Darkness pressed upon me from all sides, like thousands of dull-edged blades. There is Something behind me. I can smell its breath on my neck and my sweaty-exposed back, even though I have no nose. I’ve never had a nose. It’s coming. All I can do is more forward.
I wade through the piles of slimy, squidgy things that cover the floor. Everything hates me, here. Everything wants to hurt me. I move forward. It’s all I can do. I reach a door. It is made of cold, dark metal, though I cannot feel the cold. Something terrible is beyond this door. But the Thing is behind me. I have to move forward. I reach out, and grab the handle. Then I open the door.
My old boss from the job I really hated steps out. It turns out I was in the walk-in refrigerator, and those slimy things were scraps of food waste. My boss catches me square in the eyes, and then speaks. He says, “I’m going to need you to work an extra shift. We’re really short-handed right now.”
I wake up with thick, salty fear dripping from my pores. I grope at my face and dig my fingernails into my flesh, grasping at some sensation to prove I am here. To prove I’m no longer dreaming. My brain is full of haze. It takes a minute for it to subside. When I can finally think clearly, when I finally feel like a human with rational cognition and waking brain functionality, my first thought is this:
“Wow. That nightmare was really boring.”
I used to dream about genuinely terrifying things. Vampires with slugs for teeth, and clowns that could turn into liquid and ooze under my door to get me. As a horror writer, I miss those dreams. They would be an acid-mine I could plumb for ideas. I don’t miss the fear they brought, but my adult dreams are no less terrifying. They are just far, far more tedious.
Now I have nightmares about working, or getting stuck in traffic, or owing money to creditors who won’t stop calling. Sometimes I dream I’m back in college, only no one likes me. Those are the worst.
My waking nightmares, those jagged and poisonous obsessions that sneak into my brain as I am falling asleep, are still terrifying. Probably more so than when I was little, because the demons of my creativity have had decades to sharpen their knives. But once I fall asleep, it’s all big piles of laundry, or irate customers who keep changing their minds about whether they wanted mustard. And not even evil mustard.
It’s true what they say. Fear, like artisanal chocolate, is simply wasted on the young.