Writing of the Past: An untitled mini-memoir told by my father, remembered by me

Hey all,

here’s a piece I wrote a while back for a competition. I didn’t finish it in time, but having tidied up a few elements I thought I would post it here.

A year ago, I thought this piece was actually unfinished, but I like where it ends now. Something about these fragments of my life are just itching to be told, so I am reconciling myself with the fact that I should probably tell them and let them be free.





He didn’t often smile – it was one of those things about him. Never in photos, not when he was laughing, and only occasionally to me.

But he smiled when he told this story, and I couldn’t tell you how many times he’d told it to me.

“… and when he left,” he paused a little too long like he always did, making you feel like you needed to ask him to go on. I have never been sure if he intended to make people feel off-balance when they spoke to him, or if I was reading into it too much. He tapped his cigarette on the half-full ashtray, just as I drew breath to ask him to go on, falling for his trick again, “we put an alarm clock in the space behind the chalkboard.”

“Behind the chalkboard?” I had asked, the first time he told me the story. My father went on to tell me that in the ‘50s and ‘60s you could bump the chalkboards up and find a little cavity behind them, where you could hide things if you were a troublemaker.

“And, of course, the fuckwit never knew that we could do that,” he said though a smirk – he was coming up to the good bit.

He always told me that he was the one who rewired the clock to go off every ten minutes, for ten seconds, and I always believed him. Even if I couldn’t if I’m honest, I still do.

“So when he came back, we just waited while he said dictation, and we quietly copied our notes into our books, until-“

I don’t think he’d ever made the noise when telling me the story, but in my mind I could hear the sound of this old-fashioned alarm clock going off – the kind they would strap to bombs in cartoons.

“The clock went off, and then,” he said, drawing from his Dunhill Red, and spoke the next line with smoke filling the air, “he just stopped, mid-sentence, before saying: ‘Who did that?’, and we just sat there, looking confused, and not reacting.”

Another smirk, and another pause. Another puff of smoke into my eight-, ten-, fifteen-, eighteen-year-old face. Maybe a sip of scotch or wine, or morning coffee.

So, my father’s history teacher went on with his lesson for ten minutes before it went off again, for another ten seconds. Another question more aggressive this time, followed by bewilderment from the class, as if nothing had happened, and then another ten minutes of class. It happened twice more before-

“The fifth time he just stormed out, and ran off to get the headmaster – the principal – and in the few minutes he was gone the alarm clock came out of the wall, was turned off, and was safely hidden in someone’s bag.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“They’ve done something to the chalkboard,” the teacher had said, storming into the classroom, “every ten minutes. Just listen! They are pretending not to hear it!”

The teacher had gone red, and was sweating like a pig. 

They all sat in silence for the next five minutes, waiting to see what happened. And then it did.

There! Did you hear it? They’ve done-“

“Hear what, John?” the Headmaster was confused – he hadn’t heard anything. The clock was off and packed away.

“The alarm clock! Didn’t you hear it?” John was desperate now, because he knew he had.

“Boys,” said the Headmaster, “is there anything you should be telling me.”

“No, Sir,” they replied in unison.

It was then that my father, fifteen at the time, spoke up and gestured towards the flustered teacher, “But he has been going on about a ringing sound for an hour.”

The other boys nodded in agreement.

As their teacher was led out of the room he was almost yelling at the Headmaster, telling him that he’d been set up, framed by the students.

Once they were out of earshot, and the door had been carefully closed, a quiet cheer erupted from the boys in the class, and they shut their books for the day.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“He never came back after that. I think that was the last straw for him,” he said, and chuckled at the thought. I always laughed too, it was one of my favourite stories. He took another long pause before, in almost every telling, he continued. 

“He was close to going nuts anyway, but this time I really think he went mad.”

The first few times I asked my father how he could have kept hearing the sound, and he told me that if something is repeated often enough, and if you are sure it is there, you will hear it. And that’s what happened to my father’s teacher – another had been found wanting, and had paid the price.

Sometimes Dad would tell me that if his teacher had gone mad then, he may have heard that same clock for the rest of his life.

