“I can’t relax,” she said.
“That’s why I would like to prescribe you something.”
Nateal shook her head.
“It is absolutely safe,” I said.
She shook her head again.
“For how long haven’t you slept?”
“I can’t sleep.”
“For how long?”
“Three days,” Nateal said. “A bit more than three days.”
“Why didn’t you ask for help earlier?”
“I didn’t ask for help. My dad brought me to the hospital and they sent us here.”
Nateal closed her eyes. Her head sank forward.
“I can see that you are exhausted. I can prescribe you –“
Nateal raised her head and jumped out of her chair.
“Why don’t you want to sleep?”
“I just can’t. It hurts people when I sleep.”
“Nateal, it can’t hurt people if you sleep.”
“It does! It makes them more violent!”
“Who gets more violent when you sleep?”
Nateal walked towards the back of the room and placed her hand on the wall.
“These people; they are getting more violent every time I dream of them.”
“You are having nightmares?”
“No, they are real. They are real people.”
“You mean your dreams feel very real?”
Nateal turned towards me.
“Stop twisting my words!” she said. “I mean those people are real, but every time I dream of them they get stronger and then bad things happen.”
“Sorry,” I said. “But what makes you sure the people you dream of are real?”
“I met them. And I made a deal with them.”
Nateal sat back down.
“There was this girl I liked, Kristina, but she brushed me off. And then she told everybody that I was coming onto her and since then they all laughed at me. I mean, I can’t do anything about who I’m attracted to, right? If I could somehow like guys I would, but, I don’t know, they just feel like wood to me.”
“I don’t know how to say it. Guys just don’t attract me. I have a few guy friends and everything, but it’s just, I don’t know, I just can’t think of them in any sexual way. Like wood, you know?”
“Okay, like wood,” I said.
“I thought I was a freak, and Kristina made it all worse. I thought she was my friend, but she made me a joke.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said.
Nateal wiped a tear from her cheek.
“I cried my eyes out for days. Every day, after school, I just came home and cried. But my mom kept pestering me and so I began to take these walks. Like, at first I went to the shopping center but there were loads of people I knew. So I went to the park; and then to the forest behind the park. I just wanted to be alone. I just wanted to stop thinking about Kristina and all the things the others said to me. And that’s where I met them.”
“The people I dream about. I was just walking in the forest and these four figures in all red suddenly came from the side. Like, they had these red robes, like the Ku Klux Klan, but with their faces exposed and a dark red instead of the white. There were two women and they spoke to me and were all nice, but then two men like that stepped out onto the path too and that scared me a bit.”
“And they attacked you?”
“No, like, not at all. I was scared but they were really nice. They just asked me about my trouble and then the men left and the women sat down with me and we talked even more.”
“And you freely talked with them? You weren’t worried about their intentions?”
“At first I was. But they were really nice; it’s hard to explain, they had this incredibly genuine smile. And I laughed about their robes and they made jokes about it too, that it was just part of some festival or ritual or so. But after the first few minutes I wasn’t scared at all. Actually I was happy with them. For months they were the first people that listened to me and didn’t judge me for liking girls.”
“And they didn’t ask you for anything? Did they at least tell you who they were?”
“They told me their names, but they were really long and it was a few months ago. I just can’t remember them. And they didn’t say anything that they wanted. They just said they were in the forest for this ritual thing, something to celebrate long life or so.”
“Okay, so you talked to these people and not much more? And since then you dream of them?”
“We really only talked. I mean, later the men came back and made a fire and we all sat there, but I don’t think I even touched them; mostly we just sat and I talked and sometimes they asked a few questions or said something encouraging. And then at the end I must have done some pact without even realizing it.”
“It was pretty late and I wanted to go home. And I asked them whether I could see them again. Honestly, if they had asked me to join their cult or something I wouldn’t even have hesitated; just from talking with them I felt better than I had felt in months. But they said that they would leave the area and that the only way I could stay in touch would be to dream of them. And I promised them I would try.”
“And since then you do actually dream of these people?”
