Written by Jonathan Wojcik
NIGHTMARE MENAGERIE 2019
Welcome back! If you're a new reader, and we did get a big influx this year, the Nightmare Menagerie (formerly just "Nightmare Beings") is a feature running from November to the end of December (Halloween Season II) in which I invite all of you to share the creatures and creature-like entities you've encountered in dreams, night terrors or even hallucinations brought about by illness or otherwise!
I usually begin every year by doodling a bunch of dream-beings either of my own or from previous years' comment sections, but this time, I'm going to share just a single dream I had very recently that left an unsettling impression on me.
As with many dreams, I wasn't really an active participant in the events, but I believed the dream was a horror movie I was watching. The dream began with a nameless man waking up on the floor of a dirty house - a buff, probably 30-some year old guy with Hollywood good looks - where he was accosted by two children whose design style was so reminiscent of Hideshi Hino that my dream-self wondered if he'd been paid or just ripped off.
The children were boneless and blobby from the neck down, shuffling on a pair of lumps instead of legs. They had a lot to say to the man that I don't remember, but what did stick with me was the overjoyed way they said they would "hurt him" and "keep hurting him." It was cheesy and blunt, but something about it seemed unusually chilling to me at the time.
What ensued from here wasn't anything I really feel up to illustrating, as scenes flashed by of the man in various situations where he was either forced to do chores around the house or simply tormented for no reason, such as being locked in a small box for extended periods of time or left in a room flooded with cold water. I felt sad and nauseated by the imagery of realistic abuse, and I felt that this movie was tasteless, ugly and mean spirited, though it apparently hadn't even begun, because the children kept talking about "Mama," which I also knew to be the title of the movie (not to be confused with any actual, real-life movies called "Mama"), and that all of these things were her idea because they simply made her "happy".
And then, we finally saw her...
"Mama" was a cheap and laughable special effect; an ugly, lumpy sculpture of modeling clay, like something out of gumby, that moved by simply gliding around the floor in stop motion, none of her limbs or features so much as twitching. In the context of the dream however, this in itself seemed terrifying, as did her comical goldfish-like face, sickly yellowish complexion and far too realistic detail under her sheer gown to still be clay. I think she might have even been subconsciously inspired by the "Big Lady" from Dr. Chaos, which freaked me out when I was a child renting the game. Whatever she was, she had orchestrated all of this horrific treatment of the random man because she "liked him" and wanted him to be a part of their family. This again felt so close to domestic abuse that I wanted to turn off the movie, but I was too morbidly curious about these absurd monsters and whether or not their victim would get away.
More scenes ensued of their day-to-day lives, with Mama usually only an unseen but much-talked-about presence. The house turned out to be incredibly vast as the film went on, and most of it actually didn't have a ceiling; it was more like an outdoor labyrinth made up of papered walls and quaint furniture, in some places overgrown with plant life that the man was also forced to take care of.
It was during one of these gardening sessions that Mama paid him another visit, and this is where dream-me thought the movie had gone too far. I can't even describe what it was that Mama did, at first; you've probably had dreams with moments so abstracted that they were more a sequence of feelings than they were images and events we have vocabulary for. All I know is that, after doing something that I did not like witnessing, Mama suddenly appeared to be chewing on a piece of bubblegum with a sickeningly zealous relish, joyously blowing and popping bubbles, stretching out and re-chewing the gum with her slobbering fish mouth.
Once she grew tired of this, she smeared the "gum" on the stone floor, and the camera zoomed in on it as she left the room...
All along, the gum had been the nameless man, reduced somehow to this tiny, pink wad of a creature that could do nothing to peel itself back off the floor or back into shape, and began to continuously scream in the same manner as a rabbit.
Not only did this scene feel gut-wrenchingly cruel, but I also found myself thinking "this is so weird, so gross, so specific, and went on so uncomfortably long that it just has to be the director's secret fetish." I made a decision to finally stop watching, but unfortunately, the dream wouldn't let me find the remote, or a button, or even a TV at all; I was just a disembodied presence that had been hovering around the events since the beginning, and I thought nothing of this besides some minor annoyance that I'd have to keep watching.
This is when things remarkably enough somehow began to get better...or they seemed to, at least. By the next scene he was no longer a shrieking gum creature, and in fact, it turned out Mama had a perfectly human-looking daughter who wanted to rescue him. I thought this seemed like a very convenient cliche, but it also made me suspicious. She made him follow her through the labyrinth in a convoluted route, avoiding her mother and two blob-siblings, and kept promising that they would, of course, run away together...but despite the fact that the place didn't even have a ceiling and it was the middle of the day, I couldn't help noticing that the route they were taking was, impossibly, growing steadily darker. The bright sunshine was even still visible, but seemed strangely "far away," and as the mysterious girl climbed up over one of the walls, imploring the man to follow..............
I woke up and will never know what the hell might have happened next.
A dream may literally be your own imagination, but making up an ending myself is never, ever going to feel as "real." I didn't consciously decide to come up with any part of this dream. All of it was a total surprise my brain conjured, and the fact that I will never know what my brain in that state would have thought of next, had I kept sleeping, is probably going to bother me forever.
I don't know...how would you have ended it??
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