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Camp NaNo July Project: Bedouin Boy (Pages 1-4)

I’ve unofficially started my Camp NaNoWriMo project, editing my upcoming supernatural short story Bedouin Boy.
Bedouin Boy is about a little boy named Jasem, who lives with his family tribe in a Bedouin camp in the Negev Desert, Israel in 1976. Jasem’s mother Maryam is a medicine woman/sorceress, and as Jasem grows up he begins to discover his own psychic and supernatural abilities, which lead him on an unexpected path seeking justice for the dead.

In this first part, Maryam is asked to use forbidden Arabic black magic by a prominent member of the tribe. Maryam is reluctant to dabble in black magic but eventually agrees, with devastating consequences.

I will be officially releasing this story on Halloween, but I have decided to share this story page by page as I work my way through editing. I hope you enjoy it, and feedback is most welcome!

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Bedouin Boy

The Negev Desert, Israel

1976

Salim’s eyes and mouth were closed in death. The Sheikh had washed his son’s body three times over, starting with the upper right side, then the upper left side, lower right side, and ending with the lower left side. Three sheets were spread out and laid one upon the other, and then the body was placed on top of them. Salim’s left hand was placed on his chest, and his right hand was then placed on top of the left. The sheets were brought over Salim one at a time, first the right side, then the left, until they were all wrapped around the body. A rope was tied at the top of the head and another below the feet, and two more around the middle. The body was then laid in a long wicker basket lined with linen.

Salim’s family received friends and well-wishers who brought gifts and food. In a moment of quiet between visitors, the Sheikh and Sheikha sat together.

‘He was my favourite,’ said the Sheikh to his wife.

The Sheikha turned and looked at her husband; when she spoke it was with a lowered tone. She knew that what she was about to say next could cost her life.

‘There is a way,’ she whispered. ‘To bring him back.’

The Sheikh looked at his wife with sharp curiosity in his eyes.

‘Maryam could bring him back. I could go and talk to her.’

The Sheikh still said nothing, and his wife’s heart raced in her chest in morbid anticipation of his response. He looked back at Salim, and it was several moments before he spoke again.

‘It is forbidden…but he was my only son.’ He looked back at the Sheikha. ‘You must go and speak to Maryam. But no-one can see you. You must go after dark.’

Maryam sat cross-legged on a piece of carpet. She was draped in a dark-blue thobe decorated with colourful embroidered designs on the sleeves, seams and hems. She wore gold earrings, and a necklace made of coins and bells. Her hair was braided in thick plaits along her forehead, which showed from beneath the veil that covered her head. She looked out through the veil that concealed her face with piercing blue eyes lined with black kohl. Before her a young woman knelt, holding her crying baby on her lap. Maryam dipped her fingers into a bowl of pressed onion juice, and then stuck them into the infant’s mouth, rubbing them along the gums. Maryam nodded once, and the young mother stood to her feet, passing Omid as he stepped into the tent.

That evening, Maryam cooked goat and rice over an open fire. Charred pots and pans hung on wooden hangers and the roof of the tent was blackened by the soot from the fire pit. Omid sat on a carpet preparing sweet tea, and sitting in the corner, eight-year-old Jasem used a stick to draw squiggles and swirls in the dirt.

‘Maryam?’

She looked up to see the Sheikha. In her state of mourning, she had stripped back her usual finery. She was not wearing any jewellery, and wore a plain black thobe. She stepped inside the tent and sat down on one of the flowery cushions at the soft table, and Maryam offered her the sweet tea and dates.

‘He was my husband’s favourite.’ The Sheikha looked at Maryam; when she spoke again, it was with a lowered tone. ‘You could bring him back.’

Maryam shook her head.

‘I won’t do that,’ she said. ‘I don’t do that.’

‘But you can do it.’

‘Even if I did bring him back, he wouldn’t be the same. He could come back wrong. Different and unnatural.’

‘I don’t care what he comes back as! As long as he comes back!’ The Sheikha paused,

composed herself. ‘Please do this, Maryam. Please.’

‘What about the Sheikh?’

‘He knows I’m here. But no-one else, I promise.’

Maryam sighed, looking at her husband. She took a long pause before she spoke

again. She looked back at The Sheikha, and could see tears glistening in her eyes.

‘I will need time to prepare.’

