Tag Archives: nightmares

Nightmare till Death

Trigger warning

They just came, without question, every night – as if they had always been there. I don’t remember when the nightmares started.

My daily life was normal, average, boring. I went to school. I learned pointless things about the world and the past world. I had friends that I met after school. But I dreaded the nights.

The nights were always the same. Someone slapping me; cutting me; pulling me up on my arms until my muscles started to scream in pain; raped me.

Those nights, the more I think back the longer they seem to go back. The nightmares were just always there, just like my normal life was. The nightmares, filled with nothing except pain and fear and sometimes a TV running in the background. Continue reading

Why I will never hitchhike again

This happened to me about eight years ago. I had hitchhiked regularly for more than two years. This was the last time I ever did.

When you hitchhike overnight there are two options: Either someone offers you a place to stay or you find yourself a place to crawl into. I always had my one-man-tent and a light sleeping bag with me but I rarely needed them. I’m a rather talkative and friendly guy and usually those people that are ready to let a single young man in their car and enjoy his company don’t mind offering said man a bed or at least a corner in the garage at night and a shower in the morning.

I had been on the road for six days and every single night I was lucky enough to score a bed. The second night I had even been invited to come along to a house party. The third night I was offered to join some sort of family reunion where a father met his kids for the first time in years, but I politely refused because his ex wife obviously minded having a smelly stranger around. In return for being polite I got a beer and a pack of yoghurt and was allowed to sleep in the car. Continue reading

The Dark Red of the Night

“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.” Continue reading

The Snow Is Gone

I don’t know what came first, the paranoia or the nightmares. Maybe they came together. Maybe it’s all merely the result of work stress and bad sleep. I just can’t explain the mud.

About two months ago I had the first nightmare. I was standing, just in my pajamas, on a snow-covered field. In the far distance were houses on one side, and forest covering all other sides – it was a large clearing and I was standing right in the center of it.

The dream lasted only a few minutes. I stumbled towards the houses. My bare feet were freezing on the snow and my breath formed large, round clouds in front of my face.

I glanced something in the corner of my vision, a shadow or shape in the woods. Then, from one moment to the next, I saw black – and my alarm woke me up.

The whole day I felt tired; exhausted. But there was something else that I distinctly noticed that day – a slight paranoia, a nervousness in me that picked up on every odd sound or strange movement in my room or outside my window. I was happy it was a Sunday, a day with no reason to leave the house.

This dream has been haunting me ever since that night. But it’s not one of those nightmares that repeat themselves over and over; this one changes every night. The location stays the same; the sudden awakening, the dim light of the houses, and the dark forest in the distance stay the same. But the length increases.

The second night I woke up the same way. I remembered the first dream, I remembered walking to the houses – and so I did the same. The first nightmare is burned in my memory for its strangeness, the novelty. The second night is burned in my memory for a different reason: about one or two minutes into the dream, about one or two minutes into walking towards the houses, I realized how real it all felt.

You probably had your own nightmares. You probably know how terrifyingly real nightmares usually feel; and you might also have noticed that part of their power is that you forget what they are; you don’t know that they are nightmares. This nightmare was different because I was aware of everything, I was aware that I should be asleep, that the situation was surreal and could only be a dream. Still I didn’t wake up; still I felt and heard the snow crunching under my feet, felt my toes and fingers turn stiff, and felt the cold wind blowing through my clothes.

That nightmare didn’t just feel vaguely real. Rather, with the barrage of thoughts in my head and the cold stinging my body, even the exact texture of frozen snow under my feet – it felt exactly like reality.

As said, the second night the events went slightly differently. I took a different path and the dream lasted slightly longer. But it also ended slightly differently: Again I saw the vague shadow in the corner of my vision. But this time I turned and explicitly saw a large dark figure leaning against a tree.

The next thing I remember is the alarm clock thundering through my aching head; followed right afterwards by the paranoia that followed me through every room.

I was Monday; I didn’t have a choice.

The moment I stepped out of the house my slight paranoia turned into a paralyzing one. When I opened the door my brain turned into a state of constant fear and panic – I couldn’t stop my eyes from scanning distant houses, windows, cars. Anything far away seemed menacing, as if it was hiding a secret, a creature that would come and attack me.

The paranoia eased slightly when I got into my car, but it came back with full force the moment I parked on the large, nearly empty parking lot outside my workplace. I only understood it when I got into the office and felt the warmth return into my body: Walls meant safety. Open spaces meant fear.

