There is a reason they’re called “nightmares,” you know.
It isn’t that they have to occur at night–you can find them anywhere: On a long train ride. In a hammock. By the beach.
But it’s harder for them to remain unseen, unscathed during the daytime. The sun breaks through which allows you to see them riding in, all black, glistening, and you will realize in time that you need to get away and open your eyes and let the sun seep in little blotched rays.
So at night, they strike.
Think about the last nightmare you had. Really think about it. You were in your bed in the dark, and everything was in place like it would be in your room, except it didn’t feel like your room since you didn’t feel like yourself. You felt like your limbs weren’t working–no, not that they weren’t working. That they were being controlled by something else. You were lying stomach-down and you try to lift your arms. Lift your head. Nothing. An invisible weight pressed against your back. It was suffocating. For a fractured fragment of a moment, you were able to move again, and you used such force that you sent yourself tumbling onto the floor. You need to get out, you think. Get out, and call for help.
That’s when the rumbling started. Soft, at first. Subtle. Like the hum of a fan in the background on a hot day. You wouldn’t have noticed except you were on alert, senses prickling, trying to make sense of your surroundings when you couldn’t move properly within them. You struggled to your closed bedroom door. It loomed above you, white in the dark, much larger than you ever remembered. Leaning up to clasp the knob took every bit of effort you could muster, but you did it.
And when you crawled out of the room into the hallway, shutting the door behind you, you heard it. The rumbling, which morphed then into a full-on growl, which led to a dozen or so growls varying in volume and depth, and you knew something terrible was in your goddamn room.
You tried to scream. Call for your mother down the hall. Nothing but a choked gasp came from your lips. You couldn’t breathe. It–they?–They were coming for you now. It would be over soon, but you were frozen with terror nonetheless, and then–
Your eyes opened. You were sweating everywhere. The sheets stuck to your legs. And you saw them, didn’t you? Right as your vision adjusted to the dark.
Galloping away, away from your conscious mind. The nightmares. They come in droves, stampeding, and leave just as loudly as they’d arrived. Manes flowing. Dark eyes glistening. These are not the horses that win races or raise their young with gentle nuzzles. These are the Night Mares. They need no riders. They came for you and carried your fear on their backs with grace. This was not their first visit to you. They will come again–they always do.
Do not feel so special, though. You were only their first stop that night.
Notes: The description of the nightmare came from personal experience only a few days ago. I was quite spooked indeed. Etymology-wise, I’m well aware that nightmare is not rooted in this particular definition of the word, but I was interested in taking it in this direction.