The only dream in my life that kept me from going back to sleep.
Prompt: My first nightmare.
THE WHITE ROOM
When I was five years old, my parents got a divorce. My dad kept the house. My mom moved in with a friend named Calvin. My younger brother and I moved back and forth daily between the two houses, switching off weekends.
I never liked Calvin very much. In fact, I was afraid of him. He was a bit mean and smoked a lot, which made it unbearable to stay in the house for long. As a result, I spent a lot of time outside. When I was in the house, I stayed near my mom, and kept to the room that me and my brother shared. We had a bunk bed, and I had taken the top bunk by force, it being prime real estate for a child of my age. The top bunk had no railing, but I had never fallen off, so it wasn't an issue. It also had no ladder, so I had to climb up on top of the dresser to get up. When I wanted to get down, I had to jump, resulting in a very loud, ground-shaking thump when I landed (it was a very high bunk bed).
On the night of my first real nightmare, I struggled to climb the wardrobe, finally pulling myself over the edge to land on the blankets, my head bowed to avoid hitting the ceiling. My brother was already tucked in below me, listening to the mattress creak as I settled in.
"Goodnight," my mom said from the doorway. Then she turned off the light. Instantly, it was pitch black. I was used to sleeping in complete darkness. Any light bothered me. However, sitting in that blackness when you are not entirely sleepy can be unsettling.
On this night, it was hot. One disadvantage to being on the top bunk is that heat rises. So, on a hot California night, with no air conditioning, I was sweating. I kicked the covers off and lay there spreadeagled, waiting impatiently for sleep to take me. I stared at the cottage cheese ceiling.
One of my favorite things to do when I couldn't sleep was to look up at that ceiling and find shapes in the stucco. Once my eyes had adjusted to the dark, I chuckled to myself as I found funny animals, crazy alien heads, and other weird shapes.
Then my eyes caught on a black speck on the wall near my feet. I froze, staring intently. I pulled my feet away just in case. But from that distance, I couldn't tell if it was a spider, or just a nail or hole.
My heart raced as I sat there, now even more awake. I could never go to sleep like this. An hour must have passed, with me watching the black spot, unwilling to make myself move to see if it really was a spider or not. Finally, I couldn't take it. I got up and crawled as softly as I could over the creaky bed, trying not to wake anyone up.
It was just a spot of black paint.
I sat back on my pillow, exhausted from my paranoia. But it wasn't over.
Before I could fully relax again, I opened up my sheets and examined my covers for spiders, terrified that one might be sleeping with me. I checked my comforter, the sheets, under my pillow, all the walls, in the cracks... finally, I accepted that there were no spiders. I lay down again and draped a light sheet over my legs, with my feet sticking out.
Eventually, I fell asleep.
I was in a white room.
Just white. Nothing else.
No decorations. No furniture.
No windows or doors.
Just a plain, square, white room, empty and bright.
The walls were smooth - there was no stucco, no stains. No nails, holes or dark patches.
It was perfectly white... except in one corner on the ceiling, where the slats of a vent created dark shadows.
I stared at the vent. It was impossible to tell what lie beyond the slats. The room was too bright, the shadows too dark, to see.
At first, the vent was an innocent enough. The kind you have in your house for air conditioning. It was painted white, so that the only difference between it and the rest of the room was the deep shadows beyond the slats.
It was odd being in a room with no doors or windows. But it wasn't claustrophobic. I just stood there, staring at the only thing there was to look at: the vent.
Then the shadows moved.
They started to writhe. At first, it was only the slightest movement, as if the air conditioning had just turned on. But then it grew.
Suddenly, hundreds of spiders erupted out of the vent, crawling across the ceiling, down the walls, heading towards me. Every size and variety of spider, from spindly daddy long legs to tarantula, was heading my direction.
I watched in horror, with no escape, as the white room quickly filled with innumerable black spiders, knowing that the white space was quickly running out...
I woke with a half-scream dying in my throat, tangled in my bed sheet, my head hanging over the edge of the bed. I shot up into a sitting position, panicked, running my hands frantically over my body, brushing imaginary spiders off as my skin crawled. I swiped at my covers, thinking that if there were any spiders, I would get rid of them, even though I couldn't see a thing.
Tears started rolling down my cheeks. I was terrified of my bed, imagining all the spiders that might be in it without my knowledge. I sat there, silently crying, hugging my stuffed horse, not wanting to wake anyone, but not wanting to stay there. After sitting there for a full fifteen minutes sobbing, I finally worked out a plan.
I collected my silky baby blanket, my favorite toy, and my comforter, and threw them to the floor. After checking that I hadn't woken anyone up, I turned on my belly so that my feet were facing the ground, my stomach on the bed. Holding onto the sheets, I slowly let myself slide down. As I lost control, I felt my shirt ride up and my belly scrape the wooden edge of the bed, tearing my skin. I fell hard onto the blanket below.
I thought for sure that the noise I made would have woken someone. I sat there in terror of my mom walking in and asking me what I was doing up. For some reason, that prospect was as terrifying as me finding a spider. For five minutes, I waited in the dark, clutching my stinging stomach. When nobody stirred, I slowly got up.
I inched my way to the door, dragging my blanket with one hand, toys tucked under the other arm. I slowly turned the doorknob, then pulled, begging the door not to creak. I opened it just wide enough to get through with my blanket. I crept down the hall, watching the doors for any signs of my mom or Calvin.
At the end of the hall, I chose a spot on the floor and made myself a makeshift bed. For some reason, the hallway seemed safe, much safer than my own bed. There was more light, and plenty of room. No corners where black spots would linger in the darkness. I lay down, hugging my stuffed horse tight in my arms.
Then I fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.