It’s been the same since then: I search for corners and walls to stay close to; open and empty spaces make my blood run cold and my feet itch. From that day on every time I left the house I felt as if something was lurking in the distance. And, like in my more recent nightmares, it felt as if the more time I spent outside, the closer the danger got.

Every night my nightmares got longer. I already didn’t walk anymore, the moment I woke up in the open clearing I turned towards the houses and ran.

The figure got clearer every night; the large head, the long arms or front legs, the thick body. A week after my first nightmare I saw it move for the first time. Only two days later I saw it push away from the tree and fall forward; another day later it began to run on all fours.

But it wasn’t just the creature that changed. Every day the location changed too – the snow decreased, the wind and temperature changed from night to night; and the pajamas I wore in the dream always matched those with which I went to bed.

The worst were the footsteps in the snow: The snow decreased, but they increased. Chains of footsteps, starting always exactly at my wake-up spot; the first ones leading straight towards the houses, the ones that appeared later, those with larger gaps between each footprint, lead more to the right, , away from the corner where the creature usually appeared.

It wasn’t the number of footprints that bothered me. It was that I recognized them as my own.

After the third week, when the creature in my dreams was fully sprinting in my direction, my day-time paranoia got unbearable. I called in sick and called a taxi to see a psychiatrist. He prescribed me sleep medicine and some other tablets “for the paranoia.”

I took the meds for two nights; then I stopped. It’s not that they didn’t help; they made me feel better during the day. But those nights where I took the meds, during the nightmares, I couldn’t run as fast. My mind and body felt sluggish – while the creature got closer and closer.

I still knew those were all dreams; just extraordinarily vivid nightmares. I thought a few days or weeks off work would take the stress and the nightmares and the paranoia away.

Instead, it only got worse. It has now been one month since I last left the house. I get groceries and some nights pizza delivered. I only tried to leave the house once, three weeks ago, to see the psychiatrist; the moment the door opened I felt my lungs hardening and my fingers cramping. By the time I had closed the door I had sunk to the floor, hyperventilating.

No medical certificate – no time off work. The boss called me last week. He was nice about it, understanding even, but he said he didn’t have a choice.

But work is my last concern right now. I would probably even be fine if I had to stay inside for a month, or even for a year. It’s those nightmares that worry me.

I was convinced, utterly convinced, that it was all just in my head. Wake up every night, standing in a forest – that doesn’t happen. And this creature with its large head, the bared teeth, the long legs and the thick, black body, and the way it leaps forward – such things don’t exist.

The creature gets very close now. I am running at full speed, nearly tripping here and there. But still I can hear it breathing right behind me; can smell the old, musky sweat.

Every night it gets closer, but on one level this doesn’t even scare me that much. I just want all of it to be over. During my nightmares the fear is overwhelming, feeling the creature close in on me makes me panic. But during the day, when my rational mind kicks in, I want whatever pain and fear I need to feel so that all this ends to finally come. I wish I could just feel that fear and pain now to finally be free from this paranoia and those nightmares; I just want to live my life, to leave the house; to find work. I just want to have the worst of all nightmares – if it means that all of this will finally end.

But the snow is gone now, behind the window blinds as well as in my dreams. When I run in those nightmares I can feel the mud under my feet; I can hear the splashing and squishing sounds and I know how close I am to slipping and how close that thing is behind me. Now I run far to the right, far away from where I know the creature will come from, because I know it will get close.

The dream now lasts nearly ten minutes. Ten minutes of running. Ten minutes of the creature getting closer. And every night the nightmare lasts longer – and the creature gets closer. It is close now. I know that the nightmares will end soon.

But now, with the snow gone, in the mornings it’s not just moisture anymore; I was able to ignore the wetness around my feet. Now, that the snow is gone, I just can’t ignore anymore that I wake up with fresh mud on my feet.

This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.

Stairs of Dark Oak

This story has been featured in the NoSleep Podcast.

We bought it on a whim. There wasn’t much planning or worrying. I had asked her the big question on Saturday night during a fancy dinner with couscous and lamb. She said yes.

Sunday was fun and games, Monday we went back to work – and Tuesday we worked too, but at night we went out for dinner again, or at least we wanted to. I picked Samantha up from work, she smiled and laughed and talked; I drove and smiled.

She screamed “Stop!” and I stamped my foot deep into the break – but there was no running child or cat on the street. There was a sign at the side that said “For Sale.” At first I was angry at her, but then I too saw the house behind the sign and I too couldn’t stop smiling. We got out and circled the house, fascinated and enthralled by its beauty. We never made it to dinner.

