Alone in my cold bedroom while sleeping and dreaming sometimes hellishly dark images would come in repeating frequency, for some twelve years from age seven to my late teens.
The haunting and sameness of these evil reveries, unsettled me and provoked lonesome, loathsome trepidations for nights afterwards.
My fears inside of these subliminal episodes would prompt a furious complaining before bedtime to the walls and mattress,”Come on! Make something different happen for once!”
To me even the old, dingy lace curtains had joined with my private night stalker to torment me like someone repeatedly ringing a phone and hanging up the moment it was lifted to the ear.
Reclining in bed, I’d stare through the flaking, lead painted windows panes and wrought iron bars across the lawn at the gnarly tree branches that during daylight were friendly and inviting enough but not so when the lights went out.
Without warning or hints, or anything, I’d be deep in my rest under the woven covers, when the frightening thing would slip into my bed and terrorize my childhood.
It was then that the tormentor would come for me and I like the proverbial mouse, nibbling on a savory morsel as the rustling flora and fauna sounds a faint alarm prefacing its end, by snake, was unaware.
The dream always began with me sitting starboard on a grey battleship out to sea.
My tiny legs dangled over the side of the dull, steel raiding.
I know the child, it’s me.
My eyes peer at the horizon as the ship plummets up and under the murky, green waves.
My face, my navy raincoat and hood are covered with the spraying mist.
Some feeling or some thing draws my attention away from the horizon.
I already know not to turn around but I always do.
I want so badly to just stay as I am, innocent of the darkness within and without.
Behind me there is something, call it intuition that I must see and know.
Having always been a naturally curious person, I lean and turn my head, first.
Then curiosity wins, even against my will to survive.
I move my legs and torso into position to stand with my back against the railing.
As I am erect, I see only the towering ocean waves.
Then I look down into the hulking hull of the ship.
I watch as shadowy men rush and slip on the wet deck, below me.
They are all shades of charcoal and silhouetted.
The ship rises and sinks as my eyes adjust and focus from the panoramic horizon to a male figure.
A man appears before me, carrying something in his hands.
I stare from his face to his hands that clutch something like a shovel.
As I hold my breath, fear and apprehension mount as a slow, Cheshire cat smile spreads on his face.
I thought at first that his face was pleasant and normal but as he cracks a lazily smile its hideous and
His teeth are white pearl balloons and his lips are pale, pink quarter moons.
The smile sends a signal to my bowels to release as he brings the shovel slowly forward towards me.
I feel my lead arms wanting to rise to receive the blow but I am mesmerized and paralyzed by the smiling face.
Something putrid and repugnant brings tears to my eyes.
I know that I cry each time the man appears to me.
I want to turn back around not to envisaged this phantasm but I cannot.
Something is restraining and penning me backwards onto the railing.
There is pressure on my face and torso like zero gravity.
I can’t for my life scream.
It’s as if something is sitting on top of me so I can’t take a decent breath.
Then after a few seconds, I manage to inhale and as I gather myself for a scream, I open my mouth and
the dark man brings the shovel up, pouring a shovel full of manure into me.
The unbearable smell causes me to gag and cough.
It’s at this point I wake with the smell of shit in my nostrils.
After each twilight fright, I’d ask myself, “What’s wrong with me that I cannot stop this nightmare?”
The dream never changed or varied until one day, I finally decided to stop biting back my feelings
Speaking to the air when no one cared to hear, strengthened me and a new me emerged, one who is no longer
easily frightened to walk among death’s shadows or fleeing from the threats of evil men whose machinations have birthed lesser gods.
more by DEBRA BISHOP
Photograph by Nikola Jelenkovic