Summer Broads 2012, Prompt #2: What gives you nightmares? (by Kassie at Bravely Obey)
I don’t have a dream life–my dreams have a me life.
I have incredibly vivid dreams, many of which I remember the next day. They’re always in color, sometimes in French, and though I’ve heard that it’s impossible to read in a dream, I regularly do. People from every period of my life crop up, usually in logical groupings, though occasionally we get the sweeps-week, special-guest-star episode where they mix in interesting ways. A lot of this probably comes from the very vivid visual style of thinking and remembering that’s not uncommon among autistics.
Sometimes, I dream things that happen. I won’t say they’re “psychic” dreams, but they’re not quite deja vu either. There’s actually a tradition of this on my maternal side, going all the way back to my great-grandmother. Sadly for everyone else, I almost never dream something helpful in advance. It’s mostly just situations, fragments of conversation, or groupings of people interacting. I’m sure it sounds loony, but there it is.
Nightmares, though…nightmares are something else entirely. Sure, I had bad dreams when I was a kid. My grandparents took me with them to see The Elephant Man in the theater while they were waiting for their car to be serviced, and I still can’t see a picture of John Merrick or hear the voice from that movie without it triggering a mountain of anxiety. I also had my share of bad dreams from the second half of Gremlins–don’t let the cute fuzzy mogwai fool you, it’s a horror film!
But I don’t actually have nightmares–I have night terrors. I can’t wake up from them unless someone does it for me. I never do the sit-bolt-upright-and-scream thing; that would be a lovely change of pace. Instead, I’m just stuck until the dream decides to wind itself down. Most commonly, they’re violent as hell, and I’m just trying to stay alive.
I also have recurring nightmares. The worst stretch of those was the summer after I graduated from high school. The dream began with me waking up in my bed, looking down over the footboard at the shade-covered window. Every night, I saw the shadow of a man cast against the shade, then watched his silhouetted form duck under the windowframe, and enter my room. After that, it was different every time. Sometimes he came over and choked or stabbed the life out of me in my bed. Even worse were the nights he walked past me, and I heard him kill my family, one by one. Sometimes I fought, sometimes I froze, but I could never stop him.
And when I finally woke, my first sight was the shade-covered window across from the foot of my bed.
I had that dream every single night, unless I went to bed after 3.30 am. If I had it, obviously, I was done sleeping for the night. I spent a great deal of time that summer running away from that dream. When I went off to college, it ended, and it never revisited when I came home after that.
Finally, someone who thinks as visually and has a vivid imagination that never takes a day off is bound to have waking nightmares, and I’m no stranger to those either. Mostly, I just chase down a full thread of a passing horrible thought, without meaning to, like fast-forwarding through a video. They’re mercifully short, but they can derail my day just as surely as a sleeping nightmare. My kids getting hurt, our fragile home economy collapsing under catastrophe, or just the black hand of depression holding me down by the throat again. Life can be pretty dark, even before you turn out the lights and close your eyes.