Tag Archives: dream

Nightmares and Other Spooky Stuff

Man in Black Hat

I was eight the first time I dreamed of The Man in the Black Hat.

He haunted my dreams for months.

I would lie awake at night, dreading the moment I fell asleep and I’d be thrust once more into his nightmare world. But eventually, sleep would come. And then it would begin.

I had been playing with the neighbourhood children when we saw him coming. He was further up the street, just coming out of one of the houses, on his way to the next. The Man in the Black Hat.

The Man in the Black Hat was a monster. A serial killer. He was feared across the entire country, and the police couldn’t do anything to stop him. He dressed all in black. Shiny, black shoes. Black trousers. A black shirt and tie. And a long, formal, black jacket. And on his head, a hat. A strange, tall black hat that sat atop his black hair and made him look even taller than he already was.

And he was tall. Tall and thin and terrifying.

He travelled from place to place, starting at the top of the street and slowly working his way from house to house. And when he entered a house, he killed everyone inside. No preamble. No talking. Just death, delivered swiftly at the end of a blade. Men, women, children, pets… Everyone died when he came to a neighbourhood.

And he was in ours.

We ran inside and found my parents. “Mum! Dad! The Man in the Black Hat is here!”

But they didn’t believe us.

We tried and tried, but they told us to stop making up stories. We begged them to call the police, but they wouldn’t. They just kept doing what they were doing, and told us to go outside and play. So outside we went.

And The Man in the Black Hat was just coming out of the house next door.

We fled back into the house, and down into the basement. Maybe we could hide. Maybe he wouldn’t find us.

I squeezed myself into a small cupboard and pulled the door closed behind me. I could just see a sliver of the room through the crack between the doors. And I held my breath, and I waited.

I didn’t have to wait for long.

Footsteps on the stairs.

Slow. Measured. There was no rush.

And The Man in the Black Hat came into view, his tall top hat, the most terrifying thing I’d ever seen. He had a blade in his hand. It was coated in the blood of my parents.

He went out of sight, then. Searing the basement. One by one, I heard him kill my friends. Some of them screamed. Some of them begged. All of them died.

Then he killed my siblings.

Silence.

Footsteps.

Was he leaving?

The door of my hiding place opened.

The Man in the Black Hat smiled at me, bloody knife in hand. And then he grabbed me by the hair and pulled me towards him.

At the moment the blade touched my throat…

..I woke up. Drenched in sweat. Sobbing and cowering and barely able to breathe. The shadow on my curtain looked like a face, and I hid under the blankets.

Eventually, dawn came.

But the dream wasn’t done.

The Man in the Black Hat came to me three or four times a week for months. Every time, it was the same. I’d listen to my friends being murdered in front of me, and then he’d come for me. I cried myself to sleep most nights.

I was eight years old.

And then, a turning point. I told my brother about The Man in the Black Hat. And he looked at me, all earnestness, and he said, “Haven’t you heard of The Man in the White Hat?”

“No,” I said. Naive. Hopeful.

“The Man in the White Hat dresses all in white,” my little brother said. “He has a tall, white hat. And he’s hunting down The Man in the Black Hat.”

And then he went back to playing with his Transformers.

That night, The Man in the Black Hat came for me, just like always.

I saw him coming. I told my parents. They didn’t believe me. I hid in a cupboard in the basement. I heard my friends killed. I heard my siblings killed. The door of my hiding place opened. The Man in the Black Hat smiled at me, bloody knife in hand. And then he grabbed me by the hair and pulled me towards him.

And a voice came from the top of the stairs. “Let go of that girl!”

It was The Man in the White Hat. He wore shiny, white shoes. White trousers. A white shirt and tie. And a long, formal, white jacket. And on his head, a tall white hat that sat atop his blonde hair. In his hand, he carried a white cane.

He came down the stairs. The Man in the Black Hat let go of me, and turned to face him.

Then The Man in the White Hat drew a sword from his cane, and chopped off The Man in the Black Hat’s head. Then he winked at me.

I woke up.

And I never dreamed of The Man in the Black Hat again.

He was dead. But he wasn’t gone.

To this day, he lurks in the back of my head. He’s the prototype for every nightmare monster, every evil character in every story I tell, and the bearer of every moment of panic or fear. He whispers to me sometimes.

“You can’t do this.”

“You’re going to die one day.”

“Everybody hates you.”

“I will make the worst thing you can imagine come true.”

But he’s locked in the prison of my mind, and every now and then, The Man in the White Hat shows up and puts him in his place.

I don’t talk about him. I rarely think about him.

And I’m not afraid of him anymore.

Or, I wasn’t.

Until today.

“Mummy,” six-year-old Big Brother said. “I had a strange vision of a man.”

“Mmmm?”

“He was tall and skinny and really scary. And he was wearing black. A black shirt and a funny, long black jacket. And a really strange hat. I think he’s a bad guy.”

I froze. The bad guys in movies always wear black. It’s just a coincidence.

Right?

But what if it isn’t. “What type of hat?” I asked.

He frowned. Remembering.

“A tall, scary black one.”

My blood ran cold.

This story is entirely true. Have you had something spooky happen to you?

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Filed under Life With Kids, Random Stuff

Children and Guns

Water Pistol

Last night I dreamed my son was a Sandy Hook victim.

He’s six years old.

