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Nina D’Arcangela: On Childhood Nightmares

We asked our own Nina D’Arcangela to give us a peek into her inspiration behind Bent Metal, her contribution to Childhood Nightmares: Under the Bed. This is what spilled out of her…

Beyond the Nightmare

I was asked by Kalla to write a guest post describing what inspired me to write ‘Bent Metal’ for Childhood Nightmares: Under the Bed. For me, this is a very simple question – I had a version of the dream I chose to write about every night from the age of ten years old until somewhere in my seventeenth year. I do in all actuality have a younger sibling who is six years my junior, and he was a fairly frail child. He was undersized for his age, had a heart murmur throughout his youth, and the most enormous sunken and sorrowful brown eyes I think I’ve ever seen.

I am the eldest of three, and in the home we moved into when I was ten, we children shared a converted attic that was split into two bedrooms with a very small landing and stairwell separating the spaces that were to be our domain.

Each night, I would awaken to the buzzing hum of the after effects of my dream’s adrenaline rush in which my younger brothers body would lie dying in an intersection after a horrendous auto accident.  In the dream, I was always running as fast as I could to get to him but never able to make it, while simultaneously watching the entire event unfold from above.  Stay with me now, it gets even stranger…

Though I had this dream thousands of times, I was never able to recall the beginning of it, or stay asleep long enough to experience the end. Why my brother was in the intersection to start with, I have no idea. Was he a passenger in one of the vehicles or an innocent bystander? My dream never revealed this part of the story to me. What I assuredly say is that he was the victim of this horrendous subconscious tragedy that I experience nightly for more than seven years.

After waking from the dream, I always felt an obligation to check on him and make sure he was still sleeping soundly in his bed.  There is quite a bit of literary freedom used in crafting the story, however, the description of both my terror of losing my brother, and the feeling of dread that overcame me at having to cross from room to room via the darkened third floor landing each night, will always remain with me.

I don’t claim to believe in anything I haven’t experienced, nor do I, as a reasonable adult, purport that all things that go bump in the night are ‘things going bump’ in the night. But I don’t mind admitting that there was something distinctly ‘wrong’ about that particular stairwell and it’s landing; and I wasn’t the only one who was a bit intimidated by it both day and night. As children and teenagers, we didn’t spend much time in our respective bedrooms, opting instead for chores and adolescent slavery over the dread of ‘going upstairs’ on many, many occasions.

Back to my nightmare: After checking on my brother each evening, I would return (feel free to insert the word ‘run’) to my own room, read for an hour or so by flashlight under the covers to avoid the onslaught of wrathful parents should I happen to wake my other sibling, my younger sister that I shared the bedroom with, then I would eventually fall back to sleep and not be bothered by the dream again until the following evening when the cycle began anew.

Sometime during my seventeenth year (I’d love to claim I know when so I can have the ‘Ah-ha!’ moment that should neatly wrap this sort of story up for you – but I don’t) I stopped having the dream without realizing that it was no longer plaguing me in my sleep.

The odd thing about the entire experience is that somewhere in his seventeenth year, my brother was in what could have been a fatal auto accident while driving with a friend who lost control of a car that was hydroplaning, and nosed into a telephone pole causing a horrific mass of bent metal that completely destroyed the front end of the vehicle. They happened to be passing through a four way intersection at just about the same time of night that I had consistently dreamed his death would take place.

Is it a coincidence that after dreaming nightly for seven some-odd years about my brother’s untimely demise that seven some-odd years later he would escape a very similar fate at just about the same age I was when I stopped dreaming of it? I don’t know, but it certainly is strange; at least strange enough to write a story about!


Those whispered tales of monsters hiding under the bed, or of the demons lurking in the shadowy corner where we dare not glance for fear that seeing them will make them all too real. Oh, how the innocent landscape of a child’s imagination lends fertile soil to horrors ready to be sown on the slightest of sounds; the tales and the terror they wreak on our youthful minds never quite leaves us.

We asked the authors in this collection to reach into the forgotten recesses of their twisted minds and share with us the tales of nightmares that can only thrive in the hidden corners of a child’s imaginings; the bogeyman under the bed, the outlandishly fiendish creature lurking in the dark, the slight murmur of sound coming from the hall… did you close the door completely?

Explore the myriad terrors that only a child can twist from nothing into some ‘thing’ in the span of a single rapid breath. Do you dare delve into your own memories? Perhaps you’ll start sleeping with the lights on again…

Tell us, who is Under the Bed?

Contributing Authors:  Colin F. Barnes, Nina D’Arcangela, Phil Hickes, Amber Keller, Kim Krodel, Lisamarie Lamb, John McIlveen, Kate Monroe, Brandon Scott, Joshua Skye, Julianne Snow, and Jack Wallen

Pick up a copy of Childhood Nightmares: Under the Bed as either an eBook or in print format from:

eBook:  Amazon.comAmazon.ukAmazon.deAmazon.frAmazon.es,
Amazon.itSmashwords.com (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, PDF)
Print:     Amazon.comCreatSpace.com


Bent Metal is a teen’s recurring nightmare concerning an accident that takes the life of her brother, or is it? Here’s a longer look at Nina’s contribution to Childhood Nightmares: Under the Bed

     I wake to the sound of screeching metal as two cars collide, ripping each other apart in the intersection nearest our house.  Though we are three full lots away from the corner, I can clearly see where both streets meet from my bedroom window.  My sister and I share the majority of a converted attic space as one room, while my younger brother has the smallest room in the house across the hall from us.

     After being woken by the horrific sound of the two cars colliding, metal slamming into metal, the force of each vehicle tearing through the other, I look out the window to see the late night devastation over the tops of the other houses. This happens so often on our corner that I’ve become almost immune to it.  I get out of bed to call the police and report the accident in the hopes that they will respond quickly enough to help anyone who might have been injured.

     Standing on the landing between the two rooms while making my phone call, I notice that Alan isn’t in his bed.  Where did he go? Silly little twerp sleep walks all the time, and thank God he didn’t fall down the steps or Mom would really have my ass for that one! 

     I get distracted when police dispatch answers: “911: What is your Emergency?”

     “My name is Lauren, and I’d like to report an accident at the corner of Walnut and Hilltop.” I say to the anonymous voice on the other end of the line.

     “Thank you ma’am, we have already been notified and have officers and an ambulance in route.  Are you at the scene of the accident now?”

     “No” I answer, “I live right near the corner and the noise woke me…”

     The dispatcher cuts me off and quickly asks “What is your address ma’am?”

If you would like to read more of Nina’s writing you can find her at her blog, Pen of the Damned, or in future anthologies from other small presses along with Sirens Call Publications.

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