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December 05, 2022

Nightmare

By Ron Mulhollen

A sudden chill roused me from a deep sleep, a piercing cold that cut right through me. I reached for the covers that were nowhere to be found. Instead, my hands felt cool damp grass all around me. I opened my eyes and looked around, disorientated; I felt sluggish, like I had been sleeping for a very long time. I was outdoors, that was certain, but where outdoors I had no clue. The sky was dark and featureless but there was enough light to see dimly, like a cloudy night with a full moon. The light seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere; the entire sky seemed to have a subtle glow.

I was on my feet without remembering standing up. I tried to recall where I was and how I got here. I didn't remember going to bed the night before. I staggered, almost losing my balance; I was tired, I needed to find my bed, or find my house and then find my bed. I walked a few steps and came to a tombstone. I was in a cemetery. There was not enough light to read the inscription but it was a large headstone. I looked around and saw many huge trees with bare limbs and row after row of tombstones.

In the distance I could just barely make out a fence and started walking toward it. Everything was in shades of gray, no black, no white, no color, just gray. Approaching the fence I saw it was tall, wrought iron shafts tightly spaced, reaching up to the gloomy sky. I looked up and down the length of it. I saw no gate in either direction. Grasping a couple of the bars in my fists I tried to shake the fence, it felt rock solid. After standing there for a while trying to understand my situation, I finally figured that if I just started off along the fence I would have to come to a gate sooner or later.

Turning right, I started walking along the inside perimeter. The ground was firm and carpeted with thick lush grass; walking was easy. I drifted along the fence and before I knew it I came to a corner. I stopped and looked at it. I didn't remember coming up to the bend, it just seemed to suddenly appear. I tried to shake the cobwebs from my brain, but was so tired I couldn't concentrate. A tall brick pillar formed the intersection. I turned right and began following the new section of fence.

I sensed that time was passing strangely. After what I thought was only a few steps from the corner, I turned to look behind me and the huge pillar was already out of sight. There was just a long section of fence stretching as far as I could see, disappearing into the murky grayness. My mind must be wandering, I thought, I have to focus or I might miss the exit.

Another corner, again the same tall brick pillar. The cemetery must be a square or rectangular shape. But still no opening, at least I didn't remember seeing an opening, but my mind was foggy, I couldn't seem to hold onto a thought for more than a couple seconds. I started making my way along what I figured must be the last section of fence.

It occurred to me that I should call out, see if there was anyone within earshot. I turned toward the interior of the cemetery. "HELLO", I yelled. Hearing the sound of my voice made me realize that it was the first sound that I had heard since waking. No wind, no animals, so cars or trucks, nothing. "ANYONE HERE?" I shouted. I stared at the trees silhouetted against the dark gray sky while waiting a moment for a response. Their gaunt limbs seemed menacing, like they were trying to reach out to grab me. A panic rose within me. I couldn't feel any breeze but the branches seemed to be moving. I pressed back against the fence and scanned the grounds. There was nothing but trees and tombstones as far as I could see. I studied the closest branches to me for a minute and they remained motionless. I took a deep breath, gathering my wits and turned and began walking along again.

I came to another corner, the fourth I thought. That meant that I had missed the exit. I was unable to concentrate, my mind wasn't working clearly. I was tired, I just wanted to sleep, find my house, find my bed and go to sleep.

I decided to try counting my steps, thinking that this would help me stay alert. "One, two, three ..." Peering between the bars of the fence, I tried to look out to see what was on the other side. There was only shapeless darkness. I couldn't see any trees or even any grass on the other side of the fence. I bent down and could make out the blades of grass on this side of the fence. Just inches away on the other side there was nothing. There was also something strange about the grass along this side the fence. It was all flattened down, as if it had been walked upon over and over again.

Dammit, I thought as I came to another corner. I was supposed to count my paces but I couldn't. My mind wouldn't stay focused long enough. Maybe if I ran my hand along the fence posts I would note the difference when I came to the gate. I started off holding my arm behind me and tapping my fingertips against the bars but the metal was cold and damp and I didn't like the feel. So I picked up a twig and held it out bouncing it against the shafts as I walked along.

I came to a corner and turned without stopping, and then I came to another corner, and another. I realized I was no longer holding the twig. I looked at my empty hand and tried to remember what happened to the twig, did I drop it or throw it or what? I couldn't recall, I couldn't think, I was too tired.

I looked down and saw to my utter surprise that there was a dirt path along the inside of the fence where grass had once been. I reached down and felt the smooth ground where the grass had been worn away. Did I do this? I wondered. How many laps have I made inside the cemetery?' I shuddered at the thought as I began walking again.

My feet were sore and my hips ached as I just kept stumbling along. I wasn't watching for the gate anymore, that took too much concentration, too much effort. It felt like I had been walking for forever. Corner, turn, corner, turn, corner, turn. I just wanted to lie down, to rest, to sleep. Had I been walking for hours or days or maybe even weeks? I just kept walking on, my steps getting shorter and shorter.

When I felt as though I could go no further, I stopped and turned to the interior of the cemetery. The trees seemed to be inviting me, beckoning me to come and rest with them. I stumbled a short distance and found a gentle grassy area. I lowered myself down and lay on my back. My aching muscles and joints began to soothe as my thoughts drifted away.

A sudden chill roused me from a deep sleep, a piercing cold that cut right through me. I reached for the covers that were nowhere to be found ...

Article © Ron Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-07-28
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