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The people in my dreams never spoke. They just screamed.

Sometimes I dreamed of the ocean. There would be no sound except for the rhythmic flow of the waves on the shore. Those dreams were the good dreams, the ones I was lucky enough to get once a week at most. Keyword: at most.

In my more consistent dreams, the screaming would overpower everything, and the dream was never quite the same. One night I would be on the beach, or rather, standing in the middle of the water. I would see my parents and my older sister on the left side of the shore, and two ghostly figures on the other side. I would try my best to swim to my family, which should’ve been an easy task for me since I was a strong swimmer. But the tide would pull me away from them. I would be propelled towards the screaming figures to my right. I’d wake up drenched in sweat and crying hysterically before I could see their faces.

In another dream, I would be surrounded by giants. I always tried to run away, but my legs wouldn’t work, much like how I couldn’t swim in my dreams. The screams were weighing me down. Skeleton hands would grab at me and I tried my best to dodge them, but one pair of hands would always grab me eventually. This one was always a woman, and her screams chilled me to the core every night. I was pulled away from her at the end of every dream, once again never seeing any faces.

My dreams used to hurt me. My mother started taking me to my doctor around age five after she kept finding me in the mornings covered in bruises; finger marks running down my arms, black eyes, and terrible, purple and blue bruises across my shoulder blades. They’d fade after about an hour, so thankfully no one ever asked questions. The bruises stopped showing up as often after a few years, but the pain remains consistent. One day, my first day of third grade actually, I woke up with a swollen ankle so painful that it nearly caused me to be late for school. My doctor told me that it was unintentionally self-inflicted, ‘psychosomatic’ or something, all caused by my nightmares tricking my body into thinking dreams were a reality. I was also the worst case of night terrors he’d ever encountered. Go me, i guess. When I turned ten, I was prescribed a new trial medicine, and things had been beginning to get better. I stopped being in so much pain and I finally started getting a healthy amount of sleep. Everyone was happier. That’s when my mother and father started to seem more relaxed, my sister became more loving towards me, and I started to have more courage in my day to day life. The dreams never fully went away, but the pain they caused subsided and I learned how to handle them. It felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

Everything changed when I turned sixteen.