In the last few years, I always imagined my father saying, with the same glee, that he hoped he had.

Writing of the Past: Ten-Metre Rock

Hey all,

Just a couple of points to go with this piece:

  1. I wrote it when my depression and anxiety were at their height (depth?) in April last year (not the first or last time since then that that’s been the case, might I add – just ask my psychotherapist). It’s not pretty, and there are many things wrong with it, but it is a reflection of what was going on for me back then, and I feel far enough away from it now that I think I can post it here (just to note, my “partner” in the story went quickly to fiance from there, and is now my wife)
  2. know it’s full of clumsy self-reflexivity and self-reference. I know it’s not good. It’s not a reflection of where my writing is now. I just want the damn thing to be able to breathe, because stories should be able to breathe.

Judge me if you want. I don’t care really. It’s not the me now you’re judging anyway, it’s me from 18 months ago.


Ten-Metre Rock

He remembered on that day he sat and watched the sun fall below the horizon. In his mind, the rock stood ten meters tall – if he had known what a meter was – and he could not get down. This was reinforced by his big sister’s words, said sternly in such a way that made him freeze in place.

“Stay there and don’t get down, we’ll be back for you.”

She was seven at the time, and he was only three. To him, her word was the law, and the fate that awaited him if he broke that law was worse than what would await him if he stayed on that rock in the bush as the glaring summer heat turned into a humid summer night.

As the sun continued on its transit past his line of sight, Richard thought he saw a monstrous, dark, and menacing shape on the horizon but before he could figure out if it was real the shape had gone and twilight had arrived.

* * * * *

How many things could weigh him down before he sank? Richard sat in front of his computer monitor, head in his hands, trying to figure out what was wrong with him.

His hands felt heavy on the keys as he wrote – his readers would never know of the drivel he just deleted, only to be replaced by equally angsty, self-reflective nonsense. There is a great chance that none of this would be read, and even if it were, for how long would it be remembered. What is the point? Where can we go? How can we build ourselves into monuments that will be forever-lasting? Why does it even matter?

All he knew is that he had to write. In his writing he would find his meaning, and when he found that meaning he would be free.

* * * * *

Back on the rock, Richard felt free – although he didn’t really know the feeling.

The thing about freedom is that we only have it while we are ignorant of it, and once we know it we chase it forever, constantly held back by our need to have control. Freedom was the zip-tie that held our hands behind our back, while we tried to grasp what was just in front of us.

But none of that was important to Richard at that moment. Of course, he was a prisoner on the rock. And the sun had set. And he was feeling a little hungry. And if he moved his sister would be mad and even if she wasn’t he was sure that the fall would hurt and Richard did not like the idea of getting hurt.

But here had been no moment in his life so far in which Richard had been truly alone, and in the true quiet of the bush at the end of a fire-trail, at the end of a road in the mountains. There was no reason to walk here, no way to drive here, and no way that anyone in their right mind would come out here by choice at this time of the night.

Hell, Richard wondered – such as he could at his age – whether his sister had gotten lost on her way back to the house herself.

Richard felt truly free, and so he did the only thing he knew to do.

He stared at into the Milky Way, lost in the light and dark, and he cried.

* * * * *

That’s a relief, our dear author remarked to himself, for days I have been wondering what to write, and it was right there in the depths of my mind the entire time.

He pushed down the anxiety, the self-doubt, and the ever-present sense of depression that had plagued him for years now, as he continued to write his life, for his life, hoping the readers might find something in it that he had not and hoping that they could remember him for what he was.

If only he could figure that out as well.

* * * * *

One of the things Richard thought about while he sat on that rock was his father. He looked down what he thought was the path and imagined he would see him walking towards him with open arms and a smile on his face. Richard imagined being embraced, picked up from the prison to which his sister had bound him, and carried to his bed for a hot milk and a nice sleep.

There were a few things wrong with his image of the future though: firstly, it was too dark to tell where the path really was; and secondly, when help did arrive what felt like an hour later it was not his father, but his mother that walked stoically down the path, who picked him up and embraced him, and who freed him from his prison, taking him to the hot milk and bed. His father merely trailed behind, feigning a level of capability and endurance that he had never had.

