We're a little crazy, about science!

They visit at night

Well it’s been a while, and I’m not sure I can post regularly yet. But I wanted to make some time today because it’s that time of year again. The one where I take a stab at writing a horrible horror story. Normally I would just dive in and let you, my dear readers, figure out that it’s fiction. However, my traditional policy of, “let the reader figure it out” ended up causing some concerns last year. So while I like to pull from realistic situations and/or life events (particularly for this story) and twist them into the terrible, I would like to point out that this is 140% made up, not real, totally fiction, and won’t harm anyone for reading… or will it!? BWAHAHAHA. Now, on with the scares!

In the military we tend to glorify murdering. If you’ve ever lived near a base, you’ve probably come across shirts, bumper stickers, or other paraphernalia with slogans like, “The only thing I feel when shooting a terrorist is recoil.” The ultra masculinity of military service couldn’t be summed up better if I tried. In some ways it’s true, you go to war and do terrible, horrible things while terrible, terrible things are done to you and those around you, and you react without thinking. There’s no time to think, only do. That’s the problem with war though, as much as the politicians don’t want it to, it ends. And the people who are fighting it get sent home.

Seemingly overnight, the world goes from an off the rails trainwreck speed to a standstill.

I decided after my contract ended to leave the service. Not because of what I did, but because of the weight I was carrying. The memories of friends who weren’t so lucky were an invisible crown made of lead. Always present, always pushing down. Maybe military life wasn’t what it was cracked up to be, or maybe I just wasn’t ultra masculine enough to enjoy the carnage and celebrate surviving, whatever the reason the slower pace has been good for me.

I haven’t been out for long, but the transition to civilian life was the right call. I’ve simplified my life to the bare minimums and that has given me a chance to just exist. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though. Despite being out the weight hasn’t gotten any lighter. I find myself often staring at the clock for hours after sunset dreading when I have to close my eyes. It’s not a sleep issue exactly, I have no trouble falling asleep, that isn’t the issue. The problem is what happens when I fall asleep. That’s when they come.

The first time it happened was horrifying. I remember vividly, I drifted off on the couch watching a movie to awake in a dark room. I couldn’t move, despite my desperate efforts to even raise a finger, nothing would budge. I was held down firmly by some unseen force. While I couldn’t see, talk, or move, I could feel and I could hear. I felt the cold rough sheets, the hard surface I was laying on. I could feel the straps holding me in place, but what terrified me the most was that I could hear voices. Johnson and Green, two of my friends, family really, who had died. I could hear them talking. Strange whispers that I couldn’t make out, but I knew it was them. I screamed, but no one could hear me. Despite the overwhelming sound of the pounding of my heart in my ears the whispers continued, always just audible, but not understandable.

Then I awoke drenched in sweat.

Night terrors brought on by PTSD, common in veterans. I was assured it was a sad, but normal reaction to the trauma of war. After the first night, I was quickly given medications, started seeing a therapist almost the same day, and joined a twice weekly group for people going through the same things I was dealing with. Life continued and I settled into my new normal. The medication helped for the most part, well sometimes. It dulled the terrors, made them softer around the edges, not quite as stabby. The therapy was more helpful and the group sessions made me feel less alone, less of an outsider looking into the civilian world.

Still, they visited at night.

Time. I was told it takes time. Everyone copes slightly differently and despite the bumper stickers suggesting otherwise, night terrors, depression, and anxiety were common reactions. So night after night I found myself in the familiar bath of sweat every morning. Day after day I went to therapy, to group, took the pills, did the writing, and fought hard to stay awake just a little longer so that I might find a slight reprieve from what awaited me in my sleep. I had all the time in the world now to go through the recovery, I just had to wait it out. That was the promise and I bought into it.

The night terrors continued with a clockwork repetition, always the same, never really changing. I could hear Johnson talking, I could hear Green answering, but I couldn’t understand what they were trying to tell me. I couldn’t understand why they were haunting me so. My therapist tells me it’s survivors guilt. Why me and not them? Why couldn’t I do something else to save them? Why couldn’t things have been different? Hindsight is 20/20, at least that’s what I’m told. After months of this, I don’t have the energy to argue.

