I have a recurring nightmare. I’ve had it since I was 15, maybe before then. Sometimes I have it once a month; sometimes I have it every night. Sometimes the details change but the dream remains the same. Because I don’t want to terrify anyone sharing my hotel room, and because I don’t want people to gossip about me and my terror, these recurring nightmares have kept me from going on overnight trips for years.
In my dream I’m in a very large building with lots of rooms. I have two small children with me that I am responsible for. Sometimes these children are Tonia and Sean; sometimes they’re my son and daughter. Sometimes I’m not sure who they are. The age of the children may vary, but they are always able to walk on their own and they are always smaller and younger than me.
We’re trapped in this building. And something–someONE is chasing us. They aren’t running; they’re simply implacable in their pursuit. They can hear us. They can hear us breathing as we run; they can hear the children trying not to cry and our stealthy footsteps.
I pull the children from room to room, desperately trying to open windows and doors, but they won’t open for me. I can see people outside and I bang on the windows to try to get their attention, but they can’t hear me or see us. We can’t rest because the person chasing us is always drawing near. So we run from room to room. Sometimes other people will enter the building but I’m never fast enough to catch the door before it closes behind them.
I run up to these people, crying, dragging the crying children behind me, and I desperately tell them someone is after us and we can’t get out of the building. The people I accost never believe me. The door’s unlocked, they tell me, leave. Or they laugh and tell me it’s a weird joke.These people can walk back out the door but if I try to follow, the door shuts in my face. Or sometimes it stays open but the children have disappeared and I have to go find them because I can’t leave without them.
And the person after us just keeps coming after us, silently, remorselessly, relentlessly. I scream at them to get away–or I try to scream, but it’s like my voice is stuck in my throat and I can’t get the screams out; I’m choking on the screams. Sometimes I lose one or both of the kids and I scream at the pursuer to give them back. I cry, big heaving sobs, and beg the person to stop.
Every once in a while I catch a glimpse of the person who’s after us but I never recognize them. I know that they are dangerous, maybe even deadly.
Sometimes I wake myself up screaming. More often, I wake up other people in the house by screaming and shouting or crying or choking. The first time you hear me screaming, it’s terrifying. I’m told it sounds like I’m being killed. I’m also told my voice is that of a very young girl and that my sobs are heartbreaking. Bram used to hear the dreams start and wake me up before I fully got into them. My kids and my son-in-law wake me from these dreams as soon as they hear me shouting, but they’ve learned to stand back when they wake me, because I physically lash out if you touch me. I sometimes shout at the person who wakes me. Sometimes I say I’m fine and fall back asleep and start screaming again. I’m told when I’m having these dreams, I’m curled up in a tight little ball. If no one’s around to wake me up and I don’t scream myself awake, I wake up in the morning with my throat raw from shouting in the night.