“The Law Of Nightmares” By C. A. Brown (Short Story #2 – Halloween 2016)

Stay tuned for the next short story tomorrow at 9:30pm GMT/UTC

Stay tuned for the next short story tomorrow at 9:30pm GMT/UTC

People always make one fatal mistake whenever they have nightmares. They fear that things will get worse. Inevitably, things always do.

If you think that the old pile of leaves beside the empty house looks a bit like a monster, then it will become one. If you’ve seen one too many horror movies and expect a jump scare when you look in the mirror, then you’ll get one.

Nightmares always follow this logic. Once you’ve learnt this, you can fight back. Or, you can try at least….

The trouble with nightmares is that they rarely start out as nightmares. They lull you into a false sense of security with their surreal normality, until things gradually begin to get worse and worse. Before you even realise that you’re not supposed to worry, the nightmare already has you within it’s claws until you wake up gasping and sweaty in your darkened bedroom.

By the time that this has happened, it’s too late to take back control. After all, when things become so terrible that you realise that they just can’t be real, you’ve still got to work out what to do about the robed man in the doorway, the bodies on the linoleum or the shrivelling flesh on your face. Fear sets in, instinct takes over and you’ll just end up making things worse for yourself.

Nightmares start out by making a small bite in your mind and they let you do the rest. They’ll show you something slightly out of place, something slightly wrong and then they’ll let you scratch at it until the fear flows freely. Nightmares are the ultimate parasite. Not even the humble mosquito or the sneakiest tapeworm could ever dream of gaining the evolutionary advantages that nightmares have.

But, like every good parasite, they remain hidden. No scientist has ever been able to trap one in a jar, or dissect one on a table. Well, not officially at least.

There has, of course, been clandestine research into the subject. Very little is known about this, but what evidence exists suggests that, in the fifties, the US Government managed to extract one. They had apparently thought that, with the right conditioning, they could train it to be a new type of weapon. But, they forgot the one law that nightmares always follow.

Descriptions of the nightmare are vague at best. An unconfirmed fragment of an old report that surfaced online during the nineties described it simply as “alien” and “fearsome”. This was, of course, their largest mistake. If you are afraid of a nightmare, you’re putting a tempting meal in front of it. Once it gets hungry enough, not even the thickest glass or the strongest chains can hold it at bay.

Declassified files and interviews with relatives seem to suggest that approximately thirty scientists all died within a single week from an outbreak of smallpox, following a lab accident. Of course, with the bodies swiftly cremated, there is no way to tell whether it was smallpox – or something else.

Nightmares always follow one law, but they may have others. These are, unfortunately, not known to us. They may slither and scuttle around the realm of sleep, unseen by all of us in our waking lives – but they are always there. They must have some kind of unwritten criteria for selecting their victims. After all, some people are fed on by them every night and some can go months or years between being bitten.

Perhaps we all taste different? Perhaps some nightmares are hungrier than others? Perhaps they have rotas and quotas? Perhaps they choose people who will try to fight back, or perhaps they don’t? Perhaps one is even lying in wait for you tonight…

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13 comments on ““The Law Of Nightmares” By C. A. Brown (Short Story #2 – Halloween 2016)

  1. babbitman says:

    The nightmare is loose and swarming across Britain, apparently spread by specific media channels. “Be afraid!” they shout. “Shut them out, keep them out!”
    And so the snarling fury of the Daily Mail and Daily Express ripped the heart out of the country, which was left shivering in a bedraggled heap under soiled bedclothes.

    • pekoeblaze says:

      But, their columnists rail, ‘who needs a heart when we have “sovereignty”?’ ‘We don’t peddle nightmares’, they cry,’ why would we when there is so much to be happy about? After all, isn’t the pound really popular at the moment, after we put it on special offer to show the world what a proper currency looks like? And, look at our old friends in the Commonwealth, ready and waiting to drop all of their obviously unprofitable trade with China to buy and sell exclusively to us, tariff free, once we’ve broken free of Europe? Anyway, try not to think about it too much – we might have a shiny new Royal Yacht! Here’s a coupon for a free bottle of detergent! Isn’t everything going great since the 23rd June?’