* * * * *

The real question is not “should I write this”, the real question is do I have the right?

It was a fair question, and Richard wasn’t sure of the answer. There were a number of major issues.

The first and foremost was that if he was honest with himself – and let’s be honest, that was not a skill that Richard had yet acquired nor, he imagined, ever will – no one would care about what he was writing. A sub-par writer, if you could ever be called that, writing a mediocre story about a boring life: who cares but you? And let’s be real mate, why do you even care about it?

The second issue was that of memory. Richard’s memory of events twenty-two years ago was less than clear. He had even started to question if they had even happened, and if they had, what about the details? Who could really know?

And the third issue was one that he felt he could deal with here and now: his father did not deserve a story.

Is this really a story about him? Isn’t it about me?

* * * * *

Grandad was a great man.

Mum used to tell stories of how he would get so angry at her, my Aunty, and my Uncle that he would wordlessly punch a hole clean through the dining room’s fibro wall into my Uncle’s bedroom which, as a teenage boy, I’m sure caused a great deal of frustration for my Uncle. Of course, Grandad would fix the hole a week later, the fist-size opening a reminder of a good man pushed too far. He would then sit back down at the table, having made his point clearly and concisely, thank Gran for the dinner she had made, and eat in silence. It was on those nights that my Uncle ate his greens without complaint.

Grandad was great, considering what he went through. I remember proudly telling people about the “Local Hero” award he won, much to his displeasure, not for doing any one thing but just for being Grandad. He didn’t want to give a speech, and he never spoke of the award again. For the rest of his life the award sat meekly on the shelf in the corner of an unused room.

I remember asking who his brothers and sisters were and getting no response. It was only years later that I found out that he had left his home and gone to live with his Grandmother at the age of ten. I met them at his funeral and understood why he left.

I don’t remember when he found out about Mum and Dad. I’m sure that he wished he had a fibro wall to punch then, but instead he just created a new hole within himself that opened up whenever he had to see my father and smile at him, wondering how one person could destroy the lives of so many others.

Before Grandad went into hospital I remember working on the old mower with him. He showed me the park plugs and how to replace them, and we tried to get the “bloody thing” working. We managed to get one more run out of it before it died again. Mum put it in the skip when we sold the house.

I remember when Grandad died. He lay in his bed, skinny and emaciated and he smiled when he saw me. Before going in, Mum had told me that his organs were failing, and that he wasn’t going to last. We talked about university, and he held my hand. As I left he said to me that “It’s okay, my time is up. I’m going to see Gran. I love you,” and hearing that for the first time I knew I would never see him again.

I didn’t look back, and I didn’t cry for months.

* * * * *

That section reminded Richard why he pushed back the sad memories. How was he supposed to function when all he had was the sadness of the past and the sadness of the present?

He took a breath, cracked his back, and tried to channel the numbness that he managed to inject into his life in almost every moment.

Maybe this is why I have a hard time writing, he thought to himself, numbness is good, but how are you meant to write anything worth reading without any emotions?

He chuckled to himself, then again, who wants to read that emotional crap anyway? Real literature is written to make you think. Look at Orwell, Asimov, Wells, and Clarke – they didn’t pen this nonsense, and if they did they’d have cursed themselves for wasting paper and thrown it all out. If you want to write feelings write poetry. Don’t waste people’s time with this. At least poetry is short.

Richard took a breath, sighed, and pressed on as his inner demons pounded at the door.

* * * * *

He was not averse to poetry. Quite the opposite, he loved it.

A poem could capture a heart – and in his case, it had – or start a movement. A song was a poem with melody, a rap a poem with beat. Take a short story, add some line-breaks and there was your poem. But in its freedom, poetry felt like a cage to Richard, and quite early on he made a decision – no matter what he did he would become an author.

He would be remembered, he would be analysed, and he would find his own meaning. So, he sat down and started a book. It was going to be the new Brave New World, the new Time Machine, he would capture the world with his characters and landscapes. He would show them the Australia of the future.