I found myself falling asleep at random times. No longer could I fight sleep off, but sleep brought with it no recovery. I was more tired after waking than when I had fallen asleep. My body ached from the stresses, you need sleep to live, but sleep seemed to be the enemy. Sleep brought no comfort because when sleep came, so did the night terrors.

It’s important to understand that night terrors are different from nightmares. I learned the difference early on. Nightmares are bad dreams, from the outside everything looks fine, you make wake up with your heart pounding, or sweating, and you may even remember most of the nightmare. So you may be wondering why I keep calling them night terrors if they sound like nightmares. Night terrors involve sudden bouts of intense fear, screaming, and thrashing around, but all while you’re still asleep. Between finding myself on the floor and the neighbors complaining it was brought to my attention very quickly. They can also cause sleepwalking.

The first and only time that happened was yesterday, when I found myself in an elevator I didn’t recognize, in a building I didn’t live in. So I’ve made the unilateral decision to stop taking my pills. Existing in this state has been a special kind of hell, the pills seemed to be making it worse, and frankly how much worse could it get if I stopped taking them? I decided it was the right choice for me and that is how I found myself writing this, because of what happened last night.

It was dark, it was always dark. The stiff sheets and hard mattress were to my back and the thick rough straps pressed me into them.

“… but you heard them, they said he won’t wake up.” Green was practically shouting at this point. “He wouldn’t just leave us, we stay to the end, he’s going to survive.” Johnson countered. Green sighed, “You heard the doctors, he’s not going to make it much longer, he’s practically brain dead his body is dying.” Johnson grunted, “He just needs to wake up!”

I felt hands, shaking me as I lay limply. Johnson, my friend, screaming at me to wake up. Green, ever reserved, trying to hold him back, remind him they were in a public place and this is no time to lose it. He was already morning the inevitable loss.

Again, I awoke and now I’m writing this as a desperate plea. What is real?

Sorry, I keep fallng asleep and I’m fiding it harder to stay awke.

I ned to know wha is real.

Ijust neeed to wake up

Plese i just needto know………….which realitty i

6 responses

  1. Sounds real to me, but you said it was 140% made up, you have a realistic imagination

    Liked by 1 person

    October 29, 2022 at 5:59 pm

    • Haha thank you! Not a true story, but I did pull from experience.

      Like

      November 1, 2022 at 4:17 pm

      • I tried to post on your newest post but it wouldn’t post?

        Like

        November 7, 2022 at 12:01 pm

      • That’s odd. I just posted a test comment and it seems to be working for me so it looks like the problem is on your end. Maybe try again?

        Like

        November 7, 2022 at 12:13 pm

  2. Sorry I was too busy being alarmed last year to really comment on the piece … laughs nervously

    This one is good. It sounded like a sleep paralysis dream at first, and I knew it was going to be something more than that but I wasn’t sure where it would go. Very poignant ending. The things people do to each other make for the worst horror sometimes. (Or the best, depending on your perspective.)

    Back when I was a teen I quite seriously wondered how I could prove that my regular life wasn’t an extended dream sequence. I mean when I was awake it was fairly obvious that my dreams weren’t real, but what if my waking was to some higher reality as my dreams were to my waking? I was a long, painful time figuring out that I couldn’t prove the world was “really real,” but also did not need to.

    Happy Halloween! A little in advance. I hope you find a little time to enjoy the holiday in the middle of all your conference preparations.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 29, 2022 at 6:45 pm

    • Yeah…. oops. That’s why I thought this year it would be better to open with a, “this is just a story” note. Especially since I wanted to pull from the military side of things for this one.

      Thank you! I keep wanting to try something original, but it all feels very derivative. Then again, it’s not like I’m trying to be an award winning horror novelist, so maybe I’m being a bit harsh. I agree that sometimes people are thee scariest thing in a story.

      Okay that sounds like a horror story all on it’s own! I’m okay with not knowing, but I guess it’s not just me who was wondering how we could tell the difference, especially when you have dreams that feel incredibly real, it’s hard to say they aren’t!

      Happy Halloween! A little belated, but yes I did get the chance to enjoy mine thankfully. It’s back to work for me of course, but now that the DARPA deadlines have come and gone I feel a bit better. Now time to race toward the graduation deadline!

      I hope you had a chance to enjoy the holiday as well!

      Liked by 1 person

      November 1, 2022 at 4:22 pm

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