I stepped carefully on the sloping path, aware I needed sure footing given the loose debris and decades of dried grasses, twigs and leaves.

How could a place be so dark, when just within sight there were bright and cheery spots?

The uneven ground, empty creature burrows, the disintegrating walkway — it all was wearing away, as if the place needed to be washed away. The walls of the ruins were gouged by years of angry storms, relentless water torture and pounding winds. The structure’s sharp edges were giving way to the curves of the earth, the hard frame peeling away like old bark.

I tiptoed, testing each patch of grass, expecting more trapdoors than firm landing. I attempted guesses as to where the steward of this fortress decided to go.

Why did they walk away, never to look back, letting its upkeep go into the hands of nature?

The stone face’s pallor, the sorrowful gloom, seeped into my pores.

Each pace was more difficult. I labored, my mind screaming for my limbs to move, but they were going numb. As my body slowed, my eyes rapidly lobbied from one point to the next, searched the immediate vicinity for what might be causing my paralysis.

Had the custodians fled for fear of their very lives? Not wanting to be bound to this place? Had this edifice become their warden? Like shackles, dead, prickly weeds tangled around my ankles. I now dragged them along with the weight of my feet, my legs so heavy, gravity held me.

I closed my eyes and heard gasps, the creaks and cracks of joints, the scraping of desiccated branches long hollowed out, but still hanging from their dying trees.

I relax my strained muscles, calm my breathing, pulling in air from my mouth. I move my head slightly to the right, the light from the valley beyond creating a gentle glow behind my closed lids.

While inhaling I sense a cool presence wrap around me from behind. Instead of moving around me, it slips inside.

Is it a wraith setting up shop? I’m still me, but all that moves is my heartbeat, my breathing, my blood coursing, and my awareness that some other body’s wisps and dust motes have found their way to and through me, settling… to what? Take me over? Walk with me? See the world from my eyes?

“…No harm… Do you believe me?”

My throat constricted, stuck in place, blind but calm, I know the monotone voice came from in here, but traveled far to reach me. My heart aches as if it longs to be touched by someone. Tears well up and rain down my cheeks. I’m confused! I am not sad but feel as though someone were missing me, crying out to me. I am lost in my thoughts. I run through possibilities of what could be happening, the trapped me out there,forgotten as I wait for the emotions to wash through me, words to rest, all the while I feel my emptiness fill with the expanding chill of a spirit. My soles tingle, and a funny bone warmth scatters up my legs, a pressing moisture drips all over, a chill runs up my spine, and with the current I respond “Oh…” instead of “No.”

My eyes pop open and I am not where I was before.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Follow @NightmaresAt1st on Twitter

For more by this author, visit

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

NIGHTMARES AT FIRST are dark, our deepest fears welling up from our innermost recesses, hitting every nerve, projecting out ghastly images.
As we come out of these dreams, the entrails of nightmarish hallucinations follow us into the waking world. Remembering them forces us to face scary realities, and as we revisit them, it’s important to remember that these multisensory, interactional and multidimensional spaces are sources of multidirectional time travel. Nightmares give us worst-case scenarios, offer us ways to create new possibilities, make us aware that we can take things in a different direction, and that we have the power to change outcomes.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

This work is under creative commons licensing Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives 4.0 International

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — Images and other media may be protected by copyright. They are posted on this site in accordance with fair use principles.

Like what you read? Give Nightmares at First a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.