Thanks again to Cormac for hosting this great site, and to all those who participate weekly and make it a wonderful place to frequent.
(As a word of warning, this is a little longer than usual - but not by much.)
Her Family, The Nightmare
You know that feeling when you wake up sweating and thing “thank goodness it was only a dream”? The cooling sweat that makes you shiver? The rumpled bedclothes that indicate a night of terror? What if it wasn’t a dream – what if, deep down, you know it is your subconscious reminding you of an event you have tried – for years – to ignore, hoping it would go away?
Karen had dreams like that. Karen – young, beautiful and ambitious – had been plagued by dreams of this nature for the last few weeks. She couldn’t put her finger on the exact time they had started; it was definitely before Rob had left her for the dumb blonde in the office, so she reasoned that wasn’t the cause – as much as she would love to blame the cheating bastard. No, the more she thought about it, the more she realised that the nightmares had begun when her biological father has made contact with her, wanting to see her.
Her recollection of her childhood was vague to say the least; snippets of home and school, remnants of friends made and lost – all circulated inside her head, never forming a complete picture. Her mother had passed away when she was young and she spent much of her formative years being shuffled from foster home to foster home; she was a troubled child for the most part – not really a bad kid, just extremely withdrawn and introspective. The few friends she made were snatched away from her when she was shuffled along the adoption highway.
Karen had come out the other side of this childhood as a shy and reclusive adult. Her one long-time friend, Sheena, had introduced her to Rob, a financial whiz kid, and her life had seemed to instantly improve – her confidence soared, her interests expanded and she soon found herself finishing her education at the local community college and gaining her first real job – as a receptionist at Rob’s office. She made many friends, attended book clubs and bridge nights, art exhibitions and all-night bowling parties. Marriage had come quickly after – it had seemed the most natural thing in the world. Life had become good for Karen.
And then the dreams began; she couldn’t always remember them in the morning at first (who wants to remember a bad dream?), and then she started to keep a journal, writing down everything she could remember as soon as she woke up. Rob had laughed about it – he thought she was being silly – didn’t everybody have bad dreams from time to time?
The dreams continued – her journal filled with notes, brimming with fragmented memories of frightening and frenzied nightmares. She started a second journal after seven weeks – a third just three weeks later as her recollections become clearer, the nature of the dreams more consistent. The vestiges of the previous night remained in her mind’s eye longer every morning. She wrote down everything, forced herself to remember every detail, every word said, every scream uttered. She never had sweet dreams, happy dreams – they were always the same, horrifying dream.
After the third notebook, she decided to see a psychiatrist. She hoped he would help distance herself from her past.
Transcription of interview between myself, Dr. Eugene Banks, and new patient, K.
December 2, 2009
Dr: Good morning, K. How did you sleep last night? Did those tablets help at all?
K: No, Doc, they didn’t help one little bit. In fact, I think it was worse last night than ever before.
Dr: Tell me what happened.
(K. remains silent for a few moments; her face twists in torment – I think she is trying to decide how much to tell me.)
K: It was the same as every other night, except for one small detail – I saw his face...
(K. nervously glances from side to side, as if in search of the cause of her nightmares.)
Dr: From the beginning, K. I need to know everything – if I am to help you.
K: The dream started the same way as always; in a darkened room, but a sense of someone standing over me. I couldn’t see – it was very, very dark, like I was blindfolded – but I knew someone was there. I couldn’t speak; I tried to yell but nothing came out. I tried to move but it was as if I was tied to my bed – but it wasn’t really my bed, you know? It was like a conglomeration of all the beds I had slept in, in all the houses I had lived in. (K. stops here for a few minutes – a steady stream of tears have forced her to pause and regain her composure. She apologises, and eventually continues.) I felt a hand touch me – just one at first. I couldn’t pull away from it, I couldn’t...I just couldn’t... (K. pauses again, but only briefly.) Then I felt lots of hands; touching, caressing, and then pushing and pulling. It hurt and there was nothing I could do about it.
Dr: Do you want to take a break? Get some fresh air?
K: No, thank you. (K. wipes her eyes, still crying silent tears.) After the touching for I don’t know how long, I was suddenly free. I was able to move my arms and legs and the first thing I did was flail my arms, trying to beat away whoever it was torturing me. I came in contact with nothing but thin air. I got up from the bed and bolted to where I thought the door was. It took me a few minutes – it felt like hours (you know how dreams can be?) – everything seemed somehow distorted, warped.
Dr: What happened next?
K: I made it out the door and ran down unfamiliar hallways, searching for an exit. The carpeted halls seemed to go on forever, never leading anywhere. I eventually discovered a doorway that led outside but as soon as I put my hand on the knob, a familiar voice crashed into my ears.
Dr: Who was it? Did you recognise the voice immediately?
K: Not straight away.
Dr: What did the voice say? I take it that it was a male voice?
K: Yes, it was a man and he said that I would never be free, that it was entirely my fault and the guilt would drive me to the same end as my mother. He kept on blaming me; calling me dirty – a slut, a cheap little slut. And that I was going to get what I deserved – just like mother.
Dr: Did you recall during these dreams what the man was talking about? Or have you discovered the meanings of these words since?
K: Oh yes, I know exactly what he was referring to. It took me a while to remember why it was that I was sent off to foster homes; my mother had passed away and my father told the authorities that he didn’t have the means to support me on his own. My father would arrange for people to care for me; it was like he was a pimp – I realise that now. He would send me to people who liked to take advantage of young, innocent girls. And that is exactly what happened – every foster home I was delivered to, every family I lived with – I was sexually abused by either the father, or both he and any boys that lived there. I hated myself more than I hated them, but more than anything I hated my father. He caused this...this nightmare life for me. And I want to see him dead.
Dr: You mean your father wants to see you again because he wants to – what? Abuse you some more? Torment you? Kill you? Shut you up for good?
K: Make no mistake, Doctor. He wants all of that – and more.
(I am not entirely sure what I make of this: it felt good to start but on reflection, it doesn't really go anywhere...and it was too late to start again. If you have any suggestions on ways of making this better, please, shoot em at me!!)