I can’t believe it’s October. September has flown by. I’ve changed companies in my day job, had lots of excitement with the release of Once Upon a Rhyme, and had to finish copyedits for Happily Never After. I also appeared at the SFWA tent at the Baltimore Book Festival. It was a great time and I really enjoyed talking to a number of great people, readers and writers alike. If anyone has found this blog as a result of reading Once Upon a Rhyme, thanks for checking it out.
October always makes me think of Halloween, so I thought I’d start the month by sharing some old writing. This was a short story that I wrote in my teenage years. For all the teenagers out there, keep writing, because you never know what might happen.
The young man walked in the rain beside the interstate. He was alone… very alone. No one could feel what he felt. No one could understand, sympathize or empathize. Cars zoomed by, uncaring, illuminating him in their misty beams for a moment before returning him to the darkness.
Narcoleptic… that had been the newest doctor’s diagnosis of his condition. With that one word, he lost his driver’s license and been labeled handicapped, all because he was cursed to fall asleep. He shook his head unconsciously as he remembered the doctor explaining that it was a life-threatening condition. At any time, in any place, he could sprawl on the floor unconscious. Medical science had no explanations as to why he had developed narcolepsy and could only offer drugs, but no cure, no hope of salvation.
They didn’t know the truth. For most people, sleep was a sweet release, an escape. For him, it was torment.
He shivered, not from the soaking cold rain, but from fear. REM sleep for a narcoleptic began the moment he collapsed and his eyes shut. His dreams would take him. In those dreams, he saw things that he could not describe and experienced time and space in a way that he thought must be as different from a normal dreamer as dreams were from reality. He had witnessed with dreaming eyes the flashes of memories of strangers long dead and heard thoughts that were not his own. They were alien.
What was worse was that there were things that dwelt in the dreams, creatures of nightmare. They hungered for him. They wanted his mind, his soul, his essence. They chased him, hunted him, tortured him. They saw him when he slept and they knew him. They waited.
Even from the beginning, his dreams had caused him anguish. He remembered sitting up, screaming in the middle of the night at age four at his grandparents’ house. The elderly couple ignored his frantic garbled pleadings that mommy and daddy were hurt. In the morning, when the police officer came to the door instead of his parents, he knew that it hadn’t been just a nightmare.
That had only been the start. Maybe if he had only had prophetic dreams, even prophetic nightmares, he could have learned to cope, learned to hide them. Instead, his dreams had become more real and there were places, recurring places where dreadful things lurked. They had grown more vivid, more real, and now, he wondered if life were the dream and the nightmares were reality.
When he had refused to sleep, his grandparents had gone to doctors who had forced sleeping pills on him. He had been trapped, against his will, taken back every night to face his nightmares. Since he turned 18, he had refused to take any more of them. For a time, he told himself he could resist, and maybe be free, but then, he had started to collapse, going to sleep without warning, pulled back against his will. The diagnosis that the doctor had given him foretold his doom. The dreams were calling him.
But for now, he was awake, and he was determined not to sleep again. He would not let the nightmares take his soul.
Quietly, he felt gentle fingers caressing him, soft whispers of exhaustion. Even the walk and the cold rain were not enough. He stopped in the gravel on the roadside.
Fumbling in his jacket, he pulled out a syringe and a bottle of liquid. He uncapped the syringe, and struggled to open the bottle while holding the syringe, before getting it open and drawing the amphetamines out. He didn’t care about infections or drugs, as long as he escaped the nightmares.
Even as he injected himself, sleep pulled at him, tearing his senses away from reality. The world spun and the sounds of the highway traffic changed in pitch and intensity. He tried to keep his balance, but he stumbled and his bottle and needle fell into the gravel, fell into oblivion.
One of them was here. A formless body with jaws that impossibly slavered and snapped, an unknown demon from the pit of nightmare. It lunged at him.
He screamed and ran. He dodged the dark and the jaws and found himself in a place of safe white light. The dark was dispelled; his torture had ended. He felt no fear and spread his arms wide to bask in the brilliance.
The driver of the 18-wheeler had no time to react.