It was a dark and stormy night. No, really. It was. And Adam and I had just come home from seeing a horror play called The Turn, which was basically a mashup story of Turn of the Screw and The Shining. It was a pretty awesome production, creepy and atmospheric with some genuine scares along the way. And the two ghosts that haunt the house, well, they were very memorable.
The previous evening had been a late and intoxicating one so even though the hour was only 10pm I decided to go to bed. I fell asleep to the sound of gentle rain and Captain Picard being very English beyond the closed bedroom door. My sleep was sound, if not a little restless with disturbing dreams, and at 12:30am Adam looms over the bed and shakes me awake.
My love for all things scary and the thrill I get from being afraid dates back to when I was a little girl. The house that I lived in for my first 9 years of life is the landmark for where it all began for me, the beginning of what would be a lifelong activity of seeking out the macabre.
It started in a closet. The closet was in my bedroom and it was like a tunnel, narrow and deep and it had a slanted ceiling and a wall made of brown bricks. There was a small children's table and chairs on one side with a little lamp that was the only illumination in the closet. In the very back of the closet there was a rod that my clothes hung from and on the floor was a litter of Barbies and stuffed animals and books. I spent a lot of time in this closet, it was like my own private fort that was too small for adults and big sisters so I was rarely ever disturbed.
I've been having strange dreams these past few weeks. And I'm not talking my typical run of the mill zombies and apocalypse strange dreams, these are a different strange. Like a David Lynch movie on acid. The most recent one was about a trip to the candy store. I was paying a visit to my home town and I wanted to make a trip to the old drug store called, Ben Franklin, where I used to buy all of my candy when I was a kid. They had bins of penny and nickel candy, old fashioned kinds and new sparkley kinds, I'd buy a paper sack full. So, in my dream I go to Ben Franklin and when I enter the doors the store is suddenly out in the middle of no man's land and it's kind of turned into a farm house/barn/drug store. There's loads of people mulling about and it's fairly dark and quite dirty. I ask some stranger where the candy stash is hidden and he laughs and tells me to see the old man at the hay stack. When I find the old man and tell him I'd like some old fashion candy he grins and tells me that I have good taste. As he's scooping candy from a large barrel he tells me that the effects will wear off after a few hours but in the hours anything could happen so be careful. I look around and see for the first time that the people aren't people at all but they're monsters. Mutated versions of themselves with tentacles and too many eyes, big heads, tails, claws for hands, reptile skin. Everyone is different and they're all eating candy by the fist full. I stumble around on the dusty floor, turning dark corners and running into partying monsters. For the most part they seemed harmless, still aware in a way that they were people, but some of them seemed lost within the folds of monster flesh and these creatures are eating more than just candy. I spot them, stolen away behind shelving or barrels, eating limbs and faces of other monsters. I call Adam on my cell phone and ask him to come get me, I'm lost and can't find my way out, he tells me to stay put, that he's on his way. As I'm wandering around I run into my friend Carl. He'd just eaten some candy and started to transform into something odd. Only he doesn't see it, doesn't feel it, thinks I'm crazy and tells me I'm lying. I ask him where Natalya is and he says she's in another room and that he'll take me to her. When we get to the room she's sitting on the floor watching TV, her back is to us but from what I can tell she looks perfectly normal. I call out to her and she turns around and her eyes are missing. In their place is static, like the kind you see on a TV screen when the channel isn't coming in clearly, and she smiles at me and mouths words but she has no voice. I scream and run out of the room, down some corridor, and run smack into an ex boyfriend. He looks normal enough but he smells funny, like secrets and desperation. He's trying to smooth talk me but forgets how I know he's a liar so I don't fall for it, he tells me that he has a different kind of candy, one that won't make me into a monster but will make me into something amazing, I tell him I'm already amazing (ah, it's good to retain my wit in dreams). He offers it to me anyways, with his flashy smile and hungry eyes, and I tell him it's really good to see him again as I tip over shelving and it falls on his head. I turn around and there's Adam, looking worried and fascinated and he takes my hand and I wake up.
Then there's the one where there's a swamp inside my childhood home and in the swamp are water dwelling beasts who try to glamor me and my family. The water is oily and my parents are young, in their early 30's, and my sister has been kidnapped by the Swamp Queen and it's up to me to rescue her. There's a big battle that rages between the swamp beasts and my family, complete with torches and archery and canoes. It's muddy and slimy and everyone's skin is porcelain white and flawless and we're all beautiful and fit and warriors. I eventually kill the Swamp Queen by realizing she can be defeated if your heart holds no fear, I invoke her powers and glamor all of the swamp beasts and set them all on fire and my parents smile and dance in the amber light of the flames.
I hadn't intended to follow up a blog about sleeping with a blog about sleeping but life is full of unexpected quandaries, so here we go.
Sleep. Me and sleep go way back. We've got history. A past. We understand each other in intimate ways, and we never judge each other's need for more attention. I love sleep. I experience it in odd ways. I'm always acutely aware of the posture of my body, the comfort level of the bedding based on whichever way it's bunched, how my pajamas are laying, the firmness of my pillow. My bedroom is fairly scentless but if there's ever a time when someone is cooking and I'm asleep, those are the best. The smell of food wraps around me like another sheet and it invades my dreams. The same goes for the window being opened and smelling rain or grass, I smell it in my sleep. And sound. I love going to sleep when someone is watching TV in a distant room or listening to music, I can't hear the words but the sound of life comforts me. I love falling asleep to the sound of traffic or heavy rains. I can feel every fiber and weight on and near me, every hair on my head. They say that sleep is when your body rests but I feel like my body is always at work when I'm sleeping, adjusting its form and struggling with the perfect body temperature, I often wake up sore as though I'd been exercising for hours. And dreams. My god. If there was some way I could broadcast my dreams for all to see, I might be the NEW Master of Horror. My sleeping mind if brutal. And now that I've fluffed up my love of sleep, allow me to darken the mood with the fear of waking up.
I rarely sleep through the night undisturbed. I often wake multiple times through the night, whether it be to a chirping head-butting Commodore, or a random noise outside, but mostly it's for no reason at all, and mostly it's around 3:00AM. 3:00AM is sort of a legend as it turns out. There is nothing concrete on the matter only hints and gossip on if and why the hour is significant. Many of you know that George Lutz from the infamous Amityville hauntings claimed that he woke up at 3:15AM every morning, later discovering it was also the time of the DeFeo killings that happened in his house. There's also the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose (loosely based on a true story) where the girl, Emily, is possessed by a demon at 3:00AM. It is explained in the movie that 3:00 AM is the demonic witching hour, which evil spirits use to mock the Holy Trinity. Significantly, it is the opposite of 3:00 PM, traditionally taken to be the hour at which Jesus died. In Swedish and Finnish folk religion it is the hour when most people die and are born. They believe it is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts, demons and nightmares are most powerful. The human spirit is supposed to be most vulnerable at this time.