THE FALLING DREAM
I remember when I was little, and my Mom would put me to bed. I'm sure I gave her a hard time about it now and then, and when I refused to go to sleep she would say; "Oh, the Devil's got him by the tail now! Kick him out, boy, kick him right in the pants!" and I would kick and kick as hard as I could till I was tired enough that she could tuck me in.
I remember how I liked being tucked in tight, especially my feet. I couldn't bear the thought of them exposed to any monsters lurking under the bed. They can grab you good by the feet, and pull you right under. And Vampires, can't forget the vampires. Gotta keep the covers pulled up close around your throat. If you can feel the cool air on your neck, it's no good. Got to pull them closer. There.
It's strange remembering all this now, almost funny. Too many monster movies, I guess. Loved 'em all, Dinosaurs the best. But at night, in the dark, the fun was gone, leaving me alone and near the edge of panic. To get from the bed to the bathroom was like running a gauntlet. A blind trek through a maze of fear, often unconquerable without someone to turn on a light or hold my hand. There were too many places for things to hide. I could feel them watching me, waiting for me to move, for my feet to touch the floor. If I dared to enter the darkness, surely they would strike! So I lay there motionless, peeking around the room, trying to find the will to make a move, or a sound.
Sometimes I'd make a run for it, racing for the bathroom light. Imps and foul things skittered and snapped at my heels with every step! Get inside quick, now shut the door! I listened hard, but could hear nothing. Still I knew they were out there, right outside the door, waiting to rush in when I turned off the light, or grab me as I run back to bed. Other times the dread would be too intense to overcome, and I'd lay there still and silent, daring not even to peek for fear they would see my eyes move.
Inevitably, sleep came, and I relinquished my thoughts to her call. I followed gladly, embracing the peace. But the journey was so brief, and it always led me, night after night, to the same cold place...
Atop a plateau, impossibly high, standing somewhere amongst the deeper levels of my dreams, there lived a fierce Giant. I imagine he was trapped there too, spending his days and nights forever tunneling through the rock, searching for some way to escape. But there was no escape, for either of us.
There I stood, the ground solid beneath my feet, the wind screaming all around me. It's all so sharp, so clear, brought into focus by the intense fear that gripped me. I know what's coming next.
The creature howls, and my blood turns to ice. I can still feel the terror, hear the beast coming closer and closer. Then it appears, emerging from the depths of its black cavern. It was an Ogre; Savage, immense and unbeatable. A murderlust filled its eyes, focused now only on me!
I bolt, heart beating in mad panic. Running, running, losing ground. Behind me, the Giant pursues in a kind of slow motion, drawing closer with each vast stride. Then I reach the edge and realize that there's nowhere left to run! I see myself seized by its massive paws, feel them raise me high above the ground, then the sheer thrust of velocity as the monster hurls me helpless over the edge!
I fall. I fall through the dream, my throat choked tight with fear. The wind rushing past me, gasping for breath, the interminable sinking in the pit of my stomach as I plunge downward, flailing. Sinking faster, my heart now a lump in my throat, my fear overwhelms me, sinking, and then I flash awake!
For far too many nights I awoke from that dream, shaking and pouring sweat. My heart still racing as I realize that I'm lying on the floor. I had fallen out of bed! Again, the sharp slap of fear as I scramble back in and curl up tight under the covers. THEY could have gotten me, lying there exposed, with my feet sticking out like that! And so I lay there watching, locked rigid by my fear.
Well, the shadow dwellers I'd imagined never did materialize to grab me or eat me up, but I lived the terror of that damned falling dream over and over again. For as long as I can remember, that ogre lived there on that plateau, where for a time, all my dreams would end. There he waited to chase me down and hurl me off again and again. Then on a day I cannot quite recall, it was over. The way to the monster's door had vanished, as if it had never been. And though the way before me holds both serenity and conflict, my ordeal at the hands of the Giant was over. Perhaps he did finally escape, or perhaps he was killed, crushed within his tunnels, or stumbled carelessly over the edge. Hmm. There's a comforting thought. Serve the bloody gruesome bastard right!