writer / horror enthusiast

Dread is an interesting feeling. It creeps up on you; first starting out as a simple worry, and then transcending into anxiety, and finally tingling its way into full on dread. If you’re a person sensitive enough to your surroundings, almost anything can bring on a small worry. Some people have the tendency to turn those worries into anxiety. That’s usually where it stops; you have a little anxiety over something, but you have a drink or read a book or meditate and you get over it. A smaller percentage still suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, where they let their worries build inside of them until it seems to be all-consuming and powerful. These people often seek treatment in the form of anxiety medication.

But a smaller population still isn’t helped by this type of medication. These people experience bouts of dread which make a panic attack look like a walk in the park on a sunny day. Dread isn’t just a feeling that things are about to take a bad turn. Dread is the feeling of an all-consuming malevolent force actively hunting you, somehow always right behind you. Dread is the idea that you’re not actually alone in that forest clearing after all; that something is watching you from just beyond the trees. Dread isn’t a pair of glowing yellow eyes in those trees, though. It’s much more insidious than that. Dread is the idea that you just saw the yellow eyes as you were scanning the treeline, but then when you look back, they’re gone.

But the real kicker is that if you get far enough down the rabbit hole which dread will drag you down, you start to lose sense of if it’s just a feeling or if there actually is something over in those trees. This is how it began for me.

Did you ever feel as a kid that if you left your hand or foot dangling off the bed, something would get you? I’m guessing you probably have felt that way; it’s so common it’s almost a trope in scary stories nowadays. I’m betting you’ve even seen a shadow in your room before your eyes fully adjusted and half convinced yourself that it wasn’t just a shadow. These feelings are how I often spend my nights, lying fully awake in my room. I have terrible insomnia which prevents me from falling asleep in a reasonable amount of time at least four days each week. Each and every night where I don’t immediately fall asleep from sheer exhaustion, my Dread comes out to play with me.

I’m lying here in bed now, staring up at the ceiling and writing this in my head as a means of fending off those fears, since I know they must not be founded in anything rational. After all, I could easily pick up my phone from my nightstand, tap on the flashlight widget, and my fears would be expelled. Except I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that my Dread just knows how to hide from light.

I can see it standing over there in the corner. It’s definitely watching me. It likes to watch me as I lie here, taunting me as I fight desperately to sleep. The ironic thing about insomnia is that often, the more you struggle to fight against it and finally fall asleep, the worse it gets. But my Dread knows this, and it knows that all it has to do is convince me that it’s real, and it will have me.

I’m going through these motions as a means to help myself remember that it’s not real. It’s not. It’s my imagination, determined to play these tricks on me. This Dread of mine is a wily creature though, and it’s not easily banished while I’m in its territory. The sun is a long ways off yet, and it has all night to wear me down. The more exhausted I become, the easier it will be for the Dread to get a firm grasp on me.

It’s moving across the room to the other corner. I just saw the shadow of it creep across my dresser, which lies directly opposite my bed. My covers are tucked tightly around me though, and all of my limbs are safely aboard. My Dread is just there now, stretching itself upward in the corner until its head touches the ceiling. It’s staring at me, waiting.

No. That’s not it. My Dread is clever, and it led me to believe it was there in the corner. It’s under my bed. I can hear it breathing under there, reaching up to grip the crossbeams of my bed frame and pull itself closer until it can press its darkness against the bottom of my box spring. The frame of my bed is creaking under the strain of it. It’s mocking me, shallow bouts of laughter escaping through whatever passes for its mouth. I know that if I were to step off of my bed to turn the light on, it would have me. I know that if I turn on my phone’s flashlight, I’ll see its dead face mere inches from mine.

It knows that I know about it. This wouldn’t be half as fun for it if I was unaware of its presence. At least, that’s how it would feel if it were a real thing. But of course it isn’t. I’m great at getting myself worked up over nothing. Probably half the reason I can’t sleep is this self-imposed nightly ritual of convincing myself that I can’t sleep. A sick self fulfilling prophecy which I wrote in my own sweat.

I don’t know where it went. I lost track of it. Everything is dead silent; I can hear my own breathing. I’ve turned over onto my side, it’s more comfortable this way. I think I’ll be able to get to sleep soon.

It’s right behind me. It’s in bed with me, lying just on the other side of me. I can feel it there. I know that if I turn over, I’ll be face to face with it and it will finally have me. I’m staring at my digital alarm clock, trying to see some kind of a reflection in the plastic face which might tell me when it makes its move. I can’t turn back over. I don’t know if it knows that I’m still awake.

It’s going to be a long night.

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