For months he wrote: he showed drafts to his friends and they showered him with praise. His partner loved it. He even considered showing it to his father. But then the well ran dry and the momentum was gone. Not a word was written for months and the book lays unfinished – a series of binary digits etched into a hard drive on a computer, only existing so that Richard could claim that he is “writing a novel.”

* * * * *

Richard looked at the page again and wondered if there was anything else to write. He thought about his mother and his father, his Grandad, and his partner.

For the first time since starting, the words appearing on the page didn’t seem to fit. He could feel them flowing like gum tree sap from his fingers, oozing over the keyboard while he tried to fix an image in his mind with which to end, but he felt trapped again, held in place by his mind – more afraid of the punishment than the fall.

And through his older eyes he saw the twenty-two-year-old view of the sun setting on the horizon, the ominous shape in the distance, and the stars appearing one by one until they formed an endless universe in which nothing could be done, but anything was possible. And as he looked at himself staring into the unknown, free for the first and final time, he began to cry.

September 2018 – Furious Fiction Submission

Yet another entry to Furious Fiction.

This one was fun to write, as I had the chance to play with the action genre in a really short space. Having said that, it was a pretty challenging task to create something original and not predicable given the parameters for this month:

  • Your entire story must take place in an AIRPORT.
  • Your story must include the word SPRING somewhere. (Plural is also okay.)
  • Your story must include the phrase: IT WAS EMPTY – it can be anywhere, in dialogue, as part of a sentence, or as a sentence on its own.

You will notice names popping up across stories from time to time. I just like them, and tend to stick to the same names unless I have a particular reason to change it. It’s just one less thing to think about.

After reading the story, most people who I have shown have mentioned that they are more aware of the existence of their tongue than they used to be.

You’ll understand when you get there.



Deal Breaker

“A metal suitcase?”

“No, a metal briefcase.”

“A metal briefcase,” the attendant paused, “nothing springs to mind I’m afraid. What kind of metal?”

“How would I know?”

There was an awkward silence.

“What was inside?”

“That’s none of your business, mate,” Zahraa said, and took a moment to take in her surroundings. White fluorescent lights shone off the polished tiles. People walked grittily around, trying to fumble their way out without losing anything or anyone. It was a standard domestic airport, and a quiet one even by domestic standards. And she was told that she’d be able to get through without hindrance.

Nevertheless, here was Zahraa arguing with a baggage attendant.

“Sorry ma’am, but I’ve got to get going,” the lanky attendant, ‘Grace :-)’ according to her name-tag, said as she gestured towards the customer service kiosk to the right of the two carousels and pointed to the older man behind the counter, “but maybe Mal can help you out.”

He did, and only moments after she’d described her baggage did she have it safely back in her possession.

She took a breath and made her way towards the exit.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


“Where’s the money?”

The voice was a stereotype – deep, growling, and positioned much too close to Zahraa’s left ear. It was unbelievable that the owner of such a voice could have sneaked up on her so soon after entering the terminal lobby, but he had.

She shook the case, answering the man’s question.

Hadn’t it been heavier on the way over? she thought to herself.

“Turn left, and open the suitcase-“


“Open it on the counter there.”

A moment later Zahraa carefully placed the briefcase where the man had indicated. She punched in the code and clicked the latches open.

It was empty.

Zahraa ducked under the man’s hand as it came down to grab her shoulder and spun around behind him, swiftly kicking his right knee forward to bring his chin down hard on the countertop. Usually you would hear the teeth smash together with an impact like this, but this time the big guy’s tongue got in the way, cushioning the two sets of teeth as they came down on each other.

The man let out a dazed groan, and Zahraa brought the heels of her hands down hard on each of his temples.

He crumpled to the floor.

Zahraa looked around. No one had noticed. All the people that could have seen still had their heads safely buried in their phones.

It didn’t take long for her to find a hidden holster on the left side of his torso, and it took her even less time to unburden him of its contents. She tested the pistol’s weight in her hand.

Domestic security is great.

