You would think that after so many years on this earth I would have become proficient at sleeping by now.
I mean, it’s a fairly basic skill.
It’s a skill I practice every night, and yet I still don’t seem to have quite mastered it. It takes me a while to power down, and then every so often – usually when I’m stressed out and not even aware of it – I have nightmares. At 5am this morning I sat bolt upright in bed gasping for air like a drowning swimmer who had finally reached the surface. Then I sat, hugging my knees, willing my heart to slow down.
My nightmares are impressive creations. I have an active imagination at the best of times, but at night when I’m asleep it roams completely unfettered. It snakes into every crevice of my brain, unravelling fears I never knew I had and weaving them into intricate storylines of unrestricted horror. Get away out of here with your simple dreams of going to work naked, or running and not getting anywhere! I’m talking hardcore, unforgettable, rated-R for Radically-unpleasant dreams that give me an emotional hangover the next day.
And they are so goddamn VIVID.
I don’t seem to lose any of my senses in my nightmares. I can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell. The nightmares tell a coherent story, rather than being a jumble of images. They don’t refer to my day, or my experiences. They just pluck ideas, seemingly at random, out of my brain and project them in stereo sound. They drop me into situations I am entirely unprepared for with zero warning. Not only that, but they always start so innocuously…
‘Well, today we’re going to have a dream,’ my brain starts. ‘Look, we’re at the beach! Isn’t that nice? Let’s just look out the window there. What a lovely view. Check out that glorious sunshine! And look at that woman with the toddler, how cute. Aww, adorable! Now they’re going paddling. So sweet. Now she’s… Now she’s… She’s drowning the toddler. SURPRISE! It’s a nightmare. No, don’t bother even trying to get over there, there’s no way you’ll make it in time.’
‘Oh look! A desert! Are we at Burning Man? We might be at Burning Man. That would be cool. Hey remember to shield your eyes, the sand really stings when it gets in there… Ooh! A solitary ramshackle shed! Let’s go over and check it out. I mean there’s nothing else for miles, so why not? There might be something fun in there! Ignore that smell. Ignore it. It’s nothing. All deserts smell like that. It’s just the heat. Open that rickety door there. Go on, open it. I told you to ignore that smell, it’s nothing… Just kidding! It’s a rotting corpse! Look at those maggots. Look at the DETAIL! That’s impressive. Whew, I wonder how long that’s been decomposing…’
‘Oooh what a lovely house. Look at that crown moulding. Bit sparse on the furniture front, but it’s obviously very grand. Oh look! A baby! We’re babysitting! Isn’t that fun? Look at him crawling around. What a sweetie. Oh! Oh a nose bleed. Do you have a tissue? Quick, get a tissue. Oh no, that can’t be good. Why is the baby bleeding from its ears? Is that normal? I don’t know where you think you’re running to with that baby – I’ve designed this place to be completely isolated! The only real room was the one you were in! The rest of the house is a burned-out shell! There’s nobody for miles! And now the baby is bleeding from its eyes! This isn’t going well for you at all!’
Basically at the end of all of these scenarios you can imagine my scumbag brain laughing at me like a psychotic maniac and that would be fitting.
There are a few recurring themes in my nightmares. I’m usually alone and/or somehow helpless to prevent or fix the situation I find myself in. I am usually either witnessing or somehow unwittingly creating a tragic event. They never happen in real places or with real people; everything is freshly imagined from scratch.
Even though sometimes I know that I am dreaming, I can’t wake myself up until the panic is completely overwhelming and every nerve in my body is screaming. It’s lovely! So invigorating.
That was sarcasm.
If anybody has any advice for keeping nightmares at bay, let me know. I am fully on board with anything that might make me dream of, say, Adriana Lima or Jason Momoa (or both!) rather than bleeding children or traumatic deaths.