For a man who doesn’t scare easily I woke up quite afraid this morning. I had a dream you see, not a nightmare but a dream and it frightened the livin’ Bejesus out of me for a number of reasons. I warn you now; you should only stay with me, if you are not of a nervous disposition.
Now usually, dreams are odd and at the best of times they can be hard to remember. Some people say they rarely dream or they just don’t remember them. I remember them all. Perhaps it’s because I’m a light sleeper. I’ve always remembered my dreams and they have always been vivid and filled with colour. Nightmares haunted me as a child but I learned to wake myself from the worst of them. These days I rarely have nightmares.
My mother was a dreamer too. I loved my Ma but she frightened the lights out of me sometimes when she got all serious over her dreams. She used to tell me that she knew which ones were real and which ones were not. When I was small I didn’t fully understand what she meant, but over time she used to tell me the details of her dreams and when they were truly portentous, it was scary. She believed in telling someone when she thought they might be some kind of premonition as if she wanted a witness to her truth. I keep most of my dreams to myself, but this one…
Being one of life’s great sceptics, I find it challenging to offer up what I am about to say but I offer it up nonetheless. Over the years much like my mother, I have had dreams that have quite literally come true. I cannot explain it and without going into detail, there should have been absolutely no way I could have predicted what I dreamed about in advance of the actual occurrences. Yet I remain sceptical, presuming without any evidence that there has to be some scientific explanation for my precognition. I have yet to explain it to my own satisfaction.
There are other things too, things I really cannot explain. I frequently sing the next line to songs that my darling Jo is singing in her head. I finish a thought she is having out loud not related to anything in the moment, entirely unpredictable. It can be a sentence or an idea. She will frequently say to me “are you in my head again?”
Now of course you might say that we are so close, that of course I can predict her next line or word, but it is far more intricate than that. Still the sceptic in me says, there is some logical explanation for that too, one that I simply haven’t been able to work out. Yet I know what comes into my head, I feel the thoughts of another person sometimes and I have no understanding of how it happens nor control of when it happens. I am no clairvoyant. Whatever the explanation, there must be one.
Last night was different. I can feel it still that dream. Like most dreams there was some initial confusion, a mixed blur of a vacation in Vietnam for some reason, but then it all changed and I went to visit my brother Brian in Chicago where he had spent most of his adult life. It is seven years since my brother passed. He died way too young, the same age as I am at now as it happens. In my dream he welcomed me in and oddly there was another presence, someone I haven’t seen in many years. My companion on the journey was my childhood friend and next door neighbour Martin. I haven’t seen him in thirty years. He was background noise only however but I remember it was quite disconcerting.
I was in the yard of a house and Brian kept coming in and out telling me to join him. He seemed anxious. I stayed outside, half distracted by a phone call and I kept telling him I’d come in in a minute. Martin was trying to hurry me along to leave. Again the dream took on that bizarre stage where things blend and mix up. Although I was standing only a few feet away from my brother, the conversation we were having was taking place on two levels. I was both standing close to him yet on the phone to him and still back in Ireland, all at the same time. I could see deep concern on his face and he looked ill again as he had done the last time I saw him. He seemed to be asking me to come visit him in Chicago.
He kept repeating that I should come with him and I began to realise that he wanted me to join him in another place. He was no longer of this world and he wanted me to come with him to a darker place to help him, to be with him and I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness. But then he did something that chilled me to my very core. There was a moment, just a tiny moment where one minute we were talking by phone, but quite suddenly he was standing at my shoulder in the yard of that strange house. He leaned in and whispered in my ear. I cannot let go of the secret he imparted. That exchange was speeded up. The world accelerated for a moment, right to the point where he spoke to me and then everything slowed long enough for him to tell me something that is stuck in my head.
In that moment I woke up and I lay on my side with my eyes closed. Whenever I have such a dream, not a normal dream but a dream that feels like the ones my mother spoke of, a dream like the ones I’ve had before, I replay them in my head in my wakened state so I can remember the detail in the morning.
As I lay there another thought struck me and I thought, no it is not possible. I opened my eyes and reached in the darkness for the button that illuminates the time on my alarm clock. For a second I hesitated. I didn’t want it to read the time that might be there. Ever since my heart attack, ever since I faded on the surgeons table only to come back again, my witching hour has haunted me. I pressed the button and it read 04.35 precisely.
From the corner of my eye, the shadow man who haunts my night, slipped out of our bedroom window. He is a slither, a creeping menace that sits and waits and at that precise moment, the time of morning when all that is darkest comes to haunt me, he is a mocking creature, too cowardly to strike, like a hyena in the darkness beyond my eye line, waiting for me to be weak again.
I reached across once more and pressed the button on my clock and darkness filled the room. My shadow man had been lurking, my Mr. Squiggles as I have daubed him back in my hospital bed is always there in such moments. He waits for my demise and it feels as though he comes to check on me from time to time. I am on his list and I felt as though he now knew the secret that my brother had shared with me, and that was the most frightening thing of all. I already knew the time that he would eventually come for me, my brother only confirmed it but there was more. As I lay awake in the darkness of my room, I remembered the rest of the secret that he had imparted. Brian had given me something no one wants to have. He had whispered the worst secret imaginable. He had given me a date …
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