Zahraa put the pistol in the briefcase, clicked it shut, pulled her hood over her head, and walked quickly towards the terminal doors.

“Well,” she said to herself, “what now?”

May 2018 – Furious Fiction Submission

This is another entry for Furious Fiction run by the Australian Writers’ Centre, and I am happy with this one more because of the fact it has inspired me for my novel, which I’ll admit is only plodding along very slowly.

I am finding “very short” fiction is good for writing during the school term, as it usually only takes me a couple of hours to knock out, but I feel like I can work my creative muscles a little bit. In this story, I spent some time practising my development of character voice throughout the piece.

Not much else to say apart from that there were a few specific prerequisites that I needed to meet like in the previous one:

  • The story had to begin with the words “A long time ago”
  • The story had to include the words “star”, “war” and “force” (or a plural of those words).
  • The story had to feature something that flies.

Obviously it needed to be written in the 55-hour time-frame and could only be 500 words at the most.




The Kessler Effect

“A long time ago,” said Zahraa, “in an orbit not so far away, people just like us lived on another world. A dead world.” She paused dramatically, a habit she’d picked up from years of storytelling. But this story was different.

Zahraa glanced up instinctively before continuing, peering through the transparent dome overhead and scanning the sky for the blue-brown pinprick of light amongst the stars. She couldn’t find it, and when she looked back down at her children their eyes reflected the red of the landscape just beyond the glass.

“But we can never go back to that dead world now, and even if we did, we could never leave it. Around that world is barrier, or a dome,” she patted the thick glass beside her, “but that dome around the world was made by accident, and unlike ours it is not there to keep the world safe. The dome around the dead world is made of junk that moves so fast that it tears apart anything that tries to enter and, more importantly, that tries to leave.”

Zahraa noticed her son’s sharp intake of breath and continued before he interrupted.

“Before the Collapse it was a beautiful place, of blues and greens and yellows and purples. On good days or in the right places you could breathe the air and walk outside barefoot to feel the soft grass. But the planet was slowly dying, and everyone was leaving to the Colonies-“

“Like Mars?” Zahraa’s daughter managed to interject.

“Like Mars,” she answered, taking a breath. “Every day the Colony ships rocketed towards a future only a few could afford to have and we would watch exhaust streams cross-hatch the sky, reminding us that we could not leave. Not yet. But then we thought we had years, not days.

“Then it happened: a ship that was launched from a place called Woomera was torn up when it hit an old, defunct satellite in lower orbit, and that debris hit another satellite, and the chain reaction that had begun continued until Earth’s orbit began to completely fill with junk,” Zahraa did her best to force back the quiver in her voice. “Once they realised there wasn’t much time, important people from powerful countries started wars, using bombs that wiped out entire cities as they scrambled to get their own ships into the sky.

“I was too young to realise how bad it was. Even when my mothers sat with me as the car drove us to the launch pad. Even when the shuttle door closed behind me with them on the other side. Even as our only home faded into the distance as we scraped through the debris field and shot towards Mars.

“Like all that are left now, I was alone without a home, and in the end all the Colonies could do once the orbit was full was listen to the desperate cries for help as Earth killed itself, cut off from anything that could save it.”

April 2018 – Furious Fiction Submission

So there is a competition run by the Australian Writers’ Centre called “Furious Fiction“, which is a 55-hour event each month that asks writers to put forth their best 500-word writing to a set of specific criteria.

The below example is my entry to the April competition, in which entries needed to meet the following criteria:

  • The title of the story had to be THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.
  • The story had to feature the words “busted”, “emerged” and “key”.
  • The story had to end with “the clock struck four”.

They also, obviously, suggested that you try to stay relatively close to the spirit of the titular saying.

I was actually pretty happy with this piece, but this was my first try at really short writing like this so it was a bit of a struggle, and I didn’t expect much to come of it. Having said that, I tricked my Year 9 students into reading it, planting it within an anthology of their writing, and they liked it.

I suppose as long as I have their approval, what more do I need?


