Chapter 1:

The Start of the Dream

Sweet Nightmares

I once was told that nightmares are dreams, too.

It was when I was younger. I had a fight with my older sister for a reason I can’t recall any longer. What I do remember is that, on that same night, she and I were still stewing from our little argument. When our parents called for the two of us to go to bed, we all greeted each other with “Sweet dreams” then we siblings headed for our respective rooms. But, just before my sister closed the door to her bedroom, she left me with some parting words.

“Keep in mind, nightmares are dreams, too”, she said with as much venom as a twelve-year-old could.

I was two years younger than her at the time so I didn’t really understand what she meant then. In fact, her statement didn’t even bother me. The only reason I remember that interaction was because I spent that night thinking I should have made a comeback so it was burned into my memory.

I still think about it from time to time, although involuntarily along with other things I don’t like to remember. However, whenever that part of my brain that likes bringing up unwanted memories plays it in my head, I still try to come up with witty retorts that the imaginary version of my sister can’t counter against. I never bothered with the content of her words.

It was only recently that I realized my sister was telling me there was a potential my “sweet dream” could be a nightmare. If you read into it a little bit deeper, she was practically wishing I would have a scary dream that night.

A “sweet nightmare”, if you will, since I was wished with a sweet dream.

At least, that’s what the person who helped me with this realization thought.

Of course, I wasn’t sharing this experience randomly to just about anyone. I only brought up the subject after watching a horror film about nightmares with the aforementioned person, who happens to be the girl I’m seeing at the present. I thought it would be topical over coffee after seeing said movie so I relayed the story to her. Naturally, we both knew a “sweet nightmare” wasn’t what my sister originally meant, but it was a lighthearted chat and we were saying things in jest.

However, I’m not sure whether it’s due to curiosity, fascination… or madness. But, the topic stuck in our conversation.

“I wonder what a sweet nightmare is like?” my date, whose name is Erica, pondered.

“If it’s sweet, is it even a nightmare?” I asked.

“I don’t know… why wouldn’t it be?”

“Well, nightmares are supposed to be dreams that you find unpleasant. If it’s ‘sweet’, wouldn’t you say the dream was pleasant instead?”

“Maybe it’s something unpleasant, but you still found it pleasant?”

“What do you mean?”

“Take this coffee for example”, Erica stated as she lifted her cup for me to see. “It’s bitter.”

I interjected, “You’ve put half a dozen sugar cubes in that, I doubt it’s bitter.”

“Well, let’s just imagine I haven’t put any sugar in it”, she said, coolly dismissing my comment. “Coffee is bitter.”

She paused, probably expecting me to have a second rebuttal.

"Coffee is bitter, yet people who drink it black don't find it unpleasant", she continued. "Perhaps a sweet nightmare is the same wherein you experience an unpleasant dream but still find it pleasurable."

"I get that, but I'd just turn back to my previous question - if you liked it, then would you still consider it a nightmare?"

"Alright then, perhaps it's like a horror movie you enjoyed watching?"

"Again, if you enjoyed it…"

Our discussion went around in circles like that until we realized we were stuck in a pointless argument of semantics. Eventually, we settled on a sweet nightmare being a dream where there is a mix of horror and pleasure.

The conversation then progressed to us asking each other if we had experienced something like that. We were both horror fans, which was what got us started dating, so it was natural we would be interested in a scary story. Unfortunately, we could not recall any dream which we can count as a sweet nightmare. Dreams tend to be difficult to remember once you’ve awoken from them after all.

The topic halted then and there. Or, so I thought.

I had brought up that memory about my sister only because I thought it would be fun to talk about while killing time. I didn’t expect Erica to have taken great interest in the conversation that led to it.

We had a routine where we would text each other at night just before we went to bed and we continued the topic there. When we were saying our good nights, she told me that, if I dreamed in my sleep, I should write it down immediately after waking up especially if it was a nightmare which I liked so I could relay it to her in detail.

She even signed off with “Sweet nightmares”, her wish for me being very clear.

I went along with her fun and reciprocated the remark.

However, for better or for worse, I did have a nightmare that night.

I found myself walking through an empty hallway in one of the buildings in my university. The row of classrooms to my right, and the windows that let in the bright light from the sun to my left.

It wasn’t dark and it was a familiar scenery so there should be nothing to be afraid of. Although, I could feel my heart thumping loudly and I was walking faster than normal. The idea that I should get out of there has been racing through my mind since the start of the dream. For what reason, I wasn’t sure.

I kept pacing forward, but I never seem to meet another person. I peeked into classrooms only to find them empty. Nobody else was there with me.

There was some other noise beside my footsteps and my beating heart. It was a low buzzing sound, but I wasn’t sure where it was coming from, which only added to my nervousness.

I kept walking until I realized that the hallway never seems to end. A stairway was located at the end of the building and I could see its landing coming closer as I walked with my eyes looking forward. However, whenever I shift my sight to look through the doorway of the classrooms, the distance seems to be reset, if not becoming farther each time I look away.

Once I noticed, I kept my eyes glued forward. I paced steadily towards the stairs to the loud beat of my heart.

Suddenly, I hear a loud noise. It was a long beeping sound, like from the horn of a truck but even louder.

The noise made the building rumble violently, which caused me to stumble to my knees. My vision shifted to the floor. The distance between me and the end of the hallway grew apart again.

The horn blared once more. Adrenaline rushed to my head so I ran for the stairs while the floors trembled.

I reached the stairway to find the way down covered in blackness, but the persistent horns did not give me time to think about it. I put one foot forward and I immediately felt I was falling. I haven’t put much weight on my forward foot yet so it felt like the floor disappeared from under me.

However, I didn’t have time to process the fall as I was woken up by something hard hitting my back.

Apparently, I fell from my bed with my heart still beating fast and my shirt soaked with sweat.

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