The following is based on an actual nightmare I experienced. It was easily the most vivid I have ever had, and will likely stick with me forever.
Featured image by Rachel King/Carla MacKinnon.
I woke up the same way I often did; jolting upright, startled out of sleep. There was never anything I could vividly remember, only a mild sense of panic and a pounding heart from my sudden awakening.
Panting quietly, I gazed about my room, which was dimly lit and grey with early morning light. The light was all gloom, giving my vision a greyish-bluish haze. Something wasn’t right. As I sat there on my bed, contained within my room, something seemed amiss. It was as if I had woken up in a room that looked exactly like mine, but wasn’t. Something subtle and unseen insisted this was so.
What followed this notion was the most oppressive sensation I have ever experienced. It was as if the air had become thick and alive, swirling around me and gibbering in my ears. It pressed against my body, everywhere, causing me a great deal of distress. My breath became short, my movements erratic. I couldn’t get up, nor lie back down. I simply shifted in place trying to shake the air away from me.
I couldn’t see them, but I knew what they were. Demon was the only word that could come to my head, and in my mind they took a form like black fog, with the faint suggestion of skulls within their dark miasmic form. I could not see them, and I did not need to see them to know what they were. They were reaching out at me, clawing at me. Wanting something? I did not know.
Then there was a weight in my hand. I was holding nothing before, I was barely able to compose myself before, but now there was something in my hand. I gazed down at it and was met with a small arch with a little black door. It was made of stone, the architecture looked Gothic, as if transplanted from foreign place and time. I focused hard on the door, made of wood, with its little handle, barely large enough for me to get a grip on by pinching my thumb and index finger.
There was nothing suggesting what this arch was for, but something compelled me; I knew that its door did open, and that I must open it. I pinched the handle of the door and pulled. All around me the miasma pressed down on me, making it difficult to breathe.
I tugged on the door with my fingers, but it wouldn’t budge. I could feel something pulling it closed; a force like suction desperate to hold it shut. I would not relent, and as I continued I could feel the air quivering around me, becoming more violent as I pulled harder and harder. The pressure from this reaction became a roar of reverberating noise in my ears, until finally the door gave way.
My ears rang from the sudden release. The pressure around me weakened, but I could still feel them slithering through the air around me. Behind the door within the little arch sat a small, black quill. It appeared wholly solid, not at all feathery; almost ornamental.
I reached inside and plucked it out, and like switching off a light they were gone. I lay the quill flat in my palm. So small, so simple, so potent.