In drafting software there is a specific type of line called the 'ray', defined only in that it extends infinitely on one end while the other is a finite point. An impossibility in an actual mechanical part, but useful for when you're not sure where a line is meant to end.
Its limbs fanning in all directions from its body were rays.
"It" was a head, suspended by its impossible radiation of endless tentacles, most stretched taut as if, somewhere in the blackness that surrounded it, there were supports to hitch on to -- but I don't feel that this was so. The space it occupied had room for its limbs and all of its victims.
The head was nothing but a massive pair of jaws, almost crocodilian in their muscle but thick like a bovid. Yet, utterly alien. Its mouth was full of gnashing teeth, flat like an herbivore but so, so many of them, rows and rows of too many teeth, like an exaggerated shark.
The face was covered in milky-white eyes devoid of pupils, and the skin was the pale blue-gray of something that's been dead too long and not long enough, with a faint sheen like sweat or even oil, hairless, wrinkled, horrible. There was no neck, the head simply terminated as a stump. Trying to remember the way the head looked separates it in my mind somewhat from the mass of tentacles because there were hundreds of them and not enough room on the head to sport them all, but there they were.
And, entangled within the tentacles, were countless people. All of them living and shrieking, trapped in coils which rolled them ever-forth towards its jaws, which gnashed for eternity, grinding a pulp of blood and bone. The sickening crunch of bone, the rocky chomping of its flat teeth, the wet sounds of organs and blood that splattered and dribbled in its tongueless, throatless maw, and the screams of pain that never ended -- I saw the mashed remains of different people there ground together and yet knew somehow they were still alive, still conscious and feeling.
And I was being pulled inward.
At first I was aware that I was dreaming, or I was at first, or I thought I was at first -- it confused me then and confuses me now. I'm rarely one to put faith or meaning in dreams. Even when I have epic dreams of the apocalypse (a theme that revisits me often in various forms and Comings), I take them with a grain of salt, a brief moment of wondrous fascination and "what if?"s, and then shelve them away in the same place I store dreams about flying and doing homework.
Only a few times in my entire life have I been uncertain of a dream "merely" being so, and maybe only once or twice among those certain of a dream certainly being from Someplace Else, and real. Once was a premonition (but a boring one; it was a vision of a college I was yet to attend, or hear about). The rest were religious in nature -- but I have countless that run that theme as well, ones where own guilty conscience pretends to be God for the sake of scolding me, or where I believe my dead loved ones try vainly to speak with me from the other side, flickering at my peripherals, silent and half-there.
Terrifying and amazing they can be, yes, but do I believe in them? As I said, only those few times, and that's within seventeen years of remembered dreams. A small percentage.
I am not one to believe in ghosts or fae things, and to me a demon is almost romanticized nowadays, even I write fiction about demons as if they were only normal creatures or cunning people. But that is what I do: I write stories about things I know are not real in that way and do not try to make stories or art out of what I think are real. I enjoy spooky stories, and I don't believe them even if I have to turn on a light for a while. I think demons are real, but not as we imagine them.
I don't know if this dream was real. I can't say that it wasn't with 100% confidence. There are dreams you have that seem entirely real and then you wake up and shake off the feeling after a bit. There are dreams layered within a dozen half-wakes where each unpeeled layer of sleep reveals only a more elaborate set piece of the illusion, where your neighborhood is normal again and your friends tell you it's all right, until a giant centipede pops out of the dumpster or something and you have to wake yourself up a few more times to make it 'stick' and actually sit up in your bed.
Then there's this.
I was lightly napping. I was fairly conscious, thinking in my head about this or that, drifting away slowly. When the dream came, I knew it for what it was. "Oh, I'm only dreaming, la de da."
