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Haunted

April 20, 2012

The governess looked down at the upturned faces of her charges.  Her high collared gray dress was not frilly, but could by no means be considered severe.  Her graying hair was pulled back into a tight bun that was steadily losing wisps to the cold winds of the barren beach.  The children, a boy and a girl, looked up at her with aged, knowing eyes.  Haunted eyes.  They were as alike as twins, though the girl was a year older.  They did not speak.  Their blond hair was strangely neat in this ragged place, their clothes unusually clean, as though they had just been dressed to greet Father and Mother’s guests before dinner.  The governess tore her eyes from their unnerving faces, and looked down the beach to the house.

Some time long ago, it had been built on the edge of a creeping shore.  Surely it had been beautiful once.  It couldn’t have always been so weathered and worn.  The eaves couldn’t have always been that shadowed, the windows always that dark.  The paint that was now peeling had to have been fresh once.  Hadn’t it?  Now, the piers which had once been sunk solidly into deep sand were lapped by greedy waves, crusted with the slimed bodies of the sea creatures which were slowly eating away at the wood.  A pier had been built some years before, when the sea had begun to claim the sands on which the house had sat.  It twisted and warped, seeming to sway in the biting wind.

The door was open.  Had it been open moments before?  It must have been.  The children.  Of course, the children must have done it.  She looked back down to where they been standing.  But they were gone.  She was alone on the long beach, with only her footprints between her and the black rocks that stood sharply at the edge of the sand, blocking her view of what was on the far side.  She looked back at the house.  Now the door stood wide, a slice of black gouged into the front of the house.  Somewhere, some instinct told her that that there was something beyond the door.  Something horrible.  The face of her employer’s mother in law rose to mind, her form twisted and her grin mad.  It pulled at her.  It called to her.

Wake up.  Wake up.  WAKE.  UP.

When the nightmare ends, and I am all alone, it can be hard for a moment to remember where I am.  In my dreams, my vision is always clear, sharp, and perfectly detailed.  When I wake, I must remember that the blur of the curtains on the windows are not doors.  That there is no nightmare creature behind them.  That I am safe, so long as I don’t go back to sleep.  The worst part of the nightmare is knowing.  That part of me which long ago learned to lucid dream becomes self aware and recognizes that even though the dream may at this moment just be of a long stretch of beach with an old house on it, there is something terrible lurking just beyond that open front door.

In movies, it sometimes seems like people’s nightmares are always clearly scary before the horrible thing jumps out of the shadows, or the dreamer is happily carrying on with their ordinary dream until it all goes bad.  It is hard to describe my nightmares to people because everything seems so ordinary, except for that certainty that I am in a nightmare.  It’s just another dream where I’m back in high school and late for a class I haven’t been to all semester.  It’s just another trip to the world where all of my old neighborhoods are patchworked together.  It’s just another field where I run like I used to, like I long to, where at any time my feet may leave the ground and I will fly.  Except that it’s not.  I know that if I stay asleep in this world, it will all slide sideways.  So I try to wake myself, hoping to reset my brain before I get pulled back down into sleep.

I don’t wear face masks very often.  A recurring theme in my nightmares is the part where I wake up, but I’m not really awake.  Locked in sleep paralysis, I’ll try to open my eyes, only to find that the thing pressing down on my face keeps me trapped.  And then the nightmare has followed me into my own bedroom.  I’ll lay there, positive that I am awake, yet unable to move anything.  I will do anything at that point to get the face mask off.  Sometimes the nightmare will catch up with me here and I will dream that I am clawing at my face, peeling off a thing that has melted into my skin.  Sometimes it’s even more horrible than that.

Moose has learned the sound of me struggling to wake up.  The only thing I can control is my breathing, so I breathe heavier and faster, hoping that he’ll wake up enough to touch me.  Speak to me.  Shake me.  Anything to break me out of the dream.  But when I take my naps, I am all alone.  Breathing deep, desperately pushing air soundlessly past my vocals cords, hoping for just one scream.  One moment of opened eyes.  One snap of awareness.  One instant to claw my way up into the real world and away from my haunted dreams.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2012 9:26 am

    Okay so I’m confused. Is this fiction? I thought it was till you mentioned Moose.

    • April 20, 2012 10:58 am

      It’s a nightmare I actually had, followed by a discussion of my nightmares.

      • April 20, 2012 11:02 am

        Not sure that was the answer I was hoping for. 😦

        But you could probably tweak part of the post in first person and give it some “conclusion” that alludes some extra meaning to the dream section and I bet it’d sell to various horror publications as a flash fiction or really short short story.

        • April 20, 2012 11:09 am

          Part of the reason I wrote this is because that particular nightmare has stuck with me for a while. I mostly wanted to get it out so that I could process it and potentially use it somewhere more productive. But I also feel like the nightmares have gotten more frequent lately, so I’m working through that as well.

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