‘We don’t have much time,’ the Sheikha urged. ‘We have three days at the very

most before Salim must be buried.’

Maryam found the cave at dawn, in the crevice of the steep rocky hillside. She ventured inside, and through the shadows she spotted an old man sitting on a carpet making tea. He wore a kerchief, held in place on his head with a band of folded cloth, and a long sleeve coat over a long white gown.

‘What is it that you seek, sister?’ he said, his voice cracked with age.

‘A spell to resurrect the dead.’

The old man said nothing at first, and Maryam waited patiently for him to speak, her heart beating sharply with anxious anticipation. He pointed a knobbly finger to a collection of large clay jars in the corner of the cave.

‘Bring me the last one.’
Most of the jars were still intact, with their lids still in place. Maryam retrieved the correct jar and placed in in front of the man. He placed his hands on it, closing his eyes, lowering and shaking his head.

‘I never thought I would give this to anyone. Be warned. If you perform this spell

when you aren’t ready, or aren’t powerful enough, it will kill you.’

The desert wind was dry and hot, the heat of the sun so great it seemed to fade the blueness of the sky. Omid cast his gaze searchingly across his flock of sheep and goats; amidst the sea of straggly wool he laid his eyes upon one of his youngest charges. He approached the lamb and picked it up, cradling it in his arms as he started the journey back to the camp.

As dusk fell, members of the tribe lay carpets in the sand and drank tea and camels milk, where they would remain until late into the night. Maryam cooked the sacrificial lamb over the fire, and they ate it together. When Jasem was asleep, Maryam and Omid slipped away. The Sheikh was waiting for them at the entrance to his tent, keeping a watchful, cautious gaze as he let them inside.

Maryam spread an altar cloth out on the carpet, arranging a black candle in each corner and placing a small black urn in the centre. She untied the ropes that were wrapped around Salim’s body, and then using a small dagger, cut through the cloth. She moved Salim’s hands from his chest, resting his arms by his sides. She then removed the scroll from the clay jar and unfurled it.

‘syd albawwabat, klhm yerafun wayubduna. ha ‘ana eabdak almutawadiea. ‘asmae

salati. ‘aqbil eardiin almutawadie; fi almawt tueti alhaya.’

She picked up the urn, removing the lid and tipping it on an angle, pouring the dark red blood into the dirt above Salim’s head. The Sheikh and Sheikha jumped when thunder crashed and lightening flashed outside. Salim opened his eyes, their colour washed out by a cloudy grey. Maryam sat back.

‘Bless you, Maryam!’ cried the Sheikha from behind. ‘Bless you for bringing our son

back to us!’

In a split second, Salim lunged and grabbed Maryam by the throat with both hands. Omid grabbed the clay jar and smashed it over Salim’s head, and he fell back, grunting and groaning as his body convulsed. Maryam sat back, gasping for air.

‘This is what comes from dabbling,’ she breathed. She looked at the Sheikh and Sheikha. ‘I have to banish the demon. Force it back into the spirit world.’

Maryam lit two sticks of blue sage braided with wheat straw, waving them slowly over Salim’s body. She looked up at the Sheikh and Sheikha. ‘I’m ready to begin.’

With eyes wet with tears, the Sheikha stepped forward and knelt beside her son, looking tenderly down at him.

‘I love you, son,’ she whispered. ‘I’m so sorry.’

She stood back, and Maryam began to chant the incantation, her eyes firmly planted on Salim lying before her.

‘sawf tadamiruk alaliha. alalihat allaenat ealayk, walruwh alsharira.’

She repeated the chant over and over. Salim’s convulsions grew more violent, his grunts escalating to screams, yet Maryam persisted, her voice growing stronger with every repetition. The walls of the tent began to billow in a sudden, powerful wind.

‘Stop it! Stop it!’ the Sheikha shouted, waving her hands in panic. She crawled to her hands and knees beside Maryam. ‘Salim! Salim!’

Maryam continued to chant, her voice lowering to a whisper. Salim’s convulsing eased, and the Sheikha laid down within arm’s reach of him, whispering to him.

‘I love you, Salim,’ the Sheikha whimpered.

‘Let them take him,’ Maryam gently urged.

