Every home in the burg had its share of nightmares. They'd settled out on the slope of an ominous forest, and the looming mountains lengthened night by a half an hour every summer, so it was their own fault. They understood. They accepted responsibility, and considered the number of nightmares that crept into their basements and attics and air conditioning systems to be the price for country living. The rest of the world wasn't exactly a peach.
Mr. Rabbani had lived on the haunted slope for two decades. He kept an array of lamps on starting an hour before dusk and never slept with his feet jutting from the covers. These were reasonable precautions for his mortgage rate. That his only neighbor was an empty house seemed downright funny around Halloween.
Yet one November, Mr. Finkelstein moved into that empty house. It was three days of a veritable haunting, with all the clatter of moving furniture and groaning middle-aged men. Mr. Finkelstein had only a fuzzy notion of how many nightmares lived in the burg, and so he lost a few toenails to one on his first night. The neighbors saw him through his bathroom window around dawn, clutching a flashlight and barricading himself in.
Mr. Finkelstein called the exterminators. They draped and fluffed and flooded the house with sanguine gases that dissolved the first nightmares into dust and shadow, and sent any survivors skittering off the property.
If you've had an infestation of nightmares, you know they don't cease to be once you drive them out, especially when winter is coming. Mr. Rabbani woke on the second night of fumigation, at a spry one in the A.M., to find clawed irrationalities scraping under his floorboards. In the morning he found that some nightmares had pried apart the looser bricks of his foundation and wormed their ways into the crawl spaces of his abode.
Mr. Rabbani could not afford fancy fumigation. He had to go about setting the old glue traps, baiting them with childhood hopes that he was too old to use anymore. It sickened him to find the nightmares stuck to mats, wriggling, striving to terrify. He couldn't kill them. Instead, he would release them deeper up the slope behind his home and hope loudly that they'd not return.
Nightmares are smarter than you think, their intelligence growing with their numbers. Perhaps not so smart as to go away when you hope loudly (there's ample evidence that this makes them worse), but smart enough to realize that your bait is stale and they keep getting trapped on things in your crawl spaces.
Mr. Finkelstein had no glue traps. Instead, he had sundry musty boxes of nostalgia, most of them still sealed, because no one unpacks as quickly as they think they will. No sooner did he forget to fully close the back door one night, then nightmares lurked behind every corner, and infested everything he'd once loved and intended to love again, just as soon as he had the energy to shelve things. He was dozing and sipping a soy latte when a photo of his deceased wife began crying about him never doing the wash. If this doesn't strike terror into your heart, you're not Mr. Finkelstein. Nightmares are personal.
Mr. Finkelstein took it very personally, and in the throes of a panic attack, set fire to his photo collection. He had his psychotherapist talk him down via Skype for five hours. It was very costly.
It was most costly to Mr. Rabbani, because nightmares do not handle psychotherapy well, especially not when their intended victim is awake. Mr. Rabbani was sleeping peacefully until every hair on both of his legs became a rat. It was so sudden that Mr. Rabbani strapped two lamps to his legs to ensure they remained properly-haired and promptly never fell back to sleep.
The nightmares screeched and squelched their way through Mr. Rabbani's crawl spaces for an admirable three days. It wasn't the additional glue traps, or the new nail traps, or the newer-still instant-immolation traps that swayed the nightmares. It was the three sleepless days. Nightmares just can't feed their young in a perpetually wakeful house.
This meant Mr. Finkelstein's bonfire of the memories was highly attended. It was a chill Sunday with a dull regional football game when the four children he'd always imagined fathering began scampering in every room around him, never to be seen, always to be beckoning, always to be asking when they would be allowed shoes as polished as his. His psychotherapist made a pretty penny over voice chat that weekend. Mr. Finkelstein refused to hang up, demanding he be carried with the psychotherapist, via Android tablet, to meals, to bathroom and to bed. Mr. Finkelstein himself refused to go to bed. It seemed his hypothetical children dwindled the longer he stayed up.
Two sleepless men meant quite the famine for those nightmares. A few trickled down the slope to other homes, but so remote were Rabbani and Finkelstein that most could not survive the trek, nor could they be rational enough to give up the temptations of two juicy pieces of prey. Nightmares seldom excel at rationality.