I woke up to the sound of Kenny’s whisper. She seemed to have been calling me for quite a while.
“Finally, you’re awake,” she said, sounding more frustrated than usual.
I suppressed a groan. I thought I had earned the right to sleep after nearly forty eight hours. Just when I was about to doze off to a deep, peaceful slumber, Kenny comes along and ruins it all. I can’t imagine what she wants from me now.
“Go away, Kenny. It’s late and I’m tired.”
I was angrily shushed in loud whispers for apparently rousing the rest of humanity with my question. I was beginning to grow resentful. Not only did she not let me sleep, she didn’t even let me ask why I was so brutally deprived of it.
I stared around at the darkness, trying to get my eyes used to the idea that there might just be a light, around here, somewhere. I fidgeted around my bed, trying to reach out for the switch to my bedside lamp. Kenny’s cold hand firmly grasped my wrist and she didn’t let me switch the light on.
“Kenny, what? I don’t want to go anywhere today. What….what are you even doing here?!”
I must have been really groggy to let Kenny get her way with me for this one. Too tired to ask any questions, I was about to sink back into my warm bed, when Kenny put her cold lips to my ear and said, “I know you’re tired. Just stay awake for a while more. Just for a little bit more.”
“Why? For what?” I asked, shrugging her cold, annoying grasp off me.
“Stay awake and you’ll find out.”
I decided then that I was about to curl back to sleep, feeling more annoyed with Kenny than ever. I was too tired to deal with her new mysterious demeanor.
“I don’t want to find out.”
She held my cheeks in her cold hands. I still remember the fleeting impression I had of her fingers when she touched my face. It felt like frost growing on my skin, numbing my face. Kenny had always that effect on me.
“Listen to me,” she whispered, suddenly gentle. “I know it’s hard, but don’t sleep just yet. In a few minutes, let the nightmares will come by. You can sleep peacefully after they’ve gone. I promise.”
“Wha…? What nightmares?”
“Not just nightmares. Night-mares,” she said, carefully pronouncing each word separately to make a clear distinction, which I didn’t understand at all. I didn’t need to be protected from bad dreams.
Kenny waited for something. In the distance, there was a growing sound of the clatter of galloping hooves. I was sure that whatever Kenny was referring to had arrived.
The rhythmic sound seemed to grow increasingly louder, until after a while I thought the entire house shook in resonance of those apparently powerful hooves. Things on the shelf began to rattle, the window panes quivered and I was a little too painfully aware of the dull crashing sounds coming from the kitchen — cutlery, no doubt — and the slow clouds of dust that seemed to be appearing from every corner of the house I had been too lazy to clean in all this time.
The sound of this stampede succeeded in waking me up, and for a while, I was glad that Kenny was there. Though I didn’t want to openly admit that to her. What if I had gone completely to sleep, and not managed to wake up, when this pseudo-earthquake rocked the house? I clung to the edge of my bed tightly, marveling at this phenomenon.
Then, finally, all was still and quiet again. Kenny laughed softly, disrupting the silence.
“Well, they’ve gone, for tonight. They were much softer than I had expected.”
I was too shaken, almost literally, by what I had just witnessed. “Wait. What? What just happened? I mean, here you are in the middle of the night, waking me up to watch an earthquake?!”
“Night-mares,” she said, sounding smug. That word again. Night. Mares. Not just plain simple nightmares.
“You should be grateful to me. I saved you.”
“From a bunch of horses?”
“From Night-mares. They aren’t just ordinary horses. They’re looking for riders.”
Right. Bad dreams needed riders. Got that……somewhere in my head, at least.
“And this involves me how?”
” They choose the innocent slumbering people as their riders, and then lead them on to the world of all that is twisted and disturbing. If I had let you sleep, you would be hurtling into the abyss of your own subconscious, led on by a creature that feeds off your imagination.”
My sleep was returning to me now, and my eyes were almost closed. I vaguely registered parasite and dream somewhere in my head. My head, strangely enough, was beginning to throb. I really needed to sleep now.
“Can I please go to sleep now?”
Kenny laughed her soft, musical laugh again. I was too stupefied to register any sensible emotion.
“Yes, you can sleep now. Your dreams will now be yours to keep,” she said, gently caressing my face with those fingers.
I snuggled back into my blankets without further encouragement. What was all this? My puzzled brain kept asking itself. There was a mish-mash of coherent thoughts in reply. Big horses. Dreams. Cold. Kenny….
“Hmmph,” I struggled to say, before Kenny left, “how did you even get in the house?”
More musical laughter. More of the implied smugness. Some corner of my tired mind was feeling increasingly stupid.
“Who d’you think has been watching over you all these nights?” She asked. She claims to be sneaking into my house everyday. Voyeurism. Or burglary, whichever way you wanted to look at it. My eyes were giving up. “Goodnight Kenny,” I said, and then willed my mouth with whatever feeble control I had left to keep it shut before I said something random, impolite and that would evidently reflect my sleep-deprived state.
As my head touched the pillow, I vaguely registered that Kenny’s goodbye was drowned out by the howling of the wolves.