As a very young!Merc, I had series nightmares. Not specifically the same nightmare over and over (serial), although sometimes I had repetitious dreams, but a series of nightmares that all had a basic structure and the same boogeyman-type antagonist.
(Well, I had a handful of series nightmares. There was The Tractor, there were a couple of generic serial killers, and there was the Tornado.)
One of these series involved creepy little animals that naturally lived under the bed and had an entire underground civilization. Often there was a horrific mutated Clifford the Big Red Dog involved. The worst part was that 90% of the time, the dream started in that vague sense of knowing it’s a dream, thinking you’ve woken up, and then the nightmare actually unfolds.
For years, the Little Animal dreams messed up my head. They weren’t frequent, but they were always lingering in the back of my brain. I kept trying to defeat them and in not quite managing it.
(While I’d watched The Twilight Zone and a lot of cheesy horror movies as a young!Merc, I’d never seen Night Gallery. But in 2009, we got the series on DVD and I watched the whole thing. The segment that included the mini-episode, “A Feast of Blood,” freaked the hell out of me because that brooch? It was like the designer grabbed images out of my head and put them on TV.)
At some point in my dreams (still as a young!Merc), I hit the equivalent of a boss fight, told the Little Animals to beat it and leave me alone, because I wasn’t scared of them anymore. (There was a strange amount of stabbing them with a mailbox.)
The nightmares stopped.
Fast forward to present!Merc. I’d always wanted to use some of my weird dream imagery in a story. It’s like the ultimate smackdown on the old nightmares. (I will dismantle your bones and create a new creature. MAD SCIENCE, FTW.)
I took the core imagery and wrote a story titled, shockingly enough, “All the Little Animals“. It’s about a girl determined to save her little brother from nightmarish animals out to get them. It was a very personal story and also a favorite of my horror pieces. And it paid off.
“All the Little Animals” was accepted for the Spring 2013 issue of The Red Penny Papers, and I could not be happier! I love RPP, and I love this story, and I hope you will give it a look next year. Although probably not before bed.
(As semi-autobiographic as it is, no real Mercs were harmed in the drafting of this story.)