My Antonia

For years all of Antonia’s dreams were horrible nightmares, full of blood and death and monsters. She’d wake up screaming two or three nights a week, shaking, sweaty, and pale, eyes wide and unseeing; her nights were equal parts terrified dreaming and terrified waking as she tried to ease herself back asleep.

Then she stopped dreaming. Or not stopped, precisely – she still dreamed, everyone dreams – but they stopped mattering, her dreams. They were full of soberly-dressed people talking quietly about serious topics like politics or the environment or how to properly manage an IRA. It was like watching CSPAN all night.

At first Antonia was delighted. She slept eight solid hours each and every night and the twitching went away. Her complexion cleared up and girls started talking to her. After a while, though, she started to miss the old nightmares. It wasn’t that she wanted to be scared, really, just that the new dreams were so boring. She’d wake up and find she was already yawning, one hand held delicately, politely in front of her open mouth, “Excuse me,” already half-formed in the back of her tongue. She needed drama.

She tried to force it: she ate raw onions by the truckload, she fell asleep with zombie movies on repeat, she started going to bed fully clothed. Nothing worked. The onions just gave her gas, the zombie movies did nothing whatever, and she woke up sore from her jeans digging into her while she slept. She started to get desperate.

One night, the moderator held up one manicured hand and turned to her. “Stop fighting us, miss,” he said. “We won’t leave you alone anymore. You’re safe now.”

Which, when she thought about it a couple of days later, was the most frightening thing of all.