Nightmares [1993]

  • Nightmares – Judy PSL: #360 [1993]
  • Art: Oliver Passingham

Plot

Sally Laing is in charge of driving a group of girls from the Kentwood Youth club to Summer Camp. Bad weather forces Sally to pull over, which reminds one of the girls, Penny, of a nightmare she had of being stuck on a motorway. In the dream,  she was in car with her dad and a horrible truck driver keeps boxing them in so they can’t get to the slip road. When they do get off the motorway, they are led back onto it again and then it changes into a roundabout with no exits and  suddenly changes into a merry-go-round that kept going faster until Penny woke up. While the girls are amused by the story, Sally is worried about the weather and decides to try and find somewhere to stay for the night. They get to a B&B, Hadley Hall, but the owner, Mrs Keeting, seems reluctant to let them stay. She says the sign is an old one but agrees to let them stay one night. Penny gets a shock when a member of staff, George, comes to take care of their luggage, as he looks exactly like the man from her nightmare!

The girls try to make the best of things, while eating Pauline is reminded of a nightmare she had. She goes to a dentist, a strange looking woman,  who pokes and prods until Pauline runs away from her. But the next day Pauline discovers she has fangs, so she has to return to dentist to get them fixed. Like Penny, Pauline gets a shock when the woman clearing the table is the same as the dentist. Mrs Keeting takes them to their room, which has no furniture, so they are forced to sleep on the floor with blankets. Again a girl is reminded of a nightmare. Jenny dreamt of a similar room, where one of the walls revealed the message “Prepare to Meet Thy Doom” and then the walls started to close in on her. The girls are now getting edgy, and pealing off some of the wallpaper reveals the same message as from Jenny’s dream. Sally asks whoever wrote the message to own up, but they all deny writing it.

Even when they try to sleep, it doesn’t stop the girls talking of nightmares. Another story has a girl camping, when she gets flooded and has to cling onto a tree trunk. Two witches appear beside her on other trunks, until she falls down a waterfall into a whirlpool. Suddenly water starts pouring on the girl’s head. Sally being sensible, just says a slate must have come loose, and she will get some dry blankets from Mrs Keeting. But even Sally is unsettled when she finds their door is locked. She is not in the mood when Wendy starts telling the story of her dream of being in a locked room. In the dream she found a trapdoor that had a spiral staircase, she went down for ages only to find another trapdoor leading back to the original room. Once again real life imitates the dream, as they find a trapdoor. Wendy goes to investigate but trips and Sally has to go after her. When they make their back to the trapdoor, Mrs Keeting has closed it as she is not happy with them poking around. She does let them out but Sally has had enough, she tells the girls they are leaving straight away, but when they get outside the minibus is gone and the staff deny seeing it.

Sally tries to call for police but dial is stuck, this again triggers another memory of a nightmare. A girl shrinks and has difficulty phoning for help. In reality they find the phone won’t work because the line is cut. With little choice they are lead back to their room again.  With the door locked Sally thinks the only way to go find minibus is to climb down the ivy. One of the girls protests as she had a nightmare about ivy attacking her, still Sally persists. She is part of the way down when Mrs Keeting and the others see her. She cuts the ivy, causing Sally to fall and brings her back to the room. Penny notices that the key is still in the lock and figure they can knock it onto a piece of paper. The old newspaper they are going to use has the headline that Hadley Hall was destroyed in a fire and even more odd the paper is dated for the next day, Friday the 13th! Freda tells of a dream where she dropped her key and fell down a hole with a bunch of keys, she frantically looked for the right key when a beast started chasing her.

They do manage to get out of the room and house but find themselves in a maze, they get lost and Mrs Keeting finds them. Soon they are back to where they started in the room again. As the storm worsens a nearby tree is struck by lightning and falls onto the house, setting it on fire. Sally and the girls make it to the roof to escape but are one again confronted by Mrs Keeting. Her and Sally fight and they both fall into the flames. It is at that moment Penny wakes up Sally. They are still in the bus, Sally fell asleep soon after they pulled over. As the storm has cleared they can sett off again and Sally tells them about her dream on the way. As they pass a sign for Hadley Hall, Penny asks what the name of the house was in her dream. Sally can’t remember and says it doesn’t matter anyway as nightmares have nothing to do with reality. As she drives on we see Mrs Keeting by the sign.

Thoughts

This is spooky and tense story. I like the dream narrative, and how on reflection, it becomes more obvious its a dream near the end, with archetypes such as sudden transitions and impossible occurrences, such as suddenly finding themselves in a maze or Mrs Keetings sudden appearance on the roof or even one of the girls picking this time to want to tell a nightmare story!  Still it doesn’t make it too obvious that it’s not reality until the end, so it could be believed it is just a very creepy house with maybe something supernatural going on. With all the stories of the girls dreams, it is like there are multiple mini scary stories, which brings more variety and makes satisfying reading. Most of these short nightmares would be scary on their own but to then have it tie into what’s going on around them adds another layer of creepiness.

Oliver Passingham drew a lot of supernatural and eerie stories (he was a regular artist on Skeleton Corner) and his style is suited here. With the nightmares he gets a chance to bring even more supernatural elements such as the witches and the beast, and even in “reality” he makes things eerie. Mrs Keeting is a good villain, and the final confrontation with her is quite exciting, as we wonder if the girls will be able to escape. Even though it all turns out to be a dream, the final panel with Mrs Keeting, makes things a bit more ambiguous, and makes us wonder if there was some sort of prophecy to Sally’s dream. Maybe Hadley Hall is destined to burn down, or the dream serves as a warning to stay away from the house and Mrs Keeting.

It is a story that uses it premise of nightmares well and  takes its time to build to the twist in the end. Although on reflection, knowing that after Penny tells her story in the minisbus, everything else is a dream, it does mean Sally’s nightmare was quite elaborate including nightmares within a nightmare!

 

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