The spiderweb of life catches my nightmares as they descend towards my subconscious. Sticky, unable to move, the nightmares panic and become entangled in my reality. They’re there. Haunting me. I just can’t see them. The spiderweb lets the good dreams through. Like some benevolent god that wishes for me to be blinded from the horrors of this world. If the spiderweb breaks, the nightmares crash down upon my life, wreaking havoc on my senses. A holocaust of my sanity and wellbeing. It destroys everything. Everything I have left.
Then I'll die.
When people talk about nightmares, they usually mention the occasional phobia dream. Drowning, falling, and being chased are some of the most common. My nightmares were different. They racked the darkest depths of my subconscious to create the most violent and horrendous dreams and force me into submission by making me scared to sleep. This usually manifested in the form of family members hunting me down and brutally slaughtering me.
Aching limbs, bloodshot eyes, and a busy mind were side effects of me trying to escape this violence. I’d sit up on my bed, covers were thrown somewhere across the room, serving no purpose as I was not there to use them. My head would be leaning against the wall. Eyes forward, staring into the abyss.
I would stumble out of bed and tiptoe along the wall to the kitchen. Once I got there, I would feel for the light switch and preemptively shut my eyes. It would take a while for the light to turn on. It would flicker a bit, disapproving of my midnight escapade. But I was on a mission. I grabbed a glass out of the cupboard and crept to the sink, only letting the water spill out in short bursts. (I would receive hell if my mother woke up) I filled the glass and downed it.
Then I downed another one. It sloshed at the bottom of my throat, having a hard time making it down. I pretended it was a shot. If I was drunk, I wouldn’t fall asleep. After all this, I slowly turned off the light and felt my way back to my room. My bed was hard and lumpy. Though, as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was knocked out. Not exactly according to plan, but life happens.
My mind was even worse than my bed. It was a war zone because I could imagine this creature in my head playing with the strings of fate. A large black figure, terrifying red eyes, big pincers for hands, and a killer stare that would bore into my soul if I ever saw him. Traditionally, if he cut my string, I’d die. But instead, if he cut my string, I’d have a nightmare. And this creature was fucking pincer happy.
I’d wake up screaming, sweat rolling down my face, my breath choppy, and I’d be wheezing as if I had been crying. I’d wrap my arms around my shoulders, myself being the only person I could hug. The only person I could confide in and I was so cold.
This went on for two years. Every night a new nightmare. A new way to torture me. As if the universe was punishing me for some incredibly terrible wrongdoing I committed. I just did not understand why it had to be me. Why did I have to suffer through seeing my grandmother cut my fingers off or witness my mother shoot me in the head? After hours of debate, I came to the conclusion that it was because I was cursed. Simply doomed to live a life of darkness that would slowly envelop me like one of those serial killers you see on the news.
Then I was ripped away from the small number of friends I had left and forced to move across the country to the west coast. I was one of five people trapped in a small car while driving across the entire country just to escape my father. He kept trying to sue my mother for custody over my sister and I. He never won, but that did not stop him from trying.
Nightmare after nightmare plagued me during this four-day “vacation.” The only solace I received was a comfy bed to sleep in when we stopped at some hotel off the highway. That night, I was dragged eight miles through the mud to be slaughtered like a pig. I woke up drenched. Then I calmly took a shower and made my way down for breakfast.
Along the way towards our new life, we stopped at some sort of antique store. I don’t remember if I picked out the dreamcatcher or if my mom got it for me, but I do remember tracing the little spiderweb with my fingers and feeling the allusiveness of the feathers. This dreamcatcher contained freedom I could not imagine. The freedom and power to decide the fate of young children like me. The harbinger of nightmares and good dreams.
I used it. Every night. Then, in the morning, I would jump out of bed to see if my nightmares were caught in the dainty little spiderweb taped to the wall above my head. It seemed to expand in size. As if it was filling up with all the nightmares it was catching. I broke down. The tears falling off my face and staining my bed with euphoria. My two-year long streak of nightmares stopped dead in its tracks now that I had some sort of powerful god looking after me. I no longer had to sneak around the house at night to down glasses of water. I no longer pinched myself or hit my head against the wall. I didn’t know what this feeling was. It was overwhelming. Something that started tingling in my toes and spread through my entire body.
I was able to function again. I made friends with a bunch of local school children and we would actually play after school together, running around our apartment complex as if Life would not try its damned best to corrupt our pure hearts.
Then we moved again.
Another day in a stuffy car was another day I had to question all of this. At the time, I did not understand why we had to keep moving. I kept having to say goodbye to all of my friends and promise them that I would stay in touch, even though I was too young to own a phone.
When I unpacked my bags and started to move my things to the new apartment, my reality shattered. I held in my hand the dreamcatcher that kept me pure for a year. The sole thing that was stopping my horrible nightmares from returning. The middle of the spiderweb flew carelessly in the wind. The feathers were bent and the edges of the spiderweb were the only thing left intact.
I looked around in the frigid air, terrified with how disgusting the world was. How heavy the bricks were that I was forced to carry. How salty the chips we ate for snacks were. When we were all done moving in, I carefully taped the annihilated dreamcatcher above my bed and hoped that it would do its job correctly.
I was on edge for the rest of the night. We had this small moving-in party where we ordered nice food and stayed up until midnight. Kind of like New Year's, but I didn’t participate. I was in my room, trying to keep the devils out of my head. The tape I put on the spiderweb fell off immediately, the web in defiance to my actions of kindness. Sweat rolled down my face and my breathing began to quicken.
The dreamcatcher hung there through the night, softly swaying in the breeze that crept through the window-
-and the spiderweb of life let everything through.