A little boy woke up from a nightmare. He was sweating and shaking under his bedsheets, looking around the walls of his room. He saw the posters of athletes and movie stars, the video game controller on the ground and the dinosaur toys on his dresser. In the most comfortable place in his house, he suddenly felt an intense fear for his life. Where he should feel protected and safe, nothing felt right. His own home had become dangerous.
His door was open a few inches, and a light had been left on somewhere else in the house. A shadow moved over the light on the wall outside his room. It wasn't his mother, but an intruder. An unknown person had come in. He saw the shadow but it wasn't as dark as any other he had seen before. But he saw it there for a moment, until he turned his head away.
Now the boy could hear him too. Not footsteps, but the sound of strangling hands. The boy tucked his head under the covers, pretending to sleep.
What would the intruder want? Why was he here? Would he rob the house while the boy lay silent? The boy kept his eyes closed and remained as still as possible, until he heard a deep hum outside and inside of his ears. The cold grip of the intruder's hands latched to the boy's neck.
He opened his eyes to see a desolately blank face. A blur of shadowless blackness. He saw his strangler's arms, body and legs, all black and without texture or color. But the face was even less. Simply looking into its fuzzy darkness evoked a tingling sensation through the boys limbs. But now he couldn't breathe either.
Death was a serious reminder. No longer was it a distant possibility, but a forceful intrusion. The boy was not too young to die. Not any more. He saw that his moment was now.
Attempts to scream where useless. Still he wheezed, "gee-zuhs. gee-zuhhhs." Nothing loosened the grip. Death was here. The blackness had come to take him, never to see light again. Unless casting a shadow.
Suddenly his mother called his name. The strangler's head turned to look. He left, and the boy's head fell back onto his pillow with a gulping breath of air. Looking up at his ceiling, he closed his mouth. Then he looked to his door again.
Still those same few inches open. Still that light from another part of the house. And then another shadow. But this was a familiar form.
His mother came into his room, again questionably saying his name. "Are you okay?" she asked.
The question horrified the boy, for he now wondered if she heard the intruder. He wanted to tell her that he had a bad dream, but realized that it had been something more.
"I think so." he whimpered.
"I felt like I should come see how you were doing... I don't know why. Did you have a bad dream? You look kinda sick."
"Oh... yeah. Yeah, I had a bad dream."
"Ohhh, I'm sorry honey. Yeah, you're all sweaty aren't you? Oh baby do you want to tell me about it?"
The boy spoke slowly, fully appreciating every breath he took in. Sighing with every exhale.
"Yeah. I... There was this man... He had a red face. And paint under his eyes. I think he was an Indian. He was standing behind me while I was petting a dog..."
She waited for him to go on. "Yeah?"
"He wouldn't touch me. But I knew he was there. I didn't want him to be there though. I didn't like him. He scared me."
She put her hand on his shoulder as he went on. "I looked at the dog and it was really old and slimy. And I really wanted to go home. Even though I was just outside our house, I could see it... I wasn't going inside for some reason... I don't know if I could... I was scared."
"Was it our dog?" she asked.
"No, some other dog. Some old, tall dog... But that's not what scared me. The Indian guy wouldn't go away, and he was the only other person around... I just wanted to see someone else... But I didn't go into the house."
"Why didn't you go in? Was something else scary in there?"
The boy started to cry. He thought about Jesus and Heaven, and how badly he didn't want to be there. He felt the embrace of his mother, and the comfort seemed to cover only parts of his body. His legs and neck shivered, and he feared bringing up the dark figure who strangled him. He wanted to just forget about it, as one eventually forgets a bad dream. Even though it was not a dream, he decided that it would be from this point forward.
A dream he never discussed with anyone ever again. Something that would take him decades to forget about if necessary. He decided he would never hold on to this experience. He would not believe it anymore. It was all in his head, nothing more.