My dreams are becoming stranger and stranger. My mind keeps plucking random people I’ve met here or there and putting them in my dreams. The only one I’ve had lately that wasn’t painful was one about you.
We were staying in this cabin. I came and got you from the airport, and we drove out, far away from everything and everyone. It was dark and I didn’t know the road very well, but I seemed to know the place we were headed to. It was a dirt road riddled with potholes and surrounded by ugly, spindly trees. I know where it was supposed to be, but it wasn’t the same house. It was different, bigger, grander, but somehow more run down. I don’t remember what we talked about or why you made me laugh, only that when I woke, it wasn’t with anger or annoyance for once, as fleeting as those might be. I was terrible to you, but you didn’t seem to care. We stayed up and sat by the fireplace and did nothing of consequence. We just talked like we always do.
They gave me all those pills. I haven’t really been taking them. The pain is minimal, and the one Vicodin I did take was mostly out of boredom. It didn’t even take away the slight pain I did have, which is probably unusual. I’ve taken it before, and it didn’t work then either. I’m not sure what that means. I’m immune? I’m supposed to feel pain? I need to take 10 to feel an effect? I like the muscle relaxers; they give me the most wonderful dreamless sleep. I wake up and don’t care that I did, roll over, and go back to sleep. Last night I didn’t take one because I was so tired already, and I was plagued by more dreams. People from work keep showing up, and I hate it. I already cut them out, so why must they return to haunt me? I rarely think of them anymore, but they come back over and over like an annoying reminder of my own incompetence at shutting them out. They’re not nightmares, so I am not aware. I can’t shake myself out of these, and I can’t bring myself to care. It’s like a fly buzzing in my ear and nothing more.
I use a door now. It’s steel and impenetrable. It gleams wickedly like the edge of a blade, both defensive and offensive. I lock them behind it when I don’t want them. I lock thoughts behind it, things I don’t want to consider right now, or actions that must be held off. I keep lustful things behind it and conservative things. Anything and everything that is impulse. It’s a shaky kind of control, and I know that. One day I won’t be able to shut it fast enough. But I imagine it each time a thought comes that I don’t want. All the terrible things I imagine and desire, I push them into the crack and then slam the steel shut. There’s a tiny window there, and when it’s one of my enemies I’ve shut away, I always go up to that little peephole and smile.
“You can’t get me here,” I say.
Sometimes, when I’m at my worst, I open the door. I open it and I let it flood me, and all those sick, perverted things I have thought here or there break into the inner sanctum. It feels like a filthy place afterward, but I know that I deserve such punishments. I will replay my worst moments, despite the pain of it. Anguish over my failures never ceases to get a rise out of me, my one weakness, the one thing that can slither under that door even when I’ve barred it shut.
And still, sometimes, I let those people inside. I let them go too far into the shadows where that thing creeps. It’s twisted and vile and cruel, that snake in me. It never has a real form, just some accumulation of parts from nightmares. He’s the butcher that used to hang me in my dreams as a kid, he’s the beast that stalked me in the moonlit forest, he’s all those times I picked things up and threw them in a fit of rage, he’s the vengeful part the one that holds the evil close and keeps it safe for me while I play the game with everyone else.
I get to wait. I get to watch. And I am never sorry.