What we remember

When I was a child, right around the time we had a panic in our community about ‘witchcraft’ and ‘satanists’ (didn’t everyone, in the late eighties/early nineties?) I remember having a series of recurring nightmares. I can picture scenes from it perfectly, and remember sounds from it, and thinking back on it gives me nearly the same distressing panic that I had upon waking up from that nightmare, years ago.

I was walking along a sidewalk, with the road to my left, and a slight incline to my right. I turn right to go down a sidewalk leading to a house. The sidewalk is up the incline; it’s impossibly steep, but I’m walking, looking forward, toward the house as I crest the steepest part of the hill, and it levels off toward the house.

I stare at the house in front of me; it’s my friend’s house, but not — he lives there, but it’s not what his house looks like in real life.

All of a sudden, my foot breaks through the sidewalk, crunching. I look down, and my sneakers have caught inside the ribcage of a flayed body. Not really a body; just a ribcage. All of the sidewalk segments are made of ribcages without skin or pectoral muscles. They won’t hold up to walking on them. The broken bones catch my sneakers.

For some reason, I don’t even try to run on the grass — I try to run gently, carefully, like on top of the ice crust that forms on snow in the winter. But my feet keep punching through. I have to get to the house, though; it’s the only place safe.

When I get there, I knock, I bang on the door, I let myself in and come face to face with these guys who look a bit like Agent Smith from the Matrix if he were played by someone taller. Suits. Sunglasses. Earpieces. But there’s nothing behind those glasses. They immediately smile and come toward me, to get me, to find me, to chase me. I have to run out and pull the door shut. At this point, when I exit the house, it’s into the front yard of this childhood friend’s actual home, rather than the one with the ribcages. I run like hell, and then the dream is over.

This dream has happened a dozen times or more.

I have never been as frightened of anything as I am of finding myself walking down that sidewalk ever again.

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