PROMISE

Updated: Apr 4

“I don’t sleep. When I sleep the dreams come. Dark dreams. So demented, they scare me. If I describe the images in these dreams of mine, you will declare me mad.”

“Tell me, are you afraid of the dreams or are you afraid that you’re insane?” he asks.

“Both.”

“Don’t you trust that I’m here to help you?”


My fingers fiddle with the piece of hair twisted around my left pinkie. The crisp white bandage around my wrist taunts me with the remnants of rust-colored coagulated blood, my blood, dried in an irregular line and now one with the woven gauze fibers. I shrug my shoulders.

“Why should I? I don’t know you,” I murmur, challenging him.

I don’t look at him, but I see his shadow reflecting on the wall. My eyes fixate on the dark silhouette of the man seated before me; the man who the doctors say will make my nightmares disappear. The silhouette, the shadow man, leans back into the chair. The tips of his long fingernails tap against the chair’s wooden arms, tap, tap, tap. The rhythmic notes echo in my ears. Heaviness grows on my eyelids as the steady tapping threatens to lull me towards sleep. I resist, giving the hair around my finger a sharp tug. The sudden burst of pain revives me, forcing my eyes to snap open.


“I know what you’re trying to do,” I whisper.

“And, what am I trying to do?” he asks, his voice lower now; mechanical, deliberate.

I refuse the unspoken invitation to look at him. My eyes search for a new distraction. I direct my attention to the black and white picture hanging on the wall behind him and struggle to focus on the image.


“You can trust me,” he says, his fingers still tapping.

I don’t want to answer him. I don’t want to be here. Tap, tap, tap. Desperate to drown out the tapping of his fingertips, desperate to escape, I answer.

“Why the hell would I trust you? I don’t know you and you sure as hell don’t know me.”

“That’s not true. You know me,” he says. “You’ve known me for years. And me, well, I know you better than you know yourself.”

I shake my head. The images in the picture remain a blur of shapeless shades of blacks and grays. “Liar, we’ve never met.”


I blink, begging my weary pupils to focus, to remain alert—awake. The images in the picture become clear, crystal clear. My drooped lids spring open, wide and unobstructed, as my eyes absorb the images—images of terrors so horrific they ought not be on display.

“So, do you like my artwork?” he asks. His voice, deep and subtle, rumbles in my ears like the subtle roll of thunder far off in the distance.

I grip the arms of the chair; my fingers numb against the cool steel frame. “I’ve seen them before,” is all that I say.


I want to look away from the picture. My eyes refuse to turn from the images that they know so well; images that appear every time I close my eyes; images that exist in the dark and twisted world of my slumber. The pressure in my brain builds. My skull creaks beneath my shaved scalp as it struggles to constrict the gray matter that is my brain. As the pain intensifies my flesh threatens to rip along my temples. Hot, wet tears escape from the corners of my eyes. I wipe away the thick liquid and glance at my fingertips dripping in crimson. As I swallow a scream, I hear his stomach rumble and the slurping of his tongue along his lips, and I hear his fingertips. Tap … tap … tap.

He doesn’t speak. He continues to tap his fingertips; slower, methodical, rhythmically. Tap … tap … tap. My pain fades and grows duller with each tap. Tap…tap…tap. Exhaustion invades my body and seeps down my limbs, desperate for sleep. I long for sleep and for an escape from my nightmares, and silently wish that my razor had been sharper—had brought me peace—instead of here. Tap … tap … tap.


My lids betray me and start to close, lulled into submission by the hypnotic tap, tap, tap.

“I promise I will make your dreams disappear,” he says.

I glance up at his face. He’s right. I do know him. Tap … tap … tap. The haunting images from my dreams—the horrors that have haunted me since childhood—reflect back at me in his black, lifeless eyes. Tap … tap … tap. My eyelids falter. Tap … tap … tap. I know he’s lying. Tap … tap … tap. He won’t make my dreams disappear. Tap … tap … tap. No, it’s a promise he will not keep. Tap … tap … tap. My body surrenders to the tap, tap, tap. I surrender myself to sleep and my soul to an eternal nightmare.

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