Several Nightmares— Daniel Enderle
Of course, I don’t remember it, but I’m told that on my second birthday, as my parents were getting my younger brother settled into the backseat of the Volkswagen, in preparation for a weekend trip to the seashore, I ate an entire bottle of Bayer aspirin. They found me with the cap in my mouth and the empty bottle on the floor. This necessitated a trip to the hospital, to have my stomach pumped, and an overnight stay.
Many years later, as I languished in a college lecture hall on a warm summer afternoon, I got to thinking about that incident and how it might have inspired my only recurring childhood nightmare. I had lots of nightmares – in one, a big green monster snatched me from my bed and carried me off in its teeth down the hall past the bathroom where my mother blithely continued to apply her eye makeup without looking away from the mirror and I thought, “Can I get some help here?” But only one dream recurred.
This nightmare was in black and white and set in a grim nineteenth century industrial zone of huge brick buildings with no windows or doors. Tall stacks billowed voluminous clouds of steam and dark smoke above wide gray unmarked streets each stretching in one-point perspective towards distant horizons beneath a vast white sky with no sun. There were no shadows and no trees or vegetation of any kind. Squares and rectangles divided every centimeter of the ground into patches of asphalt, concrete, cinders and gravel. The twilight atmosphere was loud with the hum and grind of machinery and ventilation.
My head and my limbs were huge and heavy, yet my body felt small as I lay on my back in the middle of long table with pneumatic rubber wheels being whisked by unseen phantoms down the street past smooth sidewalks and tall chain-link fences towards a big ominous building that I feared to enter. I looked to my left into the face of a sad six year old girl in a wet white dress as she offered me a wilted white flower. I reached out my hand, but a cold shudder went through me and I shook my head. The gurney cornered onto a long ramp and I moaned as I passed into a dark gaping hole and I was in the building rolling down endless hallways the ceilings of which were all I saw before I was gone. I’d always wake up in the night with the little girl’s face in my mind. I think I was nineteen with a fever the last time I dreamed that. I still remember what she looked like. I’m glad I didn’t take the flower.
One time, when I’d gone to bed early, my wife came into the room and I sat up and yelled, “Quick! Get a bowl!” I’d dreamed that I’d been stabbed in the stomach and I wanted to catch the blood.
Recently, I was wandering through a large one story house with big rooms when I looked out a sliding glass door and spotted my Mother trying to bury my Dad in the side yard. He was laid out on the grass, wrapped in a black wool blanket, but otherwise naked. I told Mom she was doing it wrong. She had already put most of the dirt back in the grave. I dragged him over and grabbed a shovel. I had him mostly covered over when he started coughing. “Dad! Dad! It’s great to see you again, man.” I led him inside and sat him on the edge of a bed and went to get him something to drink. When I got back he was dancing with my brother in the living room.
Probably the worst one I remember was about twenty years ago. I dreamt we arrived back home with groceries and, as is so often the case, this was a house we’d never lived in, in a neighborhood I’d never seen. It was a little green one story house with a chimney coming straight out the middle of the roof. Like a house a kid would draw with crayons. There were four same size rooms each with its own staircase going down to each of the four rooms in the basement. We’re happy and chattering away as we reach the little kitchen when a baby starts screaming bloody murder. It’s loud and coming from everywhere and nowhere. We split up and start going through the rooms. And the screaming. I go down to the basement and come up a different stairway and now I can’t find Lesley so I start calling her name and going up and down the stairs and from room to room. The baby keeps screaming but now a strange voice is mimicking me saying, “Lesley, Les-ley, Leees – leeey.” I fling open the front door and on the sidewalk see a father and son holding long guns and dressed in plaid hunting clothes with hats with ear flaps and they are in the midst of a bad argument and I say, “Excuse me…” and they turn and glare at me and in unison say, “We’re in the middle of something here!” And that scares me worse than anything.
Sometimes I just jump out of bed and wonder what the hell is wrong with me. And middle of the night TV is almost as bad.