HALLOWEEN 2021: when i used to dream nightmares | part two

I held my breath, terrified to make a sound.

I did not know how I got here: lying on my stomach on the floor, under a bed which I first thought was my own… but this was not my room.

Something moved in the shadows and I flinched, but then grew perfectly still as I caught the shimmer of eyes watching me, wide and scared.

Other children.

I was not alone.

Several of us were hiding here, under the bed and with nowhere else to go.

My heart pounding, I dipped my head a little lower and peeked out from my hiding place, finding a room with a gray carpet, gray desks placed alongside the gray walls, a gray chair upon which sat… a man, wearing a gray suit, yet not a gray top hat — no, that one was black, a hue so utterly dark that it would never be able to catch a ray of light.

The man was tall. Unusually thin. He reminded me of a scarecrow.

Of a skeleton.

He was motionless, and I released a shuddering breath, and—

Whirling around, he turned on his chair.

The man had no face.

It was white, simply white, an empty sheet, pale flesh without features, and yet…

And yet, I knew he could see me.

 

Greetings scaredy-cats and and horror-fanatics, and welcome to the second part of my 2021 Halloween blog post series, “When I Used to Dream Nightmares”! 🎃

 

As I told you all in the previous post, when I was 5 or 6 years old, I went through a phase in which I was often terrorized by pretty horrific nightmares, and the one above is one of the few which I still vividly remember.

To be honest, even at 29, I still think this one is pretty disturbing.

While my nightmare of the Skeleton Dragon was a recurring dream that plagued me about two or three times, this was — thankfully — a standalone, so the Faceless Man only visited me once. The nightmare was just as I described it above, yet somehow, I had all this knowledge while I was in the dream, and I knew this creepy guy stole children from their parents and then just kept them in that room. Which makes hiding from him seem like a pointless thing, I guess, but that’s just the way dreams work, right? They often don’t make sense, and neither do your actions. I just figure that the other children and I simply did not want the Faceless Man to see us.

But, what did he want from us? Would he eat us? Lock us up somewhere?

I never got an answer to that, since the dream stopped the moment his face turned toward me, and luckily I woke up in my own bed, in my own room, with no terrifying intruders present.

Yet that is exactly what has been intriguing me as I got older: how often does it happen that a nightmare stops at the exact moment that something truly creepy would happen? To me, that is always the case.

Which is why today, I’d like to talk a little about the power of suggestion — or rather, the horror of it.

 

Now then, let’s be honest: what is often worse? The idea of something terrible happening, or actually going through it?

In my experience it is the first.

Like back at high school, when I had to give a presentation before my teacher and classmates, I used to be so terribly nervous it made me feel sick. Yet when I was actually standing there, doing it, I often forgot all about my nerves and it turned out not to be that bad.

The same goes for watching a horror movie (what?)! Often the first half is the scariest for me, when inexplicable things happen — when objects move, but you don’t see what has touched it. When there are sounds and moans at night, but you never see what is making them. When the camera shows you that something is watching the protagonists, but you never get to see what it is.

Then, usually, during the climax of the movie you get to see this horrific monster or dreadful ghost that usually, for me, breaks the spell and takes away all fear, because somehow, actually seeing the devil isn’t as scary as not seeing it while knowing it is there.

Personally, I always like to add this to my own stories — I don’t write ghost tales (maybe I will one day, though!) so I can’t get away with keeping the demon invisible, but I do like to build up the tension in a scene first. Like I did in the prologue of INSOMNIA, when Jodi is playing with her dog and he disappears into the field of the farm, out of her sight. She can hear he gets hurt, but doesn’t know what is going on. Once she finds her dog, he turns out to be wounded and bleeding.

And then the sun sets, a shadow falls over her, and she knows, she senses something is behind her.

For me, the idea of a situation like this simply fills me with dread; not being able to see what is there, yet knowing that something is lurking behind you, wanting to hurt you.

Writing the part of that scene that comes after, of Jodi being attacked by the Nightprowler, was still pretty terrifying for me to write — but I do think one should never underestimate the power of suggestion, and how much scarier it is than when a character faces off with the actual monster.

 

But, that is just my opinion! What do you think? Is the mere suggestion of something scarier, or do you  dread the part that comes after, the actual showdown with whatever devil is haunting the story? I’m really interested to know how others think about this, so please leave me a comment down below! Who knows, I might learn something from it as a storyteller 😉

 

This concludes part two — which is also the final one! Thanks so much for reading everyone; please feel free to reach out to me 😀

 

Happy Halloween everyone.

May your dreams be filled with lovely nightmares…

 

(Oh, and… don’t forget to listen closely for the sounds in your house at midnight. Who knows what you might hear — yet will never find…?)

 

— Lynn

 

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Posted by Lynn Robin

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