There was one last sharp convulsion, one last flash of lightning that lit up the night as bright as day, and Salim lay still again. Maryam and Omid looked upward, where a dark cloud circled above their heads. There was one last violent growl, before the demon dropped down and disappeared through the floor. The Sheikha collapsed in the dirt, sobbing over her son’s lifeless body.

The Sheikh and the other men of the tribe were tasked with taking Salim’s body for burial. Salim was placed into the grave on his right side, and three fist-sized spheres of hand packed soil were used as props, one under the head, one under the chin and one under the shoulder. Those present poured three handfuls each of soil into the grave.

‘We create you from it, and return you to it, and from it we will raise you a second time.’

The corpse was then buried by the grave diggers, who stamped and patted down the grave into shape as the collective of mourners said their prayers for the dead. The grave was marked with a single stone at the head of the plot.

Inside her tent, Maryam worked on the loom, a beam of wood set on the floor, weaving goat and camel hair into a rug. She looked up to see the Sheikh in the entrance. She did not wait to be acknowledged as she stepped inside. The heavy sadness behind her tears was gone, and her eyes were wild and fiery with rage.

‘Listen to me, Maryam,’ she said, her voice steady but quivering with fury. ‘Listen very carefully. You will leave this camp at once, do you understand? And you will never return.”

‘But, why?’ Maryam pleaded. ‘This is my home! All of my family are here!’

‘I am banishing you, that’s why!’ the Sheikha shouted. ‘You will leave before dawn,

do you hear? You will get out, if you want to keep your head!’

‘Alright,’ Maryam agreed. ‘Whatever you say. I will go.’
The Sheikha turned and left without another word.

Led by Omid, the dromedary camel trudged along, carrying Jasem, Maryam and all of their worldly possessions on its back. Braced in his mother’s arms, Jasem watched the world pass by. The crumbling limestone cliffs lined the north-western rim of the Dead Sea, and the mountainous landscape plummeted dramatically twelve hundred meters to the lowest point on earth.

They passed goat herders and other travellers on the way, and stopped by a river for a drink where Omid filled their water canister. Her feet dipped in the cool water; Maryam laid back on the ground behind her to rest.

The peaceful quietness of the desert dissipated as they approached the tiny Bedouin village tucked in the dip of two hills. There, tents were hoisted with chipped scrap-wood, and sand-covered corrugated-iron shacks were home to once-nomadic families expelled from the southern desert two decades earlier.

Omid erected their tent in the upper part of the village. Outside their new home was a small garden in the desert hills; there, a solitary pomegranate tree stood, bearing light pink fruit. Maryam pulled a piece of fruit from the tree, and proceeded to pull it into sections, passing them to Jasem.

‘We are settled now,” she said. ‘This is the best place for us.’

***

Jasem held tight to his mother’s hand as they made their way through the busy marketplace, where people were crammed in the streets with their goats and sheep, haggling with one another and sealing deals with a spit and a handshake. The explosion was sudden, hurling them several hundred feet in the air. For a few seconds after, there was complete silence, until the wretched screaming broke through the cloud of dust. But all Jasem could hear was the ringing in his ears. Pain seared through his body; he glanced down, and saw that his hands and arms were bright red with burns. On his leg was a wound the size of a pomegranate, with blood pouring out of it. Rubble was scattered amongst the bodies, and everyone and everything was covered in dust. Jasem looked to his mother, who lay still next to him.

‘Mama?’ he whimpered. ‘Mama! Help me! Please help!’

Standing with the doctor outside the hospital room, Omid looked through the glass window as a nurse attended to Jasem lying in the bed. Jasem’s torso and left shoulder were wrapped in bandages. His chin and jaw were being supported by a tubular elastic bandage.

‘He has second and third degree burns to seventy per cent of his body,’ the doctor was

saying. ‘We removed a piece of metal from his eye, and he will need surgery to remove shrapnel from his arm. He is lucky to be alive.’

The nurse approached the door and stepped outside the room.

‘He’s awake,’ she said.

Wearing a protective gown, Omid entered the room and approached Jasem’s bedside.

The entire left side of his face was burnt, and the hair from that side of his head was gone. His eyes were open, but he said nothing. Omid watched as a tear trickled down his son’s charred, cherry-red cheek, over the muscle tissue that showed through the skin.

