– Sam Hutchings
“The remembrance aspect being one of the primary differences between the two.”
“Between a nightmare and a night terror?”
“And go ahead and remind me real quick how this relates to my initial inquiry, like at all?”
“Restrain your ponies, I’ll get to it. I’m told patience is up there next to cleanliness in the hierarchy of virtues.”
Oggie and P— at this point had assumed the ossified postures of Post- Vigorous-Copulation atop Oggie’s now sheetless and near-narcoleptically soft bed. The pair both now completely sated and utterly spent, physically speaking; sporting their respective suits of birth, and facing a ceiling whose color in this particular light could only aptly be classified as devoid of color. Oggie is flat on his back, right ankle X’d upon the left, with his right arm laced beneath P—‘s femininely wettish neck, absently spooling the ends of her long tawny hair on his pointer finger. From this particular position, he was never quite 100% on where exactly to rest his free arm. P— is angled in slightly to his torso, her right leg draped somewhat demurely over his; her right middle finger drawing to & fro in soft vectors from Oggie’s navel to that knobby-thing at the base of his ribcage. Her left arm cannot be seen. Their aggregate flesh is damp. It seems almost reptilianly moist.
Oggie had ruminated internally a few times on just why exactly it was that post-coital snuggling had asserted itself as the preeminent forum for divulging psychic traumas, (and/or) previously untold tales of woe; like this sort of chitchat and spiritual-tilling seemed almost requisite after the tidal surge of hormones and personal fluids had ebbed. He strains to raise his chin to chest level, emitting little throat noises as his head reaches 90° to survey the whole scene. The apartment’s unbolted door is rectangularly hemmed with light the color of neglected teeth, and articles of clothing are strewn about in reverse-dress-order in a trail leading to the bed, which to Oggie sort of resembled a perverse and thoroughly disturbed retelling of Hansel & Gretel. This observation was left unvoiced.
The TV at the foot of the bed was still on full blare, its blue pacifierial light insinuating itself into the bedrooms equalizing darkness.
“See, nightmares, more often than not, are lurid visual experiences.”
“Yes, I’m familiar with the basic concept of nightmares.” P— is raising her voicing incrementally in an attempt surmount the television’s deafening roar. She recognizes the two-toned program as I Love Lucy.
“Okay, then I’m assuming you can probably recall the general feeling of waking up following one of these subconscious horror-shows as a child. When you jolt awake in black desperation with fluttering lids, snuffing that stale nighttime air, clawing at an image that both recedes and remains in the nothingness that encircles you.”
“That sure is the long way around of describing it. I would just say I remembered awaking in horror.”
“Yes, horror. Horror is exactly what I am referring to here.” Oggie pauses a beat, taking the silent moment to perform a slight genital readjustment; that which he promptly suspects is not as quite as discrete as initially intended.
“Oh sorry, am I like crushing your…thing?”
“Nonono I’m okay.”
“Are you sure, I can–”
“No, no. I assure you, all four of us are just fine. They’re a fickle bunch.”
“Hmpph…Okay.” Laughter chased whatever quiescence remained in the room. Lucy is once again grappling with chronic ineptitude, this time at her new occupation, tasked with wrapping chocolates at spine-snapping speeds at the local candy factory. P— had always found something markedly unnerving about the laugh tracks in these television shows that seemed to exist long before the advent of color. It dawned grimly on her once that the majority of the laugh track’s participants from these prehistoric programs had more than likely at one point or another, well, expired; like, what she was currently hearing was the disembodied laughter of the dead. It was a realization that had risen in her like some dim astral body. “So horror…”
“Ah, yes. Okay, so horror.” Oggie seemed insistent on elongating the first syllable of the word, making it sound more like ‘hawwwr-or.’ He continued. “The nightmares horror is being exerted onto you by some thing separate from the self. Some ghastly threat placed upon your personhood. Now what that thing or threat is exactly, well, you are entirely at mercy of your dank subconscious. But make no mistake about it; they all act as antagonists whose main prerogative is to apply menace and horror on the protagonist. On you. Whether it be a machete-wielding maniac, or some perpetually grinning clown from hell’s very own flames, or-”
“Or a fully-tumescent Mr. Peanut,” P— inserts vacantly.
“Or a what? A what now?
“Never mind. Different story. Different day. Keep going.”
“You are like Freud’s wet dream, woman.”
“Am I going to see a point to all this galloping across the horizon any time before dawn breaks?”
“Again, patience. I’m getting to it.”
