Horla Fiction (October 2020)

 

A DREAM OF FALLING

by PAT O’MALLEY

IT wasn’t that he was especially afraid of heights or falling. He thought that getting older or the world ending from politicians and pandemics was much scarier than his fear of heights. No, he had only been obsessing over falling because of the dreams.

Those God-damned dreams.

He was in his mid-thirties with a  tall, skinny (if a little pale) build and dark hair. He saw himself as an unassuming person, not the kind you would expect to be plagued by nightmares.     For almost two weeks now he had been having the same awful dream.

In it he was falling from the sky in his pajamas. He felt like he was skydiving without a parachute, spinning uncontrollably. The color of the sky seemed suspended at dusk, blue-orange fading into blue-black. Even aware that he was dreaming he couldn’t take control. He never flew, only plummeted, like a coin dropping down a well.

He could feel the freezing sharp wind cutting into his face. He would scream, filled with a confused terror, but it was drowned out by the sound of wind rushing past his flailing body. He never blacked out on the way down. He never stopped trying to grab at thin air for something to stop the fall, but it never happened.

The dream ended the same way every time. For most of the dream, the ground only seemed to get further away the more he descended. The only time he ever felt close to the ground was the split second before he woke up. Eventually, the fall concluded with the ground finally swallowing him in a black pit.

Every time he’d awake up in a cold sweat, always feeling like he had just fallen into bed. 

Nights passed and the dreams continued. Exhausted at work, his days at the office dragged on while his anxiety over falling again that night grew by the hour.  On his lunch breaks he looks at the sky and shuddered.

The sky was so big, so high above everything and for some reason that greatly disturbed him.

When he was close to a month straight of these falling dreams he decided to consult a therapist. He told her about the dreams, about the anxiety of falling and the feeling of confusion as to how he had even got there.

She told him not to worry himself, dreams of falling are common. She explained how the dreams tie into his hidden anxieties and insecurities. Dreams of falling tend to represent the dreamer feeling overwhelmed or not in control of their waking life. Sleepily he nodded, satisfied with having some kind of explanation.

Later that night, before he went to bed he meditated to get his insecurities under control. He felt relaxed and drifted off to sleep. It didn’t work at all. He was falling again and this time it felt more terrifying than ever. He felt his insides doing cartwheels as he fell, limbs outstretched towards the earth.

He had no idea what insecurities could be causing this. The dreams seemed so powerful he could hardly believe they were coming from his subconscious. Lack of control? Feeling overwhelmed? He didn’t feel this way before the dreams started but he certainly did now.

Desperate, he began taking sleeping pills. Buying whatever he could over the counter. Anything to make the falling stop. Throughout the day he was barely conscious at work let alone functional. Sluggish like a zombie during the day, he returned home to fade into medically induced slumber.

At first he didn’t fall and for a moment he thought he’d won. Then it all came rushing back, he was plummeting back to Earth. The only difference now, in pill induced slumber, was that he found himself falling in slow motion. Dread mounted in his chest as he felt the ground slowly inch closer and closer to him until finally, he woke up.

Dissatisfied with the sleeping aids, the next day he switched it up and began popping caffeine pills. His heart beat pounding like a jackhammer inside his ribcage as he paced around his house anxiously. He felt like a rat in a cage.

The caffeine pills helped a little. By that, meaning they kept him from sleeping, which in turn kept him from falling. Wired, he stayed up until four in the morning most of the work week. On those long nights he knew he had to get at least one hour of sleep. He was not stupid, he told no one in particular. Cautiously, he’d allow himself to doze off.

The bed disappeared from under him and he was falling again. He screamed as he grabbed at the blankets rising above him but only found thin air to hold on to.

In a violent jerk he bolted up in bed, or rather felt like he fell into it again. At his wits end he began crying. Emotionally exhausted, he dozed off a handful of times before the sunrise. The terror of each accompanying fall was fresh in his battered mind.

At the end of the week he was a mess. The dreams had affected him physically. His eyes had become glassy and bloodshot with dark bags drooping under them. His dark hair has become messy, his body emaciated. He knew that this could not continue, a good night’s sleep is all that he wanted.

Fortunately however, he had a plan. Yes, a foolproof plan he said to himself in the mirror. It was so simple he couldn’t believe that he didn’t think of it from the start.

He moved his bed to the basement.

Deliriously, he picked up the mattress, and dragged it down the steps. With his remaining energy, he positioned it in the corner of his basement. It was hot and dusty down here but now he knew for certain that he couldn’t possibly fall. Oh sure, he may dream of falling but he could take comfort in the fact that his waking body was as close to the ground as it could possibly be.

Before, no matter how many times he fell in his dreams he never got used to the feeling. Each night the nightmare renewed itself. Now things were different. Now, safely on the ground he would conquer his dreams or at the very least learn to become used to them. Like he told himself, it was foolproof.

Curling up on the dirty mattress he smiled as he felt sleep take him.

Sure enough he was falling again. Even with the adrenaline in his chest and wind cutting into his face he didn’t care. Falling, he managed to turn around with his back facing the ground. He put his hands behind his head like he was reclining. “You can’t scare me anymore,” he thought.

He was wrong.

In the night sky he could see the moon. The pale gibbering orb hanging perfectly in the sky. Falling comfortably, he smiled at the moon. The moon smiled back. A leering face suddenly appeared on the dry, cold orb. Black pupils in the enormous crater eyes met his gaze as the horrible face on the moon began laughing at him. It was an awful deep raspy sound that filled him with dread. He began screaming and the moon kept on laughing.

Flailing his arms and legs, he struggled to turn himself around, facing the ground and away from the laughing sinister face on the moon. Successfully, he managed to turn himself around escaping the moon’s glare. Terror seized him again when he saw what was waiting for him below. He remembered that there were much scarier things than falling.

He felt himself hit the ground.

Days after not appearing at work or answering phone calls police paid a visit his home. Breaking the door down, they followed a smell coming from the basement. Downstairs they found the body of a dark-haired man mangled on the floor. The limbs of the body were sticking out at awkward angles. A large splatter of blood surrounded the body like the petals of a rose.

After taping off the house as a crime scene, forensic scientists soon arrived to inspect the body. They informed detectives that based on the position of the body and the extent of the damage it could only have come from the body falling from a vast height. Baffled, officers looked around the basement and the dirty mattress placed there.

A coroner moved to place a white sheet over the crushed body. As she brought the sheet closer to the corpse, something caught her eye. Nearly every bone in the man’s lifeless body appeared to be broken. Still, there was also an eerily calm expression on the man’s turned over blood soaked face.

He almost looked like he was sleeping.

 

 

***

When he isn’t writing about dragons, hell hounds or clown sex, Pat O’Malley, who lives near New York, loves to write the kind of quirky and weird type of fiction that he and his friends would love to read. So far, his work has been published on webzines such as The Weird and Whatnot, Teleport Magazine and Dark Fire Fiction. On the rare occasions where he has the extra time for it, Pat also likes to travel and attempt stand-up comedy.

Title photo – Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Horla standard disclaimer – image has no direct connection with the fiction