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…