I stay up all night because I’m scared of sleeping, the nightmare always haunting me. And now I can’t sleep in the day still, because my nightmare crawls into my mornings.
I’m in a room. It isn’t particularly well lit, with only one small light in front of me. I look around, there’s nothing in the room save some cabinets and a chair. For some reason, I feel compelled to leave.
When I do, I know I’ve made a mistake. I don’t know why I feel that way, the hallway is unremarkable, with doors that presumably lead to rooms like mine, spaced consistently along the walls.
I begin walking, looking for something. I don’t know what, but I’m looking. I get to the end of the hallway and see that it opens up into two more hallways, leading to the left and right. I look down both, they seem to be the same. I choose the right.
I get to the end of that hallway, it splinters off into one direction. I keep following it until I see that this direction doesn’t actually lead anywhere. I go back to the original hallway I was in, and go left instead.
Suddenly it hits me. I’m in a maze.
As soon as that realization hits me, I can hear something else. A high-pitched, shrill cry of some kind of an animal. Its claws hitting the steel floor, click-clack, click-clack.
There’s something here. Something with me. A dangerous animal.
Judging from the sound of its footsteps, it’s walking, which means it doesn’t know I’m here, yet. If I stay quiet, choose the way I go carefully, I may be able to get to the end of this maze without it even knowing I’m here.
I move faster, but I make sure my feet hit the ground as silently as possible, and it seems to be working. I get to another fork, but this one has three different directions, one going forward, two going to the left and right.
Going forward is always a trap, I think. I go to the left. It isn’t long before I see another fork.
Click-clack. Click-clack. Click-clack.
It’s going faster. It may be able to smell me. I’ll give it something to smell, then. I take off some of my clothes, quickly run down a corridor, a dead end, and leave them there. It isn’t a foolproof plan, but acts of desperation so rarely are.
I backtrack and keep moving.
It’s at a full gallop now. It knows I’m here. It’s hunting me. I got to keep moving. With any luck it’ll go after the fake scent, that should keep it confused for a bit.
I hit a dead end. The sound is getting closer, but given that this a maze, it could be coming right down my hallway, or in the hallway over.
I’m not taking the chance. I go to the nearest door, which I’ve ignored up until now for a reason I can’t place, and try to open it.
But it won’t open. It’s locked. I could force it, but that would make too much noise. I go to the next door. It’s locked too. I look inside the glass window, and I’m shocked to see someone inside.
“Hey,” I whisper. “Hey, let me in.”
The person turns toward me. I know who he is, he’s a friend of mine.
“Hey, let me in, it’s Max,” I whisper, this time a bit louder. “There’s something out here, man.”
He looks at me, dead in the eyes and turns around. I keep shaking the doorknob, but he doesn’t turn to look at me again.
“Hey,” I say again, on the verge of tears. “Please, please let me in.”
And then it hits me. I haven’t heard that thing’s claws in a while.
I turn around and see it. It’s just been staring at me, this whole time, waiting for me to notice it.
It’s some kind of reptile. It’s the size of a person, standing at about six feet tall. from head to tail, probably about nine feet long. It’s thin, though. It’s made to be fast on its feet. Not a single pound of muscle goes to waste. Its arms are long and bony, probably not very strong, but from the look of its claws, it doesn’t have to be to get the job done.
Its head is what scares me the most. It’s about a foot long, and I can see its teeth. Long, thin, sharp, and numerous. But the worst part is easily its eyes. Two, at the front of its head. Dark yellow, with thin diamond-shaped iris. And they’re both looking right at me.
I turn and run. It waits for a second, and lets out a loud battle cry, a scream so high-pitched it’d hurt my ears if I had the time to care. Then it runs after me.
I make a few quick turns. I happen to see it as I turn. It’s going too fast to stop, it ends up sliding on the ground and running into a wall. If I keep making turns, I’ll build up some distance.
Of course, I find out the flaw in the plan as soon as it hit a dead end. It is a maze, after all. I turn and run back, figuring I can make it. I get back to an intersection.
I find myself on the ground, sliding. I only have a few seconds to glance over, but I know what happened. I ran right into the damn thing. It’s on the ground, I pushed it into a wall, dazed it. I’m on the floor. For a brief moment, our eyes meet.
