Wake Up

Every+night%2C+Tommy+Byrnes+has+nightmares.+He+has+had+these+nightmares+since+he+was+little.+However%2C+he+doesn%E2%80%99t+remember+the+dreams+when+he+wakes+up.+Instead%2C+he+believes+he+had+a+dreamless+sleep.+Subconsciously%2C+he+is+compelled+to+do+certain+actions.+He+has+no+reason+why+he+does+these+things%2C+until+he+finally+remembers+a+nightmare+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Sarah+Neal%29.

Sarah Neal

Every night, Tommy Byrnes has nightmares. He has had these nightmares since he was little. However, he doesn’t remember the dreams when he wakes up. Instead, he believes he had a dreamless sleep. Subconsciously, he is compelled to do certain actions. He has no reason why he does these things, until he finally remembers a nightmare (Photo courtesy of Sarah Neal).

I met her in the field. She looks me up and down and opens her mouth. Her words sound like screeching bats flying out of a cave.

Don’t wear boots. Don’t. You need to run, run, run, run, go, get out of there, running shoes.

“Why am I running? What am I running from?” 

She stares at me, her eyes cloudy like a corpse.  

Wake up Wake up Wa   ke up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake    up Wake up Wake  u p Wake up W a k e up Wake up Wake up  Wake up Wak e up Wake up Wak e up   Wake up Wa ke up   Wake  u p Wake up W ake up Wake up Wak e up Wak e u p Wake up Wa ke up Wake up Wake    up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wak e up Wake up Wake up Wa ke up Wake u p Wake up Wak e   up  Wa ke up W a ke up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up W   ake up Wake up Wak e up Wake u p  Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake  up Wak   e u p Wake up    Wake up Wake up  Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up W ake up Wake up  Wake up Wake up Wa ke up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wa ke up Wake up Wake up Wake u p Wake up

I wake up to the sound of my bedroom door swinging open. 

My mother’s voice sounded frantic as she spoke. “Tommy, it’s 8:30, you have to get up! You’re going to be late!” 

I sigh and throw off my covers. As I sit up, I turn to my mom. With confirmation that I’m awake, she leaves my room. I stretch my arms and legs before I stand up and walk over to the pile of clothes I wore the day before. I throw on the jacket and pants laying on the floor and look at my shoes. 

Boots or running shoes? Boots are faster to put on, but I’m late. I need running shoes. 

I slide them on, grab my backpack, and quickly go to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I run downstairs. My mom had already left for work. I grab my wallet, ID, and phone and run out the door. It was raining. Of course it was. I pulled my hoodie over my head and started running to school. 

It was a 7-minute run, and it was already 8:41. I sprinted down the street, faster than I thought was humanly possible. I reach the school, head up the steps three at a time, and run down the hallway. I grab the doorframe of my classroom and swing into my class. I collapse in my chair as the bell rings. My lungs felt like they were on fire. I was shaking and wheezing, and my head was pounding. I lay my head on my desk and close my eyes.

I see her again. She examines my clothes, and smiles when she looks at my shoes. 

You wore the shoes. Good. Keep wearing these. You’ll need them in the morning.

“What do you mean?”

Again, she doesn’t answer my question. 

Wake up Wake up Wa   ke up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake    up Wake up Wake  u p Wake up W a k e up Wake up Wake up  Wake up Wak e up Wake up Wak e up   Wake up Wa ke up   Wake  u p Wake up W ake up Wake up Wak e up Wak e u p Wake up Wa ke up Wake up Wake    up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wak e up Wake up Wake up Wa ke up Wake u p Wake up Wak e   up  Wa ke up W a ke up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up W   ake up Wake up Wak e up Wake u p  Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake  up Wak   e u p Wake up    Wake up Wake up  Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up W ake up Wake up  Wake up Wake up Wa ke up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wa ke up Wake up Wake up Wake u p Wake up

“Mr. Byrnes!” My teacher, Mr. Sanders, slams his hand on my desk.

I pick up my head, rub my eyes, and stare at him. “What?”

“What’s the highest court in the United States?” He asks me.

“Supreme court.”

“What’s the central bank of the United States?”

“Federal reserve.”

