When I was a child, I developed a peculiar set of sleeping habits due to a recurring nightmare. The nightmare always began the same. Me and my cousin would be playing with Legos, laughing and remarking about each other’s creations. Then we would hear a knock. A deep and awkward set of hits against wood, echoing throughout my room would fill my head. I would pause, and suddenly I felt anxiety. It was a sixth sense of fear and excitement, except I thought I had no reason to feel that way. It was just my mother, surely, respecting our privacy and asking for admittance into the room. I would call out, “Come in!” and look to the door.
It wouldn’t open. Instead, the closet door would open and a disfigured being resembling a man would race out and grab my cousin by the face. He would squeeze, and my cousin’s brain and skull would shatter. Blood sprayed everywhere and I stood speechless. I wouldn’t even react, I just stared at what was left of my cousin. Then the same would be done with me. I would scream out for my mother, not to save me, but to protect herself. I would die before my voice would alert my mom. The last thing I’d see in the dream was a yellowed and wrinkly hand clenched in front of my eyes.
This reoccurred for two weeks, each time resulting in waking up to clenched sheets and cold sweat. Soon, on the begging of the third week, I would find a way to fall asleep after my nightmare. I would grab my stuffed bear and let me dangle him over the edge of my bed, holding his arm tight. I would awake to him fallen on the ground. It was a simple solution to my problem, and I quickly stopped having the nightmares and returned to normal sleep. I would feel reassured that I had a firm grasp on my bear, and it helped the anxiety dissipate.
Today, now older and living on my own, I went through a couple boxes when I was clearing out my cluttered garage for space. There were a few old pictures I rummaged through, and I found one that must have been my parents taking a picture of me sleeping. The picture was from an older camera, before digital printing was a thing. Although the sides were yellow and torn the quality was still surpassingly crisp. I noticed it was after I had the nightmares so my hand was dangling over the edge. I smiled and was deep in thought for a moment, divulging myself in an old memory. I was about to toss the picture when I took one last look at the bear I was holding.
Except there wasn’t a bear I was holding onto. The bear was a few inches away from where my hand was. Instead of a happy, smiling bear that brought me warmth and joy, there was a different hand grasping mine. Instead of a fluffy brown bear hand there was a yellow one, wrinkled and clenched.