In the jumbled, fragmented memories I carry from my childhood there are probably nearly as many dreams as images from waking life. I thought of one which might have been my earliest remembered nightmare. I was probably about four years old - I don't think I'd started school yet - when I woke up screaming. The image I retained of the dream, the thing which had frightened me so, was an ugly, clown-like doll made of soft red and cream-coloured rubber. When you squeezed it, bulbous eyes popped out on stalks and the mouth opened in a gaping scream. As I recall it now, it was disturbingly ugly, not really an appropriate toy for a very young child, but it had been mine when I was younger, at least until I'd bitten its nose off, at which point it had been taken away from me. At the time when I had the dream I hadn't seen it for a year or more - I don't think I consciously remembered it until its sudden looming appearance in a dream had frightened me awake.When I told my mother about the dream, she was puzzled.'But what's scary about that? You were never scared of that doll.'I shook my head, meaning that the doll I'd owned - and barely remembered - had never scared me. 'But it was very scary,' I said, meaning that the reappearance of it in my dream had been terrifying.My mother looked at me, baffled. 'But it's not scary,' she said gently. I'm sure she was trying to make me feel better, and thought this reasonable statement would help. She was absolutely amazed when it had the opposite result, and I burst into tears.Of course she had no idea why, and of course I couldn't explain. Now I think - and of course I could be wrong - that what upset me was that I'd just realized that my mother and I were separate people. We didn't share the same dreams or nightmares. I was alone in the universe, like everybody else. In some confused way, that was what the doll had been telling me. Once it had loved me enough to let me eat its nose; now it would make me wake up screaming. ("My Death")
Mademoiselle De Lafontaine – in right of her father, who was a German, assumed to be psychological, metaphysical and something of a mystic – now declared that when the moon shone with a light so intense it was well known that it indicated a special spiritual activity. The effect of the full moon in such a state of brilliancy was manifold. It acted on dreams, it acted on lunacy, it acted on nervous people; it had marvelous physical influences connected with life. Mademoiselle related that here cousin, who was mate of a merchant ship, having taken a nap on deck on such a night, lying on his back, with his face full in the light of the moon, had wakened, after a dream of an old woman clawing him by the cheek, with his features horribly drawn to one side; and his countenance had never quite recovered its equilibrium.
First, all I could see was this beautiful face, this beautiful girl's face; like a white, slightly luminous mask, swimming detachedly against enfolding darkness. As if a little private spotlight of its own was trained on it from below. It was so beautiful and so false, and I seemed to know it so well, and my heart was wrung.There was no danger yet, just this separate, shell-like face mask standing out. But there was danger somewhere around, I knew that already; and I knew that I couldn't escape it. I knew that everything [ was about to do, I had to do, I couldn't avoid doing. And yet, oh, I didn't want to do it. I wanted to turn and flee, I wanted to get out of wherever this was. ("Nightmare")
The broken pink pillars, in the half-light, might have been waiting to fall down on him: the pool, covered with green scum, its steps torn away and hanging by one rotting clamp, to close over his head. The shattered evil-smelling chapel, overgrown with weeds, the crumbling walls, splashed with urine, on which scorpions lurked - wrecked entablature, sad archivolt, slippery stones covered with excreta - this place, where love had once brooded, seemed part of a nightmare.
He asked, looking at her dark-rimmed eyes, "You do not sleep?"She shivered. "No. I do not want to sleep any more. I sleep too much already. It is so cold, where Quincy sends me in my sleep. Deep into the house, farther in, not into the house we see. It is as if that house were a face, and when you see a face you can't see the brain or the thoughts of the person behind it. And it is so strange - the house inside the house."********"How is it strange - this that you call the house inside the house?"She said vaguely, her eyes growing glassy, "Strange. Shapes change, and sizes. The rooms are different: bigger and blacker and longer and the shadows are full of things. Creatures - or sometimes the rooms get smaller, fewer, and the furnishings change and change, like the scenes in a kaleidoscope, and I see the people in the portraits walking about in them.
It was so awful! And he kept on looking at me and I knew I must get out of bed or he'd come and touch me. I did, too, but when I got out I wasn't me-I was a little white bunny. And he started out of the room and I had to go with him for fear he'd touch me. It felt so horrid, going out with him and looking back at mother there asleep."We went into the main part of the house, and one of the big front doors was open, and we went out through it. And then he gave a big jump, and so did I, and it took us clear up into the sky. We couldn't fly, but we kept jumping and jumping."Sometimes we stayed in the sky a little while, jumping from cloud to cloud, and the moon would get closer and closer and bigger and bigger, and its face would change and get horrible and grin at us until it seemed like its mouth was a mile wide and open, to swallow us up. And then we'd come down again and jump from one cliff to another, and the sea would be roaring down under us, and the waves all grey and cold and moving around and boiling like they were mad or afraid."We went all over the island and sometimes we jumped over the sea to the mainland and back again; and sometimes I tried to get away and run back to Mother - I thought she'd know me even if I was a bunny - but always, whichever way I turned, the hare was there in front of me, and his teeth were shining."We kept it up all night, and I was so tired and cold and miserable, and so scared. I didn't know whether he would ever let me go home or whether he would take me to Aunt Sarai. Then finally I did get away and the hare chased me!"She broke off, her voice rising again to a wail."It was so awful! I ran all over the island, into all sorts of queer little places that I never knew were there before - it seems so different after dark - and finally, when two or three times I'd been so tired that I thought I just couldn't go any farther, before he caught me, I saw the house in front of me and the front door still open and I started to run in, and then I thought - what if they'd planned it that way, and Aunt Sarai had come down from her portrait and was inside there in the dark, waiting for me?