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Sleeping has always been something of a sore subject with me. As a child I was haunted by recurring night terrors and woke up at precisely the same time night after night like cruel clockwork. 2.47 precisely, regardless of what time I have bedded down, these phantasms have continued to plague me. It’s rather regrettable as I wake for shit every morning and would much prefer my alarm call at, say, 6am. Not the dead of night. As a child I would be terrified of slumber as I knew full well I would receive the same visitation night after night, always with the same outcome. Some folk are fortunate enough to awaken with little clue as to what has transpired but not me. My dreams are forever etched into my psyche and bucking the trend has always appeared an implausible notion.
My periodic persecutor is a tall man, not just a little lofty, but well over seven feet tall. He sits in a rocking chair in the most tenebrous corner of my room, slowly shifting back and forth while he strokes a pair of bloody secateurs. His eyes are so far sunken into his face that they leave only vacuous pools of darkness behind them and, while he unerringly wears a smile, there is no warmth to it whatsoever. Instead it cuts through my very soul, intensifying my panic considerably and whispering quiet death. I try my darndest to free myself from my constrictive bed linen but it proves too tightly tucked and my strength feels instantly curtailed by his presence. I lay there motionless in all but my eyes, which prove utterly transparent as to my innermost terror. A simple scream becomes the most complex vocal harmony and my wails of despondency never materialize. I’m frozen.
I can barely operate without my eight hours. Besides, I tried once before to throw an all-nighter in an attempt to dissuade his attendance and this just angered him further. I made it through with a little help from my friends but the next night he returned and, this time, the nightmare became even more protracted. Whereas before he was satisfied merely observing me as I lay helpless, now he rose from his chair after a time and made his way into my parents’ room while I watched on mortified. I have never found out what happens next as immobility prevents such but, judging by the guttural screams, I know it’s not hospitable in the slightest. This hasn’t been an isolated incident, instead it is my perpetual penance for defying this sleeping giant. Needless to say, I haven’t made a habit of fighting sleep since.
I recall the scent which hangs in my nostrils long after I am jolted back into consciousness each night. It is unlike any aroma I have ever had the misfortune of smelling, too hideous even to describe. It is how I would imagine death to be, intoxicating but in the worst possible way. For several minutes after I rise from my slumber I am disoriented, utterly inconsolable and feel as though a heavy weight is being pressed against my chest, constricting my breathing considerably. It just feels so real and the only way of reassuring myself is to look back into the corner of my room and reassure myself that I don’t even own a rocking chair. This helps but doesn’t explain why that Godawful stench hangs in the air or why my lungs feel like they’re about to shut down every time I awaken.
I have never uttered a word of this to my parents as I fear they wouldn’t understand or would just try and rationalize it. When all is said and done, it’s occurring within a state of deep sleep and therefore there’s not a whole lot they can do to reverse my fortunes. By putting things in perspective, I find it helps massively as no actual harm has ever come of these night terrors, other than the psychological abrasions left by seeing those contorted features each time I close my blinkers. I’ve just learned to live with it and hoard it to myself all these years as it appears my only option. I’m just thankful for the release come 2.47 every night as it feels like I will never again see the morning rays beaming through my curtains the whole time I’m under. As the saying goes, be thankful for small mercies. I put that into practice daily.
I ponder long and hard about why these visitations persist, there has to be a reason and I put it down to surreptitiously returning downstairs after bedtime while my folks watched Hammer House of Horror. It became a regular ritual, peeking through the door frame while they sat blissfully unaware of my attendance. My mother never would have allowed me to sit in on such inappropriate content, she would be terrified of the effect it would have on my already fragile psyche and the last thing I want is to be dead-bolted in each night when I already feel captive there. Funnily enough, I stopped my clandestine pursuits soon after the nightmares began as the last thing I needed was for my already overcrowded head to be any more cluttered with horrors.
