Posted in Dreams and Nightmares

Halloween Awakening

I wrote this blog post nine years ago and never had the nerve to publish it… it’s been sitting in my draft posts ever since.

‘Last modified 5 Nov 2008’:

This makes me smile every time it shows up on my desktop: Halloween wp (1600 x 1200). It’s not mine, but if you happen to like The Nightmare Before Christmas, it will be your thing.

The other night I woke up thinking “I must take those wallpapers down; they’re giving me nightmares!” Actually they weren’t, as they’re nice rather than nightmarish, but I had a Halloween experience…

Do you hallucinate when very tired? I don’t mean ordinarily tired; you have to be quite sleep-deprived to qualify…. but I believe it’s fairly common in those circumstances. Sometimes (for instance after a very long bus expedition, not having seen a proper bed for 30 or 40 hours) I’ve been so tired that I couldn’t sleep properly… it’s as though you’re collapsing more than sleeping. That’s extreme, but that’s almost how tired you have to be for this. To illustrate the prevalence of this (if you really need convincing): it happens to students who are studying too hard (and possibly feeding themselves with too much caffeine). It also happens to motorists who have driven too long and are falling asleep at the wheel. Not at all smart, but I couldn’t help being charmed by one person’s story of driving till he saw a cowboy sitting on a suitcase in the middle of the road. That was his cue to park and sleep.

This kind of hallucination is a waking dream; you think you’re awake and looking around, but part of your brain is dozing.

Caution: If you’re squeamish, eating something or prone to nightmares of your own, don’t read past this point. You have been warned. 😈

On Sunday night, I was so enthralled by a book (Grumpy Old Men: New Year, Same Old Crap by David Quantick) that it was a shock to find it was nearly 5 in the morning. Oops — time to turn out the light.

I fell asleep and dreamed I’d lost a tooth, which was causing me problems. At the same time I became aware of a cowled figure standing at the door beside my bed… just perceiving him from the side of my eye. He was about to leave the room but I didn’t think I could sleep till the blood was washed away, so I called him back, asking him to sort it out for me.

He came and twisted a dark grey tap, barely visible in the gloom above my head. I expected clean cool water, but it was a foul-smelling, viscous, dark, sticky liquid that glugged out of the tap onto my face. “It’s not water,” remarked the cowled figure with deep satisfaction — “it’s old blood.” And he left the room.

“I can’t stand this,” I thought.

I had been dreaming, but was awake now.

I opened my eyes (they creaked open reluctantly) and the whole room was bathed in a crimson glare, as though a blood-red moon was shining in through the curtains. Gaaargh. Closed my eyes again, and just inside my eyelids were several disembodied faces, squirming with red maggots.

“It’s one of those waking dreams,” I said resignedly to myself. “I wore myself out.”

There was a flash of light through the window, visible through my eyelids… I looked, and everything was steel grey. An improvement on the crimson… but I couldn’t see what had caused the flash. No car, no security light. It made me anxious, as though something was closing in, and my heart started racing.

“This is a real Halloween experience!” I said to myself. “It’s just a shame it’s two nights too late. Maybe I should use it in NaNoWriMo.” The maggotty faces inside my eyelids nodded and stretched their mouths wide in cackly agreement — I saw the funny side, and laughed out loud. Just a quick “hereehee!” — then listened to my heartbeat till it slowed, and finally slept.

At first I was blaming a blog post I read shortly before bed… it was unexpectedly gruesome, and I was hoping I wouldn’t dream about it. Possibly it set the tone. But according to this Guardian/Observer article (In the dead of the night), the brain is dealing with raw animal emotions and fear… and so, ‘anxious’ dreams will often be of a gory and terrifying nature. Nature red in tooth and claw.

Bet you thought you would never meet a real Halloween ghoul… I wouldn’t be so sure.

I mentioned the article to Mum, telling her that people sometimes see the Grim Reaper or even Darth Vader, and she said scornfully, “but what’s scary about that?” I said defensively that I wasn’t frightened by my own cowled figure; in fact he was trying to sidle out of the room till I summoned him back.

He didn’t seem very keen, did he? Maybe he was on his way to a party, and I was delaying him.

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I live in the UK with two cats -- Samson and Delilah.

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