Last Wednesday, after a late night, with an early morning rushing towards me, I made a mistake. When you’re in a dream, that you know is a dream, don’t ever try to peek behind the screens.
You can veer off-course, and the dream will shift and rearrange itself for you. But, if you become aware to your dream state, and ignore the very rules that guide that state, all the rules that keep you safe and sane are void and null.
When I went to bed Wednesday night, (Thursday morning?), I tried to rush myself to sleep. I even flipped my phone face down so its glow wouldn’t distract me. It must have worked because I was out in an instant.
Now, I’ve never been one for remembering my dreams, you need either far more sleep or far less sleep than I typically get for that to be a concern. And, as I’m rather suggestible, it’s rare indeed that I question the validity of the plot and location of my dream, while I’m still within its bounds.
But. Every-so-often, I’ll drift near consciousness, as my alarm creeps ever closer to ringing. They say dreams with alarms ringing start when the alarm begins to ring–even if they seem to be minutes or hours long.
So, Thursday morning, as the shadows were growing smaller, I dreamt of being surrounded by familiar faces, all smiling and happy to see me. But, I couldn’t figure out who these people were, I knew I knew them, but I couldn’t make out who they were.
And that’s when it happened. My neighbor must have taken his puppy out for a walk, and the noise of their door closing kinda half-woke me. I realized I was still dreaming and. Foolishly. I fought to stay asleep, to stay in the dream. I wanted to know what happened next.
Yet, I was aware it was a dream and I was curious. I walked towards the faceless-smiling people and they started to drift away and fade. But conscious-me is smarter than dreaming-me. So, I faked walking past one of them, passing a little closer than they’d let me get thus far, and that’s when I struck!
I turned and rushed them and called out,
“Halt! I just want to see your face! Stop there!”
They must have been startled by me going so far off-script or tired at the end of their dreamshift, but as I shouted, I managed to shock one of them into stillness long enough to grab its shoulder
At least, I grabbed where its shoulder should have been.
To my horror, there was only cloth and bone.
I looked at the shoulder and realized my hand was dwarfed by its size.
Then. I looked up and up. Into that smiling face, and the comfort and familiarity that had surrounded me fled.
There was a glow where the face should have been and a smile. A floating smile, above shoulders higher than me.
I should have stopped there.
I wish to any gods that might listen that I had stopped there.
But, my self-preservation was still asleep, still thinking I was caught in a dream, not knowing my waking-self was there.
I reached to touch the smile and it fell, taking the glow with it.
The face behind the smile and the glow was not so happy. It wasn’t empty, it wasn’t skeletal, it was other.
My mind still doesn’t know what to make of it, it’s assembled from dream logic. But every time I lay down to sleep, or even blink my eyes, I can see it waiting. I can see its hatred of the dreamers. All dreamers, but especially those who look behind the curtain. Those who would dare to touch it.
Its friends are joining it, leaving their smiles behind.
I just blinked. There were several dozen this time.
It’s hours until bed, and I fear the crowd that will greet me when I can stay awake no longer.
Credit: Morgan Hazelwood