Her dreams were horrible things, full of blood and screaming, so that sometimes she carried pieces of them back into waking with her. Twice she had woken up with the blood from her sleep still wet on her fingers, the scratches that were her penance still fresh and livid on her face. They faded with the growth of the day; by night they were gone, invisible on her flesh, although she could feel them still beneath the surface.

She was not a victim in her dreams, and that was what made them terrible. Her own suffering she could bear — didn’t she bear enough of it in the winter daylight? — but that of others, her own glee as she stood above them haunted her, brought her shaking and choking out of sleep, in the gray unsettled predawn hours. She learned to keep a bowl beside her bed, to catch the vomit before it fouled her nightclothes, her bedspreads.

She read and reread the papers, as many as she could find, from all over the world, terrified lest she find herself scattered among the cheap ink and flimsy paper. She employed a cutting service, varying her demands as often and as suddenly as her dreams did, with little explanation or exposition. She never found anything, never read her dreams in the waking news, but was not reassured. Her dreams were timeless, unspecific: there was no telling when or where they might have happened, might have yet to happen.

She grew skittish, timid, afraid to meet other people. She withdrew into herself, and the dreams grew. She tried drinking, drugs, self-mutilation. She grew sick and weak with her efforts, and yet the dreams grew. She tried therapy, counseling, confession: carried her sticky hands into offices, churches, prisons, and found there no freedom, no understanding.

They ground her down, the dreams, until her personality wore away under their weight, and something that was like peace but was not came to her, and she lived, quietly, without hope, without understanding, from one sunset to the next. Dreaming.