Ever since I had my sleep study done I have been enjoying something that I hadn’t for nearly four years: dreams. Usually they are the happy kind where I some how am suddenly rich, get a new house, or they are all nonsense filled silly fun. Last night, however, I had a visit from that dream type that I would equate to the unwanted house guest, the telemarketer, or the door-to-door salesperson: the recurring nightmare.
The typical nightmare is bad. Things happen to scare the heck out of you, you wake up and it is all over. You are left not wanting to go back to sleep, but you still do and you are then treated to dreams of puppies, rainbows and unicorns. Done.
The recurring nightmare is the worst kind for me to have usually because they are like a really bad version of the movie Groundhog Day. I have a rough idea of what is going to happen, as though I had an outline of the script. I also usually have little to no ability to change the course of events, so if Kenny died last time then odds are that Kenny will also die this time (You BASTARD!). Worst of all, if I wake up no matter what I do (get a glass of water, walk around the room, sit up five times real fast to shake the demons from my brain) the recurring nightmare will start over just as simply as resetting your DVD player. To sum it up quickly, the night is going to suck.
Last nights unwanted visitor is the one that I refer to in my head as The Barn. I don’t like The Barn, and I’d be more then happy if I never went to The Barn again. This nasty nightmare is of the “House of a Thousand Corpses” variety mixed with some Evil Dead for good measure, where horror and atrocity is abound along with freakish half-breeds, mutants, and even demonic creatures thrown in for good measure. It’s a constant onslaught of terror that I wish I could exorcise from my brain instead of living with it for at least two times a year.
Let me walk you through the progression of events.
Each time I am with a group of people and we are camping. In the middle of the night we hear someone crying for help so we venture in to the woods. What do we find? You guessed it, The Barn.
The Barn itself is seemingly just a barn. There’s a hay loft, some animal areas on one side. Unlike your traditional barn, however, The Barn seems to have an over sized well in it with old cobblestone built up in about a 9 foot diameter and standing about two feet tall. The top has planks of old wood over it. The entire picture is seemingly innocent, but once things kick in it is far from being so.
After entering The Barn you can hear the muffled cry from help still coming from the well. You can try to peak through the planks but you won’t see anything that makes much sense. Twisted wood like an old gnarled tree seems to be at odd angles when you peer down, maybe a shadow or two of movement can be seen. If anything, at this point, it should be fairly clear that you aren’t looking in to a well because you can actually see something instead of it being pitch dark. Clue #1 to get the hell out of The Barn, but no one does so.
While everyone is ignoring the fact that there is something clearly in this well looking thing there is suddenly a blast of light. This light shines up through the planks, it shines through the stones of the well wall. Eerie carousel music can suddenly be heard. The planks start to rattle. What does everyone do? We stand there. Why shouldnt’ we? Who hasn’t seen a well glowing with un-naturally bright light and had creepy music kick in. No reason to leave this spot. Hell, let’s move in, fix it up, and call it home! Clue #2 to get the hell out of The Barn blatantly disregarded. I already feel weepy for poor Kenny.
The planks now stop rattling and seem to magically fall away. Worm colored tendrils come up from the well and begin to wrap around and capture anyone they can reach. Malformed humans with pointed teeth, twisted faces, and everything else that would make someone look completely wrong in your mind jump out of the well to try to grab the stragglers. Anyone caught running is pursued until their almost inevitable capture.
While all of this is going on from within the well I get to find out that the twisted tree thing that I saw is in fact like a twisted and gnarled tree carousel, with two different levels (the top being smaller then the bottom). Instead of pretty horses on brass poles it is more like there are severed branches that have been planted in the base of their level, twisting around as though they were ready to start to churn and mangle anything that comes into their grasp. Worst of all, in the center of all of this, is the person I think of as the Ring Master.
The Ring Master seems to just be a man. He is not mangles, malformed or twisted in appearance. His hair is jet black and seems to have been blown back by the mind. His eyes aren’t red but they seem to glow the malevolence. His body bears tattoos that aren’t pictures, but instead they are runes as though he might be using them to channel further evil through his veins. His fingers are dark with dirt while his nails are painted or crusted black. Sometimes he wears a tattered black shirt, other times he is shirtless. He is, however, always in black jeans and black boots, sharp toe and thick healed. His very presence makes your skin crawl and causes bile to rise in the back of your throat. If he really is a man, he’s the one that our parents always told us to stay away from. He is the stranger that we always feared, the imaginary kidnapper that kept us awake at night when we were 8. He, simply put, means death is near.
