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How to Become a Nightmare

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Another patient entered the office of Dr. Shire. The patient was a male, mid twenties, and an average build. He had little to no distinctive features about him, except for his eyes. They were a dark brown, but it was not his actual eyes that drew attention to himself. It was the circles of darkness around them, clear symptoms of sleepless nights... again. Dr. Shire noted this in his notepad when the man took his seat on the leather couch.

Eyes looking darker this time. Probably restless. Ask about caffeine intake?

"Edward. What brings you in today?" the doctor asked, "I thought we made an impact the last time I saw you."

Edward began to play with his hands, keeping his eyes down and away from the doctor, "Oh, you know me. Fix one thing and two more break, hahaha," Edward laughed in an unconvincing tone.

Finger playing. No eye contact. Nervousness is obvious.

"You know you can talk to me, Edward. No need to be nervous. I assume you're having bad dreams again?" Dr. Shire asked.

"Yes. They're back. Mary is worried about me. She said she notices changes in me, but I'm not sure what she's seeing," Edward responded.

Changes? Physical or mental?

"What kind of changes?"

"She says I appear more distant. She told me the other day that I almost walked into oncoming traffic two weeks ago. I don't remember that at all."

Absentmindedness in extremity. Note possible new occurrence of PTSD. Related to dreams?

"That is quite extreme. Have there been other occasions of this happening?" Dr. Shire scrunched his eyebrows.

"Yes. On another occasion, Mary said that I was... laughing. Laughing uncontrollably," Edward stopped playing his hands and looked at the doctor.

"What were you laughing about specifically?" Dr. Shire asked, tilting his head to reveal his ear closer.

"I don't know, doctor. I remember sitting in the living room, watching a documentary on the Holocaust. But there's a gap in my memory when Mary told me about the laughing. She said I couldn't take my eyes off the screen."

Gap memory psychotic episodes? Medication change may be needed.

"I see. I'm going to recommend a new change in medication. It seems like your depression may be coming back. That should take care of the memory gaps and absentmindedness. But these dreams. Tell me more about them. Are you taking in any source of caffeine before going to bed? Sugar included, any sort of stimulant?" Dr. Shire flipped to the next page in his notepad.

Edward made a clear shift in his seat, as if Dr. Shire had said something offensive to him. "No. I don't drink any kind of caffeine anymore. And I don't like sugary snacks before bed."

Dreams must be trauma based, not side effect driven. Ask about dream content.

"And what happens in these dreams? Can you remember any?"

"I can remember every single one. They get worse it seems. Each night, it's something new. The same place. Same time. But... but there's something with me. It's looking for me."

"Where it is taking place? What's looking for you, Edward?"

Edward's eyes began to dart from left to right in the room. "It's a house. An old house. I wake up in an empty room. It's raining outside, thundering. I get up and out of the bed and walk over to the door in the room, but I can't open it."

House could be a representation of a childhood trauma. Rain could mean gloom, or dread.

"Why can't you open the door?"

"If I do, it will find me."

"What's looking for you?"

"An old friend," Edward stood up and began to put on his coat, "I think I'm fine for today, doctor."

Dr. Shire nodded and wrote down a new prescription for Edward. "I understand. I want you to take two of these a day from now on. If you had anymore dreams like this, I want you to write them down in a journal. Take care, Edward."

Edward took the slip of paper and left the office. Dr. Shire stood and went over to his desk to look over his notes. He began to write more into his notepad:

Possible occurrence of a depressive manifestation through nightmarish interaction. Odd description as an "old friend". What does he mean? Why would something he sees as fearful also be friendly? Could be possible frontal lobe trauma. Maniac episodes might be result of new disorder, or possibly stress related.

A week later and Edward came again to the office. But he looked noticeably different. He seemed much more pale and thinner than a week ago somehow. Dr. Shire took note of this.

Significant weight loss. Paler composition. Nightmare?

"Ah, Edward. It's... good to see you again. What brings you here?"

Edward remained standing. He pulled out a small journal from under his coat, handing it to the doctor. "I did as you asked. But something's wrong."

"What's wrong?" Dr. Shire asked, taking the book.

"Read it. I can't recall any of it. I can't remember my dreams now," Edward sounded slightly frantic.

Dr. Shire opened the journal and began to read the first entry:

"I can see it outside the window. It turns its head with mine. It mimics me. If I walk, it walks. If I hide, it hides. The arms. They can't move. They cover where a mouth should be. But its eyes. It eyes can still see. Jesus its eyes. I don't see an abyss. I see a mirror. -January 14th"

Dr. Shire began flipping through the entries. Stopping at a random one:

"I can't hear it. I don't think it speaks. It just waits for me. Even when it's not in the window, I can hear walking around outside the door. There's no rhythm to its footsteps. They may start slow and quiet, but suddenly they'll get faster and louder. Faster than any animal or human I know. It knocks on the walls sometimes. Clicks. It'll click after the thunder. Each. Fucking. Time. -January 16th"

Edward began to chew on his fingernails. "Doctor, there's something else too."

"What else is there, Edward?" Dr. Shire asked in very curious tone.

"I've... I've started to hear things. When I'm awake. Clicks. Footsteps. I hear them in my house."

Auditory hallucinations. Most likely caused by lack of sleep.

"I see. I'm going to recommend some pills to help you sleep longer. I suspect you haven't been getting 8 hours of sleep regularly. Take some time off work. I want you to keep another journal over the next two weeks. I'm going to keep this one you gave me today so that I can read it over and see how I can help you. Also, pay attention to your diet, Edward. You're looking awfully thin," Dr. Shire wrote another prescription.