“At first, for a few days, I didn’t. I actually searched in the forest for them but couldn’t find them. And then, after a week or so, I had this nightmare about school and the whole class laughing at me and one of the women suddenly stood in the middle of the room. She just stood there in her dark red robe and with a huge smile. The nightmare kept changing, like, it just continued, but it wasn’t really scary anymore because she was there.”
“So she made your dream nicer?”
“She did. And they always do that. They have come nearly every night since then, but they usually make my dreams nicer. And not just the nightmares, even normal dreams: when these four in their robes appear everything just seems nicer; it feels the same as in the forest, just safe and warm and calm. It’s as if their smiles just make the whole world nicer.”
“Then why are you afraid of sleeping?”
“Because they are not just standing anymore; they now walk in my dreams and actively change them. Like, there is this guy at school called Mikael. He used to be nice to me, but then he got with Kristina and since then he started bullying me as well. And then I had this nightmare where he appeared together with Kristina and they were pulling on my clothes and arms – and then one of the men in the red robes appeared and he punched Mikael.”
“You mean, he punched him in your dream?”
“I saw it in my dream. Mikael flew on the ground and was bleeding and everything. I thought it was just some crazy nightmare and I was actually thankful to the man for punching Mikael. But the next day, when I came to school, I heard that Mikael was in the hospital. Someone had attacked him during the night.”
“And you think it was one of the people in red?”
“Back then I wasn’t. I was a bit worried, still I convinced myself it was all just a coincidence. But then the thing with my mom happened.”
“The people in red did something to your mom?”
“Yes,” Nateal said. “In my dream she was scolding me for something ridiculous and then one of the women in red came and slammed a stick on my mom’s hand. And then I woke up from my mom screaming. She had two broken bones in her hand.”
“So you think these people broke into your house and attacked your mother?”
“I don’t think they broke in. All the doors and windows were locked and I didn’t see anybody inside the house. But somehow they hurt my mom, I mean, her hand was broken, just like that! And my dad was in the same room and didn’t see anything.”
“Nateal, are you sure you remember all these things correctly? Sleep deprivation has negative effects on memory.”
“I’m sure that they are real. They hurt Mikael and mom and several other people. They broke one of the football players’ leg and for two of the girls they shaved off all hair and even the eyebrows when I dreamt that they were making fun of my looks.”
“And all that really happened?”
“It did. The police even got involved.”
“And how often do they attack people?”
“I don’t know. I mean, they’ve only been attacking people for about a month now and one of the weeks they didn’t do anything, and then another I had four nights with nightmares.”
“And so they hurt four people?”
“Six, actually. But the last nights I slept they’ve every night attacked the same person.”
“You have nightmares about the same person every night?”
“I still like her, you know?”
“Kristina. Usually she only appears in my good dreams, but even when she appeared in my nightmares the people in red never hurt her. But then I had this really bad nightmare about her, where she was hitting me – and then two of the people in red came in the room and hit her instead.”
“And the real Kristina was hurt too?”
“I heard she was brought to the hospital the same night. And she’s still there because I keep dreaming of her. And whenever I dream of her they come and beat her. I try every time to wake up, but they always manage to hurt her more. I’ve visited her, you know? I didn’t go inside, but I saw her on the bed with all those bandages. And then, the last night I slept, I dreamt of Kristina again. It wasn’t even a nightmare, it was a nice dream where she was sitting next to me and we were eating cake. But then the two women in their robes came and I tried to keep them away and begged them to stop, but they strangled Kristina. And in the morning, when I came to school, I heard that Kristina had breathing problems and that she might die.”
“So you are scared they will hurt her more?”
“I think if I sleep again they will kill her.”
“You can’t stay awake for the rest of your life.”
“Why can’t I? I’m sure I get used to feeling like this!”
“No one has ever lived for more than 11 days without sleep. And long before that you will start to hallucinate.”
“Hallucinate,” I said. “Usually it’s of things that you are scared of.”
The above interview took place in late October of last year. The next night she slept. Three days later the patient was released.
In December Nateal was readmitted for suicidal tendencies. She said the figures of her dreams had disappeared, they had told her they would look for a “more thankful” person.
Still, Nateal had twice tried to cut her own wrists. She blamed herself for Kristina’s death.
This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.