There is only so much anyone can take and last night I invited my best friend over to stay. I was determined not to fall asleep and plied myself with energy drinks as an attempt at keeping the Sandman at bay. It was hard going and my lids felt positively leaden by 2.47 but I managed to resist just long enough to keep my phantasms at bay. By three o’clock I was dead to the world but I actually managed to sleep easy for the remainder of the night and woke as fresh as a daisy until morning came. I considered this as something of a success, my first full night’s rest for as far back as I can remember and not the vaguest whiff of my adversary whatsoever. Thank God for Taurine, I’ll take the shakes gladly if it means not having to see that abominable face again.
Right now it is 11.22. My parents have just retired to their quarters and I’m ready to face my demon once again. With a little luck, and I’m banking on such, he will have found another soul to torment. It’s not like he didn’t have a decent run, twelve years I have been his plaything and it is only natural he would move on eventually. I know one thing, there’s not a person alive I would wish this upon, I believe stoutly that this happens to me because I can take it. If he should come to me tonight while I sleep I will take heart in the fact that it’s not real, granted he feels pretty fucking authentic while I’m under, but no harm has ever come to me or my loved ones. I think I am ready to take the plunge, my body is tired and my mind shot to pieces from over thinking things. Time to wipe the slate clean, in little over two hours, I shall have the answers.
I awaken with a start and in familiar surroundings. Pinned beneath my sheets, I have no movement from the neck down whatsoever and that means my stunt last night was unsuccessful. It’s just a dream, that’s what I must continue to tell myself, in a few moments I will be returned to my reality and this will all be over once again. The smell is particularly pungent this time and I already discern rhythmic movement from the edge of my peripheral vision. Summoning every last ounce of my inner resolve, I raise my head. He’s there, rocking slowly and tapping those secateurs against his knee as is customary. There’s the chill, it never fails. no matter how many times I witness the same execrable sight.
His blackened eye sockets seem even more infinite tonight and the tainted smile across his face that little wider, more menacing. I can feel the scream forming in my gullet but already know it is unlikely to materialize. It is all I can do right now to remind myself that this is only a dream, I’m powerless in every other respect but not where it truly matters. Give it your best shot you heinous harrier, you’ll never beat me, I won’t afford you the sick pleasure. You’re nothing, nobody, a figment of my imagination. I’ve got your number now, can take what you throw at me and will do so with good grace. Years of repetition have made you nothing more than predictable, I’m not afraid of you anymore. A glance to my left will reveal the time and I know exactly how it will play out from there.
He is standing over me, his shadow suffocating me where I lay. Just a few more seconds and I will be released from these malignant manacles, I have to stay focused, but something just feels different this time. The silence is broken by a cough from the other side of my bedroom wall, my parents’ boudoir to be precise. The figure’s interest in me suddenly subsides and he moves towards my bedroom door, clutching his weapon tightly with intent. Ordinarily at this point he would vacate my chamber without procrastination but, just as he reaches the door frame, he stops dead in his tracks. The following few seconds seemingly last for an eternity but eventually my aggressor turns back to face me.
Staring into those dead eyes reveals nothing, I’m slowly drowning in his darkness and cannot lift a solitary finger in defense. He does so on my behalf, one spindly digit which he begins by wagging slowly and then places against his lips “Ssh” With that he returns his attention elsewhere and leaves me desperately trying to rustle together some form of scream which remains frozen of course. Within moments, another chorus commences and I know only too well what is transpiring just feet away from where I find myself restrained. The bastard’s in my parents’ room, I can hear flesh ripping from its origins and gargled screams for mercy which are destined to be ignored. If only I could free myself then maybe I could stop this from happening but I know the drill by now. 2.47. It will all be over soon.
I glance over to my left and instantly I know this not to be the case. 2.48am. As clear as day, the electronic interface doesn’t lie. Immediately I am filled with an overbearing sense of dread as I am clearly wide awake and yet the nightmare hasn’t passed. Familiarity now starts to fade and is replaced with the grim realization that this is no longer a figment of my imagination. With that, I tilt my weary head forward to the dark recess of my room and there before my pleading eyes is that ornate rocking chair.