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Bad dreams are never fun.

By Karen CavePublished 3 years ago 4 min read
Image by Adam Eveson 💗

Over the way, in the giant concrete block of flats that make up Bailey Court, there is a little light that comes on at 1.15am, every single morning. It looks like a little candle, standing in the window, and the flame burns brightly in the darkness of the night. I see it as I get myself a drink of whiskey with ice, the same as every night.

I have long shaken off any guilt at drinking whiskey in the early hours of the morning to try and knock myself out. I sleep before midnight, then wake sweating and hyperventilating in the early hours, unable to glean whether the garish screams that are roaring in my ears are my own. The time is always exactly 1 a.m.

I know this, and I come to expect this, as this is just the way it is, and has been every night for the past three months. I wake drenched in sweat and terror that seems to saturate my soul, as well as the bedsheets… I then turn my head to the left to look at the digital clock on my bedside cabinet and it reads 1:00 a.m. Exactly this; never a minute earlier, or later.

In downing whiskey, I am trying to douse the nightmares that fly at me like harpies, making me so afraid to sleep that I think the fear might actually kill me; stopping my heart dead as a protective measure. Strangely, I can never recall the details of the dream, as hard as I try. Not even a basic image, or a memory to cling to, to make sense of. Just a feeling of something rushing to meet me, something utterly terrifying and inescapable. Something that makes me scream until I am hoarse, clutching the sweat-soaked bed cover with fingers so tight my knuckles are white and wrinkled.

The essence of my night terror is like a PTSD flashback, but without a visual to grasp onto. My body is in trauma, every single night. It is exactly the same feeling over and over, with no variation. It also feels like I am stuck in the same dream, despite me not ever remembering the details...

When the dreams first started, I used to stay in bed, trying to breathe evenly and calm my racing heart, figuring I would calm down shortly, but in fact the fear seemed to get worse the longer I laid there, as if unease originated from the very bed itself. So, I started getting up and coming downstairs. I reasoned in my shaken state of mind that if I doused my throat with enough Jack Daniels, I could extinguish my nightly terror like water over a flame.

This is how at 1.15am every single day, I come to be standing in the kitchen with a whiskey in my hand, staring, dazed, out of the back window which overlooks the small yard… gazing past that at the row of new-ish houses across the way, and behind and beyond them - at the flats containing the window with the little candle light that comes on at exactly the same time every night. I never see it actually lit though; I blink, or I take a sip, and there it is, a tiny, bright beacon in the darkness.

I ponder so much as I stare up at that light, drinking, enjoying the quiet and the coolness of the lino underneath my bare feet, and waiting for my heart rate to subside. I never see anyone up there. Who lives there? Are they a night owl, or are they also troubled by poor sleep, like me? Why does the light only come on once I’m stood here, sipping my whiskey and staring up at it? A hundred endless questions can come from staring up at lit windows as you live your little life, wondering about all those other little lives that are busy living in some parallel universe you will never know anything about.

This goes on for a while with nothing changing. The thing that rushes at me is feeling closer, somehow. I am realising that life is indeed a strange old thing, and that we don't always have as much control over it as we think...


A few months later I have a different dream… I am no longer terrified, screaming, with something rushing at me… But when I wake up, I am alone in the utter, utter darkness, in which I can’t even see my own hands as I hold them up to my face. No glow of the digital alarm clock beside me. I feel confused, but strangely calm.

I get up out of a bed that seems weirdly unfamiliar, and I move forwards tentatively, hands outstretched, placing bare feet on the cool wooden floor that creaks, unable even to see my own feet on the ground. I move slowly, towards a glow ahead of me; something is flickering in the pitch blackness.

I feel the warmth of a candle, find I am staring down from a window, down into the world, at the face in the window with the hand clutching a drink and looking up at me


About the Creator

Karen Cave

A mum, a friend to many and I love to explore dark themes and taboos in my writing. I am an optimist with a dark side...

Hope you enjoy! I appreciate all likes, comments - and please share if you'd like more people to see my work.

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