Even when the monster appeared -- there was fear, but also the insane sort of courage that only a lucid dreamer or an ubermensch-dreamer has, where they can flutter away with magic made by their own willpower. Think of the Matrix; "There is no spoon," et cetera. I have those often, recognition and superpowers. I don't have nightmares often now. I don't die in my dreams like I used to -- I went through a period where I was subject to death and torture and pain and psychological distress so consistently that I started to dread sleeping at all -- and now I have sane and safe dreams with only the occasional light boogeyman I can laugh about later on.
And then... then there is this.
Why this one? Why was it real to me? I don't know. I don't want to know. This is the dream I wish I could convince myself was just that. The one I could use for fiction like the others (they make great inspiration for that). This is the one that, instead of waking up in fresher layers of false-consciousness and thinking, "Oh, THIS time it's really real," I fell further and deeper into the suffocating horror, the stifling, terrifying thoughts that told me more and more, "You're no longer dreaming -- but you are not awake -- it is not a dream."
That's never happened to me before or since.
I was floating towards the thing. It became more defined, more realistic, more audible. The rays of tentacles into the blackness, the teeth, the people. The screams, the crunching bones, the sloshing blood. It was all so horrifyingly real and engrossing.
Even if it was only, merely just a dream -- I feel pain in my dreams. The outcome would still be terrible. The pain I've felt in dreams has been, sometimes, as much as or more intense than pain I've actually felt. And for comparison, I've had appendicitis. My own extant organ swelled and went septic inside me to the point where it had to be cut out before it exploded. And yet, I can't say my nightmares haven't felt worse than that! Dreams where my legs are bitten off, or my eye ruptured, or my throat slashed... most of these were back in That Phase I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. I had a number of them shortly after this also aforementioned appendectomy; the trauma of waking up to finding blood-caked cuts all over your abdomen does some marvelous things to your subconscious...
But I digress. And for reference, this particular nightmare was well before my surgery, so the gruesome imagery did not have that for inspiration.
I did what I always do when extremely distressed: I began to pray.
I prayed to God to wake me up.
The thing was looming closer now, growing larger and larger, and I realized it must be huge to fit so many human bodies inside its mouth at once with room to spare. Closer and closer, more and more real, louder and louder. My napping self faded from my awareness until I felt trapped, shut inside this black and infinite space in a place not within my own mind anymore. It was not under the power of my imagination, I had no superpowers here, I could not zap myself to safety. I couldn't move. I was not bound, but unerringly floating towards the meat-grinding mouth of the monster. A hundred white eyes were, I knew, staring and waiting for me.
I knew of intense pain and I knew this would be more than I had ever felt. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. "Please, God, please wake me before the pain. Please let me wake up." I couldn't wake myself up. It was suffocating, maddening. "Please, God, I can't stay strong." I was growing closer, and fainter of the heart. "I can't promise I can stay strong if this happens to me."
I think I was afraid -- a very primal, strange fear to me -- that I might be tortured to the point of denying God. Probably a silly fear to atheists and maybe even other religious people, but just place 'moral values and code of ethics' there in place of 'God' and you have the same thing. Somehow, I felt, this pain if I reached it would drive me away from myself, my own mind, and my religion.
And then I just started screaming recklessly, spouting scripture like a superstitious nut -- was I trying to reassure myself? Reassure my God? Make a noise so loud it woke myself? Make a noise so loud it drowned out the screams of the undying dead? I think... all of the above.
"Fear not he who can kill the body but not the soul!" I shrieked. "Fear only He who can destroy the soul! You cannot hurt my soul! You can't hurt me! Fear not he who can kill the body but not the soul!" I don't know how many times I repeated it, screaming it over and over again, trying to rouse myself, to steel myself, to call God's attention and plead Him to save me.
At this point I was no longer under any impression that I was dreaming. My lucidity had died. I was, in my perception, really there.
And I was afraid I would never leave again. I would be a living pulp, endlessly ground and chewed upon by a mouth hanging in the middle of nothing, where its limbs were the expanse of the black universe and the only sound for infinity is that of death unending. I did not believe I had the strength to hold onto my sanity or values once I reached that dreadful maw.
