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I was sinking further and further into the darkness. I knew the bottom was coming soon; I had had this dream for years. In about 5 minutes I’d wake up screaming and my Dad would come in all worried then realise it was just the dream again. My blonde hair would be plastered to my head and I’d be shaking, my breath coming in short hard gasps and my heart pounding, adrenaline still coursing through my veins.
The fight or flight response meant more to me than it did to most people because I was faced with the decision nightly. The dream always started the same – I’d be stood at the edge of this hole and something would be there, its face always hidden in shadow. If I ran I’d fall straight into the hole, if I fought I’d wind up being pushed in. They say that dreams are supposed to mean something; it’s your subconscious working things out for you. I was fairly certain I knew who the person was but I had no way to know for sure. And if it was who I thought it was then I'd be more scared than I was now.
The ground was cold and hard as I hit it, my musings were now over, and it was the last feeling of calm I'd get until, well if, I drifted back to sleep. I heard a crack and knew that waves of pain would come crashing down before I had a chance to wake up. I’d feel it before I had a chance to escape. My mouth wrenched open and I heard a scream. It took a moment to register it was mine and then I woke, still feeling the pain in my arm as if it was real. As if it had actually happened.
“Ams? What’s up baby?”
My dad. He’s just burst in with that panicked expression on his face. I always thought he’d get sick of all this, but he never has. He takes in my appearance, tear tracks on my face and sweat beading on my brow and sighs. He knows what’s happened; he’s taken me to every sleep therapist going. He comes over and cuddles me and I attempt to curl up and hide in his arms.
“It’ll be okay duckie.”
He’s called me that since I was little, I haven’t got a clue why. It’s the same thing he says every night, well I suppose it’s technically morning now given that the clock says that it’s 3:00am. In 4 hours I’ll be waking up again, this time for a different type of h*ll – school.
Everyone there knew about my nightmares, I got teased about it. No one else my age had them, or if they did school didn’t know about it. That’s right. He told my school I have nightmares. I was so not impressed. One of the secretaries is a bit of a blabbermouth and it was round the school in hours – I haven’t heard the end of it since.
My dad runs his fingers through my hair as he whispers all these comforting things the latest doctor told him to say. I hold in my own sigh and pretend it’s working, tell him that it wasn’t as bad as last time, that they’re getting better. We both know its lies but it makes him feel better, and in a way I can almost convince myself it’s true – positive reinforcement or something, that was the term one of them said.
I feel myself drifting off in his arms and know that if I’m lucky the next time I wake up will be school, otherwise it almost doesn’t bear thinking about. I haven’t had a double attack in a couple of weeks but the threat’s always there and it scares me. Whenever I have one my dreams always start getting worse. They start becoming more and more real, more and more terrifying. It’s something I always try so desperately to avoid.
The last thing I comprehend before I lose myself to sleep is my dad kissing my forehead and saying sorry. Sorry? What’s he sorry for, it’s not his fault. Why should he be sorry? Does he know something I don’t? How? I don’t understand – why are you sorry dad? Talk to me. Please! Before I lose myself to the nightmare world again. Tell me why you’re sorry. I try and speak to ask him but it’s too late, I’m already gone and the blackness is surrounding me again, enveloping me in its embrace with a promise to never let go. It knows I know that I belong to it yet it always takes great pleasure in reminding me. I whirl round madly looking for the thing I know is waiting for me, I’ve learned its best not to be unprepared when it shows, that I should be constantly wary of attack.
It’s there and waiting for me again, maybe 3 metres away. Fight or flight. I choose flight it’s a split second decision and I wonder if I’ll regret it come morning, I run in the opposite direction but the holes keep appearing. My heart starts pounding and I can almost feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins. I can see light and I sprint for it, hoping for some form of salvation from this world. It’s the first time I’ve tried this and I’m not sure why I never did before – maybe I didn’t understand enough, maybe I just couldn’t think. This is the first time I haven’t just acted on default.
I’m almost at the light when I trip, stumbling over my laces and flying to the ground, hands and knees screaming as they make contact with the ground. I know I’m done for, that I’ll never have this chance again – the creature will take me and I’ll fall into that blackness again.
I resign myself to my fate knowing it is impossible to avoid when an alarm rings, there’s a flash of light and I realise who my creature is. I feel a hand on my shoulder and I scream, I can’t help it, the world I’m in inspires terror with every move I make, every corner of it is designed to scare those who are its unfortunate visitors. I turn terrified and see my dad. I breathe a sigh of relief, it’s morning, I made it through another night – but I don’t know if I’ll make it through the next. I know what my dream means now. The creature had been illuminated for a fraction of a second when the alarm rang. It was my mum and it means I’m going to die.