How to Make a Nightmare

Take one late summer cold virus. Stir in a generous helping of all the following symptoms: sneezing, runny nose, coughing, congestion, headache, backache, fever, exhaustion.

Add copious amounts of unpronounceable over-the-counter medications: pseudoephedrine, dextromethorphan, diphenhydramine, guaifenesin, phenylephrine bitartrate, aspirin. For added fun, examine labels and research drug interactions while peering through dirty reading glasses. You are too exhausted to clean the glasses or find a different pair.

Doze on the sofa while your husband watches a movie from the Netflix horror menu. Wake occasionally to see a large, spiny, demon-like creature with glowing red eyes cackle and make dim pronouncements.

Turn your attention to the hurricane that is bearing down on the southeastern United States and the islands in the Gulf of Mexico. Try not to think too hard about all the people you know in its path or the place you stayed in Chokoloskee, Florida, when you were researching your next book. Try not to think about the boat captain who took you out to the rookery in the Everglades and told you stories about his drug smuggling days. You can’t imagine he’ll evacuate. He isn’t the type.

Occasionally read a few pages from Greg Iles’s novel The Bone Tree. Fill your mind with images of flame throwers and people buried alive in the trunks of remote swamp trees. Massage your hand, which is cramping from trying to hold the heavy book upright in your currently weakened state.

Midnight super sleuth

Watch Charlie Rose’s interview with Steve Bannon. Realize that, compared to Bannon, you look the picture of health. How does he maintain that ashen pallor? Those red-rimmed eyes? Flashback to the spiny creature from your husband’s weekend movie. Even the creature looked healthier than Bannon. And its pronouncements were less dire.

Go to bed early and wake from a dead sleep to the sound of some unholy wild animal skirmish outside your bedroom window. Try to figure out whether the screeching and flapping sounds are feline, avian, or small mammal. Spend the next two hours tossing and turning as your ten-pound dachshund tries to convince you to go outside and investigate. Marvel at the single-minded persistence of a curious dachshund in the middle of the night.

Finally, fall asleep in the wee morning hours and give yourself over to the curious mix of demons, toxic tsunamis, and wiggling beasts that now live in your brain.

Repeat as necessary.


Tiffany Quay Tyson
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Tiffany Quay Tyson