“What policy manages how much money is in circulation by setting interest rates?”

“Monetary Policy.”

He looks at me in the eyes, trying to think of another question to ask. 

“Now that you’re done, can I go back to sleep?” I scoff at my teacher.

“Get out of my class,” he snaps.

I stand up and throw on my backpack. “Gladly.”

My classmates watch me storm out the door and slam it hard behind me. As I walk down the hallway, I hear Mr. Sanders yell after me. He was probably upset that I slammed the door. Oh well. I laugh and start running down the hallway, past the classrooms and the freshman wandering around, still trying to find the bathroom. Mr. Sanders is still yelling after me. Another teacher, maybe the principal, has joined him. I near the front door of the school. Just as I thought I was nearing victory, I crash to the ground. The resource officer pins my hands behind my back and shoves my face into the cold tile floor.

“Gotcha, Brynes,” he growls at me. 

He pulls me up off the floor and pushes me to the principal’s office. 

“Is this even legal? You tackled a minor to the ground. I’m not even eighteen yet. I could sue you,” I ramble. 

“Stop talking and sit down,” he says to me, and points to the chair in front of the principal’s desk. He lets go of my hands and leaves the room.

Ms. Riazzi looks at me like a mother who was disappointed. “Thomas, it’s your senior year. It’s almost the end of the second semester. When are you going to learn to behave yourself?”

I laugh. “About two more of these meetings and I should be good.”

Ms. Riazzi shakes her head and sits at her desk. She pulls out a notepad from her desk and starts scribbling on it. “Thomas, I have to suspend you. This is the third time you’ve done this in two months. What’s going on?”

“I haven’t been getting much sleep. I keep waking up in the middle of the night,” I answer. 

“Have you been having nightmares?” 

I think for a moment, trying to remember the last time I even had a bad dream. “No, I never remember my dreams. I just can’t sleep.” 

She looks at me and sighs as she hands me a yellow sheet of paper. “Go home, Thomas. Get some rest. I’ll see you in two weeks.” 

“Yeah, thanks.” My voice was barely audible. I walk out of her office right as the bell rings. Students come flooding out of their classes, walking to their second period. I strolled to the exit. My friends watch as I walk out of the door. 

It was still raining. I put my hood on and walk in the opposite direction of my house. No point in going home yet. I kept walking until it started thundering. At that point, I walked into the closest building. It was a little diner. Inside, there was an older man sitting at the bar and a woman sitting in a booth. Only two people were working. 

“Dine in?” The hostess walks up to me with a menu in her hand. 

“Uh, yeah. Sure.” She leads me to a two-person table and sets my menu down. “Thanks.”

“No problem, hun.” She walks back behind the counter and takes the man’s order. 

I study the menu, deciding whether or not I wanted to eat my problems away with three chocolate chip waffles. As I was reading, I hear the chair in front of me scrape against the floor. Someone sits down.

I lower my menu and look at the woman in front of me. She was the one sitting in the booth. Her eyes were cloudy and unresponsive. Her skin was very pale, so pale that I could see her veins.

“Can I, uh, help you?” I ask.

“You’ve seen her. The demon.” Her eyes bore into mine, although I was pretty sure she couldn’t see me at all.

“What?” 

“You’ve seen her in your dreams. She tells you what to do. You wake up and do it. She’s the one who got you suspended, the one who made you wear those shoes.” Her voice trembles, like she’s about to start crying.

“Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t even know who you are. How did you even know I got suspended? It literally just happened.” I pick my menu back up and continue to read, ignoring the insane woman in front of me. 

She doesn’t speak again. After a minute, I lower my menu to see that she has moved back to her original seat. The hostess walks up to me. 

“What would you like to eat, hun?” She asks.

“Uh, just a coffee.” I look up at the woman, who is staring at me blankly. “To go, please.”

She takes my menu away from me. “Alright, No problem.”

While she’s preparing my coffee, my phone buzzes. Text message.

Mayra: Where are you?

Me: Suspended

Mayra: You’re leaving me alone in physics? 

Me: Yeah, sorry. I’ll be back in 2 weeks

Mayra: We have a project you know. And I’m dumb.

