Food for Thought

A Different Kind of Dream Catcher

I sleep with a voice recorder, a pen, and a slew of chewed up notebooks by my bed. I also sleep with a light on.

I have nightmares.

They vary in subject matter, intensity, plot, whether they succeed in their aim to terrify, but they’re relentless. Sometimes I snap into reality, falsely thinking I’m awake, paralyzed in my awkward sleep position while my brain continues to dream. I see horrible, twisted dream remnants continue to play without the ability to look away. I remember my dreams in the shower, on a walk, in the middle of a sentence–and that chill washes over… like… like…

Like, damn that was a kick-ass nightmare. Really, phenomenal work, subconscious. I wish I had half your skill for storytelling. My dreams are vivid, detailed with interesting characters and lots of twists and turns. I feel a little bummed waking up before they’re over.

The other night’s terror, scribbled over six pages of notes in the early gray light of morning is almost illegible but my tired voice playing over my laptop’s speakers refreshes my memory. Here it is.

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(Photo by Allyson Morin / Stories for Strangers)


It is the witching hour when the sky blazes orange with no sun. I am sitting in the backseat of a long black car enrobed in blue-blackness. Rain pounds the windshield. The only sound is the frantic whine of the wiper blades. I cannot see the driver from the back seat. As we wind along a coastal road, out of the mist emerges a tall, black hotel. Warm light spills from the ground floor entryway onto the slick sidewalk. A doorman stands in the rain, expressionless. I hear a hum of voices and clinking glasses as if a celebration takes place out of the rain.

The car comes to a screeching halt. I stumble out of the back seat and lift the trunk to retrieve my clunky suitcase. Next to my suitcase inside the trunk is a very large, very fat baby. It is not mine, but in my dream, it is not at all alarming that it is there. I grab both the suitcase and the large baby. Both are unwieldy and I struggle to drag them up the curb and into the hotel. The inside of the hotel is brightly lit. Shimmers of people flit about in my peripheral vision. I hear laughter, glasses clinking and squint through nearly unbearable gold light everywhere I turn.

I spin around, unable to focus. Suddenly, I lock eyes with the doorman from outside who somehow came to stand mere millimeters away from my face without making a sound. I am startled. He tells me to get into the elevator, then is gone.

I’m drawn to an elevator to my left, the only thing not swallowed by the thick golden light. The elevator is pink but otherwise unmarked. I wrestle my suitcase and the enormous infant inside. The elevator immediately rushes upward as soon as my feet hit the carpet. It speeds up, up, up faster and faster. Slow, twinkly music begins as if from a lazy record player.

The elevator doors open. I step into a hallway. The hallway is painted bright purple. Along the hallway are a never-ending series of brightly colored doors. I open the doors. Beyond the doors are brightly colored rooms or other brightly colored hallways of varying hues. I wander through the maze becoming lost. I want to put down the suitcase or the baby but my arms physically will not let me. I cannot weaken my grip no matter how hard I try. The baby periodically bites my hand. It has surprisingly sharp teeth. Its teeth sink deep.

I explore the rooms. One room is burnt orange with shelves filled with snow globes and tin soldiers. Another room is cotton candy pink and stuffed to the brim with wooden dolls, children’s toys and candy. Another room is an eery, flickering blue green with an upturned television playing static and doll parts strewn about the stained carpet. Each room has a web of toy train tracks littering the floor in a network. The baby is still biting me with its strange, sharp teeth but I cannot free my other hand from the suitcase to push it away. My wrist has begun to bleed. I leave a trail of red droplets as I walk, like breadcrumbs.

Breadcrumbs for who, or what, to follow? As I think this, the slow, twinkly music begins to play again. The tracks on the floor begin to move. I start running, dashing through the hallways and shouldering open doors that lead into room after room but no exit. As I run around, still holding the baby and the suitcase I see teenagers also bursting through doors, some crying, others looking for a place to hide. Fortune never favors the ill-prepared, so I take the advice of the proactive and look for a hiding place.

I toss a blanket the best I can over the baby, my suitcase and I–the former two I still cannot drop–and hide behind a sofa with a good view of a hallway and another room. I watch as a line of animatronic characters and wooden puppets travel around the track, moving to the music. They pass a well-hidden boy without any indication of his presence but as the music winds down, the troupe comes to a halt by a young boy who failed to hide behind a curtain. The puppets slowly turn to face him, much more lifelike now and lunge. They nibble at his legs, bite at his hands and the boy’s frantic protests soon turn to screams as the puppets consume his body piece by piece.

The baby is chewing on my face now. I feel my eyebrow start to bleed. I wonder if the puppets can smell my blood.

If they can, they dismiss me and retreat, bloodied by the boy’s entrails but no longer so intimidating in form. They are large, lifeless dolls with mean black eyes. This baby has the very same eyes now that I think of it.

I know I need to find the elevator. It is my only way out. I also know that in time, the music will begin to play and this carvinverous circus act will continue. I creep through the hallway, tentatively opening doors. One room is full of smiling clowns in rocking chairs. They grin brightly, with all their teeth, but their sewn button eyes cannot see me, though one lifts his head and sniffs. Another room is packed full of tempting looking sweets stuffed in glass jars, though I know if I eat one I’ll never find my way out.

The music begins to play again. I run down the hallway, baby on my hip. Its teeth have worked their way deep into the muscles and tendons on my arm. Its sharp mouth snapping with a wooden click. I am losing blood. I feel very weak. The music stops and from many rooms over I hear screams of agony. I still have time.

I use this window to continue my search. I creep to a short flight of stairs leading to a platform. I see the shadow of a large man cutting strings… puppet strings. I can smell him from a distance. He reeks of sweat, bile and I dare not think what else. I watch the shadow he casts on the wall. Broad shoulders, fat belly, and beard. I catch a glimpse of his stained white shirt and a flash of his knife from the top of the stairs. He laughs. If he sees me, I’m doomed.

The baby, with its mean, black beady eyes and wooden puppet mouth begins to laugh too, answering the man’s deep, hollow chuckle with manic giggling. The music clangs around my ears urgently. I try to throw the puppet baby but I cannot. We struggle, it biting, me flailing backward until my heels meet air and I nearly teeter into the open elevator shaft behind me.

I regain my footing in the hallway. Ignoring the blood bursting from my arm, I look down into the wide black mouth of the elevator shaft. One of my fingers, bitten off by the baby, falls into the deep pit.

The twinkling music reaches a crescendo. It warns me to find a hiding place in this deadly game of musical chairs. I am just about to jump into the pit when the music stops. The sudden quiet roars volumes in my ears. I feel breath on my neck. The large man is behind me. So are the puppets on the track. So is the baby, looking at me with beady black eyes and puppet mouth. They all lunge hungrily.

I do not wake up right away. I wake up once they rip me to shreds.


My eyes snap awake into the dim of early morning. The image of what I have seen burns against the darkness. I flip my microphone on to capture it before it slithers back into the shadows.

Have any wicked dreams lately?

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