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Monday, April 2, 2012

Nightmares and Rewrites

   As I have mentioned, I recently finished writing a book. It stretched my gnat-like attention span to its limits, and had an...interesting...effect on my psyche. It's a true story about a haunted house. It's funny, whenever I talk about the subject, the first question people ask me is "How do you know it's true?" I know it's true because I lived it. It was a terrifying experience in the moment, and at certain points while writing out the story I could feel the same weight pushing on me again. All of those fearful sensations that I had forgotten long ago came back with a ferocity that I couldn't have anticipated. There was this strange, oddly resigned sense of 'disconnect', an inability to access my thoughts and emotions, that just kind of settled on me when I was writing. I know that very few reading this will understand, but those who experienced life in that house with me know exactly what I'm talking about. I felt, in many ways, that I had to relive the experience of being trapped in that house. When I wrote the last page I did so with enormous relief.

   Of course finishing a rough manuscript is only the beginning. A dear friend of mine did a fierce but awesome edit on my project. It was great to have her objective (and educated) perspective. She cut out all the crap, and fixed my grammar among other things. I don't exactly butcher the English language, but I often have a blatant disregard for correct punctuation and consistency in all forms. I don't butcher English maybe, but I certainly give it a good beat down. I gave the story a run-through her way, and found myself getting excited about the project again.

   Oddly enough, I'm not having nightmares about the rewrites. I might even be enjoying them to an inappropriate degree. This really is the easy part. Except I'm back in the house again, and it still terrifies me. I'm happy enough during waking hours, looking at the book from a safe distance, fixing what needs to be fixed. It's at night that I'm having a tough time. As cool as my conscious mind seems to be with the whole thing, my subconscious is most definitely not. I keep having nightmares, and all of them with the same theme:

   I am standing in the house, not wanting to be there and not knowing how I got there. The pervasive feeling is one of utter horror and despair. I'm afraid to move, but I know I need to get out because things are already starting to happen around me. All the doors are gone. 

   Dining room chairs slide across hardwood floors with nothing to propel them, light bulbs explode in their sconces. Shadows slide along the walls and I can hear the familiar disembodied growl behind me and the phone ringing in the distance. As always, it's cold. A door appears but I have to pass by the stone wall to reach it. I know there's no good there. I brave it anyway and run for all I'm worth. As always in dreams, I can't seem to move fast enough. I reach the door, and with great effort I leap through just as I feel a sharp 'something' grab at the back of my shirt...

   I woke up screaming again this morning. Silently, thank God. I haven't had nights like these in a long time. Almost fifteen years, to be exact. I won't give up though. No Way. I can't help but think that writing this, that seeing it through to completion, is the only way to put it to rest once and for all.

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