A Naptime on Elm Street

by: Personalias | Complete Story | Last updated Feb 2, 2022

Chapter 5
Part 5

The next morning was no better than the last.  Hair frazzled and eyes heavy, Nancy’s body desperately wanted sleep, even as her mind railed against it.  Had she been a more appropriate age for such terms, she might be best described as “fussy”. 

Her hair lay in bits of tangled clumps. She hadn’t combed it, despite her assurances to her mother that she would.  Mom had offered to comb Nancy’s hair after the young lady had needed help getting the ribbons out.  She’d offered to bathe Nancy too, to help “just a little bit” with the stubborn stickers clinging to her forearm.  Nancy had declined the bath and painfully peeled the stickers off one at a time.  Even now, the sticky residue remained on her arm, forming little outlines of where the gold stars and yellow happy faces and tiny rainbows had been; a bizarre type of battle scar.

Speaking of battle scars, her knuckles were heavily and rightfully bandaged. They still throbbed as if they’d just been smacked.  Nancy had been up all night icing her hand.  The discomfort had been a sort of boon, tangled hair so it didn’t feel right lying down, sticky sweaty skin and throbbing knuckles to make it so that whenever she closed her eyes her senses just honed in on the annoying sensations.  If she’d had a mosquito bite just between her shoulder blades it would have been a darn near perfect recipe for insomnia.

Nancy came down the stairs holding the railing for support.  Whether it was her exhaustion or the stuff in her dreams forcing its way more and more into reality was anyone’s guess.  Despite everything, she was fully dressed for the day, in jeans and a white sweater.  In some ways it was a small miracle that she could still dress herself.

“She said she grabbed it off her head in her dream,” Mom spoke into the kitchen phone.  There was something about the way she’d said “her” in reference to the witch with the diaper bag and paddle.  Having grown up on Harry Potter, Nancy noticed the tense way her mother spoke- the deliberate attempt to avoid speaking a name allowed.  Very “you-know-who”.  “No, I’m not crazy!” Mom said.  “I’m holding the damn thing here in my hand.”

There was a slight slur in Mom’s voice; nearly undetectable unless you’d grown-up hearing the crisp and proper way Marge Thompson tended to speak.  The only time Mom’s words started to jumble or slur even the slightest is when she’d had a few drinks or when she was arguing with Dad.  Nancy placed good odds on it being a little bit of both this time. 

“I don’t know where she really found it,” Mom’s voice was terser, lower.  She must have known Nancy was up and about. “I gotta go,” Nancy heard just before the clicking of a landline on the receiver.  

Even with vision blurred from lack of sleep, the highschool senior didn’t miss her mother awkwardly stepping away from the phone and sliding a bottle of vodka behind her back.  Nancy ignored it.  She needed coffee.  Now. 

Wordlessly she went over to the pot and poured herself a mug, downing it as if it were the elixir of life.  Those workplace sitcoms were more right then they knew; coffee really was a life saver. 

“You didn’t sleep at all last night, did you?” Mom asked.  Nancy just kept downing the coffee.

Of course she hadn’t gone to sleep.  She couldn’t go to sleep.  Going to sleep meant risking another regression.  Regression.  That was the word for this.  Everytime she dreamed, it seemed, a little less of her adulthood came back with her.

Her underwear drawer was half stacked with Goodnites, as if she was a bedwetter and had normalized it.  She was a better wetter though...now anyways.  Frequent breaks to the toilet had been another way she’d kept awake. 

The other half wasn’t any better.  All of her underwear, her big girl underwear wasn’t quite as big girl as she remembered.  Women her age didn’t normally wear Sophia The First panties.  Even now.  Even now, she was wearing my little pony on her hips.  Around three A.M. last night, while trying to keep awake she’d even found a Pull-Up under her bed.

It was bigger than any Pull-Up should have been. It would have fit her perfectly; like the tapeless Frozen themed diaper with the fade when wet snowflake design was made for her.  That had sent Nancy tearing through all of her drawers, examining every bit of clothing she’d owned.

