January 14, 2019

Night Terrors
by Frederick Foote (short, PG-13)
Cover image.
Image credit: Vincent Van Gogh. More info.

They creep in, their intention to cut you off from everything and everyone you have ever loved...

~~~

The creeping dawn thaws my paralyzing fear, loosens the cold hand of terror that clutches my heart, and clears away the shadowy remains of my nightly tormentors.

I cast off my pajamas, stinking of panic and distress. I tremble in relief.

I thank God for letting me survive another night. "Thank you, Jesus."

But under the hot battering of the shower, I curse that same God for allowing my cruel, increasingly painful psychological torture. "What kind of God are you to abuse anyone like this? Are you a fucking sadist?"

Dressed and groomed, briefly reinvigorated, I sip my rich black coffee and nibble a bagel as I come down from my night terrors.

Daughter Number One calls at 9:00 a.m. As precise as a Swiss watch. "How are you this morning? Did you get any sleep last night? Do you need anything? I can come to stay with you if you want."

I respond, "Alive. Some. A just God. No."

I move to the patio with my second cup of coffee and the newspaper. I'm high as a kite on the purifying sunshine, the morning breeze, the light, bright nature of the daytime. In minutes I'm sound asleep. I sleep for over an hour.

The doorbell wakes me. It's Dr. Lau, my recent and current psychiatrist, and long-term friend. "Dr. Lau, I didn't realize that it was time for your visit again. I'm losing track of time more often lately."

"Good morning, Professor. You look like you just woke up." She gives me a brief hug, holds my arm, walks with me to my patio.

I brew fresh coffee and offer the sixty-year-old physician coffee, cream cheese, and bagels.

She gives me her stern, "I told you so look," as she checks my blood pressure, draws blood, tests my reflexes.

We sit on the patio facing each other.

"Dr. Lau, this morning light favors you, flatters, and fancies you -- makes you lovelier than the flowers of the field."

There's the hint of a blush, a suggestion of a smile, "Charlie, save your poetry for more appropriate times and situations. Your nights are getting worse, aren't they? You're getting pitiful little sleep. Your appetite's poor, and you have abandoned your exercise program, correct?"

"Amanda, it's always the right time to appreciate beauty and grace."

"Charlie, this is serious. These night terrors are dementia-related behavior --"

"Amanda, my night invaders maybe, could be, might be just the remnants of my bad poetry."

She sighs in frustration.

"Amanda, I wish we had spent more than --"

"Charles, please concentrate on your health. Some medications will reduce your anxiety --"

"Amanda, they're real! Monsters exist. They torment me. Torture me. I am -- I was a poet -- imagination -- is a higher form of reality. The highest form of reality. These vile things come after me at night in the dark. I need to deal with them. I can't do that doped up."

"Charlie, you can't deal with anything when you're immobilized by fear and panic. You can't continue like this. You'll collapse, and your recovery will be problematic."

We stare at each other in anger, frustration, concern.

"Doctor, I appreciate your efforts. I do." I reach across the table and touch her hand. "My friend, you have to take that cross-Canada train trip of a lifetime even if Allen doesn't want to go. Now's a good --"

She grabs my hand in a vise-like grip. "Charles! I'm trying to help you as best I can. Please, let me help you. Please."

"Help me? You need to help yourself. Amanda. Wake up! Live your life! Don't settle for --"

She stands quickly, leans on the table, glares down at me. "I'm sorry. I thought I could do this. I, I should have known better. I won't be back. I'll send Dr. Carr. You'll like her. She's excellent."

I stand and face my now ex-physician. "Dr. Lau, I hope my friend Amanda will continue visiting me and --"

Lau has gathered her purse and bag and turns at the door. "Take care of yourself, Charlie."

* * *

After lunch Daughter Number Two calls, "Daddy, are you okay? Did you write anything today? I overnighted you homemade chicken noodle soup. Mom's recipe. The kids say hello. They miss you. Do you need anything?"

"I'm fine. It's getting late. Lots of things I have to do before it gets dark. It gets dark so quick now. Now. I got to go now. Bye."

What the fuck? The shadows are getting longer, deep, deep unnaturally black, portals for them. It's three p.m. No way could there be aggressively onyx shadows like that so soon.

Fuck, they're climbing the walls of the patio. Impossible! It's only three p.m. They're dripping down the wall like fat globs of putrid tar.

I race into the house, turn on the patio floodlights. They don't care. They don't slow down. At the bottom of the wall, they coagulate, congeal, take form, turn to me, move toward me.

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

I retreat to my bedroom with the daylight UV lights. No shadows in here at all. Too many lights from every direction, brighter than daylight. No furniture except for my mattresses on the floor. I moved it all out. Everything. No place for them to hide.

It's five p.m. What? How? Did I fall asleep? No, time doesn't, can't jump like that -- don't fuck with me! You can't fuck with time. That's not fair! Not fair!

I know what you want. You want to make it an eternal night -- despair without end or respite. You want me to be part of the all-consuming nocturnal negativity. I'm hip to you. You can't fool my old, black, ass.

Sunset is at 6:06 p.m. It's only 5:30. Just 5:30. It's too fucking early. Why's it dark out there? Jesus, it's so dark -- a heavy dark like the ocean, like a mile down into the sea with dense, dark pressure. The walls are going to cave, windows break, my house and I smashed as flat as Iowa.

You can't get in here. This bedroom is sealed tight, tight as a miser's purse, a nun's pussy, hermetically sealed. Sealed with the seal of approval.

So, what's that, that noise, that noise at the door? "Stop! Stop that! Stop plopping against the door like sacks of wet shit. I'm not going to let you in. So, you need to quit."

Sleepy. I'm so tired. What time is it? Five-thirty? No! No! No! It was 5:30 an hour ago. Unfair! You can't fuck with the time like that.

Daughter Number Three calls. Jesus, what the fuck's wrong with her. It's too late to be calling me. I should be asleep by now. By now it should be time to get up. Daytime.

Check the time. I need to check the time.

"Stop slobbering, drooling, and dripping liquid insanity on my door! Fucking stop it!"

What time is it? Time to get up. Morning time. Has to be.

I'll check my phone. I'm not scared to check the phone. Just give me a minute to catch my breath.

See, see I'm checking now -- 5:30 p.m. Fuck no!

Okay, okay just a trick, a failed trick because they can't get in. Psychological warfare. You evil fuckers. I know morning will come. It always has, it always will. So, fuck you. Fuck you. I'm going to sleep. The lights will keep you out. Good fucking night. I'll dream about you, Amanda.

* * *

What! Why didn't I think of that before I went to sleep? The power. They can cut the power. I'll be in the dark. They'll come with the dark, take me, rape me, invade me, own me. I need a generator. A generator, an alternate power source. I can get one delivered. Save my ass.

I grab my phone. NO! It can't still be 5:30 p.m.

Fuck! Fuck!

I stomp the phone to pieces.

I crawl under the covers. "Fuck you God, Jesus, Satan, Hitler, whatever you are. When I wake up in the morning, I'm going to kick your ass, motherfucker."

I pull the covers over my head. NO! NO! No! I'm in the dark! Fuck! Fuck me! Instantly, they touch my toe, big toe. I'm stunned into immobility. I retch at the stench of them. I shrink from the feel of them -- slimy, crawling, slithering, on my face, no! In my ears, No! No. I seal my lips, hard, harder, but it oozes in, oozes -- "Stop! Stop! You're NOT real! Amanda says you're NOT real!"

My commands and declaration don't slow the highest forms of reality at all. Not a bit.







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Article © Frederick Foote. All rights reserved.


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