She wasn’t supposed to come back. It’s been almost two years now and you’d think I’d be able to move on. And yet, every time I sleep, she gets closer to me.
It doesn’t help that I have an overly imaginative mind; my dreams are shaped the way Cronenberg makes movies. It’s chock-full of weird narratives, dialogues that make sense as I dream but seem otherworldly when I wake up and try to piece out their meaning. It’s the same for most people, I guess. Still, how many can claim to have a narrative that picks up from the previous night’s dream? Or sometimes resumes a plot point from a dream happening weeks prior?
Let me back track a bit. Here’s a few things you need to know.
- I’m an atheist.
- I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural.
- I don’t believe in the afterlife.
So when last year, around her birthday, I started waking up covered in sweat, unable to move, unable to remember my dreams but convinced there was someone or something at looking at me through the crack of my bedroom door, I knew what I was experiencing was sleep paralysis and muscle atonia; I was dreaming with eyes opened. They went away as days went by and haven’t happened since, though I was worried this year again, as her birthday drew near. Nope, nothing. No sleep paralysis.
Instead, what I got were dreams. I hadn’t celebrated her birthday, this year. I was trying to move on. In my dream, I was fighting something as is often the case and it was all very Buffy the Vampire Slayer-esque and then I got a phone call. I opened my flip-phone (circa 2004) and saw that it came from my mother. I vaguely remember the words she spoke; something about being resentful of my conduct. What I remember is how pervasive her voice was. It blanketed every other sound. All I could hear was a guttural, raspy and phlegmy voice that my dream was passing off as my mother’s voice. A voice that was anything but happy.
I woke up in sweat, again. No sleep paralysis. None was needed; the dream had done its job. It took a while for me to fall back asleep and I ended up being late for work. My sleep cycle had broken, I was too deep asleep to hear my alarm. This would start happening more and more as weeks went by. My work evaluation was proof enough that these repeating cellphone conversation dreams were damaging my career.
And then last week I had a dream where my mother left me a message on my dream voicemail. Her voice was normal this time. She needed to see me. It wasn’t a bad dream and I got more sad than scared. No more dreams of her for a week, until last night.
Last night I dreamt something I often dream about: zombies. Taking over my city, eating everyone. Typical zombie movie dream. Mine were a bit different, however; they usually revolved around the story of the Ant and the Grasshopper, or a version of it at least. We weren’t literally ants and grasshoppers. You know how the story went, right? Ant works all summer, grasshopper just plays around. Then winter comes and the grasshopper has no house and no food and begs the ant for help. I was the busy ant and the grasshoppers were partying. I would be fortifying a house and at the last minute, when it was secure, I’d find out one of the grasshoppers had been bitten. I’d find out because I would finish the fortification, turn around and BAM! Grasshopper biting me, eating me and so on.
Well not last night. Last night’s zombie dream was different. I was in town with coworkers, at night. The city looked a bit like Venice, with water canals. It looked a bit like Los Angeles too, with their flood drains. We knew zombies were spreading but we were not really scared for some reason. We’d seen enough movies to know what to do, after all. Logic was prevailing over panic. A girl claimed to have weapons stashed at her place. I followed her to grab the tools when I got a phone call again. My mother. She needed to see me. I ignored the call and went inside.
I didn’t recognize the place but the girl moved through the rooms as If she did. As we went through books on a shelf instead of looking for her weapons, I had a feeling of cold dread go through me. I turned around and saw an old woman, wrinkled like she’d spent the last ten years submerged in water. She was sitting on a leather couch of an orange colour close to her jaundiced cancerous skin, staring ahead; her eyes cold, probing pools of darkness. She looked as in a trance, taking drags of her cigarette every so often. She didn’t see me. Until I opened my damn mouth.
“Mom?” I asked. That seemed to have broken her out of her trance but still, she looked ahead and not at me. “Fuck” she whispered. “fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!” she repeated, louder and angrier with each repetition. “FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK!” she yelled, jerking upwards and turning towards me, like a battery-powered robot, as I started walking away. “FUCK NO! FUCK NO! FUCK NOOOOO!” she yelled, still not looking at me but always past me, as if she saw something behind. Her loose wrinkled skin flopped downwards, like an excited Shar Pei. Her arm raised with a cigarette in her hand, she started moving towards me, looking behind me. “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!”
And I woke up. Sweat, again.
I’m hoping there won’t be many more of these. I’ve gotten used to the dream phone calls and dream voicemails. The crazy yelling and moving around, not so much. To this day, I don’t know why I have these dreams. I lost my mother two years ago to complications due to a long life battling cancer and other problems. We had our differences but we left in good terms. I told her I loved her, something I normally had a hard time doing. Her suffering ended as she passed.. I had resolved my issues with her. So why all the mental turmoil? During the day, everything is fine. I get sad sometimes but nothing so ridiculous. Perhaps my unconscious self remembers wanting real nightmares (I am, after all, a horror movie fan).
All I know is that I would rather they stop. I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in the afterlife. Yet here I am, half-sleeping at night, sweating in my bed, repeating that I don’t believe in ghosts like a mantra, hoping it will stick and I’ll be able to go back to sleep. And if I know anything about horror movies, this is the point in the movie where the action really starts and the annoying atheist is shown to have been wrong all along…