Do you keep a dream journal? I’ll admit that I don’t, but I’ll also admit that I do keep a plot journal. It’s basically a glorified, itemized Word document with plot ideas and memories that triggered inspiration or ideas at one point in time. Today, I’m going to add one more to the list.
I don’t dream often. I know, I know—studies show that you dream every night when you fall into R.E.M. sleep. However, unlike most people, R.E.M. is rare for me. From the time I was 5 or 6 years old I’ve been a 4th-Degree insomniac. That means I have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and going back to sleep once I’m awake. Where most people get 6-8 hours of sleep a night and fall into R.E.M. in the third hour, most nights I sleep 2-4 hours in 20 minute intervals—if at all. It’s not something I’m happy about—it just happens. In fact, for a period while I was in middle-school I actively stayed up for 338 hours straight without caffeine. (that’s just over two weeks). I was loopy, and probably hallucinating, but I wanted to see if I could do it. It was surprisingly easy after the first 48 hours. I don’t recommend you try this—I’m used to functioning without sleep at this point, whereas most people are not.
My point being, dreams are rare for me, and worse yet: because I don’t sleep much, when I do manage to fall asleep long enough to dream (usually when I’m ill), my dreams are nightmares. I don’t remember the last time (if ever) that I’ve had a positive or just weird dream. There’s always death or danger involved on some level. Last night, it happened again.
I was ill yesterday. With my severe allergies, now that spring has hit, I’ve been feeling it more than usual. I woke up yesterday with a migraine and spent most of my day dizzy and nauseous. Unfortunately, that meant I also couldn’t seem to fall asleep last night. I was up until about 3:30 AM, when finally, exhausted, I nodded off. I managed a full 3 hours of sleep in one shot, and had a vivid, if terrifying dream.
I don’t remember much about my dream other than the fact that I walked out of my house (the one I currently live in… which is odd in and of itself… I rarely dream about my currently house) and was on a mission to do something in the detached shed in my backyard. This may sound odd to most people, but my house is really old, so my washer/dryer hookups are actually out in the shed. It was night and I had the shed’s florescent light on—I can only assume I was doing laundry really late at night, or relighting the pilot light on the water heater (which also sits in the shed). I don’t know.
I remember that a few members of my family had gone out to the shed with me (I have no idea why), and we were on our way back into the house when I looked back to see if I’d remembered to turn the shed light off, and there, illuminated in the glow was a corpse. We’re not talking just a dead person laying in the yard. This was a half-mummified, half-skeletal thing, still a bit bloody and grotesque, kneeling on the paving stones just in front of the door to the shed. There’s no way we could have walked past it without noticing it. It didn’t move—it just sat there. The image still sends a chill down my spine. It was as if someone had posed the thing, but I was wary that at any moment, it might move.
I remember asking a family member in the dream to move it to the side of the house where we keep the trashcans, because honestly, the sight of it sitting by my shed was freaking me out. Now in real life, this would have been stupid—but it was a dream, so screw forensics. My family member obliged, hauling the thing over to the trash. We turned around to go back into the house, and BANG! It sounded like something had fallen out of the sky and landed on our trash cans—so we look over, and the lid of the trashcan has been impacted down… and the corpse is missing.
Fully on red alert, I remember turning around to check the yard, and there it is… back where we’d first seen it, propped up and kneeling in front of the shed, about 5 feet away.
It’s gotten a step closer.
My family and I dashed inside the house, locked the doors and windows, and I remember arguing over if we should call the police, and if we did, if they’d be able to do anything about it. We finally decided it was worth a shot, and I distinctly remember flipping through the phonebook, looking for the police station’s number. I don’t know if the call ever got through (I made someone else in the family make the actual phone call) but I do remember going into my kitchen after that to get something to drink—presumably in an attempt to calm myself down), and the next thing I knew maggots were falling out of my kitchen cupboards. They were everywhere.
I woke up.
It was a frightening dream, but I think the part that will stick with me the most was the moment we turned back to the shed to find the corpse back where it had been before we’d moved it. That image, and the feelings associated with it, will stick with me for a long time. I have no idea what I could ever use the image for—maybe someday I’ll write a horror story or a murder-mystery where the corpse is posed like that… but there are some ideas and memories you write down, because it’d be a shame to have their impact wasted and forgotten.
What about you? What do your dreams mostly consist of, and have you ever found yourself with a nightmare or dream that was so vivid that you still feel uneasy when you wake up? Do you keep a dream journal? I’m curious to see if other people dream of the horrors I often do… of cannibals and creatures that live under their house and must be fed, of entities that live in the attic, or corpses kneeling in backyards. Maybe Stephen King dreams of these things too. That would explain a lot.
Now it’s time for me to go tromp off into my backyard—I’ve got laundry to do this morning. If I don’t return, assume the worst.