A slave to my own mind

    A slave to my own mind

The story I’m about to tell you still gives me pause. There are many questions I ask myself, which, I fancy, may never be solved. I cannot altogether sweep away the fact that it might be the mere invention of a tired mind; still, the truth of the waking world speaks differently. The reader must judge it for himself what to make of this.

Before me lay a road paved with white stones; slithering its way amidst green fields studded with elms and fringed with firs. Where did it led? I could not say. I wasn’t worried about getting to, well . . . whatever place this road would lead me to – if it led to anywhere at all – nor had I in mind from where had I came.

It was a cloudless bright day. The sky was painted in light-blue, and in the featureless and shadowy distance it faded into a soft glowing white. All was silent. Neither birds nor the wind upon the leaves were heard. I had the sense to be utterly alone, somehow forlorn and forgotten in the vastness of the world. The terrible and disquieting silence slowed my pace, for I feared silence did not wish to be disturbed. The road ahead, or the road left behind, was all the same to me. Was there an end beyond the houseless hills? Had ever been a beginning at all? When or why such dead-silence fell upon the road?

Suddenly a sound was heard. The sound of rustling-wind on fallen leaves; but there were no leaves on the ground, and the trees did not move. Then, the sound of my steps crushing both leaf and twig; but the road was clearly paved with stone and nothing lay on it, save my own feet. The eerie cries of night creatures echoed in a deep valley, and the air was left with a restless impression. Moreover, I started to feel something which was also out of place. It seemed to be a very hot day, but I felt the cold fingers of night creeping on my skin. It was all coming to me, as if my senses had awaken.

I looked on every direction. All I could see was the white road, the green fields and the bright blue sky. I heard and felt what could not be, or my eyes were cheated and what I saw was a delusion and reality was distorted.

I went on walking. The scenery hadn’t change, but the sounds of night, and what seemed to be a forest, continue disturbing my mind. Then I realised that what I was seeing was but a dream, and in reality I wasn’t in my bed. I forced myself to wake up, but it was helpless. I continue on moving upon that white road, but in the real world I was walking away from my home, and I had no clue in which direction was I heading. I tried to catch every sound; trying to perceive if there was anything familiar, anything which might tell me where I was. But clearly it was night time, and all there was to hear was the sound of nature. With any luck, I wasn’t very far from home and I was probably walking in circles on the park near my house. Was I to go forward on the white road? Or would it be better to turn back?

I went on walking, still deciding what to do. I had no control of my legs and my eyes deceived me. Then, a spine-chilling horror filled my mind. I heard the sound of rushing water – perhaps a river. Nowhere near the place where I live – within a radius of fifteen miles or so – was there any river, nor a brook, not even a fountain. Where was I? Worse, the white road led to the sound of the water. Now I had to get off the road and continue walking on the green fields which seemed quite pleasant to wander about. But in the waking world that would lead me even further away from my neighbourhood, perhaps. But then it struck me; before I realised that I was in a dream, I had probably been walking for miles without knowing, and to be near water, I was probably really far from anything that I knew.

My legs ached. I was afraid to go on walking. I decided to stay right where I was until I could wake up. But, after a moment, I heard the sound of footsteps. Someone had found me and was coming towards me. I could clearly hear and feel reality, I just couldn’t see it. So if someone was there, why didn’t I hear the person saying anything? And why was this person moving slowly, almost as if it didn’t want to be heard? Now I wasn’t certain if it was a person at all. There were footsteps, slow and cautious footsteps. Whoever, or whatever was there, clearly knew my current condition, and I felt an easy prey.

It was almost upon me. I looked in the direction of the sound, but all I could see was the white road, the clear blue sky and the pleasant green fields and trees. Yet, there it was, in front of me, I could feel its presence and unseen eyes staring at me. I heard the sound of heavy breathing. Nearer it sounded, and with each step the being took, its breath became louder and faster. I could distinctly hear a quick hissing breathing as of someone in strong excitement. Its breath was near my ears, I could even feel in my face the waft of air coming from inside its mouth. From within such mouth I heard a muffled continuous moan. Without touching me, I realised fingers were coming towards me, wanting to grab me. My skin was cold and the air from my arms stood up and sensed that presence, that ghostly-touch. The air behind my neck bristled and a black fear filled me. I was paralyzed.

In my dream, I could not follow the white road, for it led into the sound of water. So I fled to the green fields. In my dream I was running, but in reality it seemed I was merely walking. My feet were swelling, my knees were breaking, and though I saw a flat green land ahead, in the waking world I was climbing a hill. The ground was slippery. The leaves were covered with sticky water from the humidity of the night. I fell, and my hands on my dream were upon green freshly-shaven grass, but what I felt was wet dirt, roots and decaying leaves.

The creature did not stood behind watching, unmoving. It followed me, it came running, and it didn’t seem to be the sound of feet but of hooves that chased me. I stumbled and fell many a time, and I rose as fast as I had fallen. The land before me seemed to stretch into the horizon. A land with nothing but grass and trees and a clear blue sky where the sun shone bright. But in reality the world was much darker and dangerous, and there were many traps for my wandering feet.

The creature was almost upon me when I woke up in my room. So, it had been all a dream . . . Alas! I was finally safe in my own room, lying on my bed. I wasn’t sweating and my heart wasn’t rushing. I was very calm, staring at the ceiling. A bluish light came out of the window, and my room was dyed with this pale gleam. Everything was right where it should be, but it didn’t quite seem to be my room. At the end of my chambers, the wall was dark, the light couldn’t reach it. In such blackness I saw a shape slowly standing up in the corner, as if it had been there (hidden) the entire night. This shadow was darker than the wall, like a stain in the gloom. There it stood, tall and thin, a motionless shadow of a man. There was no movement, nothing; it watched me and it made a single sound – that terrible quick hissing breathing followed by the continuous muffled moan. And without warning, it came to me in an inhuman-speed, not moving its legs and with an arm stretching forward to grab me. I woke up.

Now I was certain I was in the waking world, but I wasn’t on my bed, nor was I inside my own room. I was standing in between the front door of my house. I wasn’t certain if I had just arrived or if I was about to leave. Out there it was night. The moon was veiled and it was actually a particular dark night. Something was watching me in the dark; in that void there was a presence afraid to step out of the darkness and come into the light. I swiftly closed the door and turned every light on. I went to my room, closed the door and the window, and sat on a chair with my back against the wall, wide awake and afraid to go to sleep again. There was no knowing if the next time I fell asleep, I had the luck to wake up again at my front door where there was light. Maybe next time I would wake up just a bit away from my house, where the light can’t reach and the darkness can catch me.

Arith Härger

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