That Beautiful Time of Nightmares
By Daryl C. Rothman
His young daughter, a lover of poetry, looked up from where she sat cross-legged, reading, upon the living room floor and asked, “What’s a nightmare?”
Her father, caught off-guard by the inquiry, conjured his best possible response under the circumstances. “What?” he said.
“Nightmare,” the girl repeated, in that voice unique to children endeavoring mightily to be patient with the exasperating adults around them. “It says here, ‘That twenty centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle.’” She looked up. “I rather like it. But what’s that word—nightmare?”
It was bound to come up, and, bound never to feel like the right time. The man sighed, and patted the space adjacent him on the couch. “Come here.”
The girl did so, book folded under her arm, and rested her head on her father’s chest. He regarded her, smiling whimsically at her beautiful, ghost-white features. So innocent.
“Look there,” the father said, pointing toward their front wall, just off the door. “Many centuries ago, back in the time of your beloved poets, homes had something called windows. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures.” He felt the child nodding against his chest. Maybe looking past these walls to such days of which he spoke. To days of windows, and houses made not of acrylic sheeting, but of bricks and mortar, wood and stone. To days when most families did not sport urns upon their mantles wherein resided the scorched ashes of foolish or unlucky loved ones. “You could look out the window, night or day.”
His daughter twisted to look up at him. “Really?”
“Really.” He stroked her hair. “You could look out and you could go out. Not only that, people stayed inside mainly at night, to sleep, and they went to school and lived and worked and played and did most everything during the day, believe it or not.”
His daughter sat up and turned to regard him, one eyebrow arched like a caterpillar uncertain of its next move. “Are you teasing me, Daddy? During the day? And they did not burn?”
“Back then,” the man said, “people even slept at night.”
His daughter, eyes wide, rested her head again upon her father’s chest, both of them there together, and both of them somewhere very far away.
“So that word,” said the girl. “Nightmare?”
“Late thirteenth-century,” said her father. “Night, plus mare, an Old World term suggesting an incubus, goblin, or some manner of demon. Anything which haunted one’s dreams.”
“They slept at night…” said the girl, her small voice full of big wonder. “How marvelous it must have been. To sleep at night, and run outside in the daytime. Oh Daddy,” she cried, “to have lived back then, during that beautiful time of nightmares!”
Her father smiled and patted her back and the girl thumbed back open her book and finished the poem in a sleepy voice. “‘And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?’”
Copyright 2016 Daryl Rothman
Thank you so much to author Daryl Rothman for submitting his story to the Micro-Fiction Writing Contest!
About the Author
Daryl Rothman’s YA/Fantasy novel, The Awakening of David Rose was published in 2016. He has written for a variety of esteemed publications and his short story “Devil and the Blue Ghosts” won Honorable Mention for Glimmer Train’s prestigious New Writer’s Award Contest. Daryl is on Twitter, Linked In , Google + , Facebook and he’d love you to drop in for a visit at his website. Daryl is not sure why he is speaking of himself in 3rd-person—like George, he likes his chicken spicy.
Check out his novel “The Awakening of David Rose: A David Rose Novel”
If David Rose could have one wish on his fifteenth birthday it would be to discover the truth about what happened to his mother that terrible night one year previous, and to reunite his grieving family. Instead, it’s all he can do to get navigate the increasingly strange waters of the world around him: nightmares, bullies, fights and a near-death experience. When he encounters a mythical figure on the way home from school he chalks it up to a blow to the head, but things only get stranger from there. But David has made an oath to his little sister to discover the truth, hardly aware that his quest will set into motion a sinister plot centuries in the making. He must awaken in time: to the danger, to his budding new powers, and to the startling realization that to find the truth and survive the world he knows, he must first come to terms with a dark and fantastical world he never knew existed.
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