Recently, I have had something of a dry spell when it comes to dreams. Perhaps, though, it is just an inability to remember dreams that leaves me without something to explore in waking life. I remember bits and pieces, sometimes just the settings, but no real details.
Last night, I know that I dreamed that I was on a road trip. I cannot remember the details, but it had a familiar feel to all my traveling dreams. This was definitely a car trip. I remember pulling over to the side of the road at one point, but there were none of my familiar landmarks to build a memory from.
It is better to have no dreams, or no memory of them, than bad dreams and full memory of them. Like the recurring places in my dreams, there are also recurring villains. There is a definite rogue’s gallery in opposition to my dream self, and more often than not, they get the better of me, leaving me screaming awake, sweating, clutching at the covers, and sometimes paralyzed.
We’ll explore just a couple of dark denizens here, with more to come later:
THE BLACK DOG
The Black Dog is my oldest foe, and he was with me for at least a decade. There was an incident with a Doberman when I was about four or five that I feel created the Black Dog. I was playing in my grandparents’ backyard with my cousin who was visiting from out of town. They brought their pet Doberman and secured him in the garage. There was a door leading out of the garage into the backyard that they left open, but my grandfather wedged a piece of plywood across it. The dog could peek over into the backyard, but had to stand on its hind legs to do so, and could not get to us.
The dog, anxious to play with my cousin and I, started barking excitedly and scratching against the plywood. I was unnerved by this, and went back inside several times because it frightened me. The fam always reassured me that the dog wouldn’t hurt me, that he just wanted to play. In retrospect, if they had just let the dog and I meet properly under a controlled situation, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal. Unfortunately, we met when it broke through the plywood and came charging at me. I bolted, screaming.
The first nightmare I ever had about the Black Dog occurred shortly after, if not that same night. I was at my grandparents’ house on the couch watching TV. It was night, and I think we were watching the Muppet Show or Dukes of Hazzard. I saw a black dog nose poke through the cushions of the couch briefly. I didn’t tell my grandparents, but I peered over the back of the couch to see if something was there. There was nothing.
I got up to get a drink of water from the kitchen—which was unusual for my age, as I would have asked someone to get it for me. The way their kitchen was set up, as soon as you entered it, you could see into two other connected rooms in a series of doorways, all always open.
I looked all the way to the farthest room in the distance, and there, in the pitch black but somehow standing out darker than that, was a black dog. It wasn’t a Doberman. It was just a black dog. It ran at me, jumped, and pinned me down. I screamed, but no one came. It then bit my bottom lip and pulled, tearing it away. I woke up screaming.
Shortly after that, I saw the movie Cujo, and it made the nightmares a bit worse. The Black Dog, in the first few dreams, would always stare at me for a time. I would always think that maybe it was just a regular nice dog. When it did attack, and it always did, it was quick and fatal, it never barked or snarled, it just did its business and I woke up at point of death. No mucking about. After I saw Cujo, that changed. For a time, the Black Dog was rabid and chaotic, extremely vicious and evil. It wouldn’t wait, it would attack, and not to kill, but to torture. It would rip the skin from my arms, bite through my stomach and tear out my intestines. It would let me get away, and then attack again.
The nightmares changed again when I was in fifth or sixth grade. I dreamed I was in a large building. It had tan brick, and looked vaguely like a school or a prison (funny how I find them similar). I was in a maintenance area that was filled with cages, and it one of them there was a tiny, white dog—like a Toy Poodle or Bichon Frise. I knew it was going to be a Black Dog dream, and I knew that the Black Dog was the one that put this dog there. So I rescued it. This was the first time the Black Dog did not catch me. I escaped with the white dog and ended up trapping the Black Dog in that maintenance area. After this dream, I got away from the Black Dog more often. I found that I could outsmart it. It was still a vicious dog that wanted to kill me, but it was also just a dog.
The Black Dog would haunt my dreams all the way up until High School. I could be having a perfectly good dream and it would appear suddenly, around a corner, behind a door, in a box. It got to where I didn’t mind the sudden appearances—the jump scare. The worst dreams were the ones where I would see the Black Dog in the distance, sitting, watching, waiting. Inevitably, it would charge me, and I would run … always, always too slow. No chance to outrun it, there was nothing but open space, and no escape.
I don’t dream about the Black Dog anymore. We had our final encounter in the early years of my Freshman year. It interrupted a good dream I was having, and instead of fear, it invoked anger. When it charged me, I met it with a punch. It tried to attack again, and I punched it again. I kept punching it until it was yelping and trying to get away. And then it was screaming. I cringe even thinking of that sound, and I feel this weird remorse and guilt for what I had done to it, even this day as I type this.
The Black Dog never returned.
It wasn’t until later in my 20s that I realized the Black Dog is a common nightmare across the globe, and also figures prominently in folklore from many different cultures. In looking for a picture of a black dog that resembled the one I see, I didn’t find anything close. My Black Dog is just a black dog, no red eyes, no spectral glow, just black.
There are a few members of my nightmare rogue’s gallery that are directly inspired by film monsters or villains. None of them are seen as often and with such detail and depth of story as the xenomorphs from the Alien franchise.
I’m a huge fan of the Alien films—yes, even the bad ones. I remember being able to watch the first one as a child without getting frightened. It makes some sense—that movie is a thriller, building on the suspense generated by the unseen monster. I was too young to pick up on the unseen evil, or was just too distracted by the fact that they were in space on a spaceship. By the time the second one came out, I was old enough to enjoy it, but it is obviously a different type of film than the first.
The first dream I remember having about them is one of the worst nightmares of my recollection, though I only remember the last part of it. I was being chased by one of them and at sometime was forced to crawl into a tunnel. The tunnel turned into a yellow plastic slide and I went down head first. It got tighter and tighter until I was upside down and stuck. The xenomorph began to eat my feet. That was a nightmare.
Later dreams were more intricate. Many times they played out like movies. A couple stand out vividly in my memory.
One was a full on invasion, huge alien ships landing and xenomorphs pouring out of them. That one was a chase dream. The aliens were attacking and chasing everyone and all you could do was run.
The second was one of my favorite nightmares (if there can be such a thing). I was part of a crew on an alien planet, though I don’t remember my role. We worked in a complex over a large hole, either bored by equipment, or natural, I don’t remember. The complex sat over the entire hole, covering it, and several levels extended down into it before the complex terminated over the gaping black chasm.
The dream played out like you would expect a film to. A small team explores the hole and is attacked. The aliens get into the bottom level of the complex, and start to work their way up. I was working on the level just above the bottom level and I was the one that suggested we close it off and let it detach, dropping it into the hole. We did this three times before we reached the ground level and had to exit the complex. Some of the people with me were scientists, always trying to study the aliens to find their weakness, others were soldiers, always just trying to destroy them. I don’t know what I was, but I pushed the button that dropped the rest of the complex into the hole.
At the end of the dream, a massive queen xenomorph emerged from the now fiery hole and we attacked her with massive anti-aircraft plasma guns on the surface. It kicked ass.
Other xenomorph dreams have always followed one of those two scenarios, either a chase dream where I’m always running and have no way to really fight them, or a more intricate dream where they are slowly taking over a ship or a complex. I prefer the latter.
I haven’t had a nightmare in bit. Unless I happen to have one soon, I’ll explore two more of my recurring foes: The Werewolf and The Infection.