Me: Yeah I know

Mayra: Why did you agree with me?? You think I’m dumb?

Me: yeah, you’re my lab partner. I know you

Mayra: I don’t like you

Me: Oh well

Mayra: Meet me at the library after school and help me with this stupid project

Me: Fine, I’ll be there at 4.

My waitress sets my coffee in front of me and sets a sleeve, a lid, and my receipt beside it. “Here you go, hun.”

“Thanks.” I leave the money on the table and stand up. The woman who sat in front of me lifts her gaze to follow me. 

“Be careful, boy. She won’t show you mercy,” she whispers. 

“I sure hope not.” 

I waited for Mayra at the public library in the history aisle, scanning the shelves for anything interesting.

“You’re early. You’re never early.” Mayra sneaks up behind me.

I turn around. “I got suspended and had nothing to do all day.”

“Well, that means you can spend the rest of the day helping me with this project.” She plops down in the chair behind her and sets her backpack in her lap. She rummages through her stuff until she pulls out the works of our project. 

“So I’ve already collected the data; we did that today. We have to figure out the velocity, displacement, and….”  Her words start blurring together as my eyes got heavy. I fall asleep.

This time, she was sitting in a diner, the same diner I went to this morning. In front of her was a plate of chocolate chip waffles. I walk to her booth and sit down across from her. She slides me the plate of waffles, along with a pair of silverware. 

I shoveled the chocolatey goodness in my mouth. “Who are you?” I say with my mouth full. “A woman warned me about you; she said you wouldn’t have mercy on me.”

Jace Erwin
Tommy’s plate of chocolate chip waffles given to him by the demon.
(Photo courtesy of Jace Erwin).

I won’t.

“Oh, okay. Can I have more waffles?”

She was taken aback by my answer. You should be scared. You should run.

“Yeah, but, you’re just a nightmare. And that lady was just crazy.” I scrape the chocolate sauce off of my plate and lick my fork.

You are naive. You don’t believe I exist, when you should fear me. Tonight, you are to run away from your home. Leave your family and friends behind. Do not look back.

“Why would I do that?” 

Because, it is what I wish. W a ke up Wa   ke up W ake u  p Wak e u p

She didn’t finish. Mayra slaps my face. 

“Did you fall asleep while I was explaining our project?” she snaps.

I couldn’t speak; I was in shock. I remembered the dream. I never have dreams. 

“Hello?” Mayra snaps her fingers in my face. “Are you even listening to me?”

“Be quiet for a second. I’m thinking,” I say to her. 

“Excuse me?” 

I look at Mayra. “What do you know about the supernatural?”

“Tommy, what on earth are you talking about?” Mayra looks at me the same way I looked at the woman in the diner. She looks at me like I’m crazy.

“The supernatural: ghosts, vampires, demons. Things that haunt your dreams.” 

She tilts her head and stares at me. She puts her physics book in her backpack and pulls out another book in its place. It was an old book, and the title wasn’t in English. Its spine was broken and the back cover was falling off. I watch her flip to a page and scan its contents.

Her face drops. “How do you know about this?” 

“I had a dream, just now. There was a woman-”

“What did she look like?” Mayra asks.

“I can’t remember, but she started telling me to do something. She told me I should be afraid of her. Then you woke me up,” I explain. “What do you know about it?”

“My bubbie used to tell me stories about this thing that would come to her in dreams. It was a woman with charcoal colored skin and white hair. She looked like this.” Mayra shows me the picture in her book. 

My heart skips a beat. “That’s her.”

My friend gently closes the book and puts it away. She kept her eyes on the ground. 

“Mayra, what happened to your grandma?” 

She completely ignores my question. “We need to get her out of your head.”

Mayra stands up and throws her backpack over her shoulder. I stand up too, worried about what was going to happen. Without saying another word to me, we walk to her house. When she opens her front door, music fills the air. Her mom comes to the front entry way to see her daughter. Mayra introduces me in another language, and her mother shakes my hand. 

“Nice to meet you, Thomas,” she says with a thick accent. I think it was Russian.

“Nice to meet you too.” 

