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The night is dark and full of terrors

July 27, 2016 The Wine Time Dad 1 Comments Category : , , , , , , , , , ,

She’d been doing this a lot recently, screaming inconsolably but not really awake. The episodes usually lasted 10-20 minutes. Most of the time I can get her to calm down, but this time was different.

I opened the door to her crying, she sat facing the window, the one with the blackout curtain. At first I couldn’t make out what she was saying but after sitting next to her bed and trying to calm her down, the words gained substance.

“I told them to go away!”

Possibly the sounds from the apartment above us. Whoever lived there had been renovating for the better part of two years. Their work was inconsistent but their preferred time was naptime.

After trying to calm her down for a few minutes, I pulled her out of bed and held her. She was exhausted and kept trying to sleep but whatever she was seeing in her nightmare wouldn’t go away. She was fixated on the part of the window where just a tiny sliver of light snuck in.

She was starting to shake and kept opening and closing her left hand while she held the right one to her chest. As if she’d injured it.

I put her back in bed when her breathing started to even out. As soon as her head hit the pillow she closed her eyes, but I stuck around watching her to make sure.

Suddenly she sat bolt upright and screamed at the window.

“Hey, look at me, baby. Look at me. It’s okay- there’s nothing there” I tried to reassure her.

Slowly, she turned her head towards me, almost convulsing now, and pleaded, “I am looking at you daddy!”

Turning back to the window, she lifted both of her hands towards the sliver of light, as if to receive something. Her wailing reached a pitch I’d never heard from her before and her whole body shook.

Naptime was over.

The night is dark and full of terrors. Or so acolytes of the Lord of Light would have us believe. Whether or not it actually is full of terrors depends on how much your imagination takes over after the lights go out. For some, nighttime is when our star bathes the other side of the planet in its radiant, vitamin d glow. Yet for others, the night manifests itself in sinister ways. Within the subjective caverns of the mind, it can both be a time of wonder or intense sheet-sweating fear.

Ah, sheet-sweating fear… The night has always had an added experiential value for me. It’s when my imagination stops cooperating with my conscious control and comes alive. I should thank one of my aunts and best friends for this. I had an early education in Stephen King (“Eyes of the Dragon”- such a classic, then “It” followed after).

At age 9.

Since then, nights were never the same. Tossing and turning in my sleep, I’d lay awake for hours waiting for the monster under the bed. After watching the 1988 version of The Blob, I had trouble sleeping for weeks. I’d panic every time I took a shower or went to the bathroom.

I still consider this a possibility, from time to time.

However, maybe an early education in horror was only the trigger, and this proclivity for vivid nightmares is written into the fabric of my DNA. Just like my hair, skin, eye color, intellect (probably not), etc., dreaming proclivities followed these others to my birth.

Like family curses or God’s wrath (Numbers 14:18- that's harsh, man).

But the stuff dreams are made of?

I want my daughter to have an active imagination, maybe even a sense of the macabre (because we’re interesting people), but I would withhold the darker bits. None of the dark strangers or shadows of Cthulhu that frequent mine. I would withhold the same waking nightmare I’ve had on and off since childhood: a presence, sometimes malevolent and other times indifferent, that appears after failing to wake up from a known dream. This dream has recurred so often that my subconscious supplies the context for it without fail.

Yet, I’m not the only one. I thought it a fluke of some other kind of mental genetics but several family members have confirmed the same experience. And if talking, walking, driving, and cooking in our sleep are traits expressed through generations (maybe not the last one), then the proclivity for nightmares and terrors isn’t far behind.

Maybe Bruce Lee was haunted by something sinister…

A little research and our own experiences can tell us that nightmares or an outbreak of night terrors is common in toddlers. We all know what sort of acid trip is going on in there- even if most of us, if not all, don’t remember it as adults. Stress and periods of transition can bring them on, but it seems that if you were/ are prone to them, then your children might be as well.

I guess curses can be real, in a manner of speaking.

Ah, but best we don’t talk about it, lest weconjure something.

In the several weeks since that last night terror. We’ve had no more- just a few bad dreams that were quickly forgotten.

I’ve had a few bad nights…

From time to time, I wonder what she was reaching for and what she saw… But, maybe it wasn’t the dark stranger, just something else and the propensity for sheet-sweating nightmares is broken with her generation.

I can only hope the darker parts of my imagination didn’t lodge themselves in hers, and she’ll get no visits from It.

At least not for a while.

Sweet dreams, friends.

[days since incident: 23]



Author's note: The photos that weren't obviously lifted from a google image search are from John Kenn Mortensen.