Until recently, I didn’t know what a nightmare was.
I mean, I understand, in theory, the concept of a nightmare. You forget your pants on your way to your math class, and the final exam is that day, and you forgot that you even enrolled in the class, and your teacher is the Penguin from the Batman comics, and you have to go through the sewer to get there. Yes, that is an actual dream I had.
Those dreams never really meant much to me, though. Sure, I thought they were uncomfortable, even mortifying, but they didn’t actually scare me. Fear, I always thought, was the primary feature of a nightmare, and… surprisingly, I’m not afraid of going in public pantsless. I wear pants out of compassion for my fellow man, the onlooker.
Now, however, I can say I’ve had a nightmare. A real nightmare. Don’t ask me what it was – I don’t think I could bring myself to say it out loud, and I’m pretty sure writing it up would land me on some sort of watch list. It’s the first time I’ve ever experienced anything where I felt I could use the word “unspeakable” without hyperbole.
In that moment, in the dream, I certainly felt that terror, that surge of adrenaline. But the terror didn’t go away when I woke up. It lingered, it niggled at the back of my head. I can push away the memory of it easily enough, but, every now and again, it resurfaces.
And that’s the worst part about having a nightmare, if you ask me – the knowledge that this awful experience you dreamed stemmed from somewhere in your own imagination. What does that say about me?