Three Months Later

Wearing only his trousers, Jasem stood beside his bed as the nurse helped him pull on his jacket. His left arm was crumpled up into his body, perpetually curled against his chest. His cotton bandages had been replaced with sterile adhesive bandages, on his face, hand and the entire left side of his torso. The doctor was there too.

‘You’ll see the nurse tomorrow. In the meantime, these should help with the pain.’ He

gave a packet of pills to Omid, who was packing Jasem’s belongings into a bag from the table beside the bed.

Like Salim’s, Maryam’s grave had been marked with simplicity, with a stone sitting

at the head of the plot. Jasem and Omid took off their shoes and each placed a fresh palm frond down on the dirt. They then said a prayer for the dead, and then Jasem and Omid sat by the grave and ate fruit, giving a sweet treat to children that were playing in the cemetery.

Thank-you for reading this excerpt! Stay tuned for more…

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Daily Writing Inspiration

This could not be more relevant!!

My writing has always been a source of strength for me during hard times. Right now, I am writing for me, and me alone. No publishing goals. No marketing or promotion. I am writing to stay connected to my life purpose, to give me strength, and a distraction during these distressing times. My writing energizes me, giving me energy to face this current situation.

How about you? What does your art mean to you and your life?

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Parasomnia: A Brand New Short Story

Hi again everyone! So I have just finished the revision process of some new and existing short stories! This latest one is called Parasomnia, and is suspense story with a sprinkling of the supernatural!

You can read the story in the body of the post below, or download as a PDF here: Parasomnia by Kate Kelsen

Thomas’ nightmare always starts out the same. He is paralyzed, as an unknown  entity climbs onto his chest. He can’t move, can’t cry for help. The nightmares started not long after a visit from a long lost relative, since deceased.

At the insistence of his long-suffering girlfriend Rachel, Thomas seeks psychological help for his apparent sleep disorder. At the same time, strange occurrences begin to unfold in their house at night, from plummeting temperatures to items being mysteriously moved around.

As Thomas delves deeper into his past, the evil that lurks in his subconscious creeps further out of his nightmares, with shocking results.

Content warning: this short story mentions sexual assault.

 

Parasomnia

A Short Story by Kate Kelsen

Copyright © 2020. All Rights Reserved

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Thomas could sense something evil in the room as he stirred awake. He tried to move; he was paralyzed, fully aware of what was happening to him. He could see the entity, could hear it shuffling as it moved across the room. He tried to scream; it was now at the foot of the bed, and he could feel it as it climbed onto his chest, smelling its breath as it stared down into his eyes.

Rachel looked bleary-eyed over at Thomas, who lay completely rigid next to her, his eyes open and staring at the ceiling. He appeared to be trying to scream, and she could hear him moaning through gritted teeth. She leaned over and grabbed his arm, and he woke up, still visibly terrified.

“Did you see him?” Thomas asked. “Did you see him? Did you see him?”

Thomas was heavy on his feet as he entered the kitchen first thing in the morning. He took the bread from the refrigerator and turned to the bench, finding two cold slices already in the toaster. Rachel appeared, her skin washed out, her eyes puffy.

“I think you should go back to the doctor, Tom,” she muttered. “I don’t know how more of this I can take.”

“It’s not my fault,” Thomas defended.

“I know it’s not, but I need sleep. I’m going to have to start sleeping in the spare bedroom if this keeps up.”

Thomas sat in the chair next to the desk as the Velcro blood pressure cuff tightened around his upper arm.

“Occasional sleep terrors aren’t usually a cause for concern,” said Doctor Wellington. “They are becoming more frequent,” Thomas insisted. “Are you concerned for safety or injury?”
“Rachel says I kick and thrash around sometimes.”
“Do you feel excessively sleepy during the day or have problems functioning?”
“Yes. It’s disrupting our sleep, both Rachel and I.”“Incontinence? Thoughts of suicide?”

“Huh?”

Doctor Wellington removed the cuff from Thomas’ arm.

“I’d like to do a blood test to check for thyroid problems, or other conditions that could be contributing to your poor sleep.” He paused thoughtfully. “Sleep conditions can be brought on by stress and exhaustion. I can refer you to speak to someone if you like?”

“A psychologist?” Rachel placed the dinner plates down on the table. “I would have thought a sleep specialist would have been the next logical step. But he’s the doctor, I guess.”
“He did say I could go and do an overnight sleep study, too.”
Rachel placed her hand on Thomas’ arm.“Whatever you need to do, babe.”
“Thanks.”

