The Nightmare Time

Guest Post by: Lucille Moncrief

Inspired by Lovecraft’s Dagon and Fuseli’s The Nightmare

 

I am writing this under the sickly orange sky—the daylight fast fading, and my will along with it. My supply of The Dragon is exhausted, and I promised at its end I would drive this car into the nearest tree or telephone pole, abutment of a bridge, or even down a ravine—anything to end my life and the nightmare I’ve lived for months.

 

His name is Morpheus. He rides into my room on an anemic, ebony mare, her skin stretched over sharp ribs, maggots crawling in a stringy mane, eyes aglow with sinister intent. They smell like the dust of bones, the rot of corpses, the fear that swirls everlasting in Hell.

 

The first visit came with the last fall of the autumn leaves. I’d gone into my room in the garret that overlooked the cobblestone courtyard. I stretched out on the futon, the last smile of content against my lips, and began to drift into blessed sleep. I felt an immense weight on my chest at the base of my ribs and my heart exploded, my eyes flew open and were transfixed to the ceiling. I could not blink, I could not breathe, I could not clutch at my neck with futile panic—paralyzed, I heard the braying of death’s horse and the clomp of her determined hooves through the miasmal ether beyond the wall of unconsciousness.

 

My stomach flipped beneath hammering heart. I felt the demon straddle my frozen legs and he crawled up my prostrate form to the sit on my chest. He looked down into my terrorized face with eyes red as lava, skin the color of burlap. He inched, ever closer, until his visage eclipsed my limited sight of the room.

 

“Yes,” he said softly, like a hissing snake. His breath was a putrid sulfur that poured into my flaring nostrils. I heard the stomp of hooves on the floor as he withdrew his face, and caught the glimpse of the horse’s head in the corner of my frantic eye.

 

The pressure released with the braying of the mare and I dared not move. I began to cry softly. I didn’t sleep that afternoon or night, but after nearly two days without sleep, I gave in, and nodded off at my desk in that same garret room.

 

I don’t know how long I was out—three seconds, three hours or three days, but at last I heard the beat of hooves echoing and his putrid breath grazed the back of my neck. He hissed an eager “Yes,” and I sat upright and looked about me in the darkness. Nothing was there but my fear and confusion. I went to the futon and curled into the fetal position with my face to the wall and there I remained until the morning light awoke me.

 

Three days had passed since the demons’ last visit, and a vague sense of unease seemed to stalk me. I would put off sleeping until far too late into the night for it to be of any use. I began to take on that look of ribaldry and carousal. Little did anyone know at that time of my ordeal, I was too nervous to leave my house, instead opting for pot after pot of coffee in the tranquility of the garret room until my stomach turned to a roaring fire.

 

I can remember the still hours of the night when my desperation turned to a substance I’d been warned to abhor from my youth—the demon dragon, the red, the green and the black and furious dragon, forever chased by the gaunt-faced zombies of earthly ennui.

 

A month had passed into the week of Thanksgiving. I’d run out of coffee. The streets were noisy and crowded with the holiday revelry, and the swarm of it from my narrow window increased my anxiety. I’d waited an hour or two before venturing out. I pulled up a chair beneath the ledge and watched the crowd, eager for it to disperse. It did not. Time ticked on as my head swiveled, like I was drifting on a bobbing ocean wave. The spray of it kissed my face, clear as morning dew, and the salt of it seasoned the breath in my lungs as the gulls cried overhead. I stretched in the worn wooden skiff, sun warming my bare legs.

 

I closed my eyes and tilted my head back like the sunflower who worships Apollo. The waves of the sea gently knocked against the sides of the boat with no discernible rhythm, or…the knocking became louder, more percussive—more percussive like the clomp of hooves, and Apollo raced his chariot across the sky that soon blackened from his absence.

 

I opened my eyes and tried to stand, but the creature, hard and cold as steel, had me straddled at the knees. His face held no expression, but he jumped with webbed wings to sit on my stomach and the breath left my lungs while all about me the cimmerian ocean filled with pairs of glowing eyes. The demon pinned my hands to the side of the boat and bit at my quivering breast. A scream stuck in my throat as the boat capsized into icy depths and I awoke with the sound of the chair clattering to the floor as I gasped for breath. I lay prone, wracked with sobs—a pathetic creature. I only wished for air, precious air and sleep!

 

The thought of anymore coffee repulsed me and sent my stomach into protesting flips. I must calm my nerves and my overactive brain filled with enmity for the body that housed it. I put on my coat and my scarf—how I wished for it to be a noose, and plodded down the stairs to the back alley in bleary-eyed fury. There was a woman, an old hag, really, who stood at the corner from the setting sun to the wee hours of morning. She had a rambling shack near the waterfront that the dogs would visit for scraps she’d throw in the gutter. I hastened my steps to the edge of the dim alley and, sure enough, she was there, a new gap in her smile this time.

 

“The Dragon?” I was breathless and my muscles screamed for rest. Every move felt like rubbing salt into the wound of my shattered existence. She smiled, took my hand, and led me to the water’s edge and into the smoky and dark interior of the shack. I sat on a tattered loveseat as she handed me the hose of a hookah and I inhaled. The cushions felt like cotton and a candied haze filled my mind as I sunk into the seat. Sweet sleep and blessed, euphoric warmth!

I awoke hours later to a gnarled hand on my shoulder, stringy, dank hair brushed my cheek. I was thirsty, so very thirsty, but well rested. I handed her the money from my pocket and went back to the garret.

 

This method by which I have staved off the demon has lasted through the hard winter. But, in my infirmity I have been unable to work, and so with the freshly melted snow of spring have lost any hope of gainful employment.

 

Now redundant, I cannot pay the old woman, and yesterday and all night I was reduced to drinking pots of coffee until my insides could not take it anymore. I sat in that same chair when I drifted off again to that black ocean filled with glowing eyes that reflected the stars above, chest crushed by the demon and his putrid mare. This time, he placed his hands on either side of my frozen face and bit my lip, every beat of my heart drowned in his squalid kiss. By some unknown mercy, he released me and I clattered to the floor.

 

Is this all there is? I do not wish to find out, and have chosen instead to end my life. I write to you now in the setting sun, in the reclined seat of my sedan. I swear I put the keys in my pocket before I left my room . . . oh god, the window! Those eyes!