Tag Archives: nightmares

A Child’s Nightmare

It’s been a while since my last post, but that’s probably because life is one harsh mistress, and the universe is doubly so.

By no means has my life been bad these past couple of weeks (or however long it’s been since the previous post), but it has been busy. And sometimes busy can be bad–for my mental health, for my sleep schedule, for my stress, for my emotions. But I don’t want to start this off on a negative note.

I’ve been involved in a Summer Shakespeare production of As You Like It. I portray the villain, Oliver, as well as a drunken old priest and a stupid Lord. It’s been a lot of fun, despite the demanding nightly schedule that has now extended full rehearsals past ten o’ clock. So, I’m coming home from long days working at the camp, only to go to rehearsal an hour later, and I’m not returning home till 10:30, having not eaten dinner.

Needless to say, that kind of schedule can kill a person, or nearly do the job. As You Like It will perform next weekend for three nights at my school’s outdoor amphitheater, and it’ll be a lot of fun. But it’ll also be a relief to have a bit more time during the night to actually relax.

I’m almost done reading the first installment of the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones. I’m in love with the book, and might do a review when I’m finished.

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I’m going to get to one of the main points of this post, now. As you probably know, I work as a Junior Counselor at a summer day camp for kids. I work primarily with five and six year olds, and yesterday, I was sitting on the bus on the way home with one five year old named Brody.

A little bit about Brody: He’s a wide-eyed boy with short dark hair and a sort of high, lilting voice. He likes to kick his sandals at people and swing his sleeves at people’s faces. Sometimes he runs off into the woods, which is a huge hassle. Several of us think Brody may be on the Autism spectrum, but we’re not positive. His mother rarely speaks to counselors when she picks him up and drops him off, so we really can’t learn much about his personal life. He has two younger brothers, ages three and four, and he talks about his pet geckos, who he feeds bugs. One of them, an “old mommy” is dying, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He’s an incredibly sensitive boy with a huge interest in art, nature, strategic games, and so on. He hates field games and sitting around doing nothing, and these sort of activities can lead him to misbehave and act out for attention. Inside he’s an insanely intelligent child, but he doesn’t like to show it.

Now–yesterday, on the bus, Brody told me he had a bad dream the night before. I had been reading A Game of Thrones, but now I set it down to listen. I asked him what had happened in his dream. He told me this: he told me that in the dream he had been watching the night sky with a telescope, because “I was looking for airplanes.” He didn’t find airplanes, but he did find an alien spaceship, or several of them. He immediately alerted his family and friends, and they all went an hid in a building somewhere. I asked him if he had been scared, and he said yes.

The aliens, Brody told me, eventually found everyone, anyway. When he told me this, his already huge eyes grew huger, and I could practically feel his fear. There’s something so raw about children’s emotions, and Brody is no exception. In fact, his emotions seem amplified in comparison to other kids’, often. He told me that the aliens found everybody but him and his two younger brothers. Naturally, I thought this meant there was a happy ending, or at least not an awful one. I said, “What did the aliens do, then?”

“They took them onto their spaceships,” he said.

“What did they do?” I asked.

“They put everyone in hot water.”

“Hot water?”

He seemed to think this wasn’t an apt enough description, because he corrected himself, speaking over me with great urgency: “Hot, hot, hot, hot, hot water.” Now I was getting worried. Alien dreams are common, I’m sure. Hell, I’ve had these kinds of dreams…but not at age five, that I can recall. I almost didn’t want to know what happened next, but I had to ask him. I think he would have told me, either way.

He told me, “They put everyone in fire.”

That gave me chills, and the worst kind. I could just feel my heart stop for a second, because the way he said it was so sad yet honest, as if this was normal. I had to ask him why the aliens did this, and he said the aliens didn’t like people. I asked him why, and he grinned and said, “You know why!” As if everyone should know. He didn’t explain further. He told me the dream made him sad and that nothing else happened, and then he went back to peering out the window. I didn’t ask him any more questions, but I was deeply disturbed by the whole thing. I still am.

What gives kids these thoughts, these nightmares? It’s something beyond our control, certainly. I remember having awful dreams of my mother, a blue and deformed zombie with glowing red eyes, bursting from my closet, rushing toward me, screaming with all the anger any monster could muster. I still cringe to think of that recurring dream. Or, the one about the tyrannosaurus rex that chased me down my grandmother’s long and winding drive way, eventually trampling me. Or, the muddled, black-faced creatures stalking that same grandmother’s house in the middle of a storm, closing in on her as she chopped wood. Or, the image of my recently deceased grandfather’s face, appearing in windows and mirrors, frozen and smiling–all those things petrified my childhood self, and they still hold that power over me. If someone told me to confront those images and scenarios in reality, I would break. Mentally, I would be destroyed.

And we’ve all had our share of alien dreams, I’m sure. And I’m not surprised that Brody has nightmares, nor that any child would. It’s part of life. What did and does surprise me is Brody’s brutal honesty about the whole thing. He had a story to tell, but to him it wasn’t a story. It was nearly reality, and it was as if he knew it was utterly out of his control. As if he knew awful things happened to innocent people, and he was helpless to the progression of life and death and nature.

These musings seem pretentiously profound when I remind myself this is just a five year old’s nightmare.

But with kids like Brody, you can’t help but wonder if they know…more. When my sixteen year old sister Sadie was five or six she had a dream that she was trying to sleep, but God was talking to her through the window. In the dream she told God to stop talking and let her sleep.

Kids are so goddamned beautifully innocent, yet so intelligent at the same time. It’s almost too much to handle sometimes.

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I’ll leave things here, tonight. A couple other fun tidbits:

I’m working on writing a one-act play about a girl and a ghost who form a friendship, only for it to be taken from them through the natural progression of life and death. I kind of imagine something Disney-esque, with creepy and funny elements tied into it. I’ll direct it this winter, since seniors direct plays every winter at my school.

I’m still watching 30 Rock, and loving it. I just finished Season 3.

I’ll be visiting Kenyon, Bard, and Marist college in the next couple of weeks. I can’t wait to see my first-choice (Kenyon) and my close second (Bard). In September I’ll also see Bennington, which is a tie for second.

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To the few of you who have subscribed to my posts and liked my posts, I thank you a hundred times. There’s a quote from Dean Koontz that says “If something in your writing gives support to people in their lives, that’s more than just entertainment–which is what we writers all struggle to do, to touch people.”

I hope that I’ve at least managed to touch a couple of people with my posts. That’s all I really want with my writing, be it books or plays or blog posts. While I don’t have the most interesting life, I think we’ve all got stories to tell.

I’ll try to be more frequent with my posts, time allowing. For now, I bid you farewell.

Goodnight, Faithful Readers. Goodnight.

-J

11:31 PM