Silence usually is the precursor to the screams. Every night, I have nightmares. They start out alright, fields of wildflowers, staring out at the snow-covered mountain peaks, sitting in an empty, gray room. Always demure, muted colors that remind me I’m sleeping. There’s always a low, buzzing sound that makes sense with the environment– bees, a generator for a cabin, the fluorescent lights above my head. When the nightmare begins, I forget I’m dreaming, but I always wake at its worst. No matter what I do, I can’t stop it, or change it, or even make a sound. No matter how hard I try, I can never scream. I wonder each time if for once, I’ll spend a night in peace and wake rested in the morning. When the buzzing stops... I know I’m wrong.
Tonight is the same. I’m in a hospital room, in the ICU. I don’t know why I’m here, but I know I’m asleep. I hear the telltale buzz of machines, nurses and doctors chatting behind closed doors. It doesn’t matter what the buzz sounds like– I know it when I hear it. The hall is empty, pale, and cold. My bare feet slap the floor, and an unpleasant scent reaches my nose. It smells familiar, and I chuckle silently to myself. The dreams in which I smell turn into the worst nightmares. I walk down the hallway, the steel elevator doors getting no closer with each step I take. I hear breathing, slow and ragged. Who am I tonight? A patient? More than likely. A door to my right opens slowly, and the buzzing stops.
A woman in a white coat backs out of the room until she is in the middle of the hallway. She does not turn to face me, and I attempt to call out to her. No sound escapes my lips. My eyes travel down, to where I see her shoes are not touching the floor, but her toes barely miss the linoleum flooring. Her legs begin twitching violently as her hanging body turns mid air to face me. I have seen this sight before, but it kills me every time... sometimes, literally.
Blood is draped like sheets over the front of her white, white coat. The eyes are shut, but the mouth gapes wide open, wider still, until her lower jaw dangles from her skull. There is no sound. I can’t even hear the breathing any longer, and my feet are cemented in place. All at once, the doors fly open and horrid screams tear through the air. The woman’s limp body is pushed violently from one way to the other, and her eyes fly open.
“Wake up,” rasps dryly from its throat. A chorus of the dead shrieked with her, screaming, telling me to wake, before my nightmare somehow gets worse. I’m dreaming. I’m dreaming. I’m dreaming. I shut my eyes and open my mouth. And I scream.