And, just as I drew close -- it stopped. I wasn't awake, no. I wasn't anywhere. I wasn't anything.
Visions in flickers went by me.
A bodiless pair of wings made of calloused burnt flesh, thick, tumorous, grainy hide.
A headless, shambling squat form made of bracken and dribbling black tar.
Other things, too, I think, in split-second flashes all too close for my comfort. But at least the gray mouthed thing was no longer present. For all the bizarreness of what I was seeing now, I was, strangely, relieved.
Until the voice.
There was blackness again, yet I wasn't alone. Something just out of reach and just out of sight was somewhere before me. Were they wet, thick breaths I heard? I cannot say. I was blind for now.
And the voice, smooth and calm and nowhere, was speaking to me.
"Do you want to see the body that belongs to the Eye?" it asked with a charming, condescending tone.
And terror struck me now, in full force. The Eye. I can't bring to mind enough epithets I would sputter as I wet myself if I saw that hellborne orb stare me down again.
When I was eight years old, I saw a red, glowing, glaring eye the size of my fist, with a half-dilated vertically-slit pupil like a snake's, a few feet above the floor, lidless, motionless, staring at me with utmost malice I felt down to the pit of my stomach from the darkest corner of my room, yet casting no light though seemingly luminescent. Never, ever have I discounted or disproved it -- there was nothing in that space, nothing to trick me, no red lights nearby, nothing orb-shaped, and I was fully awake.
Why am I not a gibbering pile of coward and piss? Because I knew I had to go on. So what if I was given the horrid dawning realization that there were monsters, always lurking just outside your perception yet you always within theirs, waiting for just when you decide to get lippy and cure your fear of "monsters" by insulting them before bed? So what if I felt that I had been specifically taunted by that eye to put me in my place with fear, to not taunt them?
I don't know. I once taunted them again, years later, with my own childish threats again and scripture to back it up. I clutched the Bible in my room with both hands and the lights on and stared at every corner until I was certain they had deemed me unworth of a second visit -- or merely, unnoticed. Which is more preferable? That I was looked upon and shaken away like a petulant burr or that my courageous comeback was meaningless without ears to hear it?
This is what I mean by things that make me say, "I don't know and I don't want to."
I saw a spooky eye when I was eight. I fell limp on my bed like a ragdoll and played dead until the sun was up. I tried to talk sense into myself for a week and investigated my room for possible origination of the vision and turned up nothing. I accepted it. That was all there was to do -- dully accept the supernatural and get on with my boring life in a sane fashion.
And then, this voice, in this dream, was asking me if I wanted to see the rest of it.
No. I didn't. But I couldn't speak any more. I had no more screams or prayers -- there was no mouth. There was no me. Just my vision, helpless, lidless, staring into the black, where I saw a sheen -- more oil, or mucus perhaps?
The voice went on, sardonically, mockingly yet still smooth-toned: "It's the most horrible thing in the world."
Something was...peeling in front of me... the sound of sliding flesh, like a wet butterfly stretching out its wings... Like slices of raw fish being separated... the sound, the wet, close sound...
"If you saw it, you would never stop seeing it. It would always be there. You will always be afraid."
The eye was there in front of me, close enough to touch (if I had arms).
It was pushing forward, vaguely translucent skin sliding apart around it, an eyestalk glistening pushing forth, rife with phallic mockery, black as the black around it and shining wetly, and so much larger than myself, the rest of it lurking behind the veil -- just for a second, a brief moment I saw this, and then
God or my startled mind had mercy on my sanity and woke me at last.
Chills followed me that day. Sometimes they still do.
And now... now what? Nothing is what. Nothing changes. I live the same as always. I dully accept the supernatural... and get on with my boring life in a sane fashion.
Monsters are real, and we can only hope to be found beneath the worth of their attention.