Ariana had been eating exactly the same, nothing different. She may have been trying a new trail mix, a different cereal and had a little more water in her diet but nothing else was different. Her doctor assured her it wasn’t a nutritional thing. Nevertheless, something had triggered nightmares in her sleep. Every single night she would have a different one and it was not getting better. She had been spending many nights with no sleep and that had started to affect her work.
She was a model. Her agent would book her for several runways gigs in department stores or for any kind of brand. She would also model for artistic photographers and for several advertisement campaigns involving anything from sunglasses to miniskirts. Ariana had made a name for herself in the fashion world but that was beginning to change, as the nightmares got worse.
When she had them, she would normally sleep for too long. One would think fear would awaken her but that didn’t happen. She just stayed there, sweating and moaning in physical pain. Then, when she finally woke up, she would normally be late for some appointment so they would hire another girl. The situation got so much worse; she lost half of her jobs in a month. Her agent, a woman called Susan, tried everything. They went to a doctor, a herbalist, a nutritionist, to the gynecologist and even to one of those crooks than cleanses people’s auras.
Nothing worked. So they finally tried with a psychiatrist. Ariana was not very enthusiastic about it but went with Susan. She’d rather go there that keep losing work and money. The doctor asked her several questions about her family and her personal life but also about the dreams themselves. It was funny, but Ariana couldn’t really remember anything about them. She only recalled parts, feeling, maybe some images but that was it. The doctor said this was normal and asked her if she would accept to do an experiment with him. She agreed.
The psychologist had two different plans. The first one, the easiest one, was for her to stay in a hospital, under care, so they could monitor their sleep. The doctor and his assistant would check on her sleep rhythm and maybe that way they could guess what was wrong with her. She thought it was a good idea and shook the doctor’s hand, hopeful he would find whatever was causing all of this.
As the days went by, waiting for the experiment to be done, Ariana kept working. She had mostly photo-shoots, which were never scheduled too early and were kind of relaxing to her. The only thing was that the makeup girl had to put a second layer of everything to make her look presentable. She would hope it wouldn’t be obvious on the pictures but did her job anyway, faking smiles and poses. The truth was she didn’t want to do anything anymore. She felt worried and sick but also exhausted and in need of real calm sleep.
The following weekend she went into the hospital and greeted Doctor Pike. He and his assistant would stay in one room as she slept in the one next door. They would monitor her with electrodes on her head and the rest of her body and also with video cameras on the bedroom. Ariana was very tired but even so it took her a while to fall asleep. Something in her brain told her it wasn’t a good idea to submit herself to the horrors of the nightmares, once again. But she didn’t want a life like that anymore. She wanted to sleep like a normal person. So, after a few hours, she finally closed her eyes and got to sleep.
The doctor watched closely as she fell asleep and once she was indeed sleeping, they started to detect something odd. There was a part of her brain that was very active. To be precise, it had activated when she had fallen asleep. And it was sending messages all over the body. The nightmare began as Ariana began moving a lot on the bed. She would moan and pant and sweat profusely. Her brain waves were off the charts at some point but then would calm and come up again after a few minutes. Doctor Pike thought it was amazing that her body was not awaking her. Her body had no answer to the pain the nightmare was causing.
They watched Ariana for hours until, finally, she woke up. They told her they had wanted to wake her up but they decided that wouldn’t have been a very good idea. Ariana was not looking good at all: her skin was kind of green, her lips had lost all color and she seemed dizzy, not quite there. They decided to give her a nice breakfast for her to recuperate some strength and then they send her home to relax. In her home, Susan made her some soup and left her alone to be more at ease.
Ariana, of course did not sleep. She decided to distract herself with her computer or with magazines but she realized she couldn’t really read or pay attention to anything. Her body was numb, exhausted and deprived of energy. She had some soup and loved it, as it gave her some warmth. It felt just right, as she wanted to feel when sleeping. She wanted to go back to sleep, her body craving for it but she fought against it. She didn’t want the dreams to come back to her; she didn’t want to die from this. What if she fell asleep and it drained all of her energy? She would become a zombie, a shadow of what Ariana had once been.
She fought the need to sleep bravely but ultimately, she passed out on the floor. She hit her head hard against the hardwood floor and was found by Susan that night, as she came to check on her. Ariana was rushed to the hospital. Doctor Pike came by too and asked the doctors treating her to tell him about her state. They told him they had too realized something was wrong with her brain. The blow to her head had rendered it erratic so they decided to induce her into coma. The doctor told them about her nightmare problems but they assured him nothing was going on with her besides the brain trauma. She was not dreaming, only in deep sleep.
Doctor Pike realized this was true when he visited her with Susan, who told her that Ariana’s parents lived in another country and were trying to get there fast but plane tickets where difficult to find. As the doctors had said, Ariana was calm. She wasn’t moving nor sweating. She was sleeping like any normal person would. The doctor then told them that they had detected a brain tumor growing slowly. Apparently, it had begun affecting many parts of the brain that are not normally active. So now they understood the reason for the nightmares.
Doctor Pike recalled the time she had told him about the feelings she remembered: changes in temperature, the sensation of being watched, and the presence of at least another human or creature. Was that all a product of the tumor? To doctor Pike, it was all a great mystery because he had never seen anything like it. The images she recalled were also confusing. She had assured him something like the devil, the typical depiction, had been lurking around her dreams. Also some other deformed being and a strange weather, where cold and hot coexisted.
Ariana was in a coma for a whole month. They extracted the brain tumor with great care and when her parents finally arrived, she woke up. They were all there: her family, her doctors, Pike and Susan. But it wasn’t the happy moment they were expecting. The first thing Ariana did when waking up was yelling and crying profusely. Some nurses tried to calm her down but she wouldn’t. She would push them, jumping off the bed and crying, asking for them to step away. Everyone was very scared. Her parents tried to lure her towards them but she didn’t seem to recognize them.
Ariana ran out of her room, up and down corridors. Some male nurses tried to catch her but she would bite and kick very hard. They chased her all over until they reached the top floor. She ran up some stairs and got out to the terrace of the building. As the hospital was in the middle of the city, they had built a nice garden for the patients there. It was doctor Pike who caught up with her first and he decided to talk to her from a distance. She looked mad, worried and in state of shock. The doctor told her to tell him what was happening.
- I saw them! They’re all over. They want to kill us.
- Who wants to kill us, Ariana?
- The demons. They are planning to kill us all!
The doctor walked towards her but she moved back, towards the railing. Then, all other arrived, ready to catch her. No one ever understood why the railing had no protective net. Ariana just climb it and jumped, in front of her parents and everyone who had followed her there. She had jumped from the top of a twelve-story building.
In her funeral, doctor Pike didn’t talk to anyone else. He was troubled. By what Ariana had said before dying and by the doctor’s final analysis of her brain: a region that normally is not active in humans was active in her brain. They told Pike this region was adjacent to the region responsible of communications. Pike was in deeper inner turmoil than ever before in all his years as a psychiatrist.