I come to in the darkness. Sweat drips off me, causing my shirt to stick uncomfortably. I breathe a sigh out. Just a dream. I tell myself this as I pull myself from the tangled sheets. I’m always telling myself this mantra. Mom and dad told it to me. The babysitter said it. The therapist chanted it until it was the only thing I knew to say when I would wake up like this.
I stumble to the bathroom in the tiny studio apartment, cast off my damp clothes, and throw myself through a shower. It’s the scratches on my arms though, that get me. The bruises that show up randomly. The slashed sheets. They all say I do it to myself. Maybe I do. Hard to verify it when they had a 24-hour live feed on me in solitary back when my parents put me in a psych ward. The staff couldn’t explain the manifestations. They let me out a month later when they couldn’t figure out the marks, or make the nightmares stop. They tried. I had the scars to prove it.
Now, in a different city, in a different country, I was still running from my dreams most nights. A new job had done little to change the stress that they all blamed on instigating the nightmares. Like school, clubs, love life. Everything was stress. It was everything else that caused me to dream, to be weird. That’s what they kept saying. They’d say it to their graves.
Dried and clothed, minor wounds addressed, I strip the bed of its linens and toss all of it in the washer. I want to see them explain the green and purple goo that coated the bedding and stained my sheets weird shades of opalescent grey. Let them try to tell me the box of bizarre spears that shot corrosive pink bubbles, electric knives with glowing jewels I could not find the names to, and laser guns that shrunk to the size of my pinkie finger hidden under my bed were just my imagination. I want to see the expression on their faces when I finally drag the creatures into my world. When I had enough evidence to turn the world on its head, I’d bring it all out.
I smile as my gaze settles on the nightstand. A burnt-umber scaled appendage with seven talons rests in the plastic tray I keep there for my nightmares. I had learned, after numerous attempts to drag whatever I could from the other side, that I’d rather not have gross stuff all over my furniture. The talons twitched nervously.
The chest at the end of the bed produces a new package of sheets. With luck, I’ll be back to sleep before midnight has passed, and I’ll get a second chance. This time. This time I’ll drag it over, kicking and screaming if I have to. I finish assembling my bedding, toss the talon in a massive plastic bag, and deposit it in the freezer with the other bits and pieces I’d come away with before collapsing back on the mattress.
Time to dream big, kid. I tell myself. I force my eyes closed, and the nebulous turmoil behind my eyelids drops me into the wormhole once again. We’re going monster hunting.
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
If you would like to tip the author, check out the following buttons: