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  • Marlena Frank

Writer Wednesday: Inspiring Nightmares

When I was little, I would have nightmares on a regular basis. I've got a lot of theories as to why, (Maybe because I grew up in a haunted house? Maybe because I was a scaredy cat growing up?) but regardless, they made a powerful impact on me. At first I would go in to sleep with my parents, finally feeling safe and able to sleep peacefully. They got tired of it eventually though and encouraged me to go back to sleep on my own. It was part of growing up to be honest.

One nightmare thought persisted from night to night to night. I would go to sleep and it would pick up at the beginning all over again. It got to the point where I was almost afraid of going to bed. I still remember it now just as clearly as I did then, mostly because I was entrenched in it so regularly.

The dream always started with a woman grabbing my wrist. She would say, “There you are!” Then she would drag me down a dirt path. There were tall, dark shapes of woods on either side and we had no light except the starlight to guide us, but the woman knew the way. Regardless of how I tried to pull my wrist free, regardless of what I said or screamed, she didn’t care. She kept dragging me relentlessly. She didn’t even look back at me again so I couldn’t tell you what she looked like. My attempts were no more bothersome than a struggling cricket whose leg is pinched down.

As the dream continued night after night, I struggled less and less in the dream, resigned to the fact that there was no escape. I never reached the destination where the woman was taking me, but I knew down in my bones that I never wanted to reach it. Reaching it would be very bad, and I was terrified of what I would see there. I remember staring at my feet in the dream hoping that if I avoided looking at wherever we were going, like Indiana Jones, somehow I would be saved.

That dream would occasionally reoccur as I got older, I remember having it a few times during my teenage years, but it never got to the repetitive level that it had as a child. I knew the tricks to the dream by then: look at my shoes, don’t struggle, keep walking, and don’t look up. So they didn’t freak me out as much as they had. The fear and the dread stuck with me though.

I refused to watch horror films or read horror books until I was older and braver. After hearing other authors take inspiration from their dreams and nightmares, I learned to no longer fear them. Now I look forward to them. I scribble them down as soon as I wake, wondering if I could find a way to turn the concept into a novel. That’s how inspiration has come for a number of books and short stories now.

The dreams that I once feared have now become a fount of inspiration. I guess that’s why I don’t have them nearly as often as I used to.

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