The dream was always the same, like a bad sitcom that neither incorporated a laugh track or safe direction. The actors were played by myself and a “surprise guest,” cast by a familiar entity that had yet to be seen until the final episode of this morose comedy of terror and pain. While the mystery actor had not shown himself twirling his mustache, his presence and control were felt throughout the show. From the scene where a very young David crawls out of bed to investigate a noise, to the scene where the faint lime-green glow of the kitchen light fades to black, the familiar antagonist is always with David – controlling and guiding his small frame through this carefully devised maze.
David could still remember how his glasses weighed heavily on his nose – glasses, while giving him sight, were like a small weight that always reminded him that he was different than the rest of the 8-year olds and a beacon to bullies. He had to put them on, even though he could navigate the house effortlessly in the darkest nights, they gave him a sense of security, and he needed that, especially now. Skipping down the stairs, which was his usual way of descending from the second story to the living room, was not warranted during this investigation of the kitchen noise, as he did not want to alert the possible intruder.
The floor creaked ever so slightly under David’s soft steps as he neared the center of the living room. He could see the faint glow of the kitchen light that only gave enough luminescence that kept night stalkers looking for snacks from stumbling into a chair. As David stopped near the crest of the faint beam of light to plan his sleuth, he noticed that a shadow passed and blocked the light. The feeling of fright that emanated from the center of his stomach, washed over David’s body and froze his bare feet to the shag carpet. There was no fight-or-flight response, only the ever familiar entrance of the second actor as he arrived on to the stage from the shadows. The final scene to this act, an act that repeated every night like a horrific rerun, which would end the dream, was the same as well – the now familiar warmth of urination that tricked down David’s young leg followed by a painful and curious pinch to the back of his small frail neck, would cause a panicked waking state, gasping for air followed by a scream that could wake the prophets of old.
David laid in bed, his sheets soaked with cold sweat to which he was accustomed. He grabbed his glasses off of the shaky IKEA nightstand he put together that afternoon and allowed himself to acclimate to the real world of his dorm room.
It was a sparse box which held David and his roommate Ray. The window, which faced the inner court, was already partially obscured by the pyramid of pop cans, though you wouldn’t be able to see much at 3 a.m. David didn’t need to even look at his clock on his cheaply made desk to see that the dream ended at exactly three – the angel’s midnight – every morning. He looked over at his roommate to see if he was asleep, but his large frame gave indication that he was taking a deep breath to utter “you can set a clock by your nightmare Dave” in a roomy Base voice.
“I’m sorry Ray. If I could help it, I would.”
“I hear ya’, and it’s no big deal David. I’m just concerned. I know that you tell me that this is normal for ya’ but man, this can’t be good.”
“It’s been like this since…well…you know.”
David didn’t need to go any further with his explanation as he had already told Rayford about his childhood ordeal; about how a kidnapper took him from his home when he was eight, about how the police came just in time before a psychopath tore into his flesh with his knives, about how he couldn’t shake the trauma of that night 10 years ago, and how he replayed the drama in the theatre of his dreams every night and begged for sleep from a god that didn’t seem to hear him. Ray understood, but the rest of the suite was a different story, and he would most likely hear their protests later on.
“I’ve got to take a walk Ray.”
“Same as usual. Ok buddy, see you in a bit.”
David got on his sweats and exited the room and suite as quickly and quietly as he could. The cool night air seemed to always calm him and the fact that he and a few others were the only ones to occupy the student housing area was a welcome relief. It was a few weeks before classes officially began and the only ones that were in the dorms were the football players and band nerds, to which he was the latter.
David made his way down the steps, skipping on the steel plates which made a rhythm all their own at a syncopated eighty beats per minute. While he was there for marching band, his love and strength was singing. Making his way to the circle drive, which wove its way around Sage University like a roller coaster, he hummed a song which got him his scholarship at this prestigious school of higher learning. His body, now warmed up, was ready for the release of endorphins that would purge the last few hours of night terrors into the sea of forgetfulness.
As the minutes flew by, his thoughts ranged like a cadenza on a page of sheet music, reaching the heights of memories of his home town and the friendships he had. He remembered the love and patience of his parents as they tried to make up for their imagined failure of losing their only child to a madman. He remembered the contests he won and how all of his work in expensive voice lessons led him to this moment. Most of all, he remembered his best friend Angie and how they were inseparable. She played the flute, while David played the sax – “the woodwinds against the world” – as she would often say. The only thing that separated them in high school was David’s singing, which was his first love. Singing took him to another place and gave him a world built on tone, rhythm and stories. Each song allowed him to step outside of himself and become someone else living an epic adventure on a raft floating down a river or fighting the Devil himself to break free of a deal.
The depths of the cadenza, however, was a different story and a tale that David didn’t want to hear any more than he had to. The years of therapy, of medication, of constant fear before he began to live outside of the shadows and throw off the blanket of heaviness, had taken their toll. David was glad that he was away and at the beginning of this new chapter in his life. He wanted to erase the board and have a fresh start without anyone knowing who he was and what had happened to him. He wanted to melt into the background when he wasn’t singing, which was the reason why he ducked out as quickly as he could when his performances were over so he could escape the sea of people with extended sweaty hands telling him “good job.”
Yes, the cadenza was over and the walk was through with the sun beginning to peak over the horizon. Climbing the stairs, David wished that, at the very least, his room was closer to the other side, so the stairs faced the sunrise. Watching the colors fade into the cloudless sky brought this morning’s opus to an end, or rather, the beginning. This was the first day of hell week, the first day of a new and hopefully better life, or so he aspired.