The Nightmare of Everything
I had just come home from another hopelessly unclear and vague day of school. At the end of the day, the burden of everything always weighed down my eyes until they drooped. Something always drained out of me at some point during the day—it always did, and it always would, and I wouldn’t have it any more when I was alone by myself. After doing my homework in yet another anxious blur, but even more of a dragged out and muddled one, three hours had passed and I tucked my papers back into their folders again at last. I had guessed and gone with my feelings for most of my math questions as normal. I would never improve with Math: Math and I had declared our distrust and hate towards each other from the beginning of time. After supper, I practised piano from seven o’clock until seven thirty, trying to feel anything else other than the bleak and unsure feelings left over from school. I found myself collapsed tiredly on the sofa downstairs at eight o’clock, unable to get up again. I didn’t remember the song I had played. Somehow I got up once more, got ready for bed, and climbed the stairs. I curled up exhaustedly in my bed at nine-thirty; I almost instantly fell into a deep and craved for sleep.
I became conscious when Mrs. Kreumm was in the middle of telling me that I belonged to her. “And you will watch the boys while they fetch the firewood from outside,” Mrs. Kreumm added commandingly.
“Yes,” I faltered. I had lost myself away somewhere… I had been somewhere else, where there was no bleak and desolate, endless snow. How could I have had the illusion that I was somewhere safe and warm—not stuck in this piteous, cold existence? The hems on my dirty brown dress were frayed; my apron was several faded shades of grey.
“Boys!” Mrs. Kreumm squawked. Her crooked and sharply curved nose reminded me of a hunting bird. “Fetch the firewood,” she told the two prompt little faces peering up at her. “Girl,” she said, turning her keen yellow hunting eyes to pierce coldly through me, as the two boys scampered off, “I don’t need to remind you to keep them out of trouble. Do I?” she demanded. Mrs. Kreumm took up her long blonde hair and tied it in a bunch at the top of her head, while she frowned disapprovingly at me. The way she looked at me told me that if I were to go off on a single warm dream more, it would be the end…of me.
“No, madam,” I said. I stared down at my tattered brown shoes.
“Run along, then!” Mrs. Kreumm squawked tersely, and turned around; she walked stiffly away to find out what her third little boy was up to.
I heard the back door close and rushed down the hall. I opened the door as they were clambering out into the knee deep snow. “Be careful,” I reminded them. The door whined as I shut it. When it closed with a ‘click!’ I caught my breath. ‘That door…’ I thought, ‘is out of my warm dream…’ I brushed my fingertips over the hard cold glass window. That is how I must have known I did not need to go out after them: I could see their two little figures making their way through the snow to the woodpile. Resting my hand on the cold glass, I observed the white door. I tapped it with my fingers with my other hand. It seemed to be made out of metal. I tried to compare it to the one in my dream…but the loose threads in my mind of the memory quickly floated away out of reach. There was a strange word which surfaced—‘mudroom’, but then it was gone away again.
I sighed dejectedly as I stared out across the cold and desolate world. I felt as if the cold itself were seeping in through the glass, into my fingertips, and spreading up my arm—I hurriedly snatched my hand away. I was still cold… So cold, and only getting colder… I shook and shook, and as I stared out across the snow, there in the distance, coming, coming, was a black speck. It grew steadily larger, until in only seconds, it was there. It was a tall, twisting, shifting, lumpy, bulging mass of darkness, with a blank oval mask for a face which matched the snow in color. It seemed to be moving and not moving at the same time. It did not have any feet, yet it stayed completely upright without slithering; it sort of hovered while touching the ground as it went. ‘That must have been how it got here so quickly,’ I thought as I stared. I could not turn my eyes away. My feet were stuck in frozen fear to the ground. I could not bend my legs. I watched, as the thing stopped intently by a stick stuck in the snow a few feet away from the two boys. They did not seem to notice that it was even there, in their path; it bent all the way down in an arc over the stick so its face almost touched the ground, and came up with half of the stick poking out of its round black mouth. Without moving, the rest of the stick was sucked in slowly: it ought to have poked out of the back of the thing’s head, but it seemed to be consumed inside of it. “Everything,” I choked, as if being completely surrounded by cold procured its name from my mouth. Everything seemed to turn around to me slowly. It looked at me through the window. It had no eyes, but I felt it looking. Everything turned its face intently to the two boys plodding along in the snow towards it. They noticed that it was there, as if Everything chose to be visible. Both boys stopped in their foot-prints.
“Get out of our way!” I thought I heard one of the boys’ frightened but somehow indignant muffled voices say; they waved at Everything to go aside. The one thing I think the boys had learned from their mother and admired her for it was how to be cross and demanding.
I held my breath, for I knew what would happen next. A thin black thread slithered across Everything’s white face from one side to the other. ‘Run!’ I thought desperately. The smile on Everything’s face abruptly turned to me. The thin black line grew wider as the sound of a thousand scuttling leaves in the wind rushed past my ears, even though I was inside. Laughing and laughing, Everything lurched over the two boys in a terrible black arc, and sucked and gobbled them both up. I knew that Everything was going to devour everything else, beginning with the people inside of this house. I somehow knew that Everything liked to eat people the best out of all things, because of how complicated they are: he devoured their memories. Everything had come to this place surrounded by nothing because there was something here to consume.
I felt Everything stare at me, as he stood motionlessly, silently, and hungrily from the snow. My heart went into a flight, and my legs were able to move. I managed to tear myself away from that window in the door with a jerk, and to run down the passageway in cold shock. I still could not move very easily and it was a great effort to move my stiff self down that hallway. Mrs. Kreumm was bent over her third little youngest boy in the kitchen, wiping something brown off of his guilty looking face.
I rushed towards them. “Hide!” I exclaimed, rather. “Hide him in the cupboard under the sink!” Mrs. Kreumm seemed to believe me, and beckoned her son to the cupboard door. I stared at the end of the hallway by the stairs.
“Tell me what is happening,” Mrs. Kreumm said in an urgent demanding whisper.
There was only enough time to say, breathlessly, “It is coming,” before I saw coming slowly down the hallway something tall and dark: its head poked up above a stair, and more of it appeared as the stairs descended. It seemed to radiate evil and greediness. The sound of scuttling leaves rushed past my ears; it made me shake in a coldly unpleasant way that only Fear and Dread can provoke. I clenched my teeth, trying to make myself prepared to be devoured. ‘But you can be brave,’ a little voice deep inside of me whispered. A strange feeling came over me: I was not so afraid any longer. I knew what I had to do. Suddenly I threw myself at it. It felt warm as I wrapped my arms tightly around it. Everything hissed and writhed and lashed about, but I held onto it tighter and tighter and tighter, and felt lighter and lighter and lighter.
Everything soundlessly fell to the floor, and lay there in a soft, crumpled heap of darkness. As I stood over it with narrowed eyes, and with my hair glowing with flames, I whispered, “Leave. Never come back.” Like a shadow, Everything slithered out the front door and into the snow.
When I was in brick-and-mortar school, I felt as if everything was trying to ‘get me,’ to ‘eat’ something which made me myself: my imagination. I am not afraid of any thing. But I have always been terrified of fear—the feeling of being small, powerless, and oppressed by some external force. I believe that dreams help people to process emotions and overcome problems. In my dream, Everything symbolises fear and the obliteration of imagination. An interpretation of the theme of this story and what this dream shows myself is that it is possible to tell fear to go away. Throwing myself at Everything is a feat which I shall remember for the rest of my life. I did not wake up shaken and cold from that dream, like how I usually do from a nightmare, but with a calm sense of satisfaction. Everything never reappeared in one of my dreams again.