I just woke up from another nightmare. But it was a different one this time. It wasn’t just a replay of the same old thing, it wasn’t just screams and burning flesh. In fact, it was none of those things. It was something totally different, in every possible way. But it’s affecting me right now more than those other ones did.
That would be because it involved my family. The first part of it was awesome. My parents and I, and for some reason I had a brother and sister too, were going to this video arcade on a regular basis, like we used to. We used to drive down to Sunshine Cove by the Ocean every first and last of the month and go down the boardwalk to the arcade. It was called Sunshine Cove too. I was always a bit confused about that. Not anymore, I guess.
The last trip we took, in real life, I almost got my hands cut off on the skeeball racks. I did actually break my wrists at the time. I remember my mom holding me and singing to me while we were waiting for the ambulance. She sang “You Are My Sunshine”. It was my favorite song back then, before the good doctor came and ruined it for me. But my mom’s voice was so beautiful and so comforting, even through the pain of my injuries. I couldn’t heal things back then. I was 12. That was only three years ago.
That was the last time she sang to me.
I’ll remember our last trip to Sunshine Cove until the day I die.
We never went again because we just never got around to it. I think partly they were too scared to risk me getting hurt there again. But maybe part of it was that me getting hurt had dirtied the place for them, like it could no longer be such a happy and perfect place for them when their daughter had almost died there. They never thought of it the same after that. I can understand that.
I just wish our last time there hadn’t been such a painful one.
The dream, though, reminded me of all of that. It reminded me of our little trips to Sunshine Cove every first and last of the month. Because that’s what it was. My family and I going to the arcade, except in the dream, it was every single day. We had moved to the town of Sunshine Cove in order to live in that perfect little world we’d discovered, where everything was happy and families never drifted apart or died.
But every perfect place has to have one bad thing about it. One little flaw that almost unravels the whole thing for you.
Every time we drove out to the arcade, we had to drive through this neighborhood. It was a horrible neighborhood, seeming more like a horrible malignant tumor than a place where people were supposed to live. Every house had a gun and every night had somebody shot. Every house had alcohol and every house had an alcoholic. And that was all pretty bad, the crime and the anger and the drunken rage being let out on such a regular basis.
But none of it could ever compare to the children.
Almost every house had a child living in it. A young broke child, the products of old broke parents, disgruntled mothers and fathers, and above all, drunks. And they were really mean drunks, the kind who won’t hesitate to do you some harm if you get on their bad side. Sometimes if you get on their good side too.
Every time we drove through that neighborhood, I would look out the windows at all the children, most of them in their front yards, trying to escape the chaos of what was every day to them, trying to escape the bruises and the screams in the dark, the insults and the cries blaming them for being born.
Their eyes were always so big and so sad that I couldn’t help but look into them, even though I knew that every time I did, I would remind myself that I was about to go and do something they never could with a family they’d never have. It would remind me that I had happy things to look forward to when I opened my eyes every day, and the only thing they felt when they opened their eyes was disappointment that their family hadn’t beaten them to death in their sleep.
It would remind me that, above all, I had a happy family. And they didn’t. I had a mom who sang to me when I got hurt. They had a mom who taunted them and insulted them, blaming them for hurting themselves when it was their mom’s fault. I had a dad who taught me how to throw a baseball and drive a car when I was too young to do either, who always made time for me, even if he was stressed at work. They had a dad who kicked them into the shadows and threatened them into hiding the bruises.
And there were dozens of these children. All of them with the same look in their eyes. And we had to drive right by them in order to get to the arcade. Every single day.
When I woke up, I was shivering. It wasn’t cold in my room.
The screams and horrors of the nightmares I’ve been having are pretty bad. But they are nothing compared to such a psychological horror as that. They’re nothing compared to getting a crushing sense of guilt and pain that undermines any happiness you could’ve had that day, and it happens every single day.
I still feel it, even though I’m awake and I know it didn’t happen. Because I do know that there are places out there with children like that, and this nightmare made me realize that. And most of all, it affected me more than the others because it was about my family. And it was about undermining the happiness of those memories at Sunshine Cove with the guilt of seeing those kids every single day.
Ugh. I’m still shivering, even as I write this. Moonshine is in the other room, sleeping quietly for once. She hasn’t been acting like herself since that day at the hospital. She’s started letting her emotions onto the surface, instead of keeping every possible feeling down. It’s strange, seeing her like this. Seeing her smile, hearing her laugh, hearing her say words like “please” and “thank you”. It’s like her mom’s impending death and her dad’s disappearance made her realize her mortality and how much she meant to me and made her want herself to be a better version of herself than she has been.
I went in to check on her just after I woke up, because I needed to see her and remind myself that there was something innocent and happy left in my world. Sleeping with no blankets, like she usually does, in her faded Kolchak shirt. I wondered if she could be dreaming about the same thing I was, and realized she probably wasn’t. I dunno what she dreams about. She’s never told me.
I don’t think I’ll tell her about this dream. Not yet. She’ll find out, when she reads this post, and that’ll be that.
I dunno. I’m just sitting here and wondering does it mean anything? Was it really only a dream? Was it?