I have incredibly vivid nightmares. The kind that leave you upright, sweating- searching for any talisman of familiarity in pitch black rooms.
These nightmares come and go with the tides of my life. Doctors referred to them as “Night terrors” when I was a kid. I come to expect their cycle and take comfort in the fact that I know soon they’ll be going. I don’t often remember my normal dreams. Maybe I sleep just enough (or maybe not enough at all) to work out all those small, daily road bumps that we transform into strange weavings of nocturnal symbolism? Maybe I don’t need to be reminded of those.
But have you ever had a good nightmare? I did, for the first time, last night.
It started with the same heart of cruelty all nightmares start with: a normal dream. I sat in a park; maybe it was Central Park? I had a book and a bit of shade. Dogs and kids were there in the peripheral, filling the dream out with peace and happiness. I began to trust that maybe this would be one of those rare occasions when I would remember a good dream.
Then, as suddenly as it began, the dream shifted. There was terror and heat and fracturing. I found myself running from some erie shift- something unnamable but all too familiar. The dream became more stark- more real with every passing moment. I could feel the slip of reality and a panic rose in my chest.
“Wake up!” my lungs screamed, “Get out of this! Open your eyes!”
But I stayed running. Soon, I was out of the park and in an open field engulfed in flames and darkness. Creatures, faceless but terrifying, followed me to the absolute edge of the field where an abyss butted up against a cliff.
I was trapped between the jump and the terror of what was behind me. Again, I willed myself to wake up.
“Wake up. Wake up. Wake up. Get out of this.”
I couldn’t decide what was real anymore. I had slipped. The nightmare started to hover closer. Time was out, a decision had to be made.
Normally these things end with a jolt- a jump that heaves reality back into my ribcage. I’ll lie awake for a while with the flavor of the dream heavy on my breath. Sometimes its mysteries will bother me all day long.
But not this time.
I walked towards that field of fucked up nightmares and I walked right through. The evil parted ways on either side and soon I was back in that park. I stood under the shade and a faint rendition of “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World started to play on the loudspeaker in my brain- my alarm had gone off and I started a slow drift back to alertness. I woke quietly, longing for nothing more than a few more minutes of shut eye.
I survived. I survived and I don’t know what nightmares lie ahead, but I will say this to the dark thoughts my head: Fuck you, I’m still standing.