I must write this down, if only in an effort to quell my fears. If I write it down, perhaps I will not dwell on it, and that is all I can hope.
I have just awoken from a nightmare. Not my usual nightmares, which haunt my sleep with the images of those long-ago days, those horrid creatures with their long pale teeth and thinly fleshed limbs and lolling eyes. Those are shallow imitations of this nightmare. In dreams, most things take on an ethereal quality. There is that film of separation that lets you know it is a dream. Tonight there was no such film.
I was on the battlefield. I held my spear in one hand and I could smell, so clearly, that stench of putrid blood. I could feel the cold sweat running down my back, the tightness in my arms from wielding a weapon. All around me their bodies lay, dripping dark blood. I looked up at the sun as it rose in the east, and then, suddenly, the sky darkened and the bodies that lay at my feet swam in and out of my vision. They hazed back and forth and when my vision settled they were more solid than before. I could see every bump and cranny, the thin purple veins, the shape of bones beneath skin. My blood ran cold; I was afraid. But when I say afraid, I do not mean my sleeping mind, for I have felt that slightly removed fear. This was my waking mind. I knew I was sleeping, yet I could not wake up, and I was not removed from my body as is usual in dreams, but I was actually there. I could hear my breath, I could feel my breath: I never breath in dreams. I felt the faintest tickle on the back of my neck and I spun round only to find myself face to face with a monster, larger and more terrifying than any I had encountered before. It swung at me from the mist - I know not when but mist had begun to congeal - and I jumped back. It quickly overcame me, its claws pinned me down, punctured my armor. As it leaned its horrible gaping maw over me, ready to devour, the black mists swirling darkly, choking me, I heard something. I heard a voice. A cold, creeping voice, languid and moist like the mists themselves. I heard it in my ears and in my brain. It came from the monster itself, and yet I knew the monster was not speaking.
"You have such fine dreams," it said.
Ever since that first immersion, I have no longer gained any form of relaxation from sleep. I dread closing my eyes. I am pervaded daily by fears of what the night will bring. I hold myself from sleep, will myself not to sleep. Sometimes I think I see the mists at the corner of my vision. Today I nearly fell asleep at my table. I was in the sunlight, and for that fleeting moment I forgot all about the nightmares that awaited me when I closed my eyes. I stared at that beam of light dancing on the tabletop. My eyes grew heavy with it. I was letting them close when suddenly I felt cold. I felt cold all over. The sun was blotted out and all I could see was that black, undulating mist. All I could feel was the breath of those awful beasts on my neck. I felt another breath. I felt a breath much more moist and concentrated than anything to come out of a gaping maw. I stabbed my hand with a pen and in doing so woke up. Ink mixed with blood. It pooled from my hand and onto the table, reminding me all too much of the blood of those beasts. I bound the wound carefully.
I am going insane. I know, because I am hearing voices. When I awoke I thought I heard a disappointed sigh.
My hallucinations are becoming more frequent. The lack of sleep is really getting to me. I am drinking gallons of coffee a day, anything to stay awake. I don't think it is helping. I am in a constant state of anxiety. I have lost weight, my eyes are hollow and bagged down by the horrors in my brain. I was ripped apart last night. I tried to run, and my ankle broke beneath me. I cried out in pain, but I could not cry myself awake. They caught up with me. Their teeth tore my flesh, ripped my limbs. The mist clogged my vision. I only woke up when I died. There was a space, and infinitesimally small minute, where I was dead, and yet my mind was still held in that dead body. There was a space between the dreaming and the waking where I floated in a void.
I felt like that void would drown me.
My dreams have all ended in my death. It is always painful. Sometimes my heart is ripped out. Sometimes poison wracks my body in convulsions so explosive that they break my bones. I wake up drenched in sweat and confused. Yet I have not again entered the void. I fear that it will happen again. I fear it more than I have feared anything.
