date: Mon, Jan 2, 2012 at 6:13 AM
subject: Probably nothing
It started on my back. A vaguely tender spot that I absently rubbed at over the day. By evening it had become more painful. I undressed for my evening shower and noticed the upper left back was spotted with blood. That’s when I stood in front of the mirror, craning my head back to look. Three long, deep scratches crossed my shoulder blade. They were scabbed up, but the skin around each of them was reddened and inflamed.
It’s strange how we hurt ourselves. It would have been nice if the wounds had been the souvenirs of a wild night of sex, but they weren’t. I haven’t had an adventure of that sort it a long, long time. This, it seemed, was just a reminder that I needed to cut my nails.
Three days later, I woke pleasurably moist with the leftovers of a fading but decidedly raunchy dream. Only when I climbed out of bed did I feel the pain in my thigh. There, standing out like a crimson tattoo against the pale expanse of skin on my inner leg was the unmistakable rosette of a particularly viscous love-bite.
Well. It looked like a love-bite. If I had to be honest, it had disturbed me for an instant. But in the acid morning light, reason kicked in and I chuckled at my ability to bruise with such artistic flair.
It was the third incident that really shook me. After a long and delicious Sunday afternoon nap, I woke feeling very sore. Down there. It was the first thing I noticed on coming to consciousness. Then, as I used my arms to sit upright on the sofa, I hissed at the pain. The muscles in my arms throbbed as if I’d been doing bench presses. When I rolled up my sleeve to look at one of them, there it was: a neat ring of bruise around my upper arm. I could almost make out the darker marks, where the fingers had dug into the skin. I had a matching set on the other arm.
I’m embarrassed to admit it now, but I actually glared at my cat, who was perched on the top of my living room bookcase like a furry vulture. I wasn’t thinking straight. By then I was a little scared.
The bruises kept appearing. Always after deep sleep. It got so bad, I went to my doctor after searching the web and reading that unexplainable bruises can be a sign of a number of illnesses. Being female, I discounted hemophilia, but there were types of leukemia with bruising as a common symptom.
My doctor ordered a battery of tests, after some very embarrassing questions and mutterings of battered woman syndrome. The nurse who took the blood samples stared at the dark purple ring around my wrist and then smirked.
“It’s … it’s not what it looks like,” I muttered. She didn’t believe me; I could tell. That only added to my feelings of fear, helplessness and a creeping sense of rage.
The tests all came back normal, and oddly enough, I was both disappointed and unsurprised by this. Somehow I just knew I wasn’t sick. And somehow it would have been less frightening if I had been.
I didn’t have a lover or an abusive boyfriend. I didn’t have leukemia or any number of other nasty things that lead to inexplicable bruising. When I rose one morning with a twinned pair of scratches on my ass cheeks, I simply didn’t know what to do.
I went back online and looked up stigmata. It was the only think I could think of that came close to explaining what was happening to me.
The problem was, I couldn’t find a single recorded incident of stigmata in atheists. Apparently, you have to be devoutly religious to suffer from it. And hysterical to boot. Well, admittedly, I was starting to become a little hysterical, but only because I kept waking up with body damage I couldn’t account for.
I began wearing white cotton gloves to bed, but that didn’t help. Out of sheer desperation, I went and bought myself a pair of Velcro wrist restraints and secured my hands to the headboard every night for a week. It would have been a relief to wake and find I’d taken off the gloves or released myself in my sleep, but I hadn’t. I’d woken up exactly as I went to sleep, except for the grab-marks on my hips, the bite-marks on my breasts, and a large, very hard to conceal hickey my neck.
I simply wasn’t doing this to myself. Not physically, anyway.
So, after discounting almost every possible explanation, I decided to keep a dream journal. The technique is really pretty simple. If you allow yourself to wake up naturally, you often can’t recall the contents of your dreams. You need to set an alarm clock that wakes you up at different times. That disrupts the normal pattern of emerging out of REM and into the lighter sleep mode where you forget what you’ve dreamed about.
It was recording my dreams that gave me the first clue: a kinky dream now and then is a kind of cool, but when it became clear that every time I woke up marked, it was preceded by – well, there’s just no other way to put this – exactly the sort of stuff that you and I get up to on Second Life, that verges on the uncanny. Don’t you think? In my dream, it’s all dark and empty and I can’t really see anything much. But I can damn well feel it!
I feel like a bit of a nutbag sending you this email. It just wasn’t the sort of thing one can broach in the inline chat. But I just feel compelled to ask.
Have you been having any weird dreams lately?
date: Wed, Jan 4, 2012 at 4:36 PM
subject: re: Probably nothing
I just fitted out my new personal dungeon. I think you’re going to love it.