Mayra continues to talk to her mom in her first language, probably explaining the situation. Her mother looks at me with concern, then responds to her daughter. After she finishes talking, Mayra turns to me. 

“My mom told me that you need to lucid dream, that way you can act against the demon in your dreams.” Her mom nods her head and points to the couch. Mayra continues, “Lay on the couch, on your back with your arms to your side.”

I do as I was instructed. Mayra lifts my head up and puts a pillow underneath it. She then pulls up a chair and sits next to me. 

“Okay, close your eyes. Lay like this for a few minutes and try to fall asleep. Constantly remind yourself that you’re dreaming. Got it?” 

“Yeah, got it.” 

“I’ll be right here if anything happens to you, and I’ll wake you up if you begin to struggle,” Mayra reassures me. I nod my head and close my eyes. It takes a few minutes for me to drift off to sleep. I remember the advice Mayra gave me.

This is a dream. I’m dreaming right now. I repeat it to myself. 

When I open my eyes, I’m surrounded by trees. I look around this new area, reminding myself that I’m asleep and I’m in a dream. The moment I face forward, the demon is inches away from my face.

“I want you to get out of my head,” I say to her, my voice louder than normal.

She caresses my face with her abnormally long, slender fingers. Her nails were as sharp as razors. 

“You’re lucid dreaming. You’re trying to get rid of me.” She grabs me by the throat and digs her nails into my neck. Her eyes turn black. “You can’t.”

I try to break her grip, to pull her hand away. She lifts me into the air and throws me like I weigh nothing. My head hits a tree stump. 

“This is a dream. This is a dream. You can’t hurt me. This isn’t real,” I cry. 

The demon leans down and whispers in my ear, “Wake up.”

My head was pounding. I couldn’t breathe. I hear Mayra yelling at her mother. She was wrapping my head and neck with bandages. 

“No no no no, this can’t be happening.” She was frantic. 

“What?” My voice was groggy and strained. 

“I couldn’t wake you up. The demon attacked you. We need to get you to the hospital.”

“No, I can’t go to a hospital. I’ll be fine.” I try to sit up, but Mayra pushes me back down. 

“Are you crazy? You could die!” She scolds. “You’re staying here tonight or you’re going to the hospital. You need someone to stay with you, end of story.”

“Fine, I’ll stay here. Can I sit up now?” I ask.

Mayra helps me sit up, and her mother hands me a cup of water. I thank her. Mayra is mumbling to herself, I couldn’t understand what she was saying. She looks up at me and looks at the cuts on my neck and head. 

“What do I do?” I ask her.

She breathes in deeply. “I don’t know. Right now, you can’t go to sleep. Not until we figure this out.” She sits back down in front of me, waiting for my response. 

“Okay, but I’ll need something to keep me up.” 

“Easy enough,” she says. Mayra asks her mom something. After a few minutes, I smell coffee brewing from the kitchen. When it’s finished, Mayra gets me a cup. 

“How long do you think it will take? You know, until we figure this out.” I take a sip of my coffee.

“I don’t know. You just can’t go to sleep, or this will happen again.”

“What can I do for the rest of the night then?” I ask.

Mayra looks around and grabs a few books off of the coffee table. “We can research ways to get this thing out of your head.”

I put down my coffee and grab a book. Mayra and I read almost seven books before she falls asleep in the chair. I keep reading and drinking coffee, but I was getting extremely tired. I glance at Mayra sleeping, books laid in her lap. “What’s the worst that could happen? I can just close my eyes for a few minutes.” I think to myself. I lay back on the couch and shut my eyes. Not even two minutes later, I was asleep. 

I was in the field again. The bandages around my neck and head were gone, and the demon was sitting in the grass. I walk up to her and realize that the grass around her was dead. 

You know there’s only one way to end this. She looks up at me, her eyes a milky white. 

“No, Mayra and I are looking for ways to stop you.” I speak, confident in my friend.

She can sleep peacefully, but you can’t. I can smell your jealousy; you would give anything for a good night’s rest.

“You’re wrong.”

Attack the girl. Make her feel the pain you feel. 

