Dream of the Night Stalker

Last Thursday, a woman asked me which serial killer gave me the worst nightmares. I told her that I’d never dreamed of serial killers before, which was (I said) kind of weird, but I don’t usually dream about the things I’m writing about. A few minutes later, another woman asked me if I ever thought of my own potential for murder. It was an intense question but I liked it. I said that I would never kill anyone, unless they hurt my family, and then all bets were off. (I don’t like people who swear they’d never be violent. We should all be so lucky so as to never have to test that theory, but really—what do you know about what you might do if your world came apart at the seams?)

Then last night I tempted fate by reading a thick book on Ted Bundy right before bed, and a few hours later my first serial killer dream wafted in through the window. The killer was Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, but that was never articulated in the dream, and I never saw his face. He was just there, in the dark house—a malignant energy.

The dream:

I was in a house just outside a small town with my three younger siblings. It was a large, one-story house with a lot of rooms. You could see the lights of the town through the pine trees but the house was isolated. We’d just gotten home. We hadn’t turned on any of the lights yet. We were talking about a play that we were all thinking of doing. As we chatted, my sister wandered over to one of the sliding glass doors and said, “Wait!” The door was open and the cold air was whipping in.

At first we panicked, and then we realized that the door might have slid open on its own. “Could be the weather,” we said. One of us said something like, “It’s probably fine unless we see any other signs of a break-in,” and it was just then that my sister pointed to the floor, speechless. There was a little bucket on the floor with its handle broken, as though someone had stepped on it.

We looked at each other and mouthed, Run.

We got to our car, which was in the dark driveway. I slid into the driver’s seat. The car wouldn’t start. We looked at each other in pure terror. What to do what to do what to do. The first option was that we could duck down below the seats, ball up tight and quiet, and hope that when he left the house, he’d walk past us, never realizing that we were there at all.

But suddenly I was hit with the absurdity of that choice. There was no way in hell I was going to let us take the passive way out. We weren’t going to sit there and hope that luck or fate would help us or that his sharp eyes would overlook us. As long as we were still breathing, we would make the rules. We would never, ever wait quietly for the hunter.

I looked at my brothers and my sister.

“We’re all pretty fast,” I said.

I dreamed this next part a couple of times, since at that point I was already half-awake due to the adrenaline coursing through my body, making my heart shriek and pound. In some scenes we ran four abreast. In other scenes we ran in a line, with one of my brothers in the front and the other in the back. Whatever configuration we ran in, though, we ran toward the lights of the town, and we looked back over and over again, to make sure none of us dropped behind. That meant that we didn’t run as fast as we could have, if we’d run alone. But it meant that we made it.