The good news was that the Pull-Up was the only one she’d found.  But one Pull-Up was too many.  It was a leftover.  Like she’d just graduated from out of them… Her jeans had an elastic waistband and snaps instead of proper buttons, but at least the snap was only at the waist.

The cancerous childhood had only spread so far, yet it spread a little more every time she closed her eyes. If she fell asleep again, she might wake up with an entire drawer of Pull-Ups; and that was if she was lucky.  If she wasn’t lucky, her dresser might be a changing table and there might be more snaps in her pants than just at the waist.

“You know, the pediatri-...” Mom stopped herself.  “The doctor says you have to sleep or-”

“I’ll go even crazier?” Nancy interrupted.  Her back was turned.  She was angry enough that she didn’t want to look at her mother.  If not for the coffee, Nancy might not even be here.

“I don’t think you’re crazy.” Nancy could hear the lie in her mother’s voice. 

 No, not a complete lie.  “Crazy” just wasn’t the word that Mommy...Mom would use.  She’d have used “Silly” or “Cranky” or “Over-Imaginative”, some other word to indicate her disbelief.

Mom reached around Nancy and snatched the mug away the moment she’d placed it on the counter. “And stop drinking that darn coffee.  It’ll stunt your growth.”

“I’m already grown.”  Nancy pivoted around her mother and walked to the other end of the kitchen.  Mommy didn’t reply .  “So, did you ask Daddy to have the hat examined?”

Mom closed the distance between them.  “I threw that filthy thing away,” she lied.  Even if Nancy hadn’t heard the last bit of the phone call she would have known., Mom was an awful liar.  She leaned up against a kitchen drawer closest to the refrigerator, and Nancy immediately knew where the ratty old flower hat was.  “I don’t know where you found it, or what you’re trying to prove-”

“What I learned in the dream clinic,” Nancy raised her voice. “That’s what I’m trying to prove, Mother!”  Mother might as well have been a curse word just then.  “Tina wasn’t a neglected baby.  And Rod wasn’t an abandoned orphan.”  She hated the way she was talking about her former classmates.  It sounded as if they were dead.  In a way, she supposed, they were.

She leaned in closer to her mother, hoping that the frightened sincerity in her eyes would pierce the woman’s complete and utter disbelief.   “It’s this lady...this witch,” Nancy whispered. “She’s after us in our dreams.”  Her voice cracked a little; threatening tears.

Mom stepped away, breaking off eye contact, and turning away from her.  “That’s just not reality, baby.”

With a swift tug, Nancy opened the offending drawer and ripped out the old flower hat in one fluid motion.  “It’s real, Mama.”  Nancy almost bit her tongue off trying to choke back the infantile nomenclature.  She brushed the back of her mother’s shoulders.with the dreadful hat.  “Feel it.”

Even with her reflexes dulled by exhaustion, Nancy was able to snatch away the hat from Mom’s reaching grasp.  That’s when Nancy knew her mother was drunk; perhaps much more so than she’d expected.  “Give me that damn thing!”

“It even has her name written in it,” Nancy pushed.  “Nan Rueger, Mom. Nan Rueger!”  She bent and warped the hat a bit just so her mother could get a good, irrefutable look for herself. “Do you know who that is, Mother?”  Even drunk, the look of shock and shame on her mother’s face was unmistakable.  “Because if you do you better tell me because she’s after me, now.”

“Nancy, trust your mother for once, please.” Mom seemed stone cold sober in that moment.  The moment didn’t last. “You’ll feel better when you get some sleep.” More than morning vodka was clouding her thoughts.

Nancy lifted up her sweater and showed her mother the easy button pants.  “Feel better?!”  She gave a quick flash of her purple pony panties.  “You call this feeling better?!”  She gestured to her arm, still spotted where the stickers were- at least Mom had been surprised by that.  She pointed to her bruised knuckles.  Mom stared on in silence.  Why did adults...why did GROWN-UPS never believe what was right in front of their eyes?  Why did there always have to be a rational fucking explanation for everything and why didn’t the any of the rational ones ever make sense?