Wake up Wake up Wa   ke up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake    up Wake up Wake  u p Wake up W a k e up Wake up Wake up  Wake up Wak e up Wake up Wak e up   Wake up Wa ke up   Wake  u p Wake up W ake up Wake up Wak e up Wak e u p Wake up Wa ke up Wake up Wake    up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wak e up Wake up Wake up Wa ke up Wake u p Wake up Wak e   up  Wa ke up W a ke up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up W   ake up Wake up Wak e up Wake u p  Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake  up Wak   e u p Wake up    Wake up Wake up  Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up W ake up Wake up  Wake up Wake up Wa ke up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wa ke up Wake up Wake up Wake u p Wake up

I open my eyes. The sun was peaking through the blinds. I stand up, completely forgetting about all of my wounds. I walk over to where Mayra is sleeping. She looks so peaceful, so sound. I reach down and grab her wrist. I squeeze her wrist as hard as I can, and she wakes up screaming.

“Tommy, what are you doing? Let go !” She started to cry. Realizing what I was doing, I loosen my grip. She rips her arm away from me. 

“I told you not to go to sleep! I know she told you to do that. You should have listened to me.” She was cradling her arm against her chest. 

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean too.” I slowly back away from Mayra.

She stands up and walks towards me. “It’s okay. I know you didn’t.”

“No, no it’s not. I need to leave.” I grab my stuff and run out her door. 

Mayra chases after me. I beeline until I shake her off of my trail, then I keep running until I get to my house. I run up to my room. My mom starts yelling at me for coming home late. I lock my door behind me. My phone rings off the hook, Mayra was calling and texting me, telling me to come back. I throw my phone against the wall and it shatters. My mom was banging on the door, scolding me. I ignore every noise around me and lay in my bed. I turn on my back and put my arms by my side, just like I did at Mayra’s house. I close my eyes. 

This is a dream. I’m dreaming. You can control your actions, you can talk to the demon. 

My eyes open, and she is standing in front of me. Her eyes were peering into my own. 

You came back. 

“I need you to leave. Get out of my head.”

She laughs. A horrible, terrible laugh that sends chills up my spine. You know what needs to be done! 

She picks me up by my arm and swings me around like a ragdoll. The air is knocked out of my lungs. She throws me on the ground and stands on my arm, breaking it underneath her foot. 

When you wake up, you will try to get rid of me. Do you understand?

“Yes.” I manage to wheeze out. 

Good.

 Wak   e up Wake up Wa   ke up W   ake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wa ke up Wake    up Wake up Wake  u p Wake up W a k e up Wake up Wake up  Wake up Wak e up Wake  up Wak e up   Wake up Wa ke up   W a ke  u p Wake up W ake up Wake up Wak e up Wak e u p Wake u   p Wa ke up Wake up Wake    up W a  ke up Wake  up Wake u p Wake up Wak   e up Wak e up Wake up Wak e up Wa ke up Wake u p Wake up Wak e   up  Wa ke up W a ke up Wak  e up Wake up     Wake up  Wak   e up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up W   ake up Wake up Wak e up  W  ake u p  Wake up Wa ke u p Wa ke up Wake  up Wak   e u p   Wak e up    Wake up Wake up  Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up W ake up Wake up  Wake  up Wake up Wa ke up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wake up Wa ke up Wake up Wake up Wake u p Wake up

I sit up. My mom was still banging on my door. I open the top drawer on my bedside table and take out a handgun. I kept it in there just in case someone broke in. I stand up and walk over to the door. I lean my head against it. 

“I’m sorry, mom. I’m sorry.” I press the barrel against my temple. “I love you.”

“Thomas Brynes open this door right now! You have some explaining to do!” 

I shudder. Bang.

The next day was a blur. Everyone was walking through the halls with their heads down. The principal announced that Tommy Brynes took his own life. Everyone gave their condolences to Tommy’s family, and to me. I was his closest friend. People I didn’t even know came up to me and hugged me. I had no emotion that day. All I wanted to do was to go home. When the last bell finally rang, I walked home in a trance. When I got home, I laid on the couch and close my eyes. 

I met her in the field. She looks me up and down, and opens her mouth. Her words sound like screeching bats, flying out of a cave.

You must be Mayra. Your bubbie told me all about you.