      Sarcasm aside – the Mail gets more infamy, but The Daily Express is probably the only paper who can lay claim to the title of being “even worse than the Daily Mail”. I mean, the Mail might be a Tory paper, but The Express is probably more UKIP than Tory.

      • pekoeblaze says:

        Indeed. I guess that the fact that the Express is very slightly less well-known than the Mail probably allows it to “get away with more”, so to speak. Plus, of course, there’s the fact that the guy who owns the paper has actually donated quite a lot of money to UKIP too.

      • babbitman says:

        Oh, if only Diana were alive…
        … she’d probably fry their tiny minds and by voting Remain.

      • pekoeblaze says:

        LOL! I could totally see something like that happening if she was still around. Talking of conspiracy theories, did you hear the hilarious one from the leave side the day before the referendum, who were urging their voters not to use a pencil to mark their ballots, in case “they” decided to erase their ballots.

      • babbitman says:

        I know. And these nutjobs somehow think they are now ‘The Majority’ and can do all of the things their paranoid little brains were imagining were being done to them.

      • pekoeblaze says:

        Totally – although you’d think that the fact that they won (despite their conspiracy theories) would restore their faith in democracy. Plus, although they technically (by 1-2% by 3-4%, oops!) are in the majority, all of this “hard Brexit” stuff that both the Tories and some people in the EU keep going on about seems like the kind of thing that would only be (morally at least) justifiable with a decisive 70-90% majority. But, with just 52% (?), it implies that people probably want a less drastic option. Yes, we still have to leave the EU (after all, the leave side still won) but such a tiny majority can’t really be used to justify the kind of extreme heavy-handed approach (eg: the Government actually got a high court ruling stating that they can use Article 50 without first going through parliament) that some people in the Tory party seem to want.

      • babbitman says:

        Only 37% of the population voted to leave. Yes, they were marginally larger in number than those who voted Remain, but it’s not the case that 52% of the country are gleefully rubbing their hands at leaving the EU. I think the 25% or so who didn’t vote are probably going “What the fuck? Why are things getting dearer?”

      • pekoeblaze says:

        Ah, I wasn’t thinking about the population as a whole – only the percentage of voters. But, yeah, it’s astonishing how elections of any kind can be won by a relatively small percentage of the population. I mean, the Tories only won the last election by getting 36.9% of all votes [unfortunately, Google doesn’t quickly provide statistics for the entire population, including those who didn’t vote].
        But, yeah, I imagine that’s how a lot of people are reacting – it’d also be interesting to see how many people who voted leave now actually regret doing so (after the mythical £350 million per week failed to appear, after all of this inflation etc..).

      • babbitman says:

        I read something recently (in the Economist http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2016/10/daily-chart-6) that says that around 6% of Leave voters regret their decision. Amongst those who did it mainly as a protest because they didn’t think we’d leave, it’s up to 10%.
        Wait until the real pain starts to bite… all we’ve had so far is warnings of impending disaster with a fall in the pound reflecting the expected carnage. A bit like if you tell your insurance company that you’ve decided to let a 17 year old chauffeur you about, your insurance premiums are going to go up due to the increased risk.

      • pekoeblaze says:

        Yeah, I mean I was actually slightly undecided up until about a month or two before the referendum (and, yes, I was somewhat tempted to protest vote for leave at one point – although, in retrospect, I’m glad that I didn’t). But, yes, the most telling graph is probably the one about how regrets increase as the probability of Brexit increases. I mean, I don’t think that most of the people on the leave side actually expected to win, the politicians certainly didn’t prepare for it at least.
        Aside from the more logical/sensible reasons, one of the reasons I voted remain was because I actually wanted to be on the winning side of an election for once LOL!!!!!!!
        Ah, I’d rather not think too much about the impending dystopian future. I mean, it isn’t like we have lots of experienced trade negotiators (we haven’t needed them for the past 40 years), not to mention that since we’ll only be one small country, we’ll be at a huge disadvantage when negotiating with larger economies like America, China etc… Still, there are at least another couple of years before we actually leave.

  2. […] “Channel Not Available” 2) “The Law Of Nightmares” 3) “Larkminster Library” 4) “Festivals Are Grim” 5) “A Tale Of The […]

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