Edward took the paper and left without another word. Dr. Shire began to read more entries from the journal. He was fascinated. The doctor always had a dark intrigue for nightmares. He spent decades studying them. What they were, how they manifested. In his mind, nightmares were ideas that the rational part of the brain refused to entertain. The brain defends itself from these ideas by making them into metaphorical monsters and creatures that terrify the mind, as a way to protect the rationality of itself. Dr. Shire had a distinct theory in this realm of the mind. His theory was that, if a nightmare is drawn out long enough, the brain would surrender and the idea would to be able to "transcend" the mind, and would enter reality as an idea manifested. Essentially, Dr. Shire believed he could give birth to a real life nightmare.

Dr. Shire finished the entries and pondered to himself. He wrote down more notes:

Edward seems to be displaying a high level of extreme fear to the creature in his dreams. The creature is described as very pale, very thin, and tall. It is apparently very agile and quick according to Edward's ears about the footsteps. The monster's arms appear to be covering the mouth, possibly representing a past event Edward sees as unspeakable. The eyes are the most horrifically described, but also the least. Edward believes he sees a mirror of himself in the eyes. Wait. A mirror?

Dr. Shire had an epiphany:

Yes. A mirror. His pale and thin appearance are making more sense now. Edward may be a prime candidate for my nightmare theory. His past trauma and depression would be likely enough to cause such a creature to be born. I'll have to induce more nightmares in him to see his progression continue further. Must remember to note all physical and mental changes alongside timeline.

Edward returned two weeks later, even thinner and paler than before. He had another journal to give to Dr. Shire.

"Ah, Edward, a pleasure to see you. What do you have for me this time?" Dr. Shire opened his notepad and clicked his pen.

Edward stiffly walked over to the couch, but did not sit. "They're getting worse, doctor. The pills aren't helping. Mary divorced me a week ago."

"I'm very sorry to hear about that, Edward. Why did she leave, if I may ask?"

"She... she said I woke up in the middle of the night. She said I woke up and... tried to suffocate her. That I tried to choke the life out of her."

Violent manifestations. The creature must be attached to a violent idea.

"What stopped you?"

"Nothing. Because... I wasn't even home at the time. I was staying over at a friend's house that night."

"Could you possibly not remember this encounter?"

"My home was over 60 miles away. How could I have been able to run to my own house to try and kill my wife and still be back in time for no one to have noticed? I'm not lying, doctor."

"Then who do you believe tried to kill your wife, Edward?" Dr. Shire asked in a curious tone.

Edward's eyes widened. "Doctor... am I going insane?"

Dr. Shire looked at Edward confused. "No, no. Why do you believe that?"

"Because I can see your notes about me," Edward looked up and locked eyes with the doctor.

Dr. Shire became surprised. "Really? What do you see?"

Edward stood up and walked slowly over to the doctor. His arms locked at his sides and his eyes becoming more pronounced with each step. "A violent manifestation. You don't seem to believe me, doctor. What do you believe was trying to kill my wife? I bet you want me to say it was it, don't you? You want me to reveal my insanity for what it is: a game. You want me to play your game, don't you? I'm just a little pig in which you get to test your bullshit of a theory, right? Oink. Oink. A little pig trots along... and so will I. Give me the meds you want me to take. Then I'll show you."

"What will you show me, Edward?" Dr. Shire asked while writing down the new medications to further induce Edward's nightmares.

"My old friend," Edward took the papers and left.

Dr. Shire shook his head and opened up the second journal. He noticed a dramatic change in Edward's nightmares:

"I opened the door. I began to explore different parts of the house. There was very little to no furniture. It was a two story house, old and decaying it appeared. I went downstairs to the living room. A TV was on, but only static was showing. The thundering outside had stopped completely. I felt an urge to go to the basement. I walked over and down the steps leading to the basement door. The basement door remained locked. There was a figure behind me at the top of the stairs. It was Dr. Shire. He stood there smiling. He came down the steps and gave me something. I believe it was a key. -February 2nd"

Dr. Shire closed the journal and took several deep breaths. "My God... I've... done it. I can't believe it. I've created a beautiful... nightmare."

Edward arrived back at the office a month later. He had completely changed. His head was shaven, not an ounce of hair left. He was dangerously thin at this point, more skeletal than human even. The dark circles around his eyes only grew worse. Now they hid his eyes almost completely. He entered the office very quietly, and took a seat on the couch as usual. Dr. Shire waited behind his desk. The tension of the room created a heavy awkward atmosphere that could suffocate a mouse. Dr. Shire finally broke the silence.

"So... Edward. I believe you wanted to show me something. Perhaps your latest journal?" he asked.

Edward smiled, but said nothing. Instead, he pulled out a single piece of paper. He slid the paper onto the coffee table in front of him. All the while still holding eye contact with the doctor.

Dr. Shire stood and slowly walked over to the table. He felt that if he took his eyes off Edward, something would happen. Frightening. He picked up the paper and backed his way back to his desk. The doctor finally broke eye contact and looked down to read the words on the paper:

"I greeted him like an old friend."

Dr. Shire looked up and froze in fear at what was standing behind the couch. The room grew darker. But in the darkness across him, he saw the monster he gave life to. The creature he bore. His nightmare come alive.

"I'm not afraid anymore, doctor. Do you know why?" an unfamiliar voice spoke.

"Why?" Dr. Shire responded, shaking.

"Simple: you stop being afraid of a nightmare when you become one. But I believe you should be asking yourself one question, doctor," the voice grew deeper as the creature slowly walked over to the doctor.

Dr. Shire couldn't move or scream, all he could do was ask one word, "What?"

The monster was now face to face with the doctor. It looked more terrifying than Edward ever described. The eyes. The eyes. The creature uncovered its mouth. Or rather a lack of one.

"Am I Edward's nightmare... or yours?"

Dr. Robert Shire and Edward Naismith were never heard of again.

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