In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream”
Sleep is one-third of our lives: write a post about it. Do you love naps? Have trouble falling alseep? Wish you could remember your dreams? Remember something especially vivid? Snuggle under a blanket, or throw the windows wide open? Meditate on sleep.
Jean had always had vivid dreams, even more vivid nightmares. She’d sometimes wake up, drenched in sweat for fear of what happened in her sleep. Little girls were likely to keep a diary so it was no surprise when she asked one to her parents. Except hers was a dream diary. Nobody ever saw it but she discovered early on that if she didn’t write them, her dreams haunted her.
As soon as she learned to write, she put down her dreams with words. At first, these words were clumsy, inaccurate. She would ask her mother to help: not by showing her what she wrote but she would ask questions like “what’s a word to describe a place that is dark and sad, as if someone had just died.” Her mother would answer “morose” or “mournful” before asking why she needed to know. She’d shrug saying she just wanted to know.
By the time she was 9 years old, she had more vocabulary than most kids 4 or 5 years older than her. When she turned 12, she’d read the Webster dictionary cover to cover a few times. She needed the words to describe what she saw, what she felt properly. It was overwhelming. If the words weren’t right, she’d border on panic attacks, which was ridiculous but she couldn’t help it. Her dreams demanded to be adequately translated.
The truth was that she hated to dream. She was afraid to fall asleep because dreams had a knack for following throughout the next day. She didn’t always have the time to write before leaving for school. People sometimes joked that she was obsessed with words, as she tended to correct them when they used the wrong ones in conversation. They didn’t understand. And she didn’t tell. Still, she always had top marks in English and dissertations or essays. Surprising all her teachers she decided to study mathematics and physics. They didn’t understand. Words were too important to become such a trivial matter as studies.
She maintained a balance between the dreams and her life although sometimes it was complicated. What became extremely difficult was hiding how invasive her nightmares were. She turned 21 and she still woke up screaming as if she were going to die. Well she died in her sleep, sometimes before she had the chance to wake up. Some of these dreams she’d lived over and over throughout the years but she never reached the end alive. She’d tried all the combinations she could think of. She’d become an adept at controlling her dreams without waking up. Another thing she rarely talked about to anyone. The one time she did she was scoffed at; people didn’t control their dreams. If they did, they were no longer asleep and they woke up. But she didn’t. Her parents refused to let her go to MIT: it was too far. So she went to the local college. Then one day, while Jean was at university, her mother found her dream diary. And lost it.
“And that’s why you’re here? Do you think it’s why you’re here?”
Jean looked at the shrink and shrugged. She didn’t belong here. She wasn’t crazy. She had a vivid imagination. She was writing stories. Because what were dreams if not stories your subconscious comes up with to deal with whatever it is your brain won’t face? Hers happened to be… weirder.
“Jean, one of your dreams was…” She looked at the diary, the secret no one should ever have looked upon. “that your parents were being served roasted for lunch at the cafeteria. That’s…”
“It was one of my nightmares, not dreams. Note the scribbling: I know it’s bad. I was only 8 years old. But it says ‘nightmare that keeps coming back. How do I stop it?’ I woke up screaming every time I had that nightmare. I had it for years. It only stopped when mom agreed I could stop eating at the school cafeteria. Why do you think I am a vegetarian?”
The shrink went back to her diary; Jean swore internally. She’d always thought she should destroy that thing. It held too many dark secrets. Well; too many dark, morose and mournful dreams. She was here not because her mother was scared by her dreams but rather that they betrayed a sense of loneliness and desire to die that she didn’t have. It wasn’t because she died in her dreams that she wanted to end her life.
In fact, many times she died for a good reason; no her worst nightmares were when someone else she loved died without her being able to do anything about it. That was the worst. And those she barely could stand. Those were the dreams that kept waking her screaming and sweating.
And because she’d written these nightmares, she was locked up, deemed a sociopath with suicidal tendencies. She was neither sociopathic nor suicidal. She was just a little girl who was too terrified of her dreams to leave them be. Putting words on them allowed her to control the fears. It allowed her to keep the monsters at bay. Instead they thought her a monster now.
image is Amber by dark spider