We signed the contract a week later. A turn-of-the-century house – excellent condition, large windows and stuffed with wooden floors and ceilings and stairs. The price was low but we also knew there was much work to do.

It was strange to buy the house without research, and even stranger to buy it together before we had even talked about moving in together. Still we did it. And we loved our house, our wooden palace, despite the bad insulation and the faulty wiring and the ancient-looking toilet. We loved everything about it, except the stairs.

The stairs, like most of the floors and ceilings and walls and tables and beds were made of dark oak. I’m sure the wood of the stairs was exactly the same color as the wood of the floors, but still the wood of the stairs always seemed darker, more menacing. Maybe it was the creaking and the way the wooden planks bent slightly under our feet; or the fact that the space below the stairs was closed.

Samantha always joked that there could be a Harry Potter living under our stairs and we wouldn’t know it. But even when we joked, we both didn’t like the stairs, from the beginning we both loathed the menacing creaks and bending steps and hidden, dark area below.

We planned to replace them with something brighter; possibly modern stairs with gaps between the steps rather than boards at the back, but certainly they would have to have a brighter color. We planned, once we even called a company about it; they sent us an offer we couldn’t afford – and so we never acted.

We lived in that house for three years; we got married in it, and we conceived our first child in the master bedroom upstairs. That’s maybe too much information, but I need you to know that we really lived in this house. We walked those stairs thousands of times.

But there was something strange about those stairs and I never shook this sensation that something was wrong. Every month, it seemed, I took to take the stairs a bit faster than before; and so did Samantha. We never mentioned it to each other or any guests, but it was the unspoken rule of our house that nobody walked upstairs; everybody ran upstairs. We didn’t run from any monsters in the room downstairs, we ran from the stairs themselves.

Only when Samantha fell did I really notice that the steps were higher than modern steps. She was running upstairs, about two years after we moved in and only half a year after our wedding, tripped and fell. I heard her screaming and ran downstairs to help her.

Samantha only had bruises from that fall, but on that day something else was damaged, something in our heads. The stairs transformed in our words and actions from an object into an alien being, an enemy that needed to be defeated.

Samantha has shorter legs than me; despite the fall her method of defeating the stairs was by running even faster. I used my longer legs to my advantage, took two steps at a time and pulled myself up with the help of the sturdy handrail. 21 wooden steps meant my legs had to make exactly ten big steps and then one small one. The small one always made me tumble slightly; I didn’t care.

We both did the same thing, Samantha and I, every time we had to defeat the enemy we took a few steps towards the front door. The extra run-up steps towards the front door were out way of defeating the enemy, of gaining an edge, of being faster for the first step.

It was shortly after Samantha’s fall that my nightmares started. Hers started after mine, but she never told me about her nightmares until our defeat. I dreamt of hands coming out of the stairs; they grabbed my legs and pulled me into the dark room below the dark wood. I always felt the darkness around me, how it was swallowing and consuming me, and only then I woke up.

A few weeks after her fall Samantha moved our shoe rack from the front door to the side of the stairs. She never said why, but I knew; she wanted to give us more space for the run-up easier, to make sure that the enemy would not defeat us. In retrospect I think that’s when her nightmares must have started. I don’t know why she never said anything; or why I never noticed.

Maybe I was too preoccupied with my own nightmares, with the near-daily sweat-drenched wakeups in the middle of the night. Afterwards I always cuddled up to her, cupped her in my arms as if that somehow would protect me from the immobile object a few steps outside our door.

It wasn’t long until we both developed our rituals. I always had to lead my hand along the wall while running up the stairs; Samantha made sure to only step on the sides, never the center of the steps – because the center bent the most. I would have laughed, the way she climbed up the stairs with her hands tight around the handrail, but I felt it too, the same unexplainable fear.

Maybe it was just random, maybe precognition, or maybe our brains subconsciously smelled or saw something that we refused to smell or see. We only saw the dark oak and smelled the dark oak and heard the dark oak creaking. And we never thought that there really was something wrong about our stairs, that they held a secret.

I found the secret. I’m glad it wasn’t Samantha. I’m not sure how she would have taken it. I don’t think she would be over it by now –and I don’t think I am. But I still hope that maybe I’m somehow stronger than her, that it was good that it was me, rather than her, or our future child.

She was upstairs already with her round belly and tired smile. I read in an old novel, one of those that I always wanted to read but never actually read because there was always something else that was more interesting. I stopped when I noticed that I had read fifteen pages but not a single word had reached my mind.

