Scintilla prompt: Talk about your childhood bedroom.

My first bedroom I shared with my sister. It had bright orange carpeting, white metal bunk beds with Garfield sheets, and wallpaper that had a repeating pattern of Picasso faces on it.

For real. Picasso wallpaper.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I grew up with a vigorous imagination.

I had my earliest dreams in that room. Then, just as now, I dreamed in incredible detail. Complete storylines and all that. Lucid dreaming would start later, at about 14, after I’d moved into the guest room and painted it robin’s egg blue. In my early 20s I started dreaming about discussing my dreams with others, and then going back and re-dreaming the original dream, but edited to include better quality plot and dialogue. But back to the orange room for now:

It was a friendly sort of place. But one nightmare changed all that for nearly a month.

In the dream, my family was at a nameless fast food restaurant. We ordered our food (I got a hot dog), put it on trays, and carried it to the next room where the seating area was. Where the two rooms met were two tall statues, one ketchup bottle and one mustard bottle. As we passed between them, the mustard statue asked me, “Can I have a bite of your hot dog?”

I held my hot dog up to its mouth, and it bit off my index finger.

The next day, we were at the same place. The mustard bottle again asked, “Can I have a bite of your hot dog?” so I held up the hot dog, and the statue bit off my middle finger.

The third day, down to only two fingers and a thumb on my right hand, I devised a plan. I ordered a foot-long hot dog. I walked up to the mustard bottle, and sweetly asked, “Would you like a bite of my hot dog?”

“Yes, I would!” answered the mustard bottle statue, sounding genuinely pleased and surprised. But because the hot dog was so long, it could not bite my finger. It screamed and cried, and the walls began to cave in as I woke up, terrified, my fingers throbbing.

I must have been reading fairy tales. Aside from the odd setting, the whole story feels like something out of Grimm’s.

Now, for some reason, my father’s binoculars in their tan leather case had been left on our dresser. And for some reason, having just woken up in the night, I thought it looked very similar to the base on which the mustard bottle statue sat in my dream. So naturally, I came to the conclusion that the mustard bottle was, in fact, hanging upside down behind my dresser and waiting to get revenge for the hot dog incident.

Unfortunately, I was little enough that this knowledge didn’t disappear with the light of day.

For several weeks, I ran past that dresser as quickly as I could. Evil mustard statues could bide their time, I knew. They could wait until the perfect moment to eat the rest of your fingers. Maybe your toes. Maybe you would die. Who knew what might happen? But it would not be good, and I wasn’t going to get close enough to let it happen.

At some point, Dad moved the binoculars. I saw that they weren’t connected to anything at all, much less a statue bent on consuming my appendages. The room went back to being a gentle place. Picasso faces still stared from all the walls, and most of them were friendly. When I was eight, I would finally move into the guest room, where another nightmare would leave me terrified of mirrors in dark rooms for years.

Now my nightmares are filled with more adult fears. Murder, genocide, the end of the world. A girl, two feet tall with gold eyes, who appears once every few years at the foot of my bed and fills me with terror without ever saying a word. But it’s a curious thing: whenever I wake from a nightmare, there is an awful pain in my hands and wrists that fades only with a few minutes of time.

It’s a strange carryover from that friendly orange room. I wonder why.

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