Saturday, January 5, 2013

Can a nightmare translate into a story?

Woke up from a pretty creepy nightmare this morning, and my first thought was:

I wonder if it can be worked into a story?

It was one of those that felt uncannily real while it was happening. Me and someone else (I don't know who, maybe my step-father, for some reason, even though I haven't seen him in years?) were cleaning out an attic over-flowing with stacks of old newspapers and various detritus, when I spotted an enormous, weird-looking spider shooting across the floor right toward the other person. I yelled out a warning, and he ducked just as the spider launched itself at his head. It thunked against the wall, scurried under some junk.

The thing was the size of my fist, and had a strange tube-like aperture sticking out of its head. We started to back away from where it disappeared. Then the thing came out from under its hiding spot and came at me. It was actually on the attack.

It clung to my leg, burrowed through my pants, and next thing I knew it was buried in my thigh.

I ripped my pants off, trying not to panic, and saw that the huge spider had somehow burrowed itself right into the meat of my thigh muscle. Only the little tube on its head stuck out an inch or so, and I realized (in dream-logic) that the tube was meant to let the spider breath while it did its horrible work inside my flesh.

I could feel it moving in my leg, trying to work its way deeper. The panic was welling in me, but I knew I couldn't lose control. My fingers trembled as I tried to grasp the tube, tried to ease the thing out of me. Blood and puss were pouring down my leg and the pain threatened to black me out, but I kept easing the thing up and it kept trying to push its way back in.

The tube was slippery with my blood but I kept pulling, slowly, raw seconds away from giving in to panic. I pulled, and the spider's ugly head came up and its legs flailed against the inside of my leg.

I lost my grip on the tube and the spider dug deeper and I screamed.

That's when I woke up. And it took almost ten seconds before I realized it was just a dream. Well, imagine my relief, right?

I lay in bed thinking about it, and naturally my first thought was-- I wonder if there's a story in that.

But no, I don't think so. For one thing, I already wrote a "body horror" story and said all I can think of to say about the idea of something invading your flesh. It was called "Emancipation, with Teeth", and it's in my collection DIG TEN GRAVES. That story was inspired by a nightmare, as well-- a particularly disturbing dream I had about long white worm-things coming out from under my finger nails. So to go there again would just be repeating myself.

But isn't it funny how, if you're a writer, once you get over the initial fright of a bad dream, your first instinct is to examine it and determine whether or not it has story potential?

Writers: have you ever had a nightmare that managed to translate itself well into a story?


  1. I wouldn't exclude it all together. I think it has potential as a scene as part of a story yet to come.
    As opposed the theme.
    Very cool by the way.

  2. As opposed "TO" the theme.

  3. You've written more than one western and more than one crime story. Have at it. You'll never know comes of it. The blog entry bothered me...

  4. Maybe you could write Revenge of the Spider Tribe. But yes, I've used nightmares as springboards for stories more than once, and at least one I basically just had to write it down almost verbatim.