Bedtime Stories

Orange SkyNot all of our thoughts are our own. Sometimes we think something that someone else has said. And then there are those thoughts that are too horrible, too vile to have come from inside of us, even though they did. They are thoughts that intrude rudely on our consciousness, saying things we would never say ourselves.

My sister heard voices in her head. But unlike you and me, she thought they were real. She couldn’t put a face, a name, to those thoughts. One of them was just like a color, another was the water streaming perfectly from an open tap. That’s all she could say.

But when she described what one of those voices told her, that’s when I was afraid. That’s when I was terrified.

The voice told her of the future. It was my future. And she told me that story in the quiet darkness of bedtime.

Lost to the trials of urban ruin, sunken souls will traipse the vapid streets like living corpses, sensing only their silent but urgent desperation. They will not sleep, they will not eat, they will not think. They will not exist, except to the solitary agent who counts their numbers in that city within a city. That agent will not care how many are alive, even if you could call it living. He will only want to know how many have died since he was there the previous night. How many sacks of yellow human skin he must count.

Their children will not beg for money. They will beg for anything that means they can wake again tomorrow. Tomorrow, when the sun will streak the orange sky and fill their eyes with the dread of the day. Slip away. Slip away from it all into the tiny crevices of human filth. And pray to their absent God that he might save them.

It was my bedtime story. As a child I would die like that. I would die in a desolate place, devoid of friends and love. I would die before I had a chance to live.

But I never did. I am alive and a grown man. But those terrible images sit deep inside my psyche, waiting to haunt me with portents of my own death.

I keep telling myself that not all the thoughts we have are our own. I see people everywhere who love me. I see friends. I hold the hand of my own little girl and look into her eyes and read with her The Tiger Who Came To Tea and tuck her up in bed.

I will never let anyone tell her stories of an untimely, loveless death. The stories that will stay forever with her are of fairies that dance in the purple moonlight. Of being a beautiful princess who holds violet-pink roses close to her skin and rides through fields, with the dappled sunlight reflected from the silver dew. Riding with gracious confidence on her white unicorn into a beautiful tomorrow.

And she will never know what bedtime stories I live with.


  1. This is a gorgeous piece of writing about a terrible subject– the ideas your sister put into your little head as a defenseless child. The horror is vivid and real and bespeaks the courage of your recovery of your life from a horrid childhood. Parts are pure poetry.

  2. Lovely. Just lovely. And horrific. I think I fear dying alone and desolate. I’m glad no one ever told me I would. Perhaps she knew that if you never emerged from your darkness, that fate could await you. The tides have turned, and you have a been reborn into a real life. You have changed your path forever. She sounds like she was an interesting little girl . . .

  3. You know how much I love your writing so I just nominated you for the Most Versatile Blogger Award. See details at:


  1. […] We love stories here, but we’re made to think about the negative connotations by this article by John Mitchell […]

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