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Stories like this always seem to involve an overly imaginative child. This one is no exception. In fact, “overly imaginative” is probably putting it lightly. More often than not, I preferred the fantasy world in my mind over the monotony of every day life in elementary school. I mean I had friends, good grades, wasn't picked on or bullied… but it was never satisfying to me. I was always doodling on my worksheets or day dreaming about being somewhere much more fun. Normal kid stuff. That is, until the dreams started. The one thing that set me apart from all the other “normal” kids was my dreams. They were always far too vivid and real. Whenever I tried explaining them to an adult (including a therapist at one point) I was always accused of embellishing or exaggerating. When I spoke of the level of detail in the dreams, I was sometimes flat-out called a liar. I sincerely wish that were the case. My dreams were very similar to what I've recently come to know as “lucid dreaming.” Most of the time I knew full well that I was dreaming and sometimes I even had total control over that concept. I'd be able to summon or find my family and friends whenever I wanted to so that we could fly off on some amazing adventure that went on for hours and after I woke the next morning, I retained all of it. I could sit down and tell anyone about my dream, detail for detail, down to the smells and tastes I experienced. From what I was able to understand, that's not exceedingly common and for a long time, I looked forward to sleep in the way any other kid looked forward to seeing their favorite uncle or going on family vacations. Unfortunately, as with most things, nothing lasts forever.

6th grade rolled around which meant heading off to middle school. I'm really not sure if that had anything to do with it or not, but it was right around the start of the school year that everything went to hell. My grades went from strait A's to embarrassing report cards peppered with D's and F's. I went from having an army of friends to feeling like the outcast in every class. I started attracting negative attention which led to some bullying. I stopped talking as much in general and I was almost always on punishment at home as a consequence of the grades and generally unfriendly behavior, however until I recently spoke to my friend about this, no one has ever truly known why. God knows why I'm sharing this now, but I'll just come out with it. It was the dreams. At night when I'd fall asleep, I'd find myself in the middle of a vast darkness with dim light spotlight over top of me. I couldn't see anything outside of the illuminated, conal beam shining down the floor around me. Even reaching my arm out of the light caused it to completely disappear in the blackness. This was the entirety of the dream which I had every single night for weeks on end, sometimes lasting hours at a time. Never once did I find the courage to step outside the light, and looking back, that was probably a good thing. Eventually things got weirder. I started to hear whispering in the darkness coming from all around me, like being in the middle of a crowd of people. I learned to focus on them one by one to hear what they were saying. The whispers were almost always about me. How terrible my clothes were, how ugly I was, how ratty my shoes looked. After a while, I started to see things. Small shapes appearing in the blackness for an instant and then disappearing, almost as if something was coming just to the edge of the light and then stepping back out. Then I saw it– the faces. Those shapes from before… they were chins, lips, noses, foreheads. They started to come further and further into the light until I was surrounded by dozens of faces whispering about me to no one. Some of them were smiling while others looked intensely angry but every single one of them were looking strait at me, trying to catch my eye contact. I would drop to the floor and bury my face in my arms trying as hard as I could to wake up like I used to but now it never worked. As soon as I hid my face the voices grew louder and closer, almost as if they were right on top of me. I never found the courage to peek. This went on for years and my life suffered from it.

I stopped sleeping. I would go days without anything more than a couple hours of rest that only came when I was too exhausted to fight it. I became insanely paranoid, darting my vision around to anyone who was talking around me at school or at home, drawing attention to myself in the most negative way. Think back on your time in middle school. Remember that really weird kid who never really got along with anyone and always seemed to be off in a world of his own? Yeah, that was me. It almost makes me wonder how many other kids might have gone through something like this. I was almost 12 at this point which from what I understand is a pretty young age to be actively considering suicide, but I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't. I couldn't take it anymore. It had almost been a year without a break from this. I had accepted it as part of my life and at the time it seemed like I'd never be free of it. That was when something changed. I met him. Thinking back on it now, I'm not sure why I settled on such a strange name, but since that first night I've always referred to him as Helmet. Imagine if you will, a hulking, humanoid body that was built like a tank. His shoulders were extremely broad with arms far too long for his body that would drag on the floor when he walked like a clumsy gorilla, extremely muscular. His legs were very small for his body and always bent into a crouching position, resting on his toes and knees. His skin was noticeably dry and cracked like old molding clay with a very similar grey color. He had this weird sort of armor on his back and shoulders. Glossy and black, almost like obsidian stone, that stretched down the length of his hunched body, down to the top of his head. Jesus, his head. Of all the times I've been with him since, I've only seen his face once, if you can even call it that. His neck was long and thick. If it wasn't for his obvious jaw-line, you wouldn't even be able to tell where the neck stopped and his head began. The pitch black shell on his back continued down until it covered the entire top of his head, right down to his mouth. As far as I could tell, he had no eyes, nose or ears. His lower jaw was the same crusted, grey skin as the rest of his body, concealing a surprisingly normal looking set of flat, white teeth. He was absolutely enormous. I'd venture a guess that if he managed to stand strait up, he'd be well over 9 feet tall and even in his constantly crouched position, he was well over 6 feet.

He seemed to appear out of nothingness the first night I saw him, always with his back to me, standing in the same light that had become my nightly sanctuary. I noticed immediately that whenever he was with me, the faces (and more importantly the voices) had disappeared completely. At first I was terrified, wanting to run from it but still too scared to venture into the darkness. He just crouched there, motionless, facing out into the black as if he was waiting for something. This routine went on for days. Every night I'd appear in the same spotlight that had been haunting me and Helmet was always there waiting with his back to me. At the end of the 6th day, I found the courage to stand. Christ he was huge. I tried to speak with him on several occasions to no avail. I'm not even sure he's able to speak, let alone understand what I was saying. Now and then I'd tried to creep around along side of him to catch a glimpse of his face, but he'd always shuffle, pivoting in place and in seconds I'd be met with the bulk of his back again. Then, for the first time in years, it happened. I could feel myself waking up, almost as if I had total control over it. I could feel everything becoming lighter, as if I were drifting back into consciousness. Right before I faded off, it was all I could do to lay my arm on his back and whisper “Thank you.” That was when he let me see his face for the first and only time. A simple turning acknowledgement. No change in his features, no words, no signs, just a glance over his massive shoulder and he was gone from my dreams, along with everything else that had become a part of my horrifying nightly ritual. Life got better after that. I wasn't afraid to sleep anymore which seemed to have an instant effect on my personality and it projected at an amazing rate. I ended up having to repeat the 8th grade due to my failing grades, but the second time around went remarkably better. I was that strait A's and B's student again, making plenty of new friends in the fresh batch of students that filled my classes and the bullies went on to plague highschool. I felt rejuvenated. I never told anyone before this but I owe it all to that… well, to Helmet, I guess. I'm 29 as of last November, living a decently normal adult life and before 2 weeks ago, I could have sat here and told you that I've been having perfectly normal dreams and that I never saw Helmet again. That was until the lights started to fade again. I've always thought of Helmet as a protector. If that's the case, why is he back? What is it he's trying to protect me from this time? Why now?

Fiction


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