I have recurring nightmares. Sometimes, I dream that I'm being chased by someone who wants to kill me -- sometimes, that person is armed with a shotgun, sometimes with an axe, sometimes with a chainsaw. I flee from them and look in vain for a way to strike back at him. Then after a while, I decide I've had enough of this, and I wake myself up.

Sometimes, when I've had a bit too many reminders of my life back when I was a radio disc jockey and newsman, I'll dream that I've just walked into a radio station, and someone tells me I've got just two minutes before I have to go on the air with my newscast. They park me in front of the microphone, hand me a jumbled pile of paper, some news stories, some garage sale announcements, many completely unreadable. "You're on the air in five... four... three... two..." And by that point, I always say to myself, "Screw this shit. I don't have to take this. I'm waking up." And I do.

Those aren't so bad. I have the dreams, wake up, grumble about my stupid obsessive subconscious, roll over, and go back to sleep.

The dreams about the evil ghost girl, however, completely fuck me up.

The little ghost girl isn't so much a recurring dream as she is a recurring character in my dreams. The dream can be about anything at all. It can be a happy, confusing little dream, like so many of mine. But then she shows up, and everything goes straight to hell. She is a little girl, approximately six to eight years old. She has blonde hair and wears a pretty orange (sometimes yellow) dress. She wears sneakers that are the same color as her dress. She smiles sweetly and adorably. She is very definitely a ghost -- sometimes she is invisible, sometimes translucent, she can appear out of nowhere, and she has unearthly powers. She doesn't look at all frightening -- she looks like any little girl you'd see anywhere -- the type of girl who gets entered in (and wins) those Little Miss beauty pageants. But she radiates so much evil, such pure, malign, terrifying evil, even through that precious, beautiful smile.

She wants me dead, and there's a pretty good chance she could kill me.

In a way, I'm not really sure it counts as a recurring dream. It's not really the same dream over and over -- I can be having any dream at all, then all of a sudden, she shows up, and everything slams straight into abject terror. But I've been dreaming about her more and more often. In the first few months of the year, she appeared in my dreams twice, once in February and once in May. She showed up again in June and July, then twice in August, four times in September. So far this month? Lucky Number Seven. So far.

Last night, I was having a particularly maddening dream. My ex-boss wanted me to do some errands for her, but my parents were insisting on talking and talking and talking to me, keeping me from doing the chores, or even remembering what my work assignments were. And when they finally finished talking to me, I couldn't get my boss on the phone to learn what she'd wanted me to do.

I left the house to take a nighttime walk, and when I walked past the house next door, there was a pair of orange sneakers on the porch. As I watched, the sneakers began walking across the porch. As they reached a short, decorative column on the porch, they walked up the side of it. When the sneakers reached the top of the column, a little girl's orange dress had materialized, too. The sneakers and dress began walking down the column, and when they got back to the porch, the little girl had finally appeared.

She looked at me, smiling her precious, adorable, beautiful smile, and she said, "You're the stupidest person ever, and you're going to die. You'll never get away from me."

She took off her sneakers and threw one of them at me. I picked it up, planning on throwing it back at her, if I had to. Then she threw her other shoe at me. I started to reach down to pick it up, and it slid away from me, back almost to her. She smiled again, and I knew that she wanted me to go to get that shoe, because then I'd be close enough for her to touch.

If she touches me, that's it. They'll find me dead in my bed, an eternal mystery for the police. They'll tell my family it was a sudden heart attack. But they won't ask them to identify my body. They'll strongly recommend cremation. The coroner will develop a drinking problem.

How do I know these things? How do I know what sort of expression will be on my face when the police find me? How do I know what sort of bizarre injuries they'll find once they open me up? How do I know that the dreams are somehow contagious? How do I know? Dream logic. The same thing that told me, in my nightmare, not to even bother running. She'd have no problem catching me, laughing happily, as I ran on that dream treadmill.

I woke up not that long after that, and I did what I always do when she shows up in my dreams -- I laid awake for a couple of hours, paralyzed with terror, unable to get out of bed, unable to fall back asleep, knowing that, at any moment, I could roll over and find her standing right at the edge of the bed, smiling her beautiful, malevolent smile, reaching one hand out to me, too close and too late for me to escape. I was, however, completely exhausted, and eventually, I fell asleep again.

This has many of the markings of night terrors or sleep paralysis, particularly the unreasoning, terrified panic. However, I am able to move while this is going on -- I am able to roll over from one side of the bed to the other. There is also no sensation of breathlessness, as often occurs during sleep paralysis. In addition, most people I know who have had night terrors don't seem to have them as vividly as I do.

So I guess it's just a bad dream, or at least a particularly nasty motif of my personal dreamscape, right?

That sounds plausible, right? Sure it does.

But you know what I found when I got up this morning, lying on the floor right next to my bed?

A little girl's orange sneaker.