As the crepuscule of night befell over the city, I was hidden away by the sanctitude of my humble apartment. Nestled safely within the embrace of my bedding. Sleep and I would soon meet. I felt the tension in the muscles of my eyes begin to melt away as I drew nearer to rest. One last slow breath and I was away…
I have no control over what happens to me when I sleep, none of us do. And as such, the darkest corners of my beleaguered brain began to exsanguinate its malevolence deep into the chasms and clefts of my unsuspecting mind. Darkness fell over the city, and bleakness bled overtop of me.
The bad things came, the iniquitous things…
This version of nocturnal terror was not a direct recall of something that I had seen or experienced. It was something else entirely. Something arguably more sinister. A fable of fright woven together by the demons that reside in my bones. A terrible conjuration of muddlement.
I found myself standing alone within a baron room of vacuous detail. An ominous crimson glow permeated the entirety of this chimera. The only discernable thing that I could feel or recognize apart from the glow was fear. A heavy sense of trepidation saturated my hastening thoughts. I knew I was nowhere good. Nowhere safe. This fear only grew in severity when I discovered that I was unable to move! I was cemented where I stood. Manacled to hell itself.
Off to the near distance, a shadowy figure began to emerge in front of me. It was dark and intangible at first. But the longer I attached my gaze to it, the more recognizable it became. It had a humanoid shape to it. It was black. Demonically ethereal. As it drew nearer, details began to sketch themselves. Its face, his face, was a sickening composition of skull, decomposing meat, flesh and stringy bits of dangling sinew that fell freely from the open spaces of his diseased head. Accompanying this shadowy figure was an effluvium of hot sick and rotting tissue. I could feel a growing swell of nausea expanding within my stomach. And still, I could not move…
This thing, this repulsive monster of nightmare stood mere inches from my face – I now knew who it, or, what, it was – the Reaper. Death himself. A foe I have quarrelled with on many of occasion in the real world. A demon who has robbed from me more than his share.
The flesh on his face was not his. It belonged to a slain man who I had bear witness to back in the real world. In the real world he died on the side of the road while trapped within his crumpled, mangled mess of a truck some years ago. Now, here in this place of torment within my own mind, he was worn like a costume by the demon who took him.
Maggots, worms and ants now began to trundle in and out of his open eye socket and along the craggy exposed bones of his face. I wanted to run. I wanted to run so badly that I willed my frozen joints to begin moving. I turned and demanded that I sprint away from this Hell-spawn. But my body betrayed me. It was as though I was attempting to run while immersed in a bed of water. My movements were weighted and slow. I continued my attempt at fleeing anyway, though.
Suddenly and without warning, a grotesque and clammy hand started to intertwine itself with mine. It was the hand of death. The Reaper. He refused my furlough. He spun me angrily around to face him once more. Now with a deep growl like an angry wolf, he snarled at me. Snot and liquid drops of fat started to ooze through the diminutive cracks of his yellowed and broken teeth. The growl intensified and his grip tightened. I have never felt so stationary. Conceding to defeat, I began to allow a slow rage birth itself into my veins. I began hearing a voice. A protestation against this being from Hell. A riot was rapidly unfurling inside of me. If I could not run, I would fight!
I locked eyes with this dybbuk and allowed for my intentions to seep through my stare. I was going to kill him before he even thought of ending me. I balled my right hand into a club of meat and bone, readying to hurl it towards this monster’s face. I was going to smash his skull. I initiated my own growl and made a determined decision to silence his. I fulminated harshly through clenched teeth and as the rage soared from toes to chest to neck and throat, I lowered my jaw and let loose an oration of indignation. I was boisterous and merciless in my scream!
I dove my forehead into the rotting frontal lobe of his and made peace with whatever higher-power there may be, and began wailing and kicking at the Reaper. I was going to kill him, or he was going to kill me. Either way, I was not going quietly into that good night…
I kicked spastically and feverishly and my fists matched pace. A war-cry bellowed from the pits of my nauseated stomach and out through my twisted mouth.
When I was finished, I found that to my surprise and hefty obfuscation, the Reaper was no longer in front of me and I was no longer in a demonic room devoid of detail. All that was in front of me was a ceiling. Beside me, an oscillating fan. I was in my room. How? What the hell just happened?
As the seconds gave birth to minutes, I started to realize, I was home. I was within my apartment. I had just had a nightmare. A terrible, twisted nightmare.
What I had been kicking and punching was nothing more than my blankets that now lay crumpled in defeat along the end of the bed. I could feel my heartbeat ascend the sides of my neck and then escape from inside my ears. My breathing was shallow and my mouth dry. My tongue, cracked and desiccated like the bad-lands of the desert. Swallowing felt as though I was ingesting large heaps of granulated air.
A nightmare, a fucking nightmare. I suppose they call these; night terrors, actually.
I allowed for the relucent glow of my nightlight to guide my eyes around the surroundings of my apartment. I told myself with a meditative mantra that I was home, that I was safe. I placed my hand onto my stomach, assuring it that I knew and understood why it was upset. I told it to calm down now.
I sat up and rested in a seated position on the edge of my bed for a few moments. I fought against the impulsivity to get angry at myself and my injured mind.
I spoke to myself as if I were speaking to a patient that had just experienced this very same thing. I used compassionate verbiage and tone. I prattled non-judgementally about what had just happened. It helped. It calmed me faster than I likely would have been in the past. It certainly did more than any bottle ever has…
This is what it is like to fall asleep with me, with my brain. My ex used to hate it. Not so much because she hated seeing me go through it, but rather because it would wake her up so suddenly. I have not shared my bed with anyone since we divorced. Part of me is afraid that I will scare off anyone brazen enough to try sleeping with me. Part of me wonders if there is even anyone alive out there that could handle it. And part of me never wants to wake someone else from their needed rest merely because I am damaged. I feel somewhat like a burden, sometimes. I’m working on it, but that’s just how I feel, for now.
If you want some good news out of all this; it is that I am still sober. I am mere days away from celebrating two-months free of alcohol. I am learning to be kinder to myself in these moments of heinous torment. I am learning to enjoy the days, in-spite of the nights.
But mostly, I kicked the Reaper’s ass! Fuck you, Reaper. Eat a bag-a-dicks!
Wish me luck tonight. Tell the Reaper to fuck off!