The sun was peeking over the horizon when Thomas wandered sluggishly down the hall toward the kitchen. In the doorway, he stopped, tensing his brows. Pieces of bread were spread out on the kitchen table, as if someone had started making a sandwich. He picked the slices up and put them back into the packet in the refrigerator.

Unlike the waiting room at Doctor Wellington’s office, Thomas sat alone. The receptionist was overly chipper, in an effort to make the reality of the place potentially less uncomfortable for waiting patients. A woman stepped into the waiting room from the hallway.
“You must be Thomas,” she greeted, smiling. “I’m Emma.”
Thomas stood to meet her and shook her hand, following her into the hall. Her office was light and airy, and they sat down in two armchairs in the corner.“So, Thomas, what brings you in today?”
“Well, I’ve been having night terrors for the past few years, and they’re starting to become more frequent. My doctor recommended I come and speak to someone about it.”
“Do you remember anything from the night terrors when you wake up?”
“Yes.”
“Would you like to share?”
Thomas sighed, shifting in his seat.
“They always start out the same. I’m paralyzed, and an entity climbs onto my chest and suffocates me. I…I can’t even explain the fear I feel when it’s happening.”
Emma nodded.
“This ‘entity’, is it recognizable to you in any way?”
“No. All I can really see of it are these green eyes. Brilliant green, but not attractive. And I just feel this sense of darkness and dread, like my soul is being sucked out of my body. It’s absolutely terrifying; I can’t even think of the words to describe it, to give a sense of just how terrifying it is. More terrifying than anything I’ve experienced in real life.” Emma scribbled on her notepad as Thomas talked.
“Thomas, what was happening in your life when these night terrors started?”
Thomas paused in thought for a few moments.
“It wasn’t long after a visit from my Uncle Kyle. He’d just been released from jail.”
“And where is your uncle now?”
“He’s dead. He deliberately ended his life by not taking his diabetes medication. He didn’t even leave a note.”

The kettle sat full of water over the gas burner on the stove. Adrienne unscrewed the lid of the coffee jar, spooning granules into each cup. Rachel sat slumped at the kitchen table, her head in her hands.
“Are you doing alright?” Adrienne inquired.
“I’m not sleeping much. Thomas’ night terrors are pretty bad at the moment. I’m pretty used to them by now, but it’s still awful to wake up to. There is something so… horrifying…about it.”
“I can only imagine. Is he getting help?”
“He was referred to a psychologist. He’s there now, actually.”
“A psychologist?”
“He did a sleep test already. It didn’t tell us much more that we already knew.”
The kettle began to whistle, and Adrienne filled the cups, stirring in milk and sugar and carrying them to the table.
“I watched this documentary about night terrors once,” she said as she sat down. “The guy who made it had them himself. He did all this investigation, interviewed a bunch of experts. He was talking about how this ‘entity’ is known in cultures all around the world.”
“Entity?”
“People think it’s a ghost, some kind of evil force. Some people thought it was a demonic shape shifter that used to come out at night and attack people in their sleep. Crushing them and feeding on their souls. People thought it was witchcraft, and women were executed during the Salem Witch Trials if they were believed to be responsible for summoning the demon.”
“Sounds like something out of a horror movie.”“Well, it’s one of the oldest unexplained mysteries of the human mind. Scientists say it’s a hallucination that happens during sleep paralysis, but this guy thinks it goes beyond sleep paralysis. That it is an encounter of some kind.”
“It sounds like a hallucination,” Rachel scoffed.“But how could the same hallucination be experienced by so many people? Different belief systems describing the same experience?” Adrienne sipped her coffee. “There must be some explanation that is beyond science. It’s not just something that exists in human consciousness.”

Rachel woke up feeling cold to the bone, her body rigid where she lay. Her bladder was bursting; she sat up on the edge of the bed, finding that Thomas was not next to her. She slipped out into the hall to the bathroom, switching on the light and closing the door after her. Sitting on the toilet, she watched the needle on the wall thermometer drop back from the 70s into the 50s. She jumped when a shadow passed under the door. She flushed the toilet and opened the door, looking out into the hall.In the kitchen, she found Thomas was standing at the refrigerator, eating jam straight from the jar.“Thomas? What are you doing?”
“What are you going to do about it?” James muttered.
“You don’t need to get defensive.”
“Then stop telling me what to do.”
“Okay, well, I’m going back to bed. I have to work tomorrow, so please keep the noise down.”

