The stuff of nightmares – How brave are you?

Contains disturbing imagery.

I’m not used to nightmares and I can’t remember the last time I had one that disturbed me so much I could not get back to sleep on waking.

But I had one last night!

The imagery and the feeling were so disturbing I found it impossible to close my eyes without the images coming vividly alive once more.

I thought about writing it down but was still so disturbed when I came downstairs that I felt very uncomfortable even thinking about the dream.

Extreme discomfort makes readers want more

The feeling in the dream was of being threatened and very scared. Someone was using another man to show what could happen to me and I didn’t know why.

I kept thinking to myself that it is this discomfort that makes readers squirm and want to shy away from what they are reading, but it also keeps them fascinated and continuing to read. Writing is not always about the nice things in life; things can get bloody and violent. As a writer I would like to be able to approach those moments and push the boundaries of comfort into the decidedly uncomfortable.

The dream and the horror

One man holding the other with his arm around his throat and a knife in the other hand. The end of the blade curved down in a hook. He drew the hooked blade across the man’s chest and when it didn’t cut deep enough, repeated the movement. Blood seeped through the slashed material. I was horrified and frightened.

He cut a few more times, but it was the final cut that I heard and which woke me up. The man holding the knife put the hook of the blade to the outside corner of the other’s eye. Pressing deep he drew it around to the side of his head in a quick movement. I heard muscle tissue snap as a clean line appeared across the skin to the temple. The attacked man kept his eyes shut tightly. At first just a pink scar where the blade had made its mark and then a thin red line as blood began to ooze out.

The final image I had was of the man who had been attacked lying curled in a foetal position, his skin white and bloodless. He was still alive.

Am I brave enough to write about terror?

While this was a disturbing image in the dream for me, and one that disturbed my sleep, it is also one of those images that makes us want to shy away with one eye open. How often have you thought to yourself, ‘I can’t watch that’, only to find you can’t pull yourself away? Whether it is newsreel or horror story we want to know what happens, however gruesome. We love being made to feel squeamish.

While this was the end of the dream for me there was still part of me wondering what happened to the man who was attacked. I had the feeling he was still alive but I didn’t know for certain. I didn’t know why the other man was attacking him either.

Did I want to know? Do I want to know? I think part of me still does. I can’t go back to my dream to find out but I can write something that will tell me – and it doesn’t have to be nice.

I just need to be brave enough to write about it.