The throbbing in her hand caused Nancy’s eyes to dart over her mother’s shoulder, back to the counter. “Or maybe I should grab that ba-ba...that bottle, and veg out with you. Avoid everything happening to me by just getting good and loaded.”

The fresh pain in Nancy’s ear was as sharp and burning as the old one in her knuckles. 


Nancy let out a screech as Mommy swatted her on her bum, jumping in her tippy toes to somehow try and lessen the sting. No! Not like this! Not like this!  Mommy let her ear go and Nancy skittered away towards the living room, clutching her backside with the same panicked fervor that a stabbing victim clutches their gash. 

Mommy backed up to the sink, clearly shocked by what she’d just done to her daughter.  A slap to the face would have been more preferable...more age appropriate...or at least less demeaning.  On some level, Mom must’ve realized that.  That’s what Nancy would have liked to think, anyways.  “Nan Rueger can’t come after you, Nancy,” Mom finally said.  “She’s dead.  Believe me.  I know.”

If that was supposed to reassure Nancy, it had the opposite effect.  She felt her pulse quicken, with rage this time over fear.  “You knew.”  She approached her mother, flower hat in hand; damning evidence alongside her mother’s confession.  “You knew about her this whole time.”  Her voice was now deadly quiet. “And you’ve been acting like it was something I made up?”

“Nancy, you’re sick.” Her mother was just barely holding back sobs. “You’re imagining things.  Playing pretend.”  She reached for the bottle of vodka as if it were a teddy bear.  “You’ll feel better after you have a nap.  It’s as simple as that.”

Nancy yanked the bottle from her mother’s grasp.  “I DON’T WANNA NAP!”  With all her strength she tossed the bottle onto the kitchen floor.  The sound of shattering glass was enough to make it so that neither woman felt tired- no matter how much alcohol or insomnia might urge them to close their eyes. 

Nancy tossed the dirty hat at her mother.  Mom didn’t even try to catch it, letting the wretched thing fall to the floor.  That was fine by Nancy.  Nancy turned and walked into the living room towards the front door.  “Nancy!” Mom called after her.  “It’s just a nightmare.”

Nancy grabbed a jacket and opened the door. “That’s enough.”  She had no more time for her mother’s bullshit.


The pond that afternoon was serene as the young couple walked over the bridge; stark contrast to what was going on in Nancy’s mind.  Nancy had made a pit stop over to the local library and had messaged Glenn to meet her from there.

After the argument with her mother this morning, Nancy needed to be around someone who believed her.  Even if he didn’t, Glenn at least humored her; didn’t look at her as if she were a crazy person or a child babbling about nightmares.  Glenn was good like that.  Just the two of them, alone and somehow secure there out in the open.  It was the safest Nancy had felt all day.

Glenn had a bag of fast food in his hand. “When I get nervous, I eat,” he confessed, popping a french fry into his mouth. He must have bought it just before they met up.

“And when you can’t do that, you sleep.”  Nancy said.

“I used to,” Glenn said.  “Not anymore.” While her boyfriend munched on greased potatoes, Nancy stole a glance at his pants.  She didn’t hear any crinkling over the quacking of the ducks or see any bulge of absorbent padding.  But she was pretty sure his shoes had laces in them last time she saw him; no Velcro.  She was positive they didn’t light up when he stepped before, but decided not to mention it.  “Have you ever heard of the Balinese way of dreaming?”

Nancy looked up from her book.  “No…”

Glenn took a sip of cola, likely extra caffeinated.  “They got this whole system they got called dream skills,” he said.  “So if you have a nightmare, for instance, like falling, right?”

“Right,” she nodded. 

Glenn reached in and took another fry.  “Well, instead of screaming and getting all nuts,” he told her, “You say, ‘Okay I’m going to make up my mind that I fall into a magic world.” He exhaled.  “Make it something special like a poem, or a song.”  Leave it to Glenn to find something romantic or fanciful given their situation. “They get all their literature from art and dreams.  Just wake up and write it down.”