Thomas watched Emma inquisitively as she scribbled notes on her paper.
“What was the most recent visit with your uncle like, Thomas?”
Thomas scoffed.
“We argued constantly. He had an opinion about every facet of my life. He had no respect for me and the fact I’m an adult, and insisted I do as he believed I should do.”
“The presence of sleep disorders is directly related to stress,” said Emma. “In many cases, that stress is related to a loss of bodily autonomy through chronic abuse. Usually, it is triggered by childhood stressors.”
Emma paused.
“You began having night terrors again because your inner child has started running the show while you sleep. It is an early expression of post-traumatic stress disorder coming back into your experience.”
“Can I make the nightmares go away? Is it possible?”
“With proper diagnosis, quite possibly.”

The night terror started out the same as it always did. Thomas woke up paralyzed, while the entity climbed onto his chest, suffocating him. Every time he tried to get up, it pushed him back down, and he could not move an inch. He could not cry for help as it squeezed his neck. This time, there was a face behind the green eyes.Thomas woke suddenly as he hit the floor. Light filled the room, and Rachel stood up against the wall.
“Thomas!” she was shouting. “Thomas! Thomas!”
It took him a moment to realize where he was, and why Rachel was there. He sat upon the edge of the bed, panting heavily.
“What is going on, Thomas?”
“I don’t know…I don’t know…”
Rachel shook her head, snatching her handbag up off the chair in the corner.
“I’m sorry, Thomas, but I can’t stay here. That look in your eye, it was like you were seeing something I couldn’t. I just…I can’t sleep in this room, in this house.
”Rachel threw a few pieces of clothing and toiletry items into a duffle bag and left the room. Thomas heard the car start outside. He stayed sitting on the edge of the bed, and after a time the sun began to peak through the curtains, dissolving the threat of danger.

The waitress approached the table and placed the coffees down in front of Thomas and Shane.
“It looks like you could use more than one of these,” Shane commented.
“I haven’t been sleeping all that well,” Thomas responded. “How is Rachel?”
“She’s okay. She’s staying at her mother’s place at the moment.”
“Why?”
“My sleeping problems. I had a bad episode the other night. Well, worse than the others. She was too spooked to stay at the house afterward.”
“I wanted to ask you about your night terrors.”
“Why? What about them?”
Shane looked down into his coffee, clasping his hands around the mug.
“I had one too.”
“What?”
“Yeah. I woke up, and I could sense something- evil- in the room. I tried to move, but I couldn’t. I could open my eyes and move them, and I could see something- an entity or a spirit- at the foot of the bed. It had these awful green eyes. It raised its arm over me like this, and it felt like my soul was being sucked out of my body.”
“When did that happen?”
“Two nights ago. I’ve been too scared to go to sleep since, to be honest.” Shane paused. “Did you see its face?”
Thomas nodded.
“Two nights ago. That was the first time.”
“Whose face was it?”
Thomas swallowed hard.
“Uncle Kyle’s.”
“Me too.”
“What?”
Shane looked curiously at his brother.
“Same night, same experience.”

Thomas tossed and turned from one side to the other, coming to rest on his back. He kicked the sheets off and sat up on the edge of the bed, rubbing his face with his hands. He stood up and pulled on the jeans and shirt that were discarded on the floor nearby. He picked up his car keys from the nightstand and left the room. Outside, he sat down in the driver’s seat of his car, turning the key in the ignition. He pulled the car out of the driveway onto Maple Avenue, speeding off down the street.

