I remember it as if it were a dream, with everything lopsided and in slow motion. I remember racing around the back of the house from our little white playhouse, my arms pumping with panic and my hair loose from its braid and flying in 20 directions. The air around me has an odd quality about it, with everything kind of hazy and gray and I can’t feel the ground under my feet. I know it will be full dark soon and I need to get to the light of the back porch and beyond the danger chasing me.
I am not fast enough. Even before I look over my shoulder I know I’m beaten, the dangerous race over, and I have lost. I am thrown from the walkway and up against the side of our old clapboard egg cellar by hands smaller than my own, their heads nearly level with my own. Their long, treacherous fingers hold fast to both of my arms. I struggle, kicking out at the goblins, but the more desperate I am, the more resolute their hold on me becomes. It doesn’t take me long to understand I cannot fight them off, and I collapse to the ground. Their faces are like hideous red-orange clay sculptures, lumpy and imperfectly formed. Their mouths are just slits in the wrinkled roundness of their heads. Their eyes are unblinking black holes and when they speak it is as if they share one voice. They tell me that if I won’t come with them they will take my baby brother instead. I am devastated, the fear rising hot from my stomach and into my throat.
“No!” I hear myself scream, “No, no, no! I’ll come, I’ll come with you. Leave my brother alone!” I am crying out of control, my words jumbled and running together. I have to go with them; what choice do I have?
That’s the full course of the memory…nothing before and nothing after. I still feel a creeping dread filling me up to overflowing when I think about it. It creates a feeling of absolute defeat and hopelessness, something a child should never have to know. The goblins of my early childhood soon morphed in my memory and became aliens. They took their place along side the blue light and the blood orange, and my story grew in history and context.
Soon after this I remember kneeling by my mother, my fear tumbling out, the story falling at her feet. She hugged me and assured me it was just a nightmare. She told me it would evaporate when morning came and everything would feel better in the sunlight. I wanted to believe her, but the dream claimed me and stayed, even when the sun climbed over the mountain and into the sky.
As a grown woman I can call it what it really was. It wasn’t a dream, but it was a nightmare; the kind that comes when your mind falls into a night it cannot shake off. It’s called False Memory Syndrome. I rode this blackest of black nightmares way too far and long, unable to pull the reigns in with my own strength. My headlong race to destruction came to a screeching halt when I walked into Sheryl’s office. I was terrified to tell her anything about me, afraid she would say I was genuinely crazy and the nightmare must continue, but that’s not how it played out. It took several sessions for me to get brave enough to tell her about my strange, fragmented alien encounter memories, but when I eventually did she helped me open my eyes and daylight finally came. That was the beginning of the end of my nightmare.
And here’s a memory I love. I left Sheryl’s office on the day I learned that False Memory Syndrome was what I was dealing with, and walked the 4 or 5 blocks to work, the day shimmering around me. The world was swimming in colors so bright they made me blink. I felt as light and unfettered as dandelion fluff and was acutely aware of smells and sounds and the feel of the breeze on my skin. I had never experienced such a blindingly brilliant and beautiful morning!
Today’s word was false, which seemed to fit perfectly: