A spot in my neural passages twitched. Then it flinched. Then somewhere in the grey matter a tiny light flicked on. Primal instincts indicated that someone watched me, while I slept.
My frontal lobe tried to cast off the sensation, convincing me to snuggle deeper under the covers. But cranial crooks and crags couldn't help thinking that the eyes of another being bore into me during my most vulnerable moments, as I vacillated between unconsciousness and arousal.
Something brushed my arm. SPROING! My hindbrain jerked me by the jugular, goose bumps marched across my skin, and my eyes flew open. I saw him standing over me. Muscles contracted so hard I careened backwards into my slumbering spouse.
"Mama? Did I scare you?"
My soft spoken, easygoing, unwilling to even rock a kayak, second child stood before me, arms clasping his sleeping bag. He had his face so close to mine I felt his heavy, erratic breath on my cheek.
"What do you need, honey," I asked as calmly as possible, trying to swallow my heart back into my chest.
"I had a bad dream."
"I can't talk about it," he replied, voice quavering. "Can I sleep in your room?"
The zipper of his sleeping bag dragged across the wood floor, as he sought a safe corner.
"Honey," I said, sweating adrenalin, "next time, just wake me up."
"I did," he mumbled, drifting off.
Yes, he did.
The next morning I asked about the dream. Still spooked, he refused to discuss it. I inquired again that evening and again the following day. He could not bring himself to tell the particulars. With intrigue sparked, it became my mission to discover the contents of this contemplative fellow's fearful psychic rumblings.
Finally, after a week, he hesitantly revealed what oozed from the bowels of his brain on that dark night.
"Well," he started, "I dreamed I went to the bathroom and a demon was there. And the demon made Ford [his brother] float to the ceiling, but I couldn't help him because the demon told me not to. So I watched. Then Daddy came in." A quiver shivered his chin, and he strained to adjust his pulse rate. The vein in his neck throbbed to let off tension.
"Only, it wasn't Daddy. It was another Daddy in a caveman suit. The demon made him wear the caveman suit, and that's what made him not Daddy."
He stopped to explain, "I know this is confusing, but you'll understand why I was so scared in a minute."
"Anyway, in my dream, I ran downstairs and there was the caveman Daddy at the front door. He wanted in, so I opened it. But a cart rolled through the door. The cart had a head and it grew arms right in front of me."
He paused a moment, looking at me intently. "I can see how that might frighten you," I comforted.
"No ma'am, here's the really scary part." He inhaled, wringing his hands. "The cart put on a hat. Then it put on a bigger hat. Then it put on a bigger hat. Then . . . it put on a bigger hat."
"What happened next," I prodded, thinking surely that couldn't be it, the really scary part.
He shot me a queer look, like, don't you get it, and said, "I woke up and came in your room."
Okay, the really scary part, dear, has nothing to do with hats, unless you're wearing one when you creep next to my bed in the middle of the night and stare holes through my eyelids.