Remembering back to his childhood, Michael was able to start piecing his memories back together- memories that he’d tried his best to suppress over the last 20 years. His first experience was in his room, late one stormy night… His mother was pregnant with his younger sister at the time, and his dad was out of town, on yet another business conference. Michael had been asleep for several hours, but was awakened by the sound of screeching tires. There was a sharp turn at the end of the road in front of their house, and he’d seen several cars skid off into the ditch after taking the turn too fast.
Climbing down from his bed, he crept quietly across the creaking floor boards. He leaned out his doorway into the hall, and heard muffled conversations and crying- this time coming from his parent’s bedroom. He slipped out into the hallway, moving slowly towards the door at the end of the hall. Normally, if his mom was watching television, he could see the light flickering underneath the door. But tonight the room was dark. He pressed his ear against the wooden door, listening and trying to decipher the inaudible words, when suddenly there was a loud shriek, and the voices disappeared into white noise.
Michael instantly recognized the static as the sound of the baby monitor that his parents had set up for the new baby’s nursery downstairs. He’d used the monitor as a pretend walkie-talkie on numerous occasions. But who would be in the nursery in the middle of the night? Making his way back in the other direction, he passed by his room and stopped momentarily at the top of the stairs. There were no lights on downstairs, and he couldn’t hear anyone talking. He turned back, glancing at his parent’s bedroom door- not quite sure if he was making sure he wouldn’t get caught, or if he wanted his mom to go with him. She’d been working a lot lately, and Michael knew she was tired, so he finally decided not to wake her.
Slowly starting down the stairs, he held a tight grip on the rail until he reached the floor below. Flipping on the hallway light, he turned the corner, then proceeded to the single door on this hall. He reaching out to the doorknob, trying to listen for whoever had been here talking moments ago. After a few seconds of silence, he turned the knob and pushed the door open. A chill shot up his spine as he realized that there was no one in the room, the only light coming from the small green l.e.d. on the baby monitor. He darted into the room, and snatched the monitor’s plug from the wall, then turned and started back towards the door.
As he crossed over the threshold into the hallway, he heard what sounded like sirens wailing behind him. He jerked back around just as the sound faded away, the room still dark and empty. Then, though the darkness, the bright green dot reappeared from the monitor that he’d just unplugged. Michael stood still for a moment, staring into the darkness as another chill ran up his spine, and urine trickling down his leg formed a small puddle on the hardwood floor. Turning from the door, he broke into a full sprint back through the narrow hall, and up the stairs.
As he reached the second floor, he took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. Starting towards his bedroom door, he heard the siren again. This time however, it was followed by the sound of a small child crying, but it was no longer muffled- he could hear it clear as day. In a moment of panic, he took off running again, into his room, slamming the door behind him and diving under the covers into his warm bed.
Several minutes later, Michael poked his head out from underneath the blanket, now hearing the child’s cries nearby. “Hello?” he called out, his voice trembling. He peered around the dark room, illuminated only briefly by flashes of lightning. His eyes fell upon the closet door adjacent to his bed- he thought he had closed it earlier that night. But as the sobbing sounds grew louder, he noticed that the door to his closet was slowly opening.
His eyes now wide with fear, he sat straight up in the bed, his focus locked on the closet door. A small pile of toys on the floor mysteriously scattered about, as if something had shoved them aside. Suddenly, an icy grip wrapped tightly around his ankle, jerking him out of bed down onto the hard wooden floor. Terrified, Michael quickly shuffled up onto his knees, facing the closet. A chilling wind forced him back against the wall behind him, as another flash of lightning lit up the entire bedroom. Glancing around for the brief moment that he could see, he was well aware that no one else was in the room. But, after a thunderous clap outside his window, the room went dark again, and the ghostly image of a face appears momentarily, staring back at him in the darkness.
The last thing he remembered was the scream that never escaped his throat. The same icy fingers, now wrapped around his neck, cut off his voice and slammed the back of his head against the wood paneled wall, until the memory faded to black.
Michael, now twenty-nine years old, sat on a comfortable faux-suede couch, as he wiped a single tear from his cheek. Even after all these years, that first experience was still traumatizing. And as terrifying as every other incident had been since that night, he would always remember the first time… He tried to argue with the middle-aged woman seated behind the desk to his left- there was just no way that these were dreams, or “night-terrors” as she had called them. If that’s all they were, then why is it he never remembered his other dreams? And how could that explain the strange bruises, cuts and scars that covered his body??