Thomas followed the road for twelve miles, turning off into a dark side street, parking in front of the first house on the left. The neighborhood was quiet and still as he crossed the yard. He slipped the key in the door, and once inside he followed the hallway to the master bedroom. He climbed on top of the man sleeping in the bed, and the man struggled beneath him as he squeezing his hands around his throat.
“What are you going to do?” Thomas muttered. “You can’t hurt me anymore! I won’t let you do it to me anymore! I won’t let you do it!”
“Thomas!” the man choked.
He lunged upward and knocked Thomas to the floor. Thomas looked up, squinting through the darkness. Light flooded the room, and he saw his father standing over him.
“Thomas? What are you doing here?”
“I don’t know,” Thomas panted. “I don’t know…”
“Thomas, do you know who I am?”
“Yes…”
“Do you know where you are?”
Thomas looked around the room.
“What is going on?”
“You tell me!”
Charlie sighed heavily. He knelt down, placing his hand on Thomas’ shoulder.
“It’s alright, son,” he breathed. “It’s alright.”
Thomas lowered his head, covering his face with his hands.
“I’m sorry,” he whimpered. “I’m so sorry!”
“It’s alright. Come on.”
Charlie helped Thomas sit up on the edge of the bed.“Where is Rachel?”
“She is staying at her mother’s.”
“How did you get here?”
“I don’t remember.”
Charlie shook his head.
“I knew you sleepwalked, son, but I didn’t realize it was this bad.” He offered Thomas the glass of water from his nightstand. “When you were a teenager, you used to get out of the house at night. I’d find you sitting on the back steps. I’d ask you what you were doing, and you’d say the strangest things. It never made any sense. I was so worried that one night you’d wander out onto the road. You never remembered a thing about it in the morning…”
“Dad, what happened with Uncle Kyle?”Charlie’s grin slipped quickly off his face.
“What?”
“I started sleepwalking again just after Uncle Kyle came back to visit a few years ago. And having night terrors and sleep paralysis. I saw Uncle Kyle, Dad. In my nightmare. He climbed on top of me and was suffocating me. Shane had the exact same nightmare.”
Charlie was no longer looking Thomas in the eye, his gaze dropped to his hands. He went quiet; on a few occasions it seemed as if he was trying to say something, but it took several minutes before he did.
“I’m sorry, son,” he whispered. “I’m sorry. For the first few years I worried, but then it seemed like you were alright. That you’d moved on…”
“Moved on? From what?”
“I can’t say it, Thomas. I can’t…” Charlie shook his head, covering his face.“The memory is sickening. It was a long time ago…I found him in the bedroom with you…”
Charlie leaned over, sobbing deeply.
“Why didn’t you tell anyone, Dad? Why didn’t you report him to the police?”
“I’m sorry, Thomas. I didn’t know what to do. He was my brother, you know?” Charlie’s expression was suddenly charged with fury. “I…I went to his place and bashed him up. I told him to get out of town. He moved away, and I thought that would make it easier for you.” Charlie scoffed. “What did I know.”
He looked back up at Thomas, smiling sadly.
“But I thought you’d moved on. You were motivated, you had a career, you got married, I was so relieved…”
Charlie shook his head.
“I don’t expect you to forgive me. I will never forgive myself.”

Sitting in the chair in Emma’s office, Thomas could not bring himself to make eye contact with her.
“I nearly killed my Dad,” he stated matter-of-factly. “God knows, I could have killed someone on the way there. I just…I couldn’t hold it inside any longer. That’s why it happened, because I never let it out. It was trapped inside. I could never talk to anyone about it.”
Thomas shook his head.
“Some people would probably say I shouldn’t play the victim…”
“But you are a victim, Thomas. A victim of horrible abuse and pain. Your inner child needed others to hear him. To offer validation and to acknowledge the injustice that was suffered. He still needs that. That little boy fought hard to survive.”
Thomas paused thoughtfully.
“People often talk about finding their inner child like it is a fun and freeing thing. But I don’t want to find my inner child ever. But I don’t get a choice, because that child finds me on a regular basis. He came back in the blink of an eye after that visit with Uncle Kyle, and he hasn’t left since.”
“Your inner child is terrified, Thomas. Confused. Stressed. Your uncle damaged you, wounded you in ways that can never be forgotten. And having the perpetrator of abuse in your physical space, telling you what to do, is impossible to ignore. Your sleepwalking combined with nightmares and night terrors are a result of post- traumatic stress. With the right treatment, we can stop you from engaging in or remembering the nightmares.”
Emma tilted her head, smiling kindly.
“Speaking the truth is freeing, Thomas. Your voice is a chance to regain the autonomy you lost as a child, and is the only thing that can offer that child peace. Both your past and present selves need to know, feel and trust that there is a path to good. You can walk the path and find the end.”