read the tl,dr Can You Die From a Nightmare last night even though I'd
ignored mentions of this piece earlier in the week. I finally caved based on a Longreads
link because I couldn't figure out how a 7,118 word article could possibly
exist on Buzzfeed.
I've never had sleep problems, definitely not night terrors, nightmares rarely, though I used to fall asleep
immediately, no problem and over the past few years it takes longer and I’m
just not tired no matter how late I stay up. I've wondered if this has to do
with being on the internet so much before bed instead of reading a book like I
One of the subjects in the Buzzfeed article had violent
half-sleep behavior and eventually hung himself, which no one close to him believed
was an intentional suicide despite the official ruling. The image of him awake
in the middle of the night chopping vegetables to feed a dead grasshopper in
the trash stuck me in its funny, destructive way.
I scrolled through Twitter on my phone after getting into
bed. Blurb, blurb, no clicking. Using a Computer Before Bed Can Disrupt
Sleep. Ha, of course. Do Kindles count as books or computers?
I went back into Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned on the Kindle and
started a fresh story. It only occurred to me after I got into the third
section last weekend that this was short stories and not a book even though the
characters in each had different names and different living situations. This
one took place in Mendocino. A man's wife got new agey, or maybe she already
was, and left (I focus on plot, not language or craft because I'm more literal
than literary) for another man who was more spiritual and yoga-ish, but kidn of a dick. The main
character had to drive this guy and his own kid a long ways back into town and
was asking questions, determining if his ex still had old habits like leaving
crumpled Kleenex in the bed and catching her shirt on fire while standing to
close to the stove for warmth. He wanted to ask if she still woke up in the
middle of the night convinced there was a man at the foot of the bed,
panic-stricken, falling and scrambling to get out away and out of the bedroom. (I've always found myself with left-brained guys, never artists, musicians or writers, and now I do wonder what it would be like to be with someone who could write like this, by which I mean so astute and able to capture grotesqueness and desperation, specific small town American-ness without being depressing in the least. Would this sort of husband amaze with insightfulness or just annoy the heck out of you?)
I was supposed to wake up at 9am, which is late by most
people's weekday standards. I can get into the office before 10:30 on that
schedule, which is my aim. But the cooling (not autumnal yet, assholes) breezes
coming in the window, finally allowing the use of covers again, was perfect
sleeping weather. I decided to work from home instead and take advantage of
another hour of sleep.
I dreamed that I slept in late, not in my apartment, though,
more of a spacious ranch house, airier, woodier. I stepped out of my room, bottom-half wrapped
in a sheet like a sarong like women do on TV but I've never done or seen in
reality. My dad was sitting at a dining room table. This was not only not right
because he's dead, but also because he appeared to be maybe late 30s or early
40s and not exactly how he really looked at that age. I became very scared. My
first thought was alien? Should I pretend this was normal so nothing bad would
happen or call out the absurdity. "You're dead," I decided to say.
But he ignored this discomfiting fact like it wasn’t relevant.
We were then outside in a parking lot near a train station,
commuter rail, and I was trying to get rid of him. We may have been in Canada,
somewhere a few-hours-drive from where we were supposed to be. He asked how
long to get back to wherever it was I had come from to end up in that house and
I made it sound like it was nothing, just a jaunt, wanting little interaction
as possible and to get him on his way. But as in life, he hates public
transportation and had a car parked and I had to get in because he said he'd
bought a new house for the family and wanted to show it to me.
"Where?" I asked. "82nd Street." Ugh, I
thought, and so typical. I wanted to text (who?) for help. In the passenger
seat I kept messing up the buttons, nothing would go through, the words were a
jumble. I could then see each keystroke visualized in front of me inside of a floating
diorama encased in plastic, similar to an ice cream cake box. The letters I
typed corresponded with upright letters similar to those wax birthday cake candles
of numbers, and the letters were falling
off a collapsed landscape of sludge (frosting-like, now that I think about it)
and I couldn't make sentences because they were out of order and incomplete. I
was never going to get help.
The first book I ever downloaded to my Kindle was The Flame
Alphabet, a much creepier story than I had anticipated, which I expected to be a little sci-fi but was completely something else. I'm not even sure if I liked it, but that's beside the point. Language becomes
deadly; adults die from seeing anything resembling letters.
And then it was gone and was now at an upscale, spa-like
resort in Bali or a Thai island helping polish a long teak table sitting in
grass and set it with silk placemats for the guests. The American-Asian owner,
a woman, was being made fun of behind her back by the locals, service staff,
laughing at her giant, oversized paper menus propped up at an outdoor service
And then it was 11am and I woke up crying.
Now it's 9/11 everywhere in everything I'm reading. I think
I might not read today.
11 thoughts on “Day Terrors”
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