Shortly after that first night, he was placed into a foster home, while his parents were being investigated for neglect and abuse. They were cleared of any suspicion however, when it was found that the episodes didn’t stop while in foster care. After he’d been in the children’s home for about a week, there was another incident late one night, in which he dreamed that he’d been assaulted by some sort of apparition. The next morning, he was found in his bed, under blood stained blankets, with a small metal toy train that he had used to nearly gouge out his right eye.
“Yours is an extremely severe case,” his psychiatrist began, in response to the puzzled look on his face. “Normally, patients experiencing night terrors don’t remember a thing. And most definitely don’t injure themselves.”
“I’m not crazy,” Michael snapped back at her, “I know everyone says that to you though… And I know what it sounds like, but I promise… I couldn’t make this shit up.”
The woman leaned down, writing notes onto a legal pad on her desk. “I don’t think you’re crazy, Michael. Night-terrors are much more prevalent in people your age than they used to be. Again, your case is just different from most.”
“That’s because they’re not night-terrors…” he thought to himself. “He’s trying to kill me-”
“Who is, Michael?” the woman quickly asked.
Michael’s jaw dropped when he realized that he’d actually said the words aloud. “The boy from… Well, he looks to be my age now, but it’s the same person.”
“You haven’t mentioned this before… does he appear in a recurring type of dream, or what?”
“It’s not recurring…” Michael started, his cheeks now flushed, embarrassed that he’d let it slip out. “He’s in every one. And they’re not dreams.”
She scribbled something else onto the notepad, before slamming the brown case folder closed. “Hate to stop you now, but looks like we’re done for today… Take some time to think about what you’re really wanting to say, and see if we can’t continue to make progress… Same time next week? We’ll just pick up right where we left off.”
He sighed as he rose from the couch, “Yeah.” He was so disgusted. He could no longer recall the number of different shrinks he’d seen, and no matter what he said, his diagnosis was always the same. “Extremely severe case, my ass…” he thought as he shook the woman’s hand, and turned to exit the small office. As the door closed behind him and he proceeded to the elevator down the hall, he muttered, “Bet no one’s ever been killed by their night-terrors!”
The following morning, Michael awoke to the smell of blueberry pancakes, and his mother’s voice as she called up the stairs to him. Still terrified from his experience the night before, he debated even crawling down from his bed. Luckily, the storm from last night had passed, and the room was now brightly lit from the sunlight pouring in through his large window. The closet door was closed. His toys placed in a neat pile a few feet from his bed. He hesitated momentarily, before glancing down to the side of the bed where he had struggled with the unseen apparition. The back of his head throbbed still; his throat was dry and scratchy. He wanted to call his mother to his side, but was frightened to even make a sound.
He wondered if it had all been a dream- some horribly terrifying nightmare. But then, why did his body ache this morning? Why was it that he felt as though he’d been thrown down a flight of stairs? Something had happened last night… something that his young mind could not begin to comprehend.
“Michael Warren!” He cut his eyes up towards the door, where his mother was now standing. “I’ve been calling you for like ten minutes… what are you doing?!” He quickly crawled down from his bed, and ran to his mother’s side, throwing his arms around her. “You okay, hun?”
He simply nodded, trying to fight back the tears that were swelling in his eyes. “I had a bad dream…”
“It’s alright,” she started, “Momma’s here now… Come on downstairs, I made the birthday boy’s favorite breakfast!” He squeezed her again, almost trying to reassure himself that what happened last night had actually been a dream. He followed close behind his young mother as she made her way down the stairs and moved towards the kitchen. “We’ve got several errands to run before your party this afternoon, so I need you to get dressed after you finish eating, okay baby?” Michael smiled and nodded again as he pulled himself up onto the barstool in the small kitchen.
“You know, I find it very odd Mister Warren, that in all of our previous visits, you’ve never mentioned ‘him‘. Have you had time to gather your thoughts on the matter?”
He replied in a sarcastic tone, “I’ve had twenty-something years to gather my thoughts, and they still don’t make sense… One more week really didn’t help much.”
The older woman frowned, as she pulled her small glasses from her face, and rubbed her left eye. “Let me rephrase my question then… Are you ready to tell me more?”
Taking a deep breath, Michael answered, “I suppose…” as he thought to himself, “You already think I’m nuts anyways…” He leaned back on the couch, and thought for a moment before starting.