When I sleep I dream of screaming.
Screams of agony, screams of terror, silent screams that seem louder than the rest.
I dream I'm standing in the centre of a room, and all around me people are screaming, screaming for help, screaming for absolution, screaming for one last chance before they die, screaming regrets and broken promises, and screaming my name, over and over. So loud it's cutting through my very being, I try to help but there are too many, too many people depending on me, I can't help them.
I just can't help them.
In my dream, I try to escape, but there is nowhere to go. Everywhere I look there's a new problem, another person screaming for me, screaming for help, they block me in, they claw at my clothes, dragging me down, dragging me under.
And then I scream.
The crowd surges forward, pushing me down, forcing me under, each one pleading for help.
And I'm drowning, I can't breathe, can't help them, can't get away.
"There's too many..." I gasp.
Then the dream ends, and I sit up in my bed, listening to the silence.
Life's always been much easier when it's down to the smallest of all possible choices. Whipped or smooth cream on the Starbucks drink? Instant meal with juice or beer? Documentary on early life of Beethoven or the Science Channel's marathon on propulsion engines?
"You've got a choice. You can either see Doctor Beckett about this... or Doctor Heightmeyer."
It was a perfect flip-the-coin type of decision. I could either talk myself to sleep, and hope it was the dreamless kind, or I could take pills, and guarantee myself that blessed state of peace eight... six hours a night.
"Well, I guess it all really started when I was six years old and my kindly uncle Petey ran over my pet dog..."
Didn't mean I had to start taking any of it really seriously, though, and Heightmeyer... Kate, she's told me 'n' times to call her... Kate's smile means she's not too bothered by the fooling around, either. Even joins in sometimes; we carry on the game until the fictional Uncle Petey morphs into an alcoholic, gun-wielding redneck who made my mom's life a misery after my dad blew up in a shuttle accident at Cape Canaveral in the sixties.
And running over the equally fictional puppy was a deliberate attempt to break my six-year-old self.
"Are you seriously taking notes on all of this?"
It's all in how I interpret the, "Yeah..." apparently. I don't know what she's making notes on, but it certainly isn't Uncle Petey and his sister-in-law Sue Ellen. Or whatever I decided my mom's name was going to be that session. It might even be on record somewhere, if Kate wanted badly enough to check up on it.
"So what do you think are the causes of these nightmares?"
It's a carefully calculated shrug that she gets in response. I still hear those screams at night, people I don't know but know I should care about calling out my name, along with entreaties for help. Faceless people, the worst kind.
My imagination is only ever too eager to fill in the gaps. Sometimes they're living people dying in front of and all around me, sometimes they're people dead because I screwed up.
Did I kill them or didn't I? Simple question, but damned if I know the answer.
Damned if I know who the ghosts are.
And that must have shown on my face because Kate suddenly shifts stance. Now she's less shrinky and more friendly.
It's amazing what relaxing a string of back muscles can do to a person.
Still doesn't mean I want to talk to her though.
"I've killed people."
Me and my big mental mouth.
Still, there's no stopping me now that I've started, and maybe tonight will be the first night in three months that I can sleep without hearing the screams.