When I was a wee lass, my dad taught me this very important thing.
No, wait, I can see you cringing, and I know what you’re thinking, but don’t worry–this isn’t a childhood story. This is cool, I promise.
So, probably I’d just woken up from some nightmare or another, and my dad came in to comfort me and tell me it’s not real and blah blah blah, but what he said was this: if you can wake up just the teeniest bit, you can change your dreams, or you can at least make your bad dream a happy one.
Yeah, yeah, okay, stop calling us hippies and listen. His example was, if you’re having a dream where you’re falling, well, figure out how to fly. It’s that simple.
I had forgotten about this completely, because it’s not often that I have nightmares–usually I just have these bizarre, startlingly vivid dreams that sometimes come in narrative form, so I can write them down when I wake up and maybe pass them off as fiction some day.
The other night I had a dream that I’d cut myself, and I was out of bed and in the shower before I managed to convince myself that my left thumb was okay–I kept favoring it and trying to shampoo my hair one-handed. Doesn’t work well, I can assure you.
That same dream, I dreamt I had another tattoo, and I remembered it well enough that I was able to sketch it out later that day. Crazy, huh?
So usually, I don’t want to change my dreams.
But last night…whew. Last night I had a bad one. After some unremembered chain of events in which I betrayed somebody and found myself separated from Mitch, I ended up on a beach. Not just any beach, either. This was the creepiest beach I’ve ever seen.
To my right was an abandoned train trestle, slick black and slimy, and covered in wormy shapes that stood out from the pilings like fingers. Beneath the trestle stood some six-inches of brackish water.
As I watched, a creature that roughly resembled a young alligator, but black and sticky and without eyes, crawled over the trestle and dropped into the water–which covered the creature more completely than such shallow water should.
To my left was a stretch of pale, rocky beach, which was covered entirely by the bleached skins of thousands of gray-and-white snakes, Because there were so many (none of them were more than a foot long), there was no telling whether all of the snakes were mere skins…
Behind the beach was a range of low, jagged, jet black mountains.
The color in the dream was all bleached out. Anything that wasn’t solid black was gray, or a sick-looking olive green. The water in front of me was nerve-rackingly still, and I stood on the only bare patch of sand.
Not a sound. After the scary-gator dropped into the water, nothing moved–not even me. I knew, like you know things in dreams, that I had to go one way or the other, but both looked terrible and neither worth choosing. So I stood still.
And then I remembered, hey! I don’t have to be here! Who writes this stuff, anyway? I wondered. I want to dig them out of my subconscious and have ’em fired!
So I started trying to think up a big, nice-looking bird to come swoop down from the sky and carry me off–but because the dream felt so bad and mean, the best I could do was a hawk. Okay, a giant hawk, I thought, and kept concentrating until a sound broke my attention with a resounding snap.
Over the mountains came a huge, huge–let me reiterate: HUGE–wave, and it dropped right into the scary water and all of it came rushing toward me, snakes and scary-gators and all, and the best I could manage was to lift myself up, inches above the water so that as it rose, I felt only a bit of spray on the backs of my legs.
Bird! I kept thinking, as the water rose and I rose slowly, slowly, C’mon, bird!
And it must’ve showed up at some point, because I woke up.