The Elephant in the Room

“Look Malcolm, I think it’s time that we addressed the –“ Jen was cut off by the Operations Commander, who had torn his eyes away from the glowing screens when she had spoken.

“If anything, this is actually a better outcome,” Malcolm said, staring at the other worried-looking faces dotting the room, “and with the thrust systems the way they are –“

“You mean completely busted?” said Jen.

Malcolm continued unphased, “with the thrust systems the way they are I think we should just take what we can get.”

At this there was silence. In the end, there was very little that the others could do. They had all seen Malcolm key in the coordinate override when they realised that the ship that was meant to be on an intercept course to land on Europa would instead continue on into the much larger gravitational well that held 53 moons in orbit if they didn’t intervene.

Realistically, all they could do is try to appeal to his sense of human dignity. And it was for this reason that they all looked so hopeless.

“Listen,” Malcolm said, turning to face them. Everyone in the room could feel an ‘inspirational’ speech coming on, which they all knew they didn’t have time for, “this is a numbers game – we all know that – and we all know when the primary thrusters go, there isn’t much we can do.”

“That is why we have secondary thrust Mal,” said Jen, “that is why we have contingencies.”

“And in a situation like this, secondaries only have a seventy percent chance of working, if that,” Malcolm wasn’t letting up, “if we continue with my plan, then we are certain to get some valuable data about the atmos and the core.”

“So you’re saying a bit of data is worth more than a ten-year mission?”

“We can send another mission Jen – the funding won’t dry up, not now that it’s emerged that we have to find a way off this dump.”

“But Mal we still have time, if we burn before o-four-hundred we might just–“

“It’s done.”

“Mal there are people on that ship!”

“We can get more people, and we can get a new ship” said Mal, barely finishing his sentence before Jen and the others had left the room.

* * * * *

The crew had been woken two days ago, and the excitement amongst the fifteen of them was palpable. For them, it had only felt like a three-week trip, and while the cryo-sleep couldn’t stop their aging, it had certainly made interplanetary travel much easier.

So, the fifteen first settlers of the Outer System watched the ice-moon, shining by the light of the distant sun, approach from the viewing bay and thought of home – both old and new. As the ship drew near, the crew braced for a thrust that never came, and watched their new home sail past while in the Command Centre, Malcolm stood alone, smiling as the clock struck four.

The first piece of prose

Anyone who knows me knows that you can find me doing one of two things when I’m trying to relax and let my brain rest after a long day of teaching needy selective students:

  1. Cooking (or baking bread, which I count as cooking but some don’t), or
  2. Watching video game streams (or occasionally actually playing video games)

Often I am doing both at the same time.

I will be the first person to argue with you about the cultural impact of video games and the way that they bring to the fore ideas that may not have been so easily accessible to people otherwise, particularly considering the way our world works these days.

While I do love to play games, the nature of my job along with my increasing responsibilities have pushed me to watch streamers while I’m making curries of ever-increasing complexity, marking essays, or baking loaves of bread or American-style “biscuits” – what we on the other side of the world would call savoury scones I suppose.

It was while watching a streamer named “Vinny Vinesauce” – yes they have silly names – that I was exposed to the Lovecraftian approach to writing, and his Weird Fiction called to me in a way the other writing hadn’t for a long time. I had never read horror, nor had I ever written it, but after seeing a game that drew from his style it wasn’t long before a picked up some of his work, which I am still working through to this day.

He is problematic, let me just put that out there. He was an obvious and overt racist and recluse, and to put it nicely he never seemed to see much of a role for women in his work, however the way that he sets up his stories, the tension that is developed, and the overall sense of dread that you feel by the end make him valuable despite the problems that he poses to us in a more modern context.

After reading some of his work, I came across a short story competitions asking for scary stories, and thought I’d have a crack at emulating his style. I didn’t win, but it was a good experience nonetheless. The piece below is obviously derivative of the Lovecraft, and by no means does any of what he succeeded in doing with the craft that he exhibited, however it was my first piece of prose since high school (back towards the middle of last year), and I think it is at least interesting.




