Sometimes at 4am I feel completely at peace. Other times, I get totally freaked out for no real reason other than pure existential angst; the magnitude of the universe is too overwhelming for my tiny mind to comprehend, yet my tiny mind won’t let go of the urge to figure it all out. The rest of the time, I’m simply too tired for any kind of thought to go into it at all.
Tonight is one of those nights.
A couple of weeks ago I had a nightmare. I can’t remember the majority of the dream, but right at the end I was standing outside my flat watching a crowd of protesters who had inexplicably gathered at the end of my road. I saw a man approach them. He was holding a bunch of flowers awkwardly in front of him. All of a sudden, he wasn’t there anymore. Just as I went to look round to see where he had gone, I realised he was standing right behind me. Before I could scream, he was tying something – a scarf, maybe? – around my neck and strangling me with it.
I woke up. Unfortunately, however, the majority of my body stayed asleep. I tried to fight the sleep paralysis by seeing if I could get my boyfriend to shake me out of it but he mistook my frantic whispered ‘helpmehelpmehelpme’ as some kind of a panic attack and cuddled me instead. This didn’t help. I managed to get something to figure itself out enough to jolt me out of it, said ‘sorry about that’ to my bemused boyfriend, rolled over and went back to sleep.
I used to get nightmares quite regularly when I was a kid. Some of them stayed with me for years, but the only one I can remember now was the one where all of the utensils and appliances in the kitchen came to life and tried to eat me. The wooden spoon was a particularly vicious little fucker. Members of my family were trying to get to me and save me but the oven kept trying to gulp them up too, so they just gave up and left me to fend for myself. Bastards.
I also got nightmares around the time I was doing quite a bit of ketamine. One night I watched a film that had robots in – and I’m a bit scared of robots in general – just after watching The Cat Returns, and when I went to bed I dreamt that my cat was Yuki the servant and some robots were trying to steal her eyeballs. Because I’m apparently some kind of idiot in the dream world, I jumped in between them and woke up screaming just as they were about to gouge my eyes out. A couple of nights later, I had a dream that I was walking along the South Bank in London through some really thick fog when a load of decomposing water-zombies started climbing out of the river. I’ve fallen in the Thames twice in real life so I probably would have been immune to their zombie germs but I woke up screaming just as they were about to throw me in the water so I will never know.
The most annoying thing about nightmares is that they wake me up. Sometimes this isn’t an issue but if I’m having trouble sleeping in general then I’m fucked. Insomnia only tries really hard to stop me falling asleep in the first place: once I finally get to sleep, I am asleep. I don’t need to be woken up by pointless fucking murderous robots just so I can repeat the whole process of trying and failing to get to sleep again.
Nightmares about zombies are still somehow less traumatic than the dreams I have where the dead come to life again just to spend a little bit of time with me. I love the visits, but there’s always another grieving process to go through every time I open my eyes. It’s nice being able to temporarily forget my loss, but it seems to hurt a little bit more each time I remember.