Nancy frowned slightly.  A good philosophy as far as dreams went, she supposed, but it wasn’t just dreams they were dealing with here.  “But what about monsters or witches?  Then what?”

Glenn pouted his lip out, but only for a second.  “They turn their back on it.  Take away its energy and it disappears.”  He opened the styrofoam container with his burger in it and took a bite out of it. 

“But what happens if they don’t do that?”  A twinge of dread creeped up the young woman’s spine.  Was she just trying to see all the angles, or had more than just her clothes changed?  Little kids often asked such questions, too.

Glenn thought it over for a second as he sipped his soda.  “Then I guess they don’t ever wake up to tell what happens.”  Or in this case they end up gurgling and no one can understand them anyways.

Nancy smiled grimly.  “Great.”

Gently, her boyfriend took the book she’d checked out from the library.  He was careful to stick his thumb in between the pages so she wouldn’t lose her place, then turned it over and read the title.on the cover.  “The physics and engineering of Home Alone?” He read the title aloud with a question.  “That movie with the kid and the dumb burglars where he turns his house into a death trap?  What are you reading that for?”

Feeling too embarrassed to admit why, Nancy lied. “It’s got some neat stuff in it.  How dangerous the traps really would be in real life versus the movie.  Thought it would be interesting to read.”  What she didn’t tell her boyfriend was that she hadn’t been allowed to check out Booby Traps & Improvised Anti-Personnel Devices.  The librarian had thought her a little too young to check that one out without an adult’s permission…


The sun was setting when Nancy finally walked home.  Her slow walk turned into a fast jog, verging on a sprint as her house came into view.  A small part of her wondered if she’d somehow fallen asleep, if some ghost Nanny would jump out of the growing shadows and try and spank the adulthood right out of her.

“What the…?” the rest of that sentence hung in the air like “baby” Glenn in his jumper.  In the time since she’d stormed out on her mother, the house had been altered; defiled even.  Cold iron bars blocked every window, even the little peep hole in the front door.  The rose trellis had been torn down to boot, it’s corpse still on the front lawn with little scarlet petals crushed underneath. Even the windows on the second story were barred.

 No more late night visits from Glenn.  No sneaking off in the middle of night, either.  In a matter of ours, Nancy’s home had become a prison.  And though iron bars do not a prison make, Nancy feared they might do for a playpen.

“Oh, gross…” She walked inside and slammed the front door behind her.  “Mother!” she called. Mother was the name of God in the hearts of children. To Nancy it was more of a swear word, a curse to spat at.  Deep down, Nancy felt that if she called Marge “Mother” enough, maybe it’d sink in that she wasn’t acting the part and might want to straighten up.

Mom walked in from the kitchen, already in her pajamas and robe, a cigarette in her hand. From the uneasy, not quite stumbling way she walked, Nancy guessed that there was more than one bottle of Vodka in the house.  Mom said nothing.  Just stared at Nancy as she lit her cigarette and inhaled.

“What’s with the bars?”

Mom exhaled a puff of smoke, and said. “Security.” Her voice was flat.  Tired.  Grim.

Pretty ironic considering that just this morning Mom had promised Nancy that she was in no danger and that she was sick and this entire thing was all in her head; a child’s fantasy.  “Security?!” Nancy shouted.  “Security from WHAT?!”

“Not from what, from whom.”  Mom’s voice didn’t raise a bit.  It had been close to a week Nancy had last dreamt; actually slept.  There, in the darkening house, not a single light on save the flame from her cigarette and the setting sun, Mom looked like she hadn’t slept in longer.  She opened the cellar door and flicked on a light, her face illuminated by a ghastly glow but her voice still just above a stage whisper.  “Come down to the cellar with me, and I’ll tell you.”

Without speaking, daughter followed mother down the stairs and into the cellar, the silence starting to weigh on Nancy’s mind almost as much as the denials and patronizing reassurance had done in the days that preceded.  In this moment, her mother was becoming less and less Mom, and more and more Marge. 