I can get up faster than it can, but it doesn’t focus on that. It takes a quick lunge at me. I manage to put my hand on its head, shove it into the ground using its momentum, in the process getting to my feet. I make a break in the opposite direction, make a few turns, praying I don’t find a dead end.
I hear another of its battle cries. It isn’t as loud, or as high-pitched. It sounds almost indifferent. No, it sounds almost sarcastic. I happen to glance down, and I see why. When it lunged at me, one of its claws slashed my arm. I’m bleeding. I’m leaving a trail for it to follow.
It doesn’t even have to run anymore. It just has to wait until I find myself in a dead-end.
But I run anyway. There’s something that tells me there’s an end to this maze. If I find it, I’m safe. I keep moving, keep making turns. But inevitably, it happens. I hit a dead end.
I turn around to see it, just barely moving at a jog. It sees me, and practically smiles at me. It knows I’m dead. So do I. I fight it off as best I can, hitting it, trying to wrestle it to the ground so maybe I can run away again. But it slashes at me with its claws so many times that a few of my limbs don’t even work anymore. It bites me, pulls things out of me.
And all the while, I’m thinking, God this is familiar. Finally, it hits me. I had dreams like this. I have dreams like this. I’m having this dream.
Normally, I’d wake up. But suddenly I find myself back at the beginning of the maze, inside that room.
But I know it’s a dream. A reoccurring dream I’ve had since I saw Jurassic Park as a kid. I’m told that most people, when they realize they’re in a dream, they wake up. And I can tell that’s what my mind wants. I’m fully conscious. I have all my memories. I can remember what I had to eat for dinner that night, I can remember taking my sleeping pills, I can remember what was doing shortly before I decided to go to bed.
But I can’t wake up. I’m trying to get control of my real body. If I concentrate really hard, I can feel my arms and legs against the sheets. I can feel my eyes, they’re closed, and I’m doing my best to open them.
The feeling is like pushing against a wall. You push harder and harder but it never budges. I’m trapped in that nightmare and there’s nothing I can do about it.
So I figure, hey, if I can’t wake up, maybe I don’t need to. I’ll just have a bit of fun until my alarm goes off. This is my dream, right? I can make it whatever I want to make it. Say hello to a couple hours of perverse sexual fantasies.
Except that’s not how it works. Not for me, anyway. In the hundreds of times this has happened to me, I’ve never managed to change the dream to something more preferable. I’ve been trapped in a dream that wasn’t a nightmare, which wasn’t so bad, if a bit boring. I have to deal with this until I wake up.
I stayed in the room for a bit. Time is different in a dream. It felt like I stayed in that room, pacing back and forth, for hours. In reality, it was probably a few minutes.
Finally, I decide that I just have to play this game. I go down the maze. It’s different than it was before, I think. I get halfway into it and I hear that raptor coming for me. I get to thinking, maybe if I’m not afraid of it, it won’t be able to hurt me.
That didn’t work. Maybe it’s because it’s hard not to be afraid of something that’s eating you and tearing you apart, or maybe my subconscious just really hates me. In either case, I found myself back at the beginning, like I re-spawned at a checkpoint in a video game.
I did the maze about fifty times, each time ending in a rather painful failure. I actually tried to fight the raptor a few times. Closest I ever got to hurting it was jabbing its eye out, once.
But finally, it happened. My alarm goes off. I wake up. It takes me a while to shake off the dream, the sheer terror of what happened, but I put it behind me. It’s a Wednesday. A school day. I’m Junior in High School, and I’ve got shit to do. I get in my car, drive to school, buy some breakfast from Burger King on the way while listening to my Best of Aerosmith CD.
I get to school, I have to park all the way in the back of the parking lot and walk half a mile. I talk to some of my friends over the morning announcements, and I’m late to first period. My teacher dogs me for not doing my homework, but I blow her off. She starts the class, it’s government, and we’re going over the Judiciary branch.
The feeling creeps up on me, slowly. I happened to glance at the clock. It says it’s 4:30, but I just figure it’s off or busted. But then I have this feeling, that I’ve been here before. I open some of my stuff to find there are no words in any of my books. Then it hits me. I graduated high school years ago. The car I drove in on? I sold it last year. I lost that CD, too. And those friends I talked to before class? I haven’t seen them in I don’t know how long. One of them is dead.
I’m still dreaming. And I’m going to keep dreaming until my alarm goes off. And there isn’t anything I can do about it.
“To be continued”