The drapeless window parallel to the left side of the lover’s tousled bed gave way to a view of the bare boughs of an incongruous and thoroughly withered willow tree, that which presumably had succumb to some ghastly botanical pathogen or something like that; it’s prematurely nude and stricken appearance making it stand out more so among the encompassing trees, those which were almost lambently twinged scarlet and the color of pressed bronze in the early stages of their autumnal ritual. The complex webbing of branches, still black and slicked wet from a light sheet of dusk rain, appeared vaguely vascular overlaid against the faint milky lume of a now cloudless urban night sky. It was a sky that possessed the dilute purplish hue of a real nasty bruise. The thumbnail of moon had a somewhat somber pathos about it; it looked sick, like the rind of something citrusy long past its prime; and amid, there lay a smattering of meek and pallid stars, which neither P— nor Oggie could hope to identify with any semblance of accuracy.
“The lion’s share of my attempts at a point here remain that a nightmare’s horror is applied on the self through means of an extrinsic force. A person. An object. An entity.”
“Yes, we’ve established this. Some thing to repel against at sleep’s ragged edge.”
“Exact-a-mundo. Some force to fear, to flee from beneath quivering and potentially soiled bed sheets.”
“Which you are saying was not, in fact, the case during your prolonged childhood stint with night terrors? There was no thing you feared…or bed sheets you soil–”
“No, as far as I can recall there was none of that in any of these episodes of mine. There was no force or entity applying horror. Nothing winged and nefarious that would chase and pursue, that would nip at my heels before inevitably jettisoning me out of a hellacious slumber and into that sort of soft malarial light that accompanies all predawn awakenings. Actually more often than not, it was my very own mother who would wake me. It wasn’t until much later that she would inform me that my – and I quote here – ‘blood-curdling’ screams would snapshot her awake, sending her hurtling off the downstairs sofa as if shot out of some imperial canon, through our dim-lit kitchen, over the family dog, up the 13 creaky steps to the second floor, and into my room; where – again, I was not made cognizant of this until much
later in my adolescence – she would discover the grim sight of her son, and again I quote, ‘thrashing epileptically’ and in full-on death sweats, and apparently largely unresponsive to any sort of soft coos or fervent reassurances of maternal love and safety.”
“_____.” P— cranes her neck to look up at Oggie’s face, that which was only partially illuminated in the television’s ghoulish sheen.
“Now I of course, as previously stated, remember none of these preceding occurrences. My memory of these bouts skip on like a scratched disc; I can only recall coming to, all frazzled, breathless, my throat all sandpapery, undoubtedly from all that sleep-screaming, and my heart thwamping inside me like some tribal war drum. That’s all I remember. Well, that and the sweat. And believe you me, when I say sweat, I mean S-W-E-A-T. I’m talking perspiration akin to that of a promiscuous woman stuck in a religious assembly.”
“But you have absolutely no recollection of what may have caused all the screaming and thrashing and sweating and what not?”
With his free hand, Oggie theatrically curls his pointer into his thumb in an annular fashion to form a large fleshy 0. “Zilch. Nada. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah.”
Any movement that ensued following the gratification of sexual desires seemed to posses the languid economy of post-feast carnivores, or like people navigating beneath really deep water. Oggie readjusted again – genitally speaking – this time more conspicuously.
“Shitshit, are you sure I’m not-”
“Don’t fret. The Kingdom’s Crown Jewels remain, in large part, unharmed. A little chaffed, but unharmed.”
P— rotates her eyeballs, which Oggie cannot see, per say, but rather can like intuitively sense.
“‘Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do!’” The choir of disembodied laughter sings.
“Can you at least turn it down for a bit?”
“Fine. I relent.”
“What I can recall, however, is one night in particular before all this night terror business got started. I must have been around 7 or 8, y’know that age when you are still vaguely cherubic and moony-eyed; and as was per usual for these times, I was fending off the seemingly omnipresent threat of bedtime, that which seemed to descend upon me alongside dusk’s gauzy veil; a threat which I, like most children at that age, attempted to ward off as if it were some occult deity, utilizing what modicum of guile I had at my disposal within my interior arsenal. And after much hemming & hawing, and pleading, and cajoling, and slitty-eyed bargaining that my bedtime be lengthened for just one, just one more commercial break; I finally acquiesced to my mother’s gray insistence that it was, in fact, ‘Bedtime for Bonzo,’ a phrase that she employed ad nauseam, and still even to this very day induces a full-body wince in me, that which is no doubt some sort of Pavlovian type response after years and years of dreaded repetition.”
“‘Bedtime for Bonzo?’ As in that old ancient Reagan flick? The one where our former POTUS’s primary opponent for screen time was a literal chimp?”
“The very same.” Oggie employs the heel of his right foot to rub what appears to be a severe itch on the mid-level of his left shin, an act that is performed in a very cricketish fashion indeed.
“A chimp, which he attempts to infuse with his own 50’s brand of Father-Always-Knows-Better-Than-Your-Dumbshit-Ass streak of moral probity? Like that ‘Bedtime for Bonzo?’”
“_____.” Oggie lets out a chilly shiver.
“Boy, is that movie steeped in a grim sociopolitical irony.”
“And I can still remember trudging up each one of those creaky stairs with that especially heavy-footed mournful weight in my steps, which was and always will be the ubiquitous signifier of adolescent dissatisfaction; and like slogging through all those paternally mandated “Nite-Nite” rituals, e.g., putting on my PJ’s, brushing my first set of chompers, the cleaning and general maintenance of my various creaks and crevices-”
“I hope you remembered to tinkle, young man.”
“–and finally after much ado, getting under my sheets and shutting off my bedside Roadrunner Collectible lamp, and finally being there alone in this formless black silence of my childhood bedroom, I remember… I remember this sensation.”
“This sure as shit was no mere feeling. It was visceral, it was clearly and distinctly a sensation. Lying there alone, on this fairly traumatic and seminal night, I can recall with bell-like clarity the sensation of being utterly entombed in this desolate silence that seemed to sweep over me all at once, like the billowing of a black and formless cloud not only around, but within me.”
“Are we sure this wasn’t just some run-of-the-mill childhood aversion to the dark? There’s only a little shame in–”
“No, I remain certain that what I felt at that very moment was not your standard issue sphincter-loosening fear of the dark, well, at least not this particular time. At that moment, in that room, there was no outward force applying horror, nor any fear at what terrible thing may be behind all that blackness. Only terror. Capital-t Terror, which arose from within the self, induced by the sheer fact that there was nothing there at all. And lying there on this particular night, at that particular moment – I wasn’t trembling or cowering or anything like that – I was still, wholly and deadly still, with my eyes fixed upwards at a ceiling that I could not see; at that particular moment, I came to realize something for the very first time–”
“- that one day – a day that may or may not lie far off in the distance, but one day nonetheless – I would die. That I would like keel over and kick the bucket and die and like completely cease to be something, and instead of being that something that I’ve always been, become nothing, and then be this nothing for the remainder of time; time which stretched out before me in this grotesque and almost immortal silence and into a bleak and edgeless infinence; and while I am this nothing; planted or scattered, or buried at sea or whatever, the world would just keep turning and turning without me, like I was never even here. Like all of this never even mattered. I now understand the U.S. adult’s unconscious terror of involuntary silence; the silence that we seem to spend our days avoiding.”
“Now, I know this must sound kind of melodramatic or banal or whatever, the whole coming-to-terms-with-your-imminent-mortality shtick, but to a 7/8 year old kid, a child – a child who is kissed and coddled and wholly reassured to the fact that the world is like constructed around them, that they exist not in the world, but rather that the world exists for them and their own very personal and private pleasure and utility – this is a tremendously jarring realization. For example, do you remember the first time you encountered one of your grade school teachers outside of their designated confines of authority? Like in the chilly fluorescent-lit produce aisle of the grocery store, or in line at the local Cineplex buying Sno-Caps? When that icky feeling of stunted peculiarity swept over you, and all you could do was stare a glazed stare, head cocked to the side like a perturbed mutt as you came to realize that your teacher didn’t like dematerialize after the clock struck 2:15 in the PM and then rematerialize at 9:30 the following AM to aide you with sticking all your shit in your custom finger-painted cubby and usher you to and from recess to play kickball or wipe the dribble off your chin after naptime? That
this teacher not only existed outside of your field of awareness and independent of your personal needs and usage, but also presumably had a life separate from your own, and rote chores to perform, and eggs to purchase with expired coupons, and Sno-Caps to eat, and maybe even kids of their own to kiss and coddle and wholly reassure. Make no bones about it, every child is a solipsist. And for any and all children who are taught and hammered with the supposition that the world exist solely for them, the onset of the surefire reality that they will one day cease, and that the world shall and will continue on just dandy-fine and peachy-keen without them is a ghastly moment of awareness to say the least. I say to you here and now, that right there was the very first of an innumerable line of tiny death’s in my short life.”
“So getting to your question.”