mouth torn and shredded, mostly gone. The teeth broken, like tombstones in an old graveyard. Stained and wrong. The eyes, or eye, rather, white-grey, the colour bleached and grey. The other socket containing a collapsed eye, a sad white and grey empty sock, hanging half in the socket, half out. The skin, so grey and tattered, green mould spreading across her face, racing across her broken features. This horror, this nightmare of any mind was standing, less than inch from my face, staring with unseeing eyes, her hand reaching towards the glass. The terror that grabbed me, holding fast onto my heart, stopping me moving, breathing or thinking. I had to go. I could feel the pillow against my face, pushing against my head, my neck, tense already, pulling into a rigor state.
With Boo next to me, I ran, we ran to a dark town hall, three teenagers arguing how much they loved each other, exchanging flowers, the darkness of the sky only pierced by a solitary streetlight, standing outside the building, a column of dusty light, flickering. Boo left me, running into my parents house, which had apparently decided to be right next to the huge building with the sad, desperately lonely streetlight. The teenagers left, holding hands, exchanging flowers and sweetness, skipping up the road into the darkness. It swallowed them whole, their backs disappearing into the night. I followed them and we ran into a strange place, everything there was wrongly normal, glistening with rain, the moon, full above us, shedding light on our bizarre surroundings. The building twisted and dark, the windows like eyes in the night, blinds narrowing the glass, these bent and broken houses glaring at us, daring us to enter. But the people running between the houses were so deeply bright. Cartoon-like in their appearance.
A crowd of, for want of a better word, people, came towards us. They would have been comical, living cartoons. But in this nightmare world they were horrifying, filling me with terror. I ran to a gap between them, this crowd of hundreds, stumbling towards me, stopping me from escaping their torn and broken hands. Bones exposed, finger tips torn open.
I ran past one, and he lunged, grabbing my hair and arm, his finger bones piercing my skin, making my wince despite my terror. I could feel his hand, moving to my hip, his fingers digging into the joint, trying to get in the skin. I could only think of the terror, then as his fingers found their way into the joint of my hip, I could only feel pain, horror that he was trying to pop my leg from my hip. I knew that he knew if he could separate the bones I would be trapped, damned, unable to escape, he would be able to pull my skin from my flesh, my eyes my from skull. Able to eat at his leisure. I could feel the tears running down my face, I could feel the pain in my hip.
I woke. In tears and in pain. The pain in my hip was unbearable, the tears drying on my face, my throat raw from the strangled screams, the terror still fresh in my mind. I knew there was no door at the end of my bed, I knew we were too high to have anyone at the window, but I didn’t dare look. I wanted so badly to wake the Squash, to curl up with him and cry on his shoulder, to cry the terror out of my heart and soul. But I didn’t dare. It was 2am, he had to be awake three hours later for work, I couldn’t wake him. I just couldn’t bring myself to make him listen to my horror, my pain and fear. I sat, my feet away from the floor, smoking until I thought I’d be sick, I didn’t dare go back to bed, I didn’t want to go back to sleep. Everytime I closed my eyes I saw those faces in my mind, felt the pain in my hip.
I always to think that I would grow out of nightmares, that being scared of the things in the dark and under the bed were childish. But not only do we never grow out of nightmares, we exchanged the monsters under the bed, or in the wardrobe for bigger, harder monsters outside. We stopped them having huge teeth and claws, and gave them suits, or sneaky eyes. We don’t have aliens in the fridge anymore, we have rapists in alleyways.
The thing about nightmares is that you don’t always need to have watched films or played games to have them. It’s much the same as the idea that playing violent games make someone violent. Playing Mario doesn’t make me think that eating a leaf will turn me into flying raccoon, watching ‘catch me if you can’ doesn’t make me a fraudster who plays at being a doctor. Reading horror stories doesn’t turn me into an abomination from beyond the deep. I had nightmares and angry thoughts as a child, before reading, watching or playing violent things. If I had a bit of dodgy screw loose or an inclination towards violence and causing terror, then those things might give me an idea, if I didn’t know right from wrong, if I had no empathy for my fellow man. Or animal.
For every case of someone declaring that ‘the movie/game/book made me do it’ I truly want to know why someone wasn’t watching them, how did they slip through the gap? Every serial killer, every murderer, every rapist, every sociopath and every person wrong in the world started somewhere. Dahmer started on animals, Kemper started on animals. Everyone starts somewhere, I truly fear people who have no time, liking or patience for animals. What screw is missing, what connection is faulty? Blaming media, of any kind, doesn’t change the fact that they are broken in some way in the first place.
There are places in America that when a child is found hurting animals they test the child, check their brain pattern and see what is wrong, and where. They don’t catch every “wrong’un”, but they do step in quickly, and sometimes it’s something as simple as a child feeling lost or abandoned.
You can’t teach sanity, but you can help prevent insanity, watch your children, pay attention to them, speak to them, listen to them, be there for them. I know work is important, but the first 4 years of your childs life they learn how to behave around other people. The next 4 years are the full and formative years, where their brain pattern is solidified, where every reaction to their words and actions teach them how the world works and appropriate actions and words to any current situation.
If you have children, love them, watch them, care for them, teach them. You can’t just throw them into the world and hope they can swim. There’s a possibility they could sink, or drag someone down with them.
Oh, by the way, I finally fell asleep again about 4 or 5 am. I don’t think I dreamed.