Graven – A Hypnagogic Nightmare

WARNING: This may upset those of a sensitive disposition. DO NOT READ unless you have a strong stomach. It’s not that bad, but it could be, depending on the person reading it.

I had a dream once. A nightmare. More horrible than any other nightmare I had ever had before, and have ever had since. It was a hypnagogic nightmare. This type of dream occurs when your mind is partially conscious, but your body is still immobilised by sleep.

I was ill at the time. I knew I should see a doctor, but I was in a very dark place in my life. I was living alone. I was deeply depressed. Life had no meaning, it was just an endless series of long, hopeless days and nights. The people who were supposed to care about me, didn’t, or, at least, they only cared about me fulfilling their needs, my needs were of no importance. I was unimportant. Useless. Pointless. A pawn in someone else’s sick game. A pawn who didn’t want to play anymore, and was looking for a way out of the game.

The only bright spark in my life was death. I wanted to die. I had contemplated suicide. Often. Every day, night, hour, minute, second, millisecond. But I never took it further than thought. I was not sure whether death was an answer to what seemed to be insurmountable pain and problems. I was uncertain if an afterlife existed. Reincarnation made sense to me, but it also troubled me. I was seeking an end, not a new life, in any shape or form. I didn’t want an afterlife. I wanted to disintegrate, to be completely annihilated, to vanish forever into oblivion.

Then this illness presented itself, and I saw it as an opportunity to find out what lay beyond death. If I let it run its course, it might kill me.

My main concern was for the person who might discover my decomposing body. I didn’t want to be the cause of trauma to someone who didn’t deserve it. There was also another niggle which bothered me. I knew my death would be used as a toy, a tool, in the very sick game my nurturers enjoyed playing with each other. My mother would use it as yet another cross for her sainted martyrdom to bear, another burning brand of blame with which to torture my father. My father would use it as another justification for his passionate hate for my mother, another sign that she was indeed a fucking witch (his words), who was an unfit mother, and a horrendously bad wife. They would benefit way too much from my death, and that was reason enough not to kill myself. Yet I wanted to die, so very much. I wanted to escape a situation which refused to allow me that luxury.

So on to the dream:

I awoke in the dream to find an old woman sitting beside my bed. Resting on her lap was a large, ancient book, through which she was searching eagerly with her small hands. She eventually found what she was looking for, and began chanting words out loud. All I could understand was the word ‘Garven’. I don’t know how or why, but I knew that she had got the word wrong. It was a name. She kept repeating it, and her insistence on using the wrong word made me so angry that I cried out:

“Graven! Graven! Graven!”

As soon as those words left my lips, I realised that I had made a terrible mistake. The old woman looked at me with beady eyes glowing with cunning, as a twisted smile disfigured her mouth. She had tricked me. She had deliberately used the wrong word. She had been casting a spell, and, for it to work, she needed me to speak the right word three times.

From within my body came a rumbling like thunder. Intense fear gripped me. I could not move. My arms, which were crossed over my chest, felt heavy, their weight slowly bearing down on my ribcage.

A low growl emanated from within and around me. I knew immediately that this was a demon summoned by my words. I cried out to God to help me, but this made the demon laugh. He told me that God could not help me, since I had brought all of this on myself. I had summoned a demon willingly.

I pleaded with the demon to understand the mistake I had made, but this only increased his laughter. I begged him to go away, but his laughter drowned out my cries, rippling through me in waves, causing the room around me to vibrate with suffocating heat.

I could barely breathe. I was dying, and it frightened me. Did I really want to die?

Suddenly I knew the answer, and with determination and authority I ordered the demon to leave. He growled with rage, his breath, noxious and searing, permeated my pores and every atom in the air.

“I will go, for you have commanded it, but heed these words: Do not summon me again, for if you do, I will own you and you will never get rid of me again!”

Then he left. I felt his energy receding from my body, and the air around me cleared. The weight of my arms lightened, and I could breathe freely once again.

I glanced to where the old woman had been, but she and her spellbook had vanished.

As I lay there, trying to recover my senses, a cool breeze kissed my face, and the sound of rustling tickled my ear, as though a kind hand was plumping my pillow.

Then I awoke. Called the doctor. Went to hospital. Had an operation for acute appendicitis.

I made a promise to myself that day – If I ever entertained thoughts of suicide again, I would never attempt to kill myself, no matter how hard life was, or had been, or even if it became worse still.

My life didn’t change overnight. It didn’t miraculously get better. My problems were not spontaneously solved. But within me something had changed. A light had turned on. A small fire was burning to keep me warm. I had an ally. A demon who wanted me to embrace life, and live it, because I deserved to live, for no other reason than because I was alive. It was strange and wonderful all at once. No one had ever cared for me before. Not even me. I had tried to care for myself, to love myself, but I was constantly punished for it. How dare I have an ego. A sense of self. Love. I was a nobody, allowed to live only as long as I served my masters.

I can’t tell you that I have never contemplated suicide again. I have. But every time I do, Graven returns to remind me of my promise to live, no matter what, and only accept the kiss of death when it comes naturally, because it is my time.

This demon is not a real demon. It is my primal self. My survival instinct made manifest. It wants me to live and embrace life in all its colours, pleasures, and pains. It wants me to recognise my true self, and seize my inner power, and ride it like a crazed and bucking bull.

In many ways, Graven, my demon, is actually my guardian angel. A powerful beast of a force who refuses to allow me to give in, give up, disappear, and die quietly, unnoticed, insignificantly.

And so, here I am, many of millions of dreams later. Still alive, still trying to figure this thing called life out, not sure if I like it, but tasting it anyway. Still wounded. With a scar to remind me always of that moment in my life when I faced death and chose life. Scar tissue is stronger than ordinary skin.

Have you ever had a dream which has changed your waking life?


  1. […] Graven – A Hypnagogic Nightmare. This particular dream when I retold it once, helped to get someone I should not have been friends with out of my life. They believed that I had been genuinely possessed by a demon and I became someone they wanted to avoid in case I infected their goodness with my obvious badness. They’d called me an angel up until I told them about this dream. They were not a good influence and I was being naive about it. My dream sorted it out for me. […]


Comments are closed.