Words like “It’ll be okay, honey,” or “You’re just imagining things” were little lies that parents told children to keep the bogeymen at bay; ignore the danger until it passed on its own; keep calm and carry on.  Somehow, she didn’t know why, but Nancy knew that she was going to be talking to her mother as something resembling an equal.  Adult to adult.  Time for the truth.

Marge took a seat by the old furnace and opened it, the screech.

“You want to know who Nan Rueger was?” 

Nancy nodded.

“For a while before and just after you were born, Nan Rueger was a babysitter,” Marge explained. “She converted an old house into a daycare and watched children while their parents were away, all infants.” Knowing there was more to the tale, Nancy stayed silent.  Babysitters and Nannies didn’t just haunt people’s dreams for nothing.

“Too late we found out she was abusing them; punishing them for things they couldn’t help.  Babies were supposed to be innocent.  But they couldn’t stay that way if they grew up. So she tried to stop them.  Put needles in their shoes so they’d crawl instead of walk.  Rap their knuckles if they showed that they could write anything more than a scribble. Give them stickers and sweet treats if they played with baby toys. Diaper them even if they were potty trained, and  spank them if they asked to use the toilet instead of their diapers.”

“Lock them in cribs and baby swings so they had no choice…” Nancy guessed.  

Marge shuddered, and nodded.  “If someone hadn’t slipped in a bug, who knows how long it would have gone on.  There are twenty kids...adults now...still in therapy after what Nan Rueger did to them.”

Nancy sat down on the floor across from her mother, her knees starting to tremble.  “It drove us crazy when we found out.  So many of us thought the kids had been telling silly stories, or that they didn’t want to grow up.  We didn’t think someone was making them afraid, or forcing them to regress.”  She exhaled.  “We didn’t believe…”  Marge reached into the unlit furnace and took out a bundle of something wrapped in burlap.

Nancy didn’t break eye contact.  “Did they put her away?” she asked.

“The lawyers got fat and the judge got famous, but somebody forgot to sign the paperwork in the right place and Rueger was free.  Just like that.”  Marge didn’t so much as blink. 

The next question out of Nancy’s mouth was no louder than a strangled croak.  A whisper in the dark.  She was hearing the confession of the damned.  “What did you do, Mother?”

“A bunch of us tracked her down after they let her out. She huddled into that same daycare and wouldn’t come out.”

Nancy leaned forward.  “Go on.” She needed to hear this. More than anything she needed to hear it.

“We took gasoline…” Marge paused. “And poured it all around the place.  Made a trail of it out the door.  Then lit the whole thing up and watched it burn.” She took another long drag off of her cigarette.  The smoke came out in staggered little buffs along with her breath.  “The firemen were too slow to respond...on purpose.  Your father and his friends never investigated. Everyone knew...but didn’t talk about it.  My maternity leave ended two weeks later.”

The maiden said nothing as the mother unfolded the burlap.  The crone’s paddle, the one from Nancy’s dreams, lay in pieces in Marge’s lap.  “Her burnt up body was found cradling this, protecting it from the fire.”  The silence dragged on.  “So you see, she can’t hurt you now, Nancy.” Her eyes became glassy as tears threatened.  “She dead honey, because Mommy killed her.”

For an instant, Nancy just wanted to believe her mother; to be that little girl one more time and know that everything would be alright because Mommy had and would protect her.  But then that little bit of insanity krept back into Mom’s tone.  “You’re safe.  You can sleep.  You can go put your goodnites on and go right to sleep.”


Glenn was listening to his air pods and watching Tik Tok on his laptop.  Mom hadn’t given him his cell back. The track ended at just the right time for him to hear the ringing of his bedroom phone. At least he’d been allowed to keep that.  “Hello?” he asked.

“Hi.”  It was Nancy.

“Oh. Hi.”  The young man couldn’t help but smile. “How ya doing?” The sound of his girlfriend’s voice always had a way of raising his spirits (among other things).

