One thing I rather enjoy about sleep is having very vivid dreams. Well, ‘enjoy’ is not always the word, as those are not always goot dreams, and nightmares complete with sounds, smells and physical sensations can be a bit trying at times. It still makes sleep rather lively, and they happen almost every night, which is an extra incentive to get all the sleep I need. For instance, after speaking in turns with my housemate about Harry Potter, with my boss about the zombie apocalypse, my mum about what to do to keep snails out of her garden and a friend from high school about life, I found myself dreaming that I was back in high school in Poudlard and I was about to get myself in trouble for skipping class in order to look for vegetables, as this was a post-apocalyptic world where millions of snails had eaten all the food. Not exactly a relaxing dream, but quite a romp all the same.
In the past, however, the nightmares have demanded some work. After a long period waking up in terror every two hours and being driven to sleeplessness and exhaustion, I started to realise that there are things you can do against bad dreams. Little by little, I found out that when you have a nightmare, whatever you fear will happen eventually happens. It you think the monster will rip you to shreds, it will. If you think this bridge you’re on is unstable and you’re going to fall, you will. The good part is that once you realise it, you can make it work for you. If you think hard enough that this monster is in fact going to disappear, or that you are the one who will rip it to shreds, it will turn the tide. This has been tremendously helpful. I’ve ripped countless nightmare monsters apart with my bare hands, to the point that I regularly dream about the zombie apocalypse and those are hardly nightmares anymore. I’m not sure it counts as lucid dreaming, as I rarely realise that I’m dreaming; I just seem to enter a world where I’ve brainwashed myself into confidence, and it’s good enough to handle most horrific situations.
Of course it would be perfect, except that my brain is a jerk. The more tricks I devise to get control, the more it contrives ways to bypass my anti-nightmare defences. For instance, by convincing me I’m awake and therefore my dream-world-controlling techniques can’t possibly work. And then it can launch the full-blown attack.
My brain is a fucking troll.
This is how, two nights ago, I ended up terrifying myself out of my wits in the early morning. My housemates were away for the weekend, and their cat, who usually sleeps in their bed, must have been bored and running around. She’s a very noisy cat, and when she speeds down the stairs, it sounds rather like someone walking. And so I found myself dreaming that I woke up, got up to make myself some breakfast, and heard the footsteps of someone who wasn’t supposed to be in the house.
The usual ensued: I found the person in question, threw them out, locked the door and went on with my breakfast with a dream-induced sense of all-powerfulness… when I dreamed that I woke up again. Now this time, I was sure I was truly awake, and I remembered having a nightmare about someone trespassing in the house. I got up… and heard footsteps again.
This went on at least five or six times. At some point I thought it still had to be a dream, so all I needed to do was jump out of the window and kill myself to wake up. So I did. I woke up… for a fraction of a second, and then dreamt that I was in my pyjamas trying to make breakfast. I was getting more tired by the minute, I could feel dryness in my eyes and my mouth, and I was so convinced I was awake that in my dream, I went through the house looking at the people gathered there and thinking, ‘they’re not here, there’s no one in the house, there can’t be, I’m awake.’ At some point I tried to get a glass of water to help me wake up, still saying that there was no one in the house and I just had to open my eyes, and the glass was obligingly handed to me by a burly man who looked decent enough, except for, you know, the fact that he had absolutely nothing to do there.
Eventually I did wake up. This time I knew, because I was in the darkness of my bedroom, drenched in sweat, heart racing and terrified shitless. Still, it took me a few seconds to gather my wits, manage to move and ascertain that I was awake for good this time, and when you’re still half-asleep, a few seconds is a very long time. I finally sat up and turned on the lights. It was already dawn. I could get up, breathe and forget about this mess.
Right at that moment, from the corner of my eye, I saw a shadow under the door, and it seemed to be moving into my bedoom even though the door was still closed.
I jumped up and looked. It was nothing, obviously, only that maudit cris de chat (as people say here) who had heard me stir in my bed and was coming to request food or petting or whatever it is cats want at half past six in the morning. I’m very fond of this cat, but at that moment, I really wanted to kick her.
No more proof is needed: cats pretend to be cute, but in reality, they’re the monsters who will haunt your dreams. Beware.