Shadows of the mind by Shiwa Bastola
“That’s what I call a narrow escape,” Ben thought leaning on a pole, clutching his stomach and gasping for air. Just as he was about to turn around, someone caught him by the shoulder and suddenly he found himself waking up screaming on his bed. It was time for school, his mother was hovering above him looking frightened and deeply concerned. It wasn’t the first time this had happened, it had been going on for quite some time now and even therapy didn’t seem to be helping.
Ben decided to walk to school that morning. Throughout the walk just one thought was playing on his mind “It wasn’t a dream. I was there. I am not imagining things”. One thing he couldn’t wrap his head around was how he wound up on his bed every single time. He had tried a thousand times to convince everyone that it was all real, but was ridiculed every single time. Even his psychiatrist gave him that “objectifying your imagination” mumbo-jumbo. In the midst of all this mess, there was only one thing he knew for sure, he was going to have to get to the bottom of this all on his own.
On reaching school he found out the county police department would be addressing them. He was rushed to the auditorium along with all his classmates. He sat on a corner seat at the back welcoming the additional “clear my head” time. “As you all know”, boomed the voice of the police chief “A murder has taken place recently…” The voice of the police chief was acting like a soothing lullaby and Ben slowly drifted off to sleep in the comfort of his chair. He was swooped back to his ‘dream’ from morning. A man was chasing him, he was shouting at top his lungs “Get away from me, go away!!!”, yet he was relentlessly being pursued. The man caught up to him, and clutched him by the shoulder. He was a big burly guy, with dark hair and an iron grip. The man faced him and Ben could see his pursuer’s dirty yellow teeth grinning at him, his features lit by the moon, the bearded face coming closer and closer to his own. Suddenly he woke with a start and found everyone staring at him. Ben mumbled an apology and exited the auditorium as fast as he could, avoiding the stares of the crowd. His head was spinning; he was shocked at what he saw. The man in the police sketches and the man in his dream were the same. “Why am I having nightmares about a criminal?” he thought unable to shake the image from his head. He couldn’t imagine a possible explanation to any of this.
He decided to skip school and so he headed home. As he turned the corner of his house, he saw his neighbor backing out of the driveway, waving frantically at him. Ben pretended not to notice. Ever since his “episodes” had begun, he had been attracting unwanted attention. Averting his neighbor’s gaze he quickly went inside, locked his doors and watched through the window as the car backed and left. He wasn’t in the mood to answer the flood of questions about the screams that came every morning from their home.
Later that evening, Ben saw his neighbor talking to his dad. His dad wore the look of grave concern. “So typical”, he thought, “Couldn’t get to me so went for my dad instead.” He heard his front door click, footsteps approaching the living room. “Here we go again, another big lecture about trying to keep it low”, any moment now he was expecting to be called downstairs. But weirdly enough his dad didn’t speak a word of it. Thinking they might have been talking about something else Ben shrugged it off.
His father had received some pretty distressing news and was determined to get answers. That night he hid himself behind the sofa and quietly waited. Mr. Johnson, their neighbor, had told him that his son had been sneaking out of the house at about the same time every night for the past few weeks. He had tried to talk to the family but they never seemed to be available. Just as Mr. Johnson had said, Ben came down the stairs at exactly 11:45 pm. His dad jumped out from his hiding places hoping to startle his son, but Ben didn’t even flinch. He seemed to be in some sort of trance like state. Worried, Ben’s dad followed closely behind.
Ben was heading towards the forest. He remembered the police say the dead body hadn’t been found and was suspected to be somewhere in this very forest. His heart was pounding, afraid of the thought that in his trance, his son had something to do with the killing. Interrupting his chain of thoughts, he saw his son frantically run back towards him. He quickly stepped out of the way and followed Ben all the way back home. As if right on queue the next morning, his son woke with a deafening scream.
Ben’s father was deeply disturbed by last night’s events. Nothing made sense to him. He had been internally debating whether he should involve the police or not. He decided to go to the authorities and describe everything including the suspicion eating him. The police thought following Ben that night was the only way to get any answer. As expected, Ben stumbled out his front door at 11:45, two officers and his dad closely behind. They went deep into the forest this time and saw something startling. Noises of someone digging could be heard in the dead silence of the night. A big shadow could be seen trying to pull something out of the ground, what appeared like man’s arm filthy and covered in dirt. The shadow was cursing someone under his breath “darn kid….knew who he was….meddling…business…relocate body”. One of the officers recognized the shadow to be the killer they were so desperately trying to find. “Put your hands where I can see them” they shouted in unison, blinding him with their flashlight. Caught by utter surprise, the killer stumbled head first on top of the dead body. Having caught him red handed, they thank Ben’s family for helping them close the case. The commotion had woken Ben, and he was bewildered to find himself in the middle of the forest. Having this scene in front of him, things were suddenly clear. He remembered that a few weeks ago, he was drunk while coming home from a party. Having the urge to pee, he had made his friend stop the car near the forest. He had stumbled far inside and had seen a big man strike the head of another man and had seen him fall to the ground never to wake again. Scared out of his wits he had turned around and run only to hit himself hard on a tree and fall waking up hours later on his bed, found by his friend who thought he’d passed out by drinking too much.
Next morning all the daily papers bore the same headline “Killer Caught Thanks to Kid”. “Everyone owes me an apology for ridiculing me,” he thought. He went to his psychiatrist that day and recounted all the events of the previous night. She explained to him that his drunken mind had suppressed the memory, and his subconscious was trying to re-create the scene in order to remember it. She also added that now since it was all over, the nightmares and screaming would stop in no time.
That night, Ben went to sleep with a light heart and calm mind, feeling at ease after a long time. He slept peacefully and woke up the next morning, to his amazement, without any flashes of nightmare or ear piercing screams.