Late at night, I typically don’t hear voices, outside of those in dreams. And those ones usually come from inside my head, rather than outside it. And I’m typically asleep when those voices are heard. To be fair, I thought I was asleep this time, but when I heard the “psst” again, I knew I wasn’t.

“Mhmmm… wooos zeer?”

“It’s me.”

“Who’s that?”

“Me, under your pillow — NO DON’T PICK IT UP”

Presumably, being under the pillow, he could feel my head shifting and pulling off it to move to flip it over to uncover him. His protest immediately stopped me, but I have to admit I was still curious. I sat up, and looked at the pillow itself as if it were addressing me, instead of whatever it was underneath.

“Uh, OK. What’s up?”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“Oh. Um. Sorry?”

“No, it’s not your fault, just bad dreams.”

“What about?”

“That’s the thing, nothing in particular, just a bad… feeling dream. Nothing in the dream to actually make it a nightmare, just a bizarre feeling of dread.”

I knew exactly the types of dreams he was speaking about. I tried not to have them, as much as you can try to have or not have any dream in particular, and they were admittedly rare. Much fewer now that I’m older than when I was young. I’d much rather have a straight-forward nightmare with, say, a monster or a killer or something than one of those free-floating dread ones. At least then you know there’s a reason for the horror.

“So what was it?”

“What was what?”

“The dream that was a nightmare without being particularly scary?”

“Oh, yeah. Like I said it’s weird. But basically it took place in a junkyard where everything was brown. Basically composting dirt brown. There were a few other people besides myself there — sort of a trio of garbagemen with the personality combination and types that you’d see in a movie or sitcom. Buddies, with personalities that tend to overlap pretty well, so they can all play off each other with the maximum entertainment value for the viewer. Anyway, though, they’d chat or whatever with me, typically not about anything. There was a feeling of being stuck there — whatever wasn’t the typical standard brown of the compost was a darker brown, like the walls of a canyon. No visible exits, and there was a darkness. Sort of like it being artificially lit but inadequately. Anyway, though, the dream ends when I am jolted awake by a flower — a general, almost cartoonish flower — growing from the compost/filth, as a bad, off-key fanfare plays. Sort of a ‘waah-whaa-whaaaaa!’ sound, played on some sort of horns, perhaps damaged and dented to get that particular tone.”

“That’s an odd one.”

“I know. Aside from the idea of being stuck there — which is only occasionally made explicit — there’s not really much about the dream that’s terrifying, and yet it does it to me every time. And even the idea of being stuck there isn’t as horrible as nightmares go; there’s more than enough room, there’s no fear of suffocation, and the other folks there are nice enough — not devils or anything.”

“When I was younger, I had one — but it was much shorter. It was just a stock-footage type shot of an operating room, where a bunch of blue-suited doctors were performing an operation.
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The actual operation wasn’t visible, nor was any blood or gore. Shortly after this image came up, the word ‘MEDICATED’ would appear beneath the operating surgeons in a strange, glowing font — though one that looked just like a standard super on TV.”

I’d never actually told anyone about that one before, but since this guy had opened up to me, I felt at ease. I think that took his mind off his dream, and while I waited for a response, I finally got one in the form of quietly heavy breathing. I decided to go back to sleep. I had to get up for work in a few hours, after all.