I woke up from a bad dream a little after one o’clock this morning. It’s a dream I know I’ve had before, I remember details from the previous times I’ve experienced it. It was a bad dream … insofar as it could be classified as belonging to either the “suspense,” “horror” or “slasher” genres, but I wouldn’t call it a nightmare.

I’ve had nightmares before. Nightmares wake me up and leave me huddled on the floor for hours weeping, wondering desperately what’s real and what’s the dream. I actually woke up from a position of relative safety within the dream. It just wasn’t a “happy” dream. I didn’t die in this dream.

In the dream, I’m trapped in a house with five to nine other people. Iterations of the dream are individually memorable, but I remember the rules of escaping the house. There’s no way out, not through the windows or doors. One of people trapped in the house has a hidden talent that can be used to free everyone.

The only way to discover whose hidden talent will allow everyone to escape is by exploring the house. Exploring the house triggers attacks seemingly at random, whether it’s the house lashing out, or just bad luck. Sometimes, though, there’s a monster that attacks. You can’t fight the monster and you can’t run away. I’m not positive I’ve ever seen the monster, I just know when it gets people.

Opening doors allows an attack or a haunting to spread through multiple rooms, but keeping the doors closed allows the house to spontaneously generate new horrors. A new haunting can’t occur in a room with a person inside it unless someone enters the room. It’s moving between rooms that triggers the attacks.

Of course, moving is necessary, to figure out whose talents are needed to escape, and to supply them with the necessary tools. Otherwise, everyone remains trapped in the house until they grow too weak from stress to resist the haunting and eventually die of dehydration or starvation. It’s all a game to the house.

This time, I remembered the rules, and that was my only talent. I was in charge of keeping people alive as long as possible. I found out this one guy’s guitar music was needed to free us from the house — he reminded me of James from Extra Credits. I’m not really sure what that’s about, but he had the hair, the beard, and the guitar.

He had this custom device he needed that reminded me of the Nintendo Power Glove, with switches in the fingers that helped him control the sound or something. One of the switches was broken, and he was unable to play without first repairing it. I offered him one electronic device I found, asking if it had the parts he needed.

At first, it seemed as though the device was no good, but we realized that if we pulled apart the cords themselves, there was something inside them that we could use. It was while we were stripping the cord apart that we heard screaming from the kitchen. I knew that meant the monster was loose, and all the doors were open.

I grabbed everyone I saw nearby, told the guy to bring the guitar and the wire, and demanded to know if anyone had opened a closet or somewhere with a door we could hide. The guitar guy, a friend of mine from high school, and an older woman were the only ones nearby, and we hurried upstairs to hide in a bedroom closet.

We closed the door and sat huddled in the dark, holding hands, and we waited for the screaming to stop. I spent my time reassuring the others that we would be okay. All we had to do was hold on to each other, and the monster would eventually slink off again, giving us the opportunity to escape the house. We couldn’t save the others.

In my head, I saw words flashing by, like they were on a computer screen. I realized they were commonalities between the people who were trapped in the house, and that everyone had several traits they shared with each of the others. I watched them disappear from the list as each person died, and I realized with their deaths, those links — shared talents, hobbies, skills, or interests — would never be discovered.

Then I woke up.