I woke immobilised, the weight of sleep still pressing upon my limbs even though my eyes were wide open. I could see him there, crouched, leaning against the wall with his head bowed towards me. I had to scream. I had to move!
I shut my eyes in an effort to redistribute my panic, but when I opened them again he was gone – replaced with a box, my backpack, and an old shirt. I blinked and for a split second the image blurred back towards him, and I breathed a sigh of relief. He was never here.
I relaxed and took stock of myself. The adrenaline overdose ebbed away, leaving me feeling strangely energised when I had just been paralysed. What a terrifying event. Was I so paranoid that the fear had frozen me? I curled my hand into a fist, just to reassure myself I could move my limbs again.
Where had it come from? I had gone so long without an incident, and while this one hadn’t led me to lashing out the fear was familiar. The trigger was more than the shadows under the dim light of dawn. It was the dream.
“It was a dream,” I said aloud, trying to seal my fears away with the words. I could tell the difference now, between a dream and a visit. This last one had been cobbled together – memories skewed with fears. It hadn’t been real.
Not like when I was younger…
Here under the covers, I felt safe enough to think about it. The man of shadows, who came to pull me apart and stitch me back together, so what I loved was what I hated and what I hated was what I loved. I didn’t know if he was a real demon or just something out of the darkness in my own mind, but once I grew up the visits stopped. I had not.
The visits messed me up, but I was almost free. I wouldn’t tell my therapist about this dream, not now, not when I was about to be released…
The day was bright and sunny, a clear sky with a light tinge of blue. It was glorious, as if it were created just for me, so I could fully appreciate my freedom. I was settled. I was at peace. I was deemed safe.
But the tendrils of darkness still crawled at the corners of my mind, and I wondered…
What if he was real?