The Waking World

I swear to you all that what follows is the absolute truth and while some of my memories of the events have faded somewhat, the key details are clear in my mind – so clear that they have made me question the very fabric of my being.

It was not more than twenty-four hours ago that it happened again, and after many nights enduring these horrors I have resolved that there is no certainty that the words I speak to you all now, while they are the truth as I can tell it, are spoken in the world I was sure I knew before. This is because over many nights in the month past I have woken startled from my sleep by a Thing in my dreams that I have not yet the words to articulate fully. On many occasions in such recent times I have woken to find the woman with whom I spend my nights standing over me holding my shaking hands, and wiping an icy sweat from my brow. On the first of these portentous nights she articulated the events as she saw them in such a way that was well beyond my own recollection of what had occurred, but is surely accurate as you will see when I relayed to you, as she did me, the events of the night.

“You were frightening,” she said. Her face was glazed over at this point, as if she was not only seeing the event play over again in her mind, but that with some kind of deeper sight could see the Thing beyond my own eyes in her memory. The Thing that has forced me awake so often of late.

At the time, I had sat there dumbfounded in the soft bed, head in my hands and with an unexplained exhaustion settling deep into my body despite the fact I had been sleeping seemingly soundly until minutes before. I simply said to her, “I’m sorry.”

“I thought we were being attacked,” she said, that look of deep horror not having left her face, “You were screaming ‘Go away! Go away! It cannot be true!’ over and over.”

The same weak apology is all I could manage.

“It must have been minutes – maybe five or more – before you woke up, but throughout the whole thing your eyes were wide open. You looked scared – terrified – and you were frozen still. By the time it was over, you were covered in sweat,” she lifted up the handkerchief she had snatched from my bedside table, as if to prove her point.

I went downstairs for a tea that night, and sat on my living room couch, staring at the blank, abysmal television and hoping that something would make itself apparent that could explain the Thing I had seen in my dreams not long prior. But as is so often the case, my memory of those images and the event faded quickly and I joined my partner in bed yet again to resume what was left of my night’s short rest.

The last moment I remember clearly from that night one that found me upon falling asleep again – it is the first clear image that I can describe to you of the Thing that has visited me repeatedly over many weeks now. The image was a face, or close to it, as I will describe it to you now. Even so, I am simply approximating from the other creatures it most closely resembles although it is not the same as any human or animal face that I have seen in my time in this world, such as it is, so far.

While the skin of this human-animal-thing inspires significant revulsion – a black, gloopy substance that seemed as though it would be corrosive to the touch, dripping constantly– and the eyes seemed to pierce mine in such a way that I know that if I had looked at them for long enough I would have simply burned where I slept, it was the mouth – oh that gaping, horrible mouth – that instilled in me the majority of my horror, and continued to in the nights that followed.

While eyes burned and the skin dripped, that rotten, gaping maw seemed to exude such toxicity that a mere breath would strip my own flesh from my skull. In fact, in dreams to come – or whatever they may be – this exact event occurred, I think even on more than one occasion. In that gaping mouth, beyond the toxic air I could see the universe glowing. I seemed to be sucked into it, moving quickly and for eternity through those beauteous stars, seemingly forever. And beyond that there was nothing until I found the face again, mouth open, staring.

I remember only that that night, the Thing’s face was the last image burned into my mind, and to this day I am not sure how I escaped that terrifying loop. However, I know that when I woke, I woke with the soft glow of the sun peeking through my bedroom’s blinds and when I rolled to my side my partner was laying there, sleeping peacefully as if that Thing did not exist.

Now I am afraid that it is the only thing that does.


* * * * *


What I have just described to you was the first I remember seeing that horrible Thing, though it may not have been the first time my dream-self had been within its grasp. What I am certain of is that from that night onwards my dreams were clear to me in a way that they had never been before. The reality that my sleeping-self inhabited was one that, my dear friends, truly only dreams were made of.

