Had what may be the most frightening nightmare of my adulthood last night – certainly of the monster/horror variety, rather than the personal tragedy type of dream. I blame Coraline, Neil Gaiman & Henry Selick’s brilliantly concocted nightmare fuel. Not that my dream followed the movie exactly… no one was going to sew buttons on my eyes. But man, the bugs.
No, instead it started with me showing up at a psychiatrist’s office for “trilobite therapy,” because I was having terrible anxiety about the alien trilobites that had begun showing up in town. These things were colored orange-red to deep crimson; most were the size of a baseball glove, but some were smaller, and some were a lot bigger. From the top, they had a layered carapace, with numerous feelers in front of their tiny heads. If you flipped them over, you could see ten or twelve legs, sometimes wriggling, sometimes undulating in an unearthly rhythm.
There were several here in the psychiatrist’s office, and I stiffened up as I opened the door. What was supposed to happen would be I would lay down on one of the sofas, and the doctor would rest a few trilobites on me and I would, somehow, fall asleep. I noticed the actor Jason Alexander snoozing on one of the other couches, a trilobite poking out from beneath his shirt. The doctor put a softball-size trilobite on my back, and told me to lay back. Then he put another on my chest, this one larger, about the size of a toaster, but flatter. I could feel its legs sweeping against the fabric of my shirt. Finally, the doctor laid one over my eyes.
I think that’s the moment I pulled out of the dream briefly because I heard myself whimper.
I could feel the trilobites crawling around, but I tried to keep my eyes shut. Eventually, somehow, I fell asleep – perhaps I was even lulled into it by the rhythmic movement of their legs. When I awoke, the trilobites were still on me, but they had curled into themselves. I didn’t know anything about their biology, but they struck me as sated and asleep. Jason Alexander was gone. The doctor told me to pick them up and bring them to an old quarry near town, and to stand at the edge and throw them deep inside. I drove there to do as I was told. As I got out of the car, I saw another one of the bugs — much larger, about the size of a collie — and it shuffled over to approach me. In revulsion, I grabbed a length of rebar near where I parked, and drove it into the beast. It screeched and wriggled as I pushed the spear down, all the way to the chunk of concrete at the end of it. Then I retrieved the sleeping trilobites from my passenger seat and hurled them into the quarry, as hard as I could. None of them smashed; they just rolled a bit.
I noticed that there as a splotch on my arm, a deep black marking about the size of a sandwich roll. My skin was dry and flaky, and was gray-black, like charcoal. A trilobite had spent some time there. I pulled up my shirt, and there were other marks, too. Getting home, and running to the bathroom, I found them on my arms, legs, back, and thighs. All deep gray-black, like graphite from a pencil, and flaky and dusty. I looked at myself in the mirror, and could see only a dark stripe of charcoal where my eyes should have been. My eyes were barely noticeable, either discolored or sunken too deep to see.
You can bet that when my alarm sounded, I jumped out of bed without a second look.
P.S. The art attached is a detail from "Trilobite Boy" by Glendon Mellow. You can find more of his art here.