For me, part of having a vivid imagination and sense of wonder is that these things don’t seem to bother turning off when I go to sleep. I’ve mentioned in a past post some of the dreams I’ve had. Allow me to share with you a particularly intense and disturbing one.
I should warn you — there are no posies or bunnies in it. Read at your own peril.
I was walking along in the square of a small, old-fashioned town. Most of the people I knew lived there. Suddenly, UFOs appeared low on the distant horizon.
At first, I seemed to be the only one who noticed. I pointed, trying to get those nearby to see these UFOs. It was definitely a little scary, but also cool. But as the UFOs came closer — very close — the fascination melted to terror as the crafts began to send out long, tether-like appendages. Searchlights boomed on, zigzagging then locking on subjects. I saw the first tether wrap around a dog, stick a barb in it, lift it in the air, and quickly suck everything out of the dog until it was a shriveled husk about half the size it had been.
Adrenaline and fear propelled me as I ran around, desperately trying to warn everyone and point, push or pull them to safety, somewhere the searchlights couldn’t lock onto them. Yet despite my efforts , people I knew were being found, ensnared, and killed before my eyes. Screams of terror and panic filled the streets.
All at once it seemed, the streets were empty. Everyone was hiding now where the lights could not locate them. For a while, the lights continued to dart rapidly about, accompanied only by the low humming of the crafts. Finding no one else, the lights all boomed off simultaneously, and the UFOs quietly retreated.
Eventually, the first few people began to venture wordlessly out of hiding, still reeling with shock. But then, for reasons I couldn’t explain, it occurred to me what was going on. I knew that the aliens didn’t think they’d gotten everyone, only that they weren’t going to waste any more time searching. I also somehow knew that they would be back momentarily. Not to search. To destroy.
I immediately ran through the stunned crowds once more, loudly exclaiming my premonition of what was coming and urging them to seek cover in basements. Many of the buildings didn’t have basements, some of the townspeople told me, hopelessness drawing their faces. They all seemed to be looking to me for direction. I told them to get into the brick buildings, as tall as they could find, and to stand against the walls in the most central rooms. The shouting and madness resumed as everyone began to run for cover.
Meanwhile, I ran the other direction through the flooding crowds, searching for specific people: my mother, my sister and nephew, the teens I mentor. As I found each of them, I directed them to the few places I was certain would be safe, not leaving it to their guesses.
True to my prediction, the aliens returned on the horizon, hovering. The remaining people in the streets grew even more panicked, screaming in terror as they pulled on doors that would not open, most of the hiding places now full and locked tight. Then, without warning lights or signals, a solid wall of nuclear-type explosion shot down from beneath the UFOs and began sweeping toward the town.
I still hadn’t found one of my teen boys. Looking to the building on my left, I saw him — frozen in shock. I grabbed him and pushed him stiffly through the low, open window of a small cellar and then slid in after him. I pushed him into a corner, covered him with couches, then took a sturdy wooden desk and lifted it with all my might to block the glass window we’d come through.
As I groaned desperately against the weight of it, the nuclear wall only yards away, I saw an old friend outside – a woman with her two young daughters — running toward the window with silent screams, obscured by the roar of devastation. Her eyes were wide, imploring, locked on mine. As I watched, the moving incineration overtook them and they turned to ash.
With one final heave, I shoved the desk up over the window. I felt the blast hit with immense power and heat. It took all my might to hold the desk against the window. Even still, I strained to turn my neck and make sure the boy in the corner was safe.
The dream ended abruptly. I woke up sweating, muscles tenses, with the sheets clinging to me. I could hear my heartbeat racing in my ears. It took several minutes to shake from my mind the real-ness of what I’d just experienced in my subconscious.
Yuck, right? If that’s what developing your imagination brings, you’d just as soon not. I should say that, far more often, my dreams are wonderfully vivid and not terrifyingly so. And while I’m sure many a psychologist would have a field day with hypothesizing about what this dream says about me, that is not my purpose at hand.
For the few minutes after I awoke, my body held signs of the dream. Nonetheless, the dream was not real. I was not responsible for helping a town of people escape extraterrestrial doom, nor was I responsible for any people not making it. I had not watched a friend and her children die. She’s quite fine in reality. I had not single-handedly held up a heavy desk (I wish!), nor had I faced a nuclear blast at close range. There were no scrapes or scars, or third eyeballs forming from the radiation.
No, in actuality, aside from being a bit shaken, I was perfectly fine.
I often think that many parts of our past are a lot like dreams. Most of us have had traumatic events occur along the way from birth to wherever we now sit reading. I have. And they were real.
But they are not real.
What I mean to say is, the past exists only in a dimension that is, in many ways, as unreal as a dream. It holds no more power over me in the present than what I choose to give it.
Look at it another way. If I were to somehow have selective amnesia occur today, where I could no longer remember traumatic events of my past, there is nothing about me in the now that would cause me to suspect I had been through them at all. I am fortunate enough to bear no significant marks on my physical body. And where other people may have been able to hurt me in the past, they no longer hold any ability to influence or harm me now.
I am in no way making light of significant past hurts. I am merely saying that I have found great strength in the realization that the past — is the past. It is smoke, a vapor. And it can not touch me here.