“Fine,” she said.  Dang she sounded tired.  “Stand by your window so I can see you. You sound a million miles away.”  Only Nancy’s voice was in that far off place. Still, he humored her, standing by his window so he’d be the first thing she saw when she peeled back her bedroom curtains.  A modern day Romeo and Juliette situation if ever there was one.  He felt that Mrs. Morgan would have been proud that he thought of the comparison.

“That’s much better,” Nancy said, looking at him from all the way across the street.  Nancy needed her own laptop.  Video chat would have been much more intimate.

Zoom would also have given him a view of his lady love without the iron bars.  Mrs. Thompson must’ve figured out how they’d snuck out to the police station the other night.  “I see your mom went ape at the security store today. You look like Rapnuzel in her tower or something.”  Nancy didn’t say anything.  From the distance they were at, Glenn couldn’t tell if her eyes were all the way open.  “How long’s it been since you slept?”

“It’s coming up on the seventh day.” Nancy slumped against her window. “It’s okay. I googled it.  World record is eleven.” That didn’t make Glenn feel any better.  He was having trouble sleeping, too.  But he wasn’t deliberately doing it to himself.  “Listen Glenn,” Nancy broke in on his thoughts. “I know who she is.”

Glenn frowned. “Who?”

“The Witch...the one who turned Tina and Rod into big babies.”

No.  Not again.  Not those dreams again.  Those were just nightmares. That’s all. Yeah, what happened to Rod and Tina was pretty fuckin’ weird, but none of the adults seemed worried besides getting them into good homes.  Maybe this was just something that happened to people sometimes, and nobody ever told Glen.  Yeah.  And maybe the Earth was pear shaped.  “You do?”

“Yes,” Nancy said,  “And if she gets me, I’m pretty sure you’re next.”

A jolt. ““Me?!”  Glenn pictured himself from one of his old baby pictures: Rolling around in a giant walker and drooling with nothing but a bib above the tray and a wet Huggies below. Only instead of himself circa age one, he pictured him in the here and now in such a compromising position.  IT was not a pretty picture.  “Why would anybody wanna turn me into a baby?”

“Don’t ask,” Nancy replied. “Just give some help nailing the bitch when I bring her out.”

“Bring her out of what?”

“My dream.”

“Heh.”  In a weird way, Glenn felt better.  Nancy was clearly delirious. “How do you plan to do that?”

Nancy’s response was way to ofast for Glenn’s liking. “Just like I did the hat. Have a hold of her when you wake me up.”

“Wait a minute.” Glenn interrupted. “You can’t bring somebody out of a dream.”

“If I can’t,” Nancy said. “then you can all relax because it’s just a case of me being nuts.”  Poor thing.  Her voice was so tired.  It was amazing she was standing.

“Yeah well I can save you the trouble,” Glenn said gently.  “You’re nutty as a fruitcake.” Then he added, “I love you anyway.”

He swore he saw Nancy’s smile all the way across the dark street. “Good. Then you won’t mind cold cocking this lady when I bring her out.”


“You heard me.”  He had, in fact.  He just didn’t want to believe her.

“I grab the lady in my dream,” Nancy told him, “you see me struggling, so you wake me up. We both come out, you whack the fucker and we got her!”  It was the most awake, or at least the least weary Glenn had heard Nancy all week.

“Are you crazy? Hit her with what?”

“You’re the jock. You have a baseball bat or something.”  Oh sure, Glenn thought.  Grab one of his old little league sluggers, watch his girlfriend sleep, wait for her to drag a creepy ass Nanny out of her dreams and then club her over the back of her skull.  Most obvious thing in the world, really.  “Just meet me at my porch at midnight,” Nancy continued.  “Oh, and meanwhile…”


“Whatever you do,” Nancy said. “Don’t. Fall. Asleep.”



End Chapter 5

A Naptime on Elm Street

by: Personalias | Complete Story | Last updated Feb 2, 2022


To comment, Join the Archive or Login to your Account

The AR Story Archive

Stories of Age/Time Transformation

Contact Us