Oh, the things I have done with complete lucidity in those beautiful, terrifying places are such that I could not describe, for I do not have nor do I desire the words even in what may be my last few hours in this world. If only I could describe to you in our world’s words the wonder of the mountains, towering high above me. Mountains that I could scale with whimsy and once I reached the top would perform such acts of violent depravity to the humanoid inhabitants, that more resembled the Thing of my nightmares than any person I have known, that would be cause for imprisonment or worse if they had been committed in the waking world.

On some nights I would see my father, whom I had lost many years prior, chasing me slowly through decrepit, wooden buildings and across barren plains until I would turn towards him, manifest a knife from seemingly nowhere and sink it time and time again into his gaping chest. Blood would spray from his wound as I laughed, and at the end I would sit smiling at his still and broken corpse.

On yet other nights I would be in my childhood home, overlooking the Blue Mountains from which I came. From these mountains would spew billowing black smoke and I would see the bush around me burn as the trees were engulfed by the shimmering lava, dissolving into the orange sea. All the while my child-self would lay curled in a ball, sobbing until the flames finally engulfed me. In these dreams my mind would create and almost perfect resemblance of the pain I would have felt, were it that it was actually occurring.

No matter the nature of my dream that night, it would always end in the same way – that horrible face, with its skin peeling like a viscous liquid, burning eyes, and an endless, abysmal maw into which I would descend for eternity until I was woken by my terrified partner.


* * * * *


I will finish my last drink now my friends, and I will tell you the final part of this terrible story with as little censorship as I can afford and in spite of the madness that I can feel bubbling below the surface of my flesh. Then I will walk into the street.

Last night, she left. After a month of the terrors, the cold sweats and the screaming, she disappeared. Unreachable by text or phone, or any other media at my disposal, I have been left on my own. You see, it has been thirty days now since that first horrible dream, and every night my dear lover has woken me, wiped by frozen sweat and held me while I sobbed until I drifted back into my second, dreamless sleep. But after thirty days it is clear to both her and I that these terrors go beyond our imagining of our world, as I am sure you can also deduct from the events as described to you tonight. After thirty days of looking into my empty eyes, and feeling my clammy skin, she surely learned of the change that was happening within me.

My friends, I delayed my slumber as long as I could last night – as I have done tonight as well – but despite my efforts to the contrary I drifted off to sleep at some three-hours after midnight. Rather than that lascivious mountain, murderous chase, or burning bushland of my previous dreams, or any number of other places that I might describe to you if I had more time or the will to indulge you in the depths of depravity that these horrifying places brought out in me, I found a series of tunnels, moist to the touch and smoother than any substance which has contacted my sensitive flesh in the past. These tunnels were labyrinthine, and no matter which way I turned, I would come back to the same thing – a deep cavern, at the bottom of which was the universe splayed out to the furthest edge of sight. And while the universe below, above was out world, spinning slowly and held suspended in the air by some unknown force.

I stumbled in these tunnels for hours, for I no longer had someone to break me from the sleep which had taken me, and to my significant surprise I began to feel overcome by a tiredness I thought impossible in the dream-world.

My friends, I should not have stopped and sat. I should not have rested. I should not have close my eyes. For in that momentary rest, I became more aware of the world in from of me than any that I have encountered before or since. Through closed lids I saw the shape of my lover, running in the darkness, and my father sprawled on the ground and caked with blood.

When I opening my eyes again, I was in a clean, white, open space – for I would not call it a room as there was no discernible ceiling of flooring that my mind could settle on and a crisp white glow seemed to emanate from every direction. I stepped forward, and walked towards what appeared to be a single darkened space on what must have been the horizon.

As I got closer the form took shape. It looked almost human, but it stood so still that I was sure it could not have been so. The more I closed the gap between myself and this figure, the more unsettled I became and as I tried to turn and run I found that the Thing was suddenly standing not meters away, and towering feet above me.

I stood speechless as it grasped my hand, engulfing me with the terrible sight and feeling that consumed the essence of my being yet again. The universe began to cascade around me yet again, faster and faster as I fell into that gaping maw once more.

I woke from sleep aeons later.

I do not remember how I came to be here tonight, but I know now that I must go. I will walk until I can walk no longer and when I fall asleep once more I – nor you – shall ever return.