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16 Days: Nightmares

October 15, 2008

I rarely remember my dreams past the first 10 minutes after waking. The exceptions are when I have an exceptionally bad nightmare, the kind that wakes me up screaming, then I remember it forever. These dreams still frighten and disturb me, so I’m going to write them down, but it whether I post them or not may come down to a flip of the coin. So, here’s a review of my worst dreams.


Since I was very young, I have had recurring dreams of tornadoes. These are not memorable due to the waking up, screaming factor, but due to their frequency. These are by far my most common nightmare, and it doesn’t help that the tornado that hit the Air Force Base in New Castle a few years back passed within 100 yards of my car as I drove south on 95 that day after picking up my daughter from daycare. In these dreams, I’m usually trapped in a house, frozen with fear as I watch from a window as a tornado approaches. Normally, I wake up before the tornado hits, but once, recently, I didn’t wake and the tornado swept me up into the sky. I remember one dream in particular in which I was watching from the front window of the home of Steve, a childhood friend. The thick South Jersey pines of his neighborhood has been replaced by a vast, empty plain which was lit by a sick and dirty yellow light. I woke before the tornado hit, but that dream stays with me because of the intricate detail of it. In the dream, I glanced around the room, seeing items that were always there, the green clay ocarina kept on a small shelf by the window, the mountain dulcimer case kept by the barely used couch. I even remember the coffee and end tables, just as they were in the real world. The right factor of my tornado nightmares is a healthy 7, due to their mirror of my real life terror of them.

Through the window

I have noticed over the years that windows play a large part in my nightmares. Even in the inane ones where I’m being chased through an asylum by Freddy Krueger (real dream, but not nearly one of my scarier ones), the halls were full of large windows. This particular dream took place in my old apartment in Valley Stream off Baltimore Pike in Newark. This apartment had two bedrooms, and was long because of it. The layout was master bed, living area, secondary bed. The windows were on the back wall and overlooked the access street for the complex. In this dream, all the dividing walls of the apartment were gone, as was the furniture, and I could see from one end of the apartment to the other. I was standing in front of the window in the master bed, and my niece Ally (about 3 years old in this dream) was standing in front of the the sliding glass door in what was the living area. The entire apartment was lit by a brilliant and blinding blue-white light, the source of which was outside the apartment. I looked to my right and locked eye contact with my niece and after a beat, something burst through the window in front of her and dragged her outside, screaming. I couldn’t move, and I could barely make a noise. When I turned my attention to the window in front of me, looking in at me was a woman, her skin rotted and grey, but dried. Her hair was a horrible tangle of dirt and twigs, and she looked at me with brilliant green eyes, and I could see the whites of her eyes completely surrounding the iris. Again, I was unable to move and could only watch as it crashed through the window at me. This is when I woke up, screaming. This nightmare gets a 9.


The last one that I’m going to tell about, as I’m making myself very unnerved by recalling so many at once, takes place in my childhood neighborhood of Tabernacle. Tabernacle was a densely wooded area of South Jersey, where many of the roads were still paved in dirt, and lead only deeper into thick forest. In the dream, I found myself hiking down Powell Place Road, a paved road, but lined in little but large pines on either side. It’s pitch black, and I’m wearing a hikers backpack, just barely able to see the road in front of me, except for when a car passes, always oncoming, lighting up the area with their headlights. As the third car passes, it outlines a person walking down the middle of the street ahead of me, a black shape made stark by the rays of approaching lights. I keep walking, noticing from successive approaching cars that I’m rapidly catching up to the walker. As another car passes, I see detail of the walker more clearly, he is is wearing work pants, and a stained green hoodie covered by a filthy brown jacket. Still, I keep walking and catching up. As I get within arms reach, I make a final quick burst to pass the walker, but as I am right next to him, another car passes, illuminating us both. When this happens, the walker quickly turns, grabbing me by the shoulders and forcing me to face him.  As I struggle to break his hold, I notice that his face is round, dirty, and unshaven. He has black, empty sockets where his eyes should be, his lips upturned in a snarl or horrible smile. Then, I wake up, screaming. This nightmare rates a 10, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

There are others, some of which rate an 11 on the Spinal Tap scale, but I don’t think I’m quite ready to give those a voice. Quoting Neil Gaiman from the Sandman series, “Dreams are weird and stupid and they scare me.” They are the only times where everyone gives up their life to a fantasy that few can control, and we all do it every night. Given how commonplace they are, how do they have this power to give us such happiness or such terror? Why is it so difficult to take charge of something that’s going on in your own mind?

What dreams have you had?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2008 9:13 am

    I think I’ve only remembered perhaps a dozen dreams since I was a kid. I remember having terrible nightmares very young and THOSE I still remember and I suppose that could be why I block them out now.

    For the record, I don’t think any tornadoes ever touched down outside my childhood house. 🙂

  2. October 15, 2008 9:33 am

    Yes, I don’t remember them doing so, Steve. In fact, you can still see your house standing from google maps! lol

  3. Ed T. permalink
    October 15, 2008 9:45 am

    My worst nightmare is one I have had so many times that I have begun to explore it more in detail. I used to keep a journal of them to possibly write them out and make some sense but rarely does it help.

    I am in the military (or in a position of authority, like a cop or FBI agent) and am injured (seems more like a flashback than anything) horribly by a gunshot wound or grenade blast but I keep on going. I am in no pain, but my body is whittled down little by little over the course of the dream to the point where I am but a shell of myself. Others around me in the dream notice this direct but nothing is ever done for or to me to fix it.

    I have had this dream dozens of times since I left the service and when I spoke with my VA rep they told me it was “common” for PTSD to have vivid dreams of this type. They offered me drugs for it but I would rather come to terms with it than to cover it up. For many years, I could not sleep a full night without waking up 3 or 4 times because of this dream and it was not until I had more of a family life with a wife and kids did it slow (but not stop)…

    I think Tears for Fears said it best: “I think it’s kinda funny, I think it’s kinda sad, the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had…”


  4. October 15, 2008 4:02 pm

    I don’t dream as much as when I was younger. At least I don’t remember them.

    I remember as a pre-teen/teenager, I had a dream of being in my parents’ basement and having water gushing down the steps and I couldn’t get out. I remember waking up holding my breath once. Now that’s scary !

    I was camping at the beach over the weekend, and maybe it was the air, but I had a really weird dream. I can only remember bits and pieces of it, but it was something about a job interview and someone told me I had on too much lipstick. There was also something about having to get to the airport real quick to make a flight. To where, I don’t know.

    I think the theme of most of my dreams involve elements of both being confused about something and having some sense of urgency or dread (not making a flight, etc.). Weird.

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