I toss and turn and toss some more. I feel my eyes pried open ala Clockwork Orange and I stare at the musty shadows dancing on the ceiling, the moonlight sparse, the odd reflection from a passing car. A dog barks, kids giggle past the house, timeless. I refuse to turn the clock so I don't realize just how slowly the night is going.
To sleep, perchance to die within.
For years I dreamed in blood. I dreamed in death, in fear. Angry, frightening men, huge men would chase me from building to room to basement, my life on their fingertips, my name on their lips, my pain wrapped in their desire. I could do nothing more than run, frantic, my own fingers trembling on a trigger I could never aim and pull, my legs pumping and straining to disappear away from them. I would hide, feel my lungs labor, and my body scream for release and shortly before waking, he would loom large and I would bellow and rouse myself from my slumber.
For years, fear chased me at night, growing worse and more painful as time went on. With children came awful dreams of watching their death, pictures that I can never erase from my mind, the helplessness which I could taste once I woke, the sheer terror of not being able to stop it.
Wound me. I can take it. I've taken worse. But my children? My small people, my incidental tourists in this life-even in dream, I cannot harbor their pain.
Some nights I stay awake, trying to chase down these dreams, keep them at bay before they begin. I'm blessed with fewer and fewer as I age, my brain wiping itself clean, fixing connections, finding peace. But there are days when I can feel it coming, when there's a shadow behind the wall I can barely smell, when I hear his footsteps following me, his hands on the shoulders of my daughters….and I stare into the stucco void to stun him into insensibility.
I know why he followed me for so long. I know my fears have been swallowed by the snake which is age, which is growth and settling and finding my own two feet on this precarious orb. I know I've made him smaller, weaker, and never again will he shoot me with my own gun, standing over me with a grin as he slowly squeezes the trigger as he grows harder. I know my guns are larger, my voice is louder and I can run faster than ever before.
But that he exists at all….that keeps me staring.