Exploitations of the Subconscious

by Zack Yancy

       I woke from the nightmare mid-scream, sweating profusely. For a while I could not figure out where I was, nor did I care. The nightmare was vivid to the point of realistic, and it took a long while before I could make a distinction between the subconscious dream world and the world I now found myself in. From personal experience, the nightmares were all too real for me to be able to distinguish between them and the real world through normal means.

       The intensity and realism of the dreams were exacerbating to the point where I could hardly stand it any longer. This one had been the worst yet. The setting was always the same: A twisted jungle gym filled with all kinds of traps and masochistic contraptions only the sickest of minds could concoct (though I suppose that said more than a little about the state of my sanity).

       These nightmares were unlike other dreams entirely. They seemed to follow a set schedule, only appearing once every night. Often times I would continue on to have pleasant dreams which seemed inconsequentially other-worldly. The terrors, as they were, seemed to be reality. Lately, I had even been waking up feeling throbbing or stabbing pains in certain places where I had been hurt in my subconscious adventures. Tonight, the pain was too prominent to ignore.

       My breathing and heart rate began to slow after many minutes of frantic amnesia. I began to realize where I was, and what was happening. There was a pain in the back of my head where I had been struck in the nightmare, and there was an oddly brackish taste in my mouth that was reminiscent of copper. I reached a shaking, dripping hand up to my mouth and ran a finger through my mouth. I held it up to the light of my alarm clock, and immediately felt nauseous. Seconds later, I was out like a light.

       When I woke next it was due to the conveniently placed ray of sunshine permeating my curtains, shining directly on my eye. After gathering my thoughts and waking myself up, I recalled what had occurred the night before.

       Causing a brief sensation of dizziness, I sprang out of bed and into the bathroom. Lips curled back, I could see my teeth lined and crusted with a dark red, and I tried to convince myself I was still dreaming. I knew better.

       After four nights of acting as if I did not need sleep, my body finally won me over and I passed out on my sofa. Almost immediately, I was in a different world. I could think, smell, breathe, feel, and function as if I were in the real world.

       The scene was familiar. On three sides of me were old, blackened brick walls lined with gray weeds and moss. Directly in front of me was a small rusty gate that sported gothic designs. It creaked in an oddly maniacal fashion as it swung open of its own accord. I stepped through almost by instinct and ducked as the fire traps roared overhead. For minutes I traveled, dodging traps and pits and all kinds of devices by sheer memory, until I came to a long corridor of which I had only seen once before. Rolling forward to avoid the falling pendulum behind me, I ventured into uncharted territory.

       I moved cautiously, meticulously surveying my surroundings for small openings in the walls, or hinges to trap doors. Instantly and without warning, I gained a feeling of free-fall as the ground below me disappeared. I instinctually clawed for any type of hand hold, and managed to grab hold of the ledge above. I let out a sigh of relief, feeling my muscles already beginning to ache from hanging.

       Though I knew that the cardinal rule was to never look down, I did anyway. Directly below me lay a very peculiar scene. The pit obviously fell into a room below, and was shallower than I had expected. I could see a chair of some sort in the room, and my curiosity overwhelmed me.

       Perhaps this is the key? I thought to myself. Maybe I wasnt supposed to look down.

       I felt my fingers relax as I loosened my grip on the ledge above and fell down into the room. My legs ached with the impact, and delayed the sense of panic that ensued as I examined the room and found no doors, portholes, air ducts, or any method of leaving. In the center of the room sat what looked like a medical chair of some sort. There were leather straps in place to restrain the patients arms and legs, and a contraption at the resting place of the patients head that looked exceptionally painful.

       In the blink of an eye I was no longer standing. My arms and legs were locked in place by the black leather straps, and I could no longer move my head. Anxiety began to overwhelm me, and the walls began to close in. Sweat poured down my restrained body, and my breathing came in short bursts. There was a loud rumbling sound, and the wall split as if a door had been hidden there the entire time. Heavy boot-falls preceded the entrance of a dark figure wearing a white lab coat with a hood that shrouded their face in pitch-black darkness and black leather boots and gloves. In front of him he pushed a medical cart covered in surgical tools.

       I screamed for help but I knew that none would come. This was all too real to be merely a nightmare. I felt every ounce of pain as the faceless man dragged the scalpel through my chest, dissecting me. My screams for help turned into hoarse wailings of agony.

       The image blurred, and was replaced with blackness. The pain was still noticeably prevalent, but was reduced to a mere sting compared to the previous amounts of pain. I could hear people speaking around me in concerned voices. A woman was frightfully crying in the distance, and I managed to hear something about a kitchen knife before I drifted into a dreamless unconscious state.

       I woke in a hospital chair once again, but was met with no resistance when I jerked my hands up. From my arms streamed tubes of all kinds, all leading to containers pumping some type of fluid into me. I could tell my chest was bandaged, and there was an orderly standing watch over me.

       What happened? I mumbled incoherently.

       You attempted to commit suicide, the orderly replied.

       I began to feel many emotions at once. Mostly anger, followed by fear.

       Its my nightmares, I said in a stronger voice.

       The orderly cocked his head in confusion. What?

       My nightmares, I said through clenched teeth. Theyre trying to kill me!

       I attempted to reach out to him, but my arms were painfully restrained by the IVs. I hysterically attempted to tear out the IVs in my arms so I could get to the orderly. I had to make him see that my nightmares were destroying me. I needed his help to rid me of them.

       Where are you going?! I yelled between hysterical sobs as the orderly fled the room. HELP ME! Please help me!

       A group of doctors rushed into the room, one of them carrying a large syringe. I clenched his shoulders in my hands as I felt the needle pierce my skin. I screamed my final hysterical pleadings until they subsided into mere mumblings, and then nothing. I immediately panicked as I appeared consciously in my minds world. The scenery had changed. There was no corridor or tiny room. Instead, I was in the middle of a field of dying grass that stretched endlessly in every direction. Above me, a dark sky swirled in a vortex of foreboding hatred. I spun in all directions as the lightning flashed. In my peripheral vision, a black figure appeared, carrying a long scythe-shaped object.

       I panicked, and checked for a weapon, but for some reason I had been stripped of all of my clothes, which had been replaced with a thin medical gown. The object moved closer with every flash of lightning, and with it came my demise.

       The storm gusted violently, and I was forced to shield my face from the whirlwind. The figure remained black, even as the lightning flashed. Soon it overcame me, towering over me as I stumbled back in a mixture of awe and terror.

       Death raised its cold hand, and with it came the dark weapon that it grasped. In slow motion, the blade drifted beautifully, slicing through the air with utmost precision, and I welcomed the end.

       Suddenly I was overwhelmed with cold, and confusion ensued. I was no longer in the field with the black figure. Instead, there were cushions everywhere surrounding me, and my arms were restrained at my sides by a white jacket. In the door, silhouetted by the bright lights behind, stood a man with what could have been a clipboard.

       Its time for your medicine, the silhouette said.

       I merely stared into the blinding light on the outside, rocking back and forth. Back and forth. Never ceasing, never tiring, and most of all, never sleeping.

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