I didn’t actually have that many nightmares when I was a kid (supposedly they’re the most common in 5 – 12-year-olds), mostly because I would have daymares. Side note: I just discovered that daymare is a legitimate word.
When I was little, the worst nightmare I had ever had was about a classmate of mine. She was the tallest girl in the class, and she and her best friend were bullies. They didn’t bully me, but because I didn’t know how social queues worked then, I would always try to be friends with them, much to the bewilderment and frustration of my mother. I suppose I knew they were bullies subconsciously, though, because one night, I had a dream about our whole class. We were all sitting around, playing with blocks or whatever we did back then, when all of a sudden, gravity ceased to work, and we were all floating. A few of us laughed, and it was all fun and games, when – and I’m still not sure how this logically works – this one classmate, this one bully, starts turning everyone into zombies. She smiled evilly as she set one rule into place: you don’t get turned into a zombie if you don’t touch anything. Being in zero-G, however, gave us a good head-start on the no-touching rule, but somehow my 10-year-old brain knew that we couldn’t control which way we moved without propelling ourselves off of other things, all of which we were now forbidden from touching. I could feel my body slowly careening towards a treacherous chair, unable to run away. I closed my eyes and waited to be zombified…
I woke up holding my breath, and had to gasp for air for a few seconds. When I told my parents about that (five seconds later when I was bawling my eyes out in their bedroom at 4AM), they didn’t believe me, and I doubt it’s really important enough to argue the point a decade later, but hey, now you all believe me, right?
My daymares made much more sense, making them that much scarier. I would lie awake at night in the summer, back when I would go to bed so early it was still light out, and plan in my head exactly what to do if there was a house fire. I imagined I’d have a rope ladder at the ready so that I could throw it out the window and save me and my brother, then run around to the other side of the house to save my parents. At a certain point, it didn’t matter where the fire started, because I would have a plan for how to get around it. That movie Firehouse Dog with Josh Hutcherson gave me more anxiety than the knowledge that there are cockroaches in my apartment right now. When I found out that huge fires could be started with something as small as a watch (though I’m skeptical as to the movie’s accuracy on that one), I began to learn just how many ways small, normal things could cause huge disasters. It honestly scares me to this day, though not enough to prevent me from leaving my phone charging all night, and I’m finally ok with candles and tiki torches.
I suppose it’s because I don’t have them as much anymore, but I honestly find nightmares fascinating. I used them all the time in the fictional stories I’d write before a professor of mine informed our class that nightmares and flashbacks are cliched copouts for good story development, so now at least I’m aware of my laziness when I use them (somewhat) more sparingly.
I can’t remember the last time I had a nightmare, though I definitely still have daymares. Computers crash at work and I’m fired for it, cockroaches start pouring out of the bathroom sink… but I suppose I can’t really call those daymares anymore, can I? They’re more like… average adult concerns.
Honestly, I’ll take that over zombification and house fires.