Last night I dreamed of the void. I heard wails and screams and then - nothing. Only void. Only thick, coiling void pulling me down, down, down. I thought I heard breathing. I could only smell a reptilian scent, like lichen and scales, metal and damp. I tried to fight it, I tried to move, but I was held prisoner. I have heard of sleep paralysis. This was dream paralysis. Sometime in this endless void I realized I had stopped moving. This terrified me more. Written out, I cannot express the depths and throws of terror I am subject to each night. I have not slept in my bed for a week, but sleep always finds me. It wraps it tendrils around my body and pulls me under into hell.
I was floating in mist. I felt like those specimens in science laboratories, looked at, exposed. Something brushed along my shoulder blade, up onto my shoulder, and down my arm to my wrist. It maintained a constant pressure, and wrapped itself around my arm. It was almost caressive. I felt the pressure split itself, and suddenly I knew I was being stroked by a hand. A very humanoid hand. It delicately traced my inner wrist, up to my elbow and back down, again and again. I turned my head slowly, restrained not by the mist but by my own fear. The hand stroking my arm was pale: grey like dead flesh, except that it had working arteries that I could see beating. The slight scratching from its touch came from the long fingernails, each at least as long as the fingers they were attached to. Dark fingernails. The darkness seemed to leach out of them into the fingertips and into the veins. I gasped and the hand stopped moving. Then slowly, oh so slowly, it interlaced its fingers with mine. Its grip was a vice, a snake's death grip. It spun me slowly toward where a body must be and I shut my eyes, I shut them as tight as they would go. I willed myself to wake up. I screamed it in my head. I used all my willpower to open my eyes and find myself sitting in the chair where I had left my body for this voidish escapade.
Before I went I heard the voice again. It was laughing. "Have it your way then," it said.
I awoke, my heart pounding. I quickly rolled up my sleeve to inspect my arm. On the pale flesh of my forearm were thin red lines, the red from an irritation, a shadow of a touch. I stared at them. I felt cold. The sweat on my neck, in my armpits, down my back was rapidly cooling. It was too cold. I felt like there was a breeze, but all my common sense told me there could be no breeze. Around the feet of my chair I thought I saw a shadow shift and move, shift and lift, elongate, float. It curled past my ankle, the mist of a nightmare, and I pinched myself so hard I drew blood. I was awake. My pulse was pounding in my ears, and mists were coalescing around me. They caressed my arms and ankles, flicked my chin and I looked up. There was a wall of mist. Out of it floated a creature. They were humanoid in shape, dressed up in dark robes, tight about the chest and flowing out into a billowing skirt around their hips down to their ankles. They were adorned in gold and gems that gleamed like drops of the most hideous blood. Their hands were pale, as were their feet. Their nails were long. They had a slim neck and pointed chin, but the top half of their face was obscured by mist. They had horns, dark horns, that curled out above their ears then pinched inward, so tall and dark and gleaming. I squinted closer, tried to make out a face, the face of my tormentor, which must have been hidden under the undulating masses that streamed from their head like water. Try as I might I couldn't. The creature, this nightmare, smiled a thin, languid smile, raised a hand and passed it through the air where its nose and eyes should have been. It watched me, or I felt it watch me. That smile never turned from me. It sharpened with sadistic malice. The hand pulled back, clutching mists like one cupping water that spews from a fountainhead. The Nightmare began slowly to weave this thread of mist through its fingers. I could only watch helplessly as before my eyes a shape took form in those gaseous vapors: the shape of a monster, the ones from my dreams, with long, skeletal limbs, a brutal face full of teeth, claws.
"Thank you for this little creature," The Nightmare Muse said. "I haven't found anything so exquisitely terrifying in a long time."
I could only gag. The Nightmare Muse looked at me pityingly. The creature in its hands was almost complete.
"You may want to grab your spear."
I jumped from my chair, adrenaline searing my veins. I bolted from the room, rushing toward where I had last stashed my spear. Behind me, the Nightmare Muse carelessly tossed the creature to the floor. I heard the ceiling splinter followed by an earsplitting roar.