I stuck my feet in my slippers, turned the lights off and, without much of a thought, walked the few extra steps, the run-up towards the front door. My right hand felt the wall, my feet began to move, the left made the first big step, then my right foot flew forwards, made the second, a third was followed by a loud creak, and when I made the fourth step the creak was replaced by a loud crack. It was not deep, but it felt like a fall, a scream left my lungs.

A second scream followed when I felt something around my ankle, a chain of sorts, holding onto my foot, not letting it escape back out of the broken oak; I pulled and screamed and pulled, felt the wood push inside my flesh and the chain tightening around my ankle. I screamed again, saw Samantha rush out of the room, finally pushed my hands against the wall and handrail, with all my strength pulled my foot out of the hole and fell backwards down the stairs.

I don’t know which pain I felt first, the one of my back hitting the floor, or the one of my foot being sliced open by splintered wood. But I know that Samantha screamed before I could scream again.

I howled from pain, but her screams were pure terror. It took me a few seconds to fight through my pain and look, to see that she was not screaming because of the blood, but rather because of the chain around my ankle. Only it wasn’t a chain, it was a dry hand and the arm it came from was reaching out of the hole that my foot had been in.

21 steps – they found 21 corpses; each dead for at least forty years; men and women, all young, all suffocated, some cut to pieces.

We ripped the stairs out, built new, open stairs with gaps between the steps – and sold the house.

They never managed to explain how the dry, dead hand got around my ankle.

I still hate dark oak.

I still run all stairs.

This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.

The Square Window

When I was seven a burglar broke into our house. I remember coming home that day, after my mom picked me up from primary school. She unlocked the door and I ran upstairs to go to the bathroom.

The whole upper floor was a mess. Every drawer was emptied on the floor, out clothes were ripped out of the wardrobes, even suitcases and mattresses were cut open. But the worst for me was seeing the open window in my sister’s room – the way it stood open, innocently and perfectly still, with the trees silently moving behind the open frame. I stood there for what felt like ages, until I finally managed to scream and my mom rushed upstairs.

I don’t remember much of the rest of the day. My parents stored me with the neighbors while the police searched the house and took the report. Mrs. Vateva gave me cookies and milk, I remember that. And she told me stories and read books with me and smiled and laughed. But I don’t think I relaxed – the whole time all I could think about was that window with its square white frame.

In the evening my parents picked me up again and my older sister was back at home too. Ekaterina and I refused to leave because we were scared that the burglar would come back and steal us. Ekaterina was thirteen back then and I remember feeling sorry for her. I told my parents that she would be the first one that would be stolen because the burglar had come through her room.

I think we all spent a few nights together in my parents’ bedroom, and at some point we again went back to our old rooms. My sister slept with her door open, but my open door terrified me. The house was old and there were always noises downstairs during the night – noises like creaking floorboards and stairs, and the wind was strong and rattling on the windows. I couldn’t sleep like that and I thought my window was safe; there was nothing to step on outside of it.

A few weeks later I overheard my mother on the phone. I don’t know who she was talking to, but she was very upset and talked about the burglar. She said that he only took some money that they had hidden in a mattress, and else only an old watch that my grandfather somehow got in World War II. I don’t remember the watch, but my mom said it was precious, invaluable even, and in my country it was sure worth a lot of money. Still it was strange that he only took the watch, not any of the other watches or my mom’s jewelry.

Nothing else happened, but since that day I was scared of my sister’s room. Even when other people were inside the room with me I felt uncomfortable, as if someone was watching me. And nightmares started hunting me; I dreamt I was in my room, or sometimes in my sister’s room, and there was a man standing at the window, staring at me. He never did anything, I think. He only stared.

I must have been around nine when the nightmares changed. They had become rarer, I only had them about twice a month at that time, but from one night on they changed. From then on I had the impression that there was someone in my room with me. I never saw him, but I felt a silent body standing in a corner of the room, and sometimes he walked around. Once or twice he even touched my bed. I felt this tiny, faint movement, as if someone was pushing against the mattress.

I’m not sure whether I was lying in bed and feeling all that, or whether I was dreaming. It was confusing, I felt stiff and cold, and it felt as if I couldn’t run. I never screamed and I never opened my eyes, not just because I was scared, but also because it was impossible. It was as if some intangible force was keeping my eyes and mouth shut. But it wasn’t like my nightmares before. I didn’t wake up bathed in sweat. I was just lying in my bed, unable to move or look or scream, and felt him standing quietly in a corner, or slowly pacing through the room.

