This was a short story I wrote as a sort of preview for a novel I was going to be writing (I didn’t end up writing it at the time, but I will be some time in the future). It deals with things I was going through at the time with being unable to sleep.
All characters belong to me.
“Goodnight, I love you.”
“I love you, too…” The door shuts and I’m cast in pitch darkness, cradled under my covers as I lie awake. Don’t panic. Don’t let your mind wander. There is nothing here that can hurt me. Nothing at all. Anything I see is just my imagination. It’s not real.
I close my eyes, only to have images of horrible creatures and terrible faces flash through my mind. I whimper and curl up tighter, hugging my oversized stuffed wolf close to me, pressing my face against its soft fur. But the images are still there. There’s nothing physical that can block them out, not when they’re in my head.
I lie awake for some time, dreading closing my eyes, for every time I do, the images return, worse and worse each time, it seems. But I dread having my eyes open just as much. Any flicker of movement, any shadowy figure could transform into one of the things I keep seeing with my eyes closed. What do I do? What can I do to make this stop?
“Run away with me,” a voice whispers in my head. I stiffen a bit and cautiously glance around the room. I see no one and nothing that could have said those words. My imagination again, it must have been.
“You fear these things in your head,” the voice continues. “The only solution is to run away from them.”
I pause for a moment, then whisper quietly into my room, “How can I run away from something that’s in my head?”
“It’s simple, really. Take my hand, and I can show you.”
“Where are you?” I whisper, glancing around. “Who are you?”
“Close your eyes,” it says. “Hold out your hand. When you open them again, you will be with me, and I can take you away from your troubles.”
Can I trust this voice? It’s merely my imagination, is it not? How can my imagination hurt me, after all, aside from the disturbing images in my head? Clutching the stuffed animal close to me, I close my eyes and reach my hand out, as if expecting someone to take it, yet at the same time not really expecting anything at all.
Cold fingers curl around my hand in a tight grip. I gasp and open my eyes and find myself standing up, staring at a man standing above me. He smiles, his single gray eye narrowed at me, the left one covered by a black patch. We’re together in darkness.
“Hello, Rachel. I’m glad you chose me.”
I blink up at him, heart pounding. “Who… who are you?”
“My name is Dusk Nyx. I shall be your… caretaker while you are here.”
“Caretaker?” I blink at him once more. “What does that mean? And… and where are we?”
“The Dream World,” he says with a grin. “The Dreamscape, the House of Nyx, the nightmare side, the basement.”
I try to step away from him, a chill going down my spine. None of what he’s saying makes sense to me, but it doesn’t sound good at all. He keeps a firm grip on my hand and pulls me back close to him.
“Now, now, little lamb, it wouldn’t be safe for you to run from your caretaker, not in this place. Something could come and eat you right up.” He chuckles softly, his words sending chills down my spine. Now more than ever I want to run from him.
“Why did you bring me here?” I ask in a soft voice, trembling as I gaze down at his hand gripping my wrist; it’s covered in a black fingerless glove, the fingers pale with grime wedged deep under the short nails. He brings his other hand up to touch my chin, lifting my head up to look me in the eye.
“Because you couldn’t sleep,” he says, his tone losing its mocking edge. “Dreamers who lose sleep over such that you did, well… I cannot tolerate it. It’s a waste of a good nightmare.”
The hairs on the back of my neck bristle and I try to yank away from him again. He lets go of my hand only to grip both of my shoulders. He kneels down in front of me so we’re eye level. I swallow hard and ask, “What are you going to do to me?”
“What do you want me to do to you?” he murmurs. I blink at him, not sure how to respond. He smiles, lifting one hand off my shoulder to tap me on the nose. “Don’t think I haven’t been watching you, child. You say you fear nightmares, it’s true. But you have had plenty that you secretly enjoy. You get a thrill out of them. You lie awake in your bed imagining such things, hoping that when you sleep, you shall dream them. Tell me, am I wrong?”
I turn my face away and whisper, “No, you’re not.”
He smiles kindly at me, resting his hand against my cheek. “No reason to be ashamed of it, my dear. Everyone has a few dark fantasies they think up, whether or not they want to admit it. So, here’s what I’m going to do for you. I’m going to be your own personal nightmare when you can’t force yourself to fall asleep due to those images, hm? But I’ll only make the nightmares you want to happen. Does that sound like a fair deal?”
I stare at him, rather confused. “But… why would you do that?”
“Because you’re losing sleep over something in your head.” He taps my forehead lightly with one finger. “We can’t have any of that, can we? And I figure the only way to let you sleep normally is to get rid of those things, and to do that, I’ll put something else in your head that you’re okay with.” His smile becomes somewhat mischievous. “And I get your nightmare energy, so it’s mutually beneficial for the both of us.”
“You would really do that for me?” I ask, my voice sounding a tad too hopeful.
“But of course, my little lamb. After all, I am your nightmare. I always have been.” He lifts my arm and pulls my sleeve down, running his thumb over my forearm. I note letters carved into the flesh. D U S K I shudder and look up at him, my eyes wide. He leans in close and whispers, “And I always will be. You, my young dreamer. Mine and mine alone.”
I wake with the rising of the sun. I feel tired and groggy and do not wish to crawl out from under my heavy pile of blankets. I shift to the side and look down at my arm, which is aching, but there’s nothing there. Nothing at all.
I close my eyes again and whisper, “Promise me that you’ll be a nice nightmare.”