By now everyone has been grabbed, the tree carousel of death has stopped, people are wrapped either in the snake like arms that came out of the well or they are being held by the mutated, foul-smelling man-things that captured them. They are all moved on to the carousel, and we descend down. The planks fill in above us, looking like dirt that is thrown on the floor and forms into each piece of wood. People around me are crying as we descend down into what looks like an underground cave that has an old west style town built in it on two levels. The top level is framed by wrap around deck so that you can walk around, the lower level is just built on the dirt. The tree carousel lands in the middle of this town that time wanted to bury and forget about, and at the far end of the cave is the worst site of all… what looks like the mouth of another cave with the opening that is draped in a solid curtain that is glowing red and orange like fire and framed in what can only be described as the site of a snake wrapped around a gigantic spine that has been drenched in blood.
Now the mutants start to chant, cackle, and laugh with glee. The Ring Master steps down from his perch to face us all as we are shoved in front of him. From his pocket he takes out a black onyx figurine of a spider, seems to shove it beneath our skin (in the forearm), and just grins as we make a sound from the pain.
“We have more company,” he yells to the crowd, which in turns cheers back at him. “Let these things learn what it is like to be trapped in the belly of the beast, and let them bend to his will and help us flourish through their pain!”
At this point, Kenny dies. One of us, for no reason, is torn at the limbs by the crowd with his parts tossed in to the now spinning tree carousel as though they are feeding it their new sacrifice. The tendrils return and one by one they gather us and throw us into the red/orange glow curtain of the inner cave. One by one, we vanish.
When you are thrown into the inner cave, you don’t die. You just wish you did. You are sent to another place when you go through the glow, but it isn’t the same place as everyone else that went through. You are sent to your own pain. You may be chased. You may be branded. You may be cut. You may be nearly drowned. You may be burned. You are sent here not to die, but to suffer. I do not know why we must suffer, but that is why we are sent here. Through the course of the dream I might be able to escape my pain, I may fight to help others from escaping theirs, but once we do the freaks are after us and it is a fight to keep from getting captured and sent back to the pain.
Right now I have to take a break because it really does end the narrative of what goes on and I also am suffering a mild bit of anxiety reliving this horrendous experience while my eyes are open. I can tell you that I have lived with this dream for at least the better part of a decade. I have had it so much that from the moment that I achieve self-awareness in the dream I know I am at The Barn. Worst of all, I am trapped in this dream and I am feeling the dread for what I know is coming, what will happen, where I will be and what I will have to endure. It has never changed, it has never faltered. It is the dream that I truly fear having because it is just so dark and so wrong.
I have shared all of this with you not in an attempt to exorcise this demon, nor in an attempt to frighten you or fill your mind with images you might not cared to have formed. I’m sharing it because, for the first time in 10 years, things changed.
Last night the dream reset at least three times, maybe even more. I know that I awoke at 3:32 AM which caused one. I don’t know the time that I awoke to cause the other. What I do know is that upon each iteration I was able to affect change. I was able to control things, and use my knowledge of what will happen to try to better the situation. Best of all, I was able to both avoid capture completely in the last instance of the dream, as well as infiltrate this demented group of sadists and move freely through this Hell Town beneath the surface, trying to figure out what it was. Best of all, I was able to control where I went when going through the “curtain”. For once, instead of being paralyzed with fear of watching and living what was going on in the dream I seemed to be in the drivers chair and actually making things different.
For some reason today I feel almost liberated in the fact that I wasn’t held hostage in my own mind last night. Yes, last night The Barn scared me, but it didn’t control me. I was able to fight against The Barn, and in many cases I was able to escape The Barn. In some ways it is the same exhilaration I feel when I am trouble shooting a technical problem and I find the solution, making all the pieces work again. The feeling was so overwhelmingly satisfying that I just had to commit it to somewhere, write about it so I wouldn’t forget it. Yet now, more then six hours after I woke up I can still remember every freaky detail and every bit of satisfaction at having this monstrosity not control me.
Oh yeah, that last time? Kenny didn’t die.