I told my father about the man, but my father only played it off as nightmares and said I should grow up and not be scared anymore. My mother was more understanding and she promised to check on me. I don’t know if she did, I never heard her open the door, but the man didn’t come for a while, and from then on he only returned a few times per year, maybe every two or three months. But still I couldn’t move when he was there. I couldn’t fight it. And I never told my parents again because I didn’t want to make my father angry.

I was eleven when my sister went to university. My father wanted to transform my room into an office and so I had to move into my sister’s room. I didn’t like that but my father made clear I had no choice.

The first night in that room my nightmares returned fully. At first I couldn’t fall asleep; all I could think of was the big, square window at the other end of the room. I stared at it for hours, and at some point I drifted off into a shallow sleep.

The nightmares were exactly like those when I was seven. I was lying in my bed, my eyes closed, but somehow I knew there was somebody outside the window. With my eyes closed I saw his blurry face smiling and I knew that he was touching the window.

Three nights went like that – I stared, terrified, at the window, until sleep took me away. Only that sleep didn’t take the window away. Instead it threw the window right in front of me and placed this man behind it, with his black hair and blurry face. And still I couldn’t move. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t even open my eyes. All I knew was that he was there, watching me.

It might have been the fifth night, but I think it was the fourth; the fourth night in my new room. I stared at the window again. But the previous nights had exhausted me. I must have fallen asleep fairly quickly, not even ten minutes after I went to bed. And I had some solid sleep, at first.

It must have been in the early morning hours when I woke up again. Or maybe I dreamt that I woke up, I’m not sure. Either way, I was lying in my bed and felt incredibly cold. I felt a draft in my room. And I heard him again, the slow, steady footsteps, pacing at the end of my bed.

I was frozen in fear. I remember I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t move any of my muscles, not even open my eyes.

He paced at the foot of my bed for a few minutes, and I was still lying, silently, pretending to be asleep and at the same time trying to move just any part of my body. Then the footsteps came closer. They moved along the side of my bed, deliberate and with even less noise. I heard a deep, slow breath above me, close to my face.

My heart was racing and my whole body tense, but still I was pretending to be asleep. I heard clothes rustling and then, just for a second, a warm hand brushed over my cheek. I was holding back tears and I could barely breathe. I think my heart even stopped beating for that second.

The footsteps quickly moved to the other side of the room, there was more rustling and I heard the window fall shut and being locked. But the footsteps were still inside, they moved towards the door, the door opened, the footsteps moved outside, the door closed and then I didn’t hear anything.

I just stayed in my bed. I was too scared that he was still inside; I didn’t dare to move for a long time. At some point I finally opened my eyes and jumped out of bed – but the room was empty. The moonlight was bright; I nearly saw every corner – and nobody was inside.

For the rest of the night I had my light on and read a book. I tried to convince myself that it was my mother; that she had checked on me and aired the room while she was inside.

I never got to ask her about it. In the morning I just didn’t find the right moment to ask. She was busy making breakfast and I was sitting at the table, scared and wondering what I could say. I didn’t want her to think I had another nightmare because she told me she would bring me to therapy if they continued.

At some point my mother left the room. Then I heard her running upstairs and when she came back down she rushed me to finish breakfast and told me that we had to leave. It was earlier than usual, but she said she would drive me to school that day and I definitely didn’t want to refuse that offer.

At school everything was normal, except that I was exhausted and nearly fell asleep during my lessons. But the return home was strange. My mother picked me up, like she always did when she got off work early. She told me that I couldn’t sleep in my room again because my father had spilled some paint and the fumes were too unhealthy so I couldn’t sleep in there.

I thought it was strange, but I didn’t question her. I didn’t want to sleep in that room anymore, but my parents didn’t let me sleep in my old room either. I slept with my mother in my parents’ bed and my father slept on a mattress near our feet.

Two days later we moved most of our stuff to my grandparents. My father said that he found asbestos in the house and that we would have to sell it.

And so we did. After a bit more than two months with my grandparents – my parents still drove me to my old school – we moved into a new house in a different neighborhood.

I’m 23 now and just finished university. Last weekend I went home for a visit. Ekaterina was there with her husband and we drank wine and had a nice meal with my parents.

Somehow we got to talk about our old house and I asked my parents whether the new owners knew about the asbestos.

My father shook his head and, after another glad of wine, said that I was old enough to know it now, that there had been no asbestos and that they had only lied to me to protect me.

That morning, when my mother left the kitchen, she saw a ladder leaning against our house. A ladder, my father said, that led straight to the square window in my room.

This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.