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Night Terrors

I’ve always had vivid dreams, even as a child. Most aren’t what would be considered night terrors but they can be pretty intense. I have some control over these dreams: flying away from danger when needed, discovering a secret passage or a secret cache of weapons that had always been there but I had only discovered in the nick of time. Some of my favorite dreams involve me re-writing a favorite story, like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, and going along on brand new adventures with beloved characters. A few of these dreams have even ended up as the basis for some of my novels.

But there’s another kind of dream I encounter…though nightmare would be a better term. I’m not even sure night terrors is the correct diagnosis but it certainly feels right. I’ve also had these since I was a kid though much less frequently, thank goodness or else I might be afraid to fall asleep.

Trying to explain these nightmares is sometimes difficult…their terror is nearly impossible to convey during the light of day when explaining them sounds ludicrous and not scary in the least. But part of me can still remember running from my room in fear of my life.

Their presentation differs as is typical of dreams: sometimes the dream takes the form of someone standing over my bed ready to take my life and even stranger still, a random person (usually a man or creepy terrifying child) that looks at me and for some strange reason in that moment when their eyes meet mine, I know my death is imminent.

That’s the one single thread that runs through each of my night terrors: for a variety of often ridiculous reasons, I am going to die and I know it and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.

This realization is what causes me to bolt out of bed, often exiting my bedroom in stark terror with no rational thought other than to try in vain to escape my fate. The fear is all-encompassing, primal, leaving me unable to breathe. A few of these have left me in tears as I fought to calm my racing heart.

You see the really scary part of these dreams is how long it takes to shake them, to realize that there’s not a homicidal woman standing next to my bed with an ax ready to chop my head off. After the fear has worn off and I’m ready to attempt sleep, I realize that what I thought was someone ready to murder me in my sleep was in fact some light colored clothing randomly hung in a tight group, surrounded by darker clothing and my nightmare was nothing more than a trick of light and shadows. But this is all discovered in the aftermath as my body is shaking and I am still fighting to control my heart rate.

I often wonder where these night terrors come from…maybe it’s my desire to try to control things in my life. And isn’t death the one thing that we ultimately can’t control? It’s going to come for each and every one of us and none know the time, place, or manner in which it will strike. Since these dreams don’t seem likely to stop anytime soon (I had one last night in fact, prompting me to write this), I will have to continue using them for story and novel ideas.


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