In my dream, I’d returned to Sandy Hook Elementary School for the first time since the shooting. I walked in the front, and there were photos of the victims, along with flowers and wreaths and pictures and poems. I approached the shrine set up for my son, and I felt my grief overwhelm my reason for a moment. Then I backed away, and I remembered why I was there.

Outside that front hall, school life had returned to normal. Children were in their lessons, or should have been. I spent some time there, wandering the halls, waiting in vain to see my son’s smile or hear his voice raised in laughter or argument.

I found myself on the grounds of a nearby high school. Much in the way of dreams, I don’t know how I got there. But I approached a young woman sitting at a table on her own. She would have been thirteen, and had dark curly hair and dark eyes. Ear-buds were jammed in both ears. She was reading a magazine.

When I stood next to her, she took out her headphones and looked at me. We exchanged pleasantries, and then I showed her a picture of my son. “This is Big Brother,” I said. “He died just down the road at the elementary school.”

“That’s sad,” the girl said. Then she shrugged. “But at least it wasn’t me.”

“No, you’re right,” I said. “It wasn’t you. You’re safe. But wouldn’t you rather it hadn’t been anyone?”

Her look turned guarded. “You’re one of those anti-gun crazies,” she said. “My Dad told me about you people. But guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Then she put her earbuds back in and turned away.

——————–

Last week in Kentucky, USA, a 5-year-old boy was playing with a child-friendly rifle he’d been given as a gift. He pulled the trigger. And in that simple action, he killed his 2-year-old sister.

When I read the story, my children were 5 and 2 years old. I tried to imagine handing my eldest boy a rifle. But I couldn’t do it.

I tried to imagine letting my eldest boy play, unsupervised, with a rifle. But I couldn’t do it.

I tried to imagine the grief of losing not just my youngest child, but both my children in a moment of negligent parenting. Because make no mistake, the little girl may be the one who died, but the 5-year-old is at least as much as victim in all this, if not more. But in this case, I didn’t want to do it.

Whether that poor boy is physically removed from the care of his parents or not, he will never be the same joyful, innocent child again. He’s too young to have understood what he was doing, and what it would mean, when he shot his sister, but exactly old enough to remember and regret it for the rest of his life.

——————–

I was driving Big Brother home from school two weeks ago when he asked me a question out of the blue. “Mummy,” he said. “If guns are so bad, why do policemen have them?”

A pause. A moment to gather my thoughts. And then, “Why do you think guns are bad, sweetie?”

“Because today at school I drew a picture of a hero shooting a bad guy, but my teacher told me we’re not allowed to draw pictures of guns at school.* And we’re not allowed to pretend sticks are guns and shoot at each other either.* So guns are bad.”

(* This is not uncommon in Australia, where most schools and child-care facilities won’t allow toy guns, and discourage gun-based pretend play. The majority of urban households won’t have toy guns at home for young children either.)

“Guns themselves aren’t bad,” I said carefully. “Guns are just pieces of wood and plastic and metal that have been turned into a tool. In some places, guns are very important and do a lot of good: like in the country where farmers need to protect their cows and sheep from predators.”

“Then why aren’t we allowed to play with them?”

“Well, you tell me what guns are used for.”

He thought for a few seconds. “Shooting people.”

“Absolutely,” I said. “And what happens if you shoot someone with a gun?”

He thought again. “They fall down.”

“Yes. And what else?”

“They die.”

“Yes,” I said. “Guns are used to shoot people or animals so that they die.”

There was silence for a good few minutes. “But, Mummy. After they die, do they get back up and be alive again?”

“No, Sweetie,” I said. “I’m afraid that when you shoot someone and they die, they stay dead.”

“Forever?” he asked in a tremulous tone.

“Forever.”

Another moment of silence. “But… But we don’t have real guns at school. It’s only pretend guns. And it was only a picture of a gun.”

“I know,” I said. “But do you think pointing a gun at someone is a very friendly thing to do?”

“No.”

“And it’s very important that we’re nice to our friends, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“So that’s why there’s a rule about guns. Because it’s not nice to pretend to kill someone.”

“Okay,” he said. And then, “But why do policemen have guns?”

That was a trickier question to answer simply, especially on the spur of the moment. But I did the best I could. “Well,” I said. “Policemen have guns because it’s their job to protect people from criminals. Sometimes criminals have guns, so policemen have to have guns, too. But they don’t like having to carrying a gun and they really, really, really, really don’t like having to shoot at someone.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“But if it’s a bad guy, then it’s okay.” Pause. A little less confidence in his voice. “Because it’s a bad guy. And you’re allowed to kill bad guys.”

“No, Sweetie. Policemen don’t even like to kill bad guys. Bad guys are still people.”

A long pause. “So… Are guns bad or not?”

“No, Big Brother, guns aren’t bad. But the only thing they can be used for is hurting and killing. They’re good for farmers to protect their animals from dingoes and other wild animals, but guns aren’t toys. And it’s never okay to point a gun at someone, even if it’s only a pretend one.”

——————–

I woke up this morning shaky and trembling all over. The dream left me feeling traumatised. Not, strangely, because of the death of my son. Rather, I was traumatised by the uncaring and dismissive reaction of the young lady I encountered. By the way she shrugged off an entire tragedy because someone else told her not to listen to the crazies. By the way that maintaining the status quo was more important than even acknowledging that lives had been lost.

Because she’s right: Guns don’t kill people without someone to pull the trigger.

But killing is the only thing guns are good for.

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Filed under Opinion, Random Stuff