Chapter 4:

A Quick Gasp Before Diving In Again

Sweet Nightmares

“So what I’ve done is tell you things and let your brain piece the parts together”, Erica explains. “Basically, it’s a form of suggestion”

Erica and I had been talking over breakfast about what we had done the previous night. Apparently, that was what she was busying herself with the previous weeks, researching dreams and sleep, and that was the summary of it.

“So, how was it?” she asked me. “Would you consider the dream you had last night a ‘sweet nightmare’?”

We didn’t have a discussion or a review of any sort about the dream immediately after I woke up. The first thing Erica had me do was write down what I could recall. Then, after that, Erica instructed me to do the same thing she had done to me and invoke a nightmare for her.

Basically, she slept while I whispered to her stuff that I thought she would find horrific but fun. Although, that didn’t seem to have done anything as she claimed to have a dreamless sleep.

I didn’t have any reason to doubt her since she did seem to have slept soundly through the rest of the night.

Regardless, my dream was our only point of reference for that little experiment we did.

“But, based on what I remember, and my notes, I wouldn’t call it ‘sweet’”, I replied to Erica’s question.

“Why? I thought making you think about toys would make the dream sweet, if not nostalgic.”

“Maybe, but those toys became a source of stress instead. Plus, with my mom leaving me home alone, and with you seeming like you're leaving me, the dream felt more upsetting than anything.”

“Then, for future reference, what would make a nightmare sweet for you?” she asked, sounding like we were going to do it again.

“I dunno, preferably something where I’m not that target or the victim. Something where I can be more involved rather than be helpless.”

“Be more specific. Do you mean you want to be the monster or the serial killer?”

“Being the killer might be too much. Maybe something like the protagonist of a slasher film where I try to solve the mystery.”

Erica touched her chin as if deep into thought with my answer. Then, after a moment’s silence, she said, “That sounds like a challenge.”

I wasn’t sure what she found challenging from my statement, but the topic switched from there and we would no longer talk about dreams for the rest of the day. I would only find out what she was thinking the following night when she called me around the time I was about to go to sleep.

“Let’s try getting you to have a nightmare again”, she excitedly said over the phone.

I glanced at my clock and saw it was almost half past eleven in the evening. Her energy seemed out of place for the time of the day.

“Do you want me to come over at this hour?” I asked, not really feeling like going out when I was already in my pajamas.

“No, we’ll do this over the phone instead.”

I felt both relief and confusion when she said that.

Relief because I didn’t need to get out of my pajamas.

Confused because, “Don’t we need the bell, the candles and the other stuff?”

“Not really”, Erica answered. “That was mostly there to help you fall asleep because I know you have a hard time sleeping early in the night.”

Once more, I was impressed at how much thought she put into that experiment.

“Now, you just need to put a pair of earphones on”, she continued.

I rummaged through the drawers of my study table to find a pair of earphones. Once I found them, it took a few minutes for me to untangle them.

I was sure I neatly placed them in my drawer, and I have not touched them since nor placed much junk with it, so, in the meantime, I wondered and complained to Erica why the wires would always get themselves in a knot. As if it was magic, or had a mind of its own.

“Are you ready?” Erica asked after I had announced I finally straightened up the wires.

“One more minute”, I said.

I climbed onto my bed and got under the covers, both smartphone and earphones in one hand. Once I got comfortable, I wore the earbuds and plugged the jack of the earphone to my phone.

“I’m ready. Can you hear me?”

“Loud and clear”, she replied. Then, quipped, “Although, you wouldn’t be doing much talking anyway.”

I let out a small chuckle to acknowledge the joke before saying goodnight to her.

“Alright, sweet nightmares”, she said.

Then, the ritual started.

I could hear a chime from my earphones. Erica seems to have opted to use the bell.

Her whispers seemed stronger. I could even hear her breathing. That was probably an effect of her talking so close to her phone's speaker and me wearing earphones.

I wasn’t sure if it was because it was my bedtime, but it took less than a dozen chimes for me to fall dead asleep. The next thing I knew I was already dreaming.