The creeping miasmata

Tuesday, 24 August

I thought that I had good news to share with you, my dear reader, but now I’m not so sure.

Last week I slept peacefully and undisturbed for five nights in succession. Alex has been very pleased and he thinks that our relationship has turned a corner (unfortunately he said this with such a patronising tone that I am inclined to leave him in the spare room for one or two additional nights entirely on principle alone). I was hoping – foolishly now, I realise - that this was a sign that my nightly torments have come to an end, but I had another strange dream last night which has led me to believe that my optimism has been somewhat premature. I haven't told Alex about my dream because he will start to ridicule me again…and besides, in view of the usual night-time horrors, assaults and visitors that I am accustomed to, strange dreams are a breeze to cope with!

I awoke around midnight to the smell of a strong, sweet vapour in the bedroom, much like perfumed oils, freshly cut flowers or a sweet Muscat wine. Since it is late August and the surrounding gardens are a hive of gardening activity, I thought very little of the pleasant smell and closed my eyes and fell back into a deep sleep. I dreamt that I was in bed, lying on my back with my eyes wide open and staring at the bedroom ceiling above me. I was unable to move my head and so my vision was restricted to my immediate arc of sight and the room was filled with a thick white fog that made it difficult to see even the largest objects nearby. I rolled my eyes to my right and I was immediately confronted with the silhouette of a tall dark figure standing beside the bed. As I focused on the figure, I could see that he - and I say 'he' because the stranger had the stature and presence of a man - was dressed in a very bizarre costume; he wore a long waxed coat, a leather hat with a wide brim and a mask that covered his entire face and had a long beak-like nose. He stood perfectly still, peering down at me through the raised glass eye pieces of the mask like a giant, menacing bird perched at the side of my bed. I studied him for some time, taking in as much detail as I could about his appearance, and then a sudden movement startled me. In his right hand he lifted up a long rod and pointed it towards my head. For a second I thought that he would strike me with it but he just thrust it accusingly at me and, in my fright, I woke myself up. The room was quiet and the strong scent of flowers had dispersed, but I could detect a pungent, antiseptic-like smell lingering in the air. I lifted my head and peered into the darkness of the room and, once I had satisfied myself that I was alone, I fell asleep one again and did not wake until the clock alarm sounded in the morning.

There was something familiar about the stranger's appearance, particularly the bird-like mask. It was reminiscent of the character Scaramouche's mask in the Commedia dell'Arte and at first I thought that the inspiration for my dream could be found in my fondness for reading about the Commedia late at night, but after a quick search on the internet this morning I have discovered that the figure more closely resembled the plague doctors of the fourteenth century. If I let my imagination run wild then I could easily convince myself that this is an omen that I have contracted some kind of unpleasant illness or disease, but that would be unfounded paranoia and I must avoid being drawn into such obsession and mania. Luke has warned me numerous times about this and I have no doubt that he will reassure me that the dream was simply the result of reading too many books and playing with silly masks.