I’m sure I was in REM sleep, yet I heard the thunderstorms raging; constant cloud to ground, fire hose rain. Still, the crashes didn’t actually wake me as within seconds of each report I’d be once again adrift on a sea of fog. And then something happened that was an example of what I like to call “my worst nightmare”.
I’ve always been afraid of the dark. Now at 60 I’m far less fearful than I was as a kid where I’d be terrified to go into a dark basement to change a lightbulb or fiddle with fuses. In fact now at 60 I wouldn’t call it fear at all, but I do still feel a little apprehensive at times, and that rubs me just as much as the visions of ghosts and goblins once did.
Intellectually I reject everything concerning “monsters” and the “undead” thing; and always did. I’ve never believed in ghosts or witches or vampires, or dead bodies come to life to chase me and claw me and pull the skin back off their heads to expose their skulls in an attempt to frighten me to death. But some untrainable portion of me does apparently, because every so often I am treated to a dream or fantasy composed of every ugly scene in every horror film or book I’ve ever witnessed, and I wake up in panic, groping for a light to leave on while I fall asleep again, if I’m able.
Last night was not one of those incidents, but I outlined this to explain that this beast is within me, and it seems to affect any “vision” or “unvision” (as it were) of the unknown, particularly when I’m between consciousness and drowse mode.
It truly was an amazing storm last night. I have yet to check but I’d bet we got 3-4 inches of rain here over the course of 4 or 5 hours, and I’m only amazed I didn’t hear multiple fire engine sirens throughout the night as I have no doubt that trees and houses were hit.
And then a new, very close crash that brought me to barely alive status, followed momentarily by a high pitched and damned loud scream that emanated from within 10 feet of where I lay.
I screamed in response. It was a word, “what?”, but it was a scream as pathetic as my scream is. And then, the nightmare. I didn’t actually wake up. I was trapped in stasis, effectively paralyzed, not by fear or anything like it, but by my own sleep pattern, my body simply “not being ready” to relinquish “dreamworld’s” control to the partially sentient creature I like to call… me.
It was probably only 30 seconds or so before I regained my ability to function, but that was an incredibly long 30 seconds during which I struggled to see through the infinite blackness what had made the scream and what the scream was saying. I shouted again. Thank providence I had vocal function at least. “What’s wrong” I called out, “Are you alright?” I added to what might have been a dead person, mauled to extinction by some beast of the underworld or random burglar–rapist gun fanatics keep telling me are going house to house every night killing people who aren’t smart enough to wear a bazooka to bed.
“Monte, what’s the matter” I heard my wife say from the adjoining bathroom over the steady pounding of my now overworking tympani of a heart. She was calling to the dog. Perhaps the dog was in danger, maybe she screamed because she saw the dog standing on the edge of a cliff, about to fall into the abyss of Monty Python Flying Circus cartoon maws clanking their little jaws together far below, or screamed because a strange man had just come up to the poor teeny dog and just flailed all his skin from his puss dripping bones just before he started chanting “boogity boogity boo!”
“It was the dog” she said. “The dog screamed!”
I thought back as I struggled to move my arms and legs. The scream was human…ish alright, but it did lack one thing; that warble we do, that tremolo, vibrato, that curdle as expressed in the term blood curdling. (Ok, I made that up, but I was still half asleep so my metaphors were only half baked) Upon reflection, I recognized that it surely would have been the dog, as it wasn’t me, and the wife says it wasn’t her, and I had to hope there was not another random person in the house and within reach of my unconscious, tender and probably quite tasty body.
The dog has indeed made some strange noise before. The poor thing is also haunted by nightmare and will on occasion howl out of the blue, or cry like he’s being chased by a Korean butcher. But this, this curdle-less scream… this was a new one on me. We’ve no idea why it happened. He’s not afraid of storms; in fact he seldom reacts to loud noises at all if they’re not right at his current location and then he’s frightened quite easily. He didn’t seem hurt. A scream that loud in pain should have been followed by crying or moaning or at least limping, and there was none of that; though when Linda called out to him he did run to the toilet and squish himself up against her leg… because he loves his mommy no doubt.
“Don’t ever do that again” I said as I held his little face between my giant, alpha dog paws, positive that he heard not a word over his own little in the head voice chanting “must get under the covers and lick mom’s knees or I shall surely die”.
I slept fitfully thereafter, more aware of the sky caving in, just waiting for the next uncurdled curdle. Today will be one of those, when my senses are heightened, my tongue feels like it's wearing a flannel nightie and my skin appears to be made of tiny scales. So, my dog screams. Now there’s a revelation I could have lived without realizing.