• J. Alleyn

Taming Nightmares

I heard an interview last year with Stephan King that amused me. The interviewer asked the author what scared him, since he wrote horror for a living. He told them that just because he wrote them didn't mean he wasn't afraid of them. In fact, they came from his own nightmares. It got me thinkings about my own bad dreams and how they influence my writing.

My very first nightmare was after watching the first, Michael Keaton, Batman film as a kid. In this dream, my mother took my sister and I to the bank, where a group of masked men appeared. They held up the bank, and after taking all of the money, they gunned down every single customer and teller, but they left me cowering next to my mother and sister, who were still holding each other. When they turned to leave, I finally ran after them, screaming about why they left me alone. They turned to look at me, but they didn't kill me. I woke up in a cold sweat and ran to find my mom and sister. I didn't wake them, but I curled up next to my mom's bed on the floor. My parents were stunned when they found me.

That became a reoccurring nightmare for me: watching people get slaughtered and left standing among the carnage. I used to think there was something wrong with me, like I was meant to be alone or something. One of my therapists even implied it meant I felt the world was unsafe to live in. As I grew older, I started to think about why I was always left alive, and I realized that it was because I was the sole witness. Instead of cowering away from them, I started to pay attention to what these shadows of my mind wanted me to see.

I noticed that not all of the victims were innocent. In fact, some of them had brought about their own destruction. It made me consider the theme of the Horror genre: the darkness of the human heart. We create our own monsters from the shadows we try not to think about. This led me back to the classic horror stories: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera, The Wolf Man, etc. I looked at these monsters, and I understood their longings for the first time; furthermore, they felt more human than the people we pursued.

Thinking about the nightmares we authors face, I realized that - as entertaining as these dark, twisted tales can be - there are still lessons to be learned from them. Though they were the mask of the villain, sometimes it is the monster that has so much to lose that they are willing to fight everyone and everything to hold onto what they have. These shadows are within us all, but instead of falling to them as the monsters usually do, it is when we tame our nightmares that we become our own hero. Be it letting go of something we hold too close or embracing our whole self without judgment, may we realize our shadow need not be our enemy, so we aren't tortured by our nightmares anymore.

Until next time, thank you for reading. Happy New Year everyone. Be blessed. -J

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