“Nightmares exist outside of logic, and there’s little fun to be had in explanations; they’re antithetical to the poetry of fear.”
Productivity is low again as I awoke early in the morning to my own screams. With a tear stained face, shaking hands, and the nightmarish feeling I know all too well. For the past 10 years or so, I have spent almost 1 night every two weeks in turmoil. In my mind, have the image of my mother’s face charred beyond recognition. Through my tears I can see her nose is gone leaving two gaping holes in the center of what was once the soft loving safety net I spent my life relying on. A fraying rope is wrapped around her thin long neck tangled with the necklace my sister and I bought her for Mother’s Day one year. She is one of many that hang from the rafters of a burnt barn. All of my loved ones hang from nooses and they loom above my head as their feet sway eerily.
Nightmares are a version of our own thoughts that were once based in rational thought. They become distorted monsters creeping out of the dark corners of our mind and feasting on what we see as reality. Being plagued by a reoccurring nightmare is what I imagine being haunted feels like. Many think that through trying to understand our nightmares, we are released from their grasp. I feel as though, like quicksand, the more I try to understand and loosen myself, the tighter the arms of my nightmares surround me.
In the earliest hours of the morning, I find myself stirred awake by the pounding of running feet and yells. I am in an old farm house resembling my maternal grandparents’ farm. On the third floor bedroom alone, I look out my window and see a flames reaching toward the night sky. The barn at the end of the property was on fire. Below to see my family and friends pouring out of the house we all live in together. They are running out the front door and along the sidewalk below my window. The fastest include my father and uncles. They lead the pack to the barn. From my window, I can smell the smoke and almost hear the crackling and crashing of support beams made of old American chestnut. The light from the fire illuminates my room and I join my family running down the stairs and out the door to help put out the blaze.
At first, I am in the middle of the pack and am gaining speed to the front, I am surrounded by my loved ones; my sister, Claire, and my mother are closest to me. All at once, I skip forward in time, and I’ve reached the barn. I slow to a stop, trying to catch my breath. All is quiet. I am completely alone and the barn that was burning brightly a moment ago, is now charred and abandoned. It looks as if years have passed in a single moment. Ivy climbs the side of the building and the moon is large and bright. In a panic, I call out to my parents, my sister, my grandmother, aunts, and uncles. The only answer is the sound of wind and crickets.
Perhaps they are in the barn, I think. I push the towering front doors open. I can feel the cold wet chill of the wooden door and my hand comes away blackened; covered in soot. There is the tell-tale moan of the hinges as the door slides along the dirt floor. The wind takes it open the rest of the way. In my nightgown and no shoes, I enter the barn. I can feel the hay below my feet give while I walk. There is a large hole in the ceiling where beams have fallen and caved in. The moon is pouring through the hole and I feel like a specimen under a microscope, like I’m being observed closely by something far greater than I am.
I have the image of my mother’s face charred beyond recognition. Through my tears I can see her nose is gone leaving two gaping holes in the center of what was once the soft loving safety net I spent my life relying on.
That’s when movement to my left, catches my peripheral vision. I see my mother, as described before. Charred and mouth agape, I can almost hear her screams. I crumble to the ground dirtying my knees. As her feet sway above my head, I look around. The moonlight illuminates the faces of everyone I hold near and dear. Each one strung by the neck like some macabre marionette.
I suddenly feel the presence of something even more sinister than the scene I am currently faced with. A deep guttural laugh emerges from the darkest corner of the barn. As a figure steps into the light, I can see it is shrouded in a dark cloak and the only discernable features are a gas mask affixed to it’s face and a swastika badge on its arm. A gloved hand appears from beneath the cloak’s folds and points at me. As this happens, my throat begins to tighten and sting. I start coughing uncontrollably and my eyes well up with tears. I can feel my tongue become numb and foam starts to pour from my mouth as I collapse. Then, the dream ends.
Each time I wake up from this nightmare, my eyes are wide open and I can feel my back soaked in sweat. Each time, I sit up, hugging my pillow and wiping my tears away on the corners of the pillow case. Each time, I yearn for morning light and a warm shower.
Sometimes I just get up from bed. I’ll sit in my living room and read or watch a show or play with the cat, anything to clear my mind. When I arrive to work 5 hours later, my eyes are bloodshot and no amount of concealer can cover the dark circles below them. Oftentimes, some young coworker asks if I was out drinking, while the older ones state that I might be coming down with something.
The feeling of dread can loom for days or weeks. Sometimes it fades only to pop up again when my mind is unoccupied. Once, it stopped for 2 months during my finals week as a senior in college. I guess I couldn’t handle both stressors at one time.
Nonetheless, the story returns and it stays the same.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/people/8997039@N03/