Monday, May 19, 2014

The Cliff and the Flames

One of my recurring dreams changes over the years. In the dream, I am leading my friends and family along a densely wooded path that gradually curves upward until we are ascending a nearly vertical slope. I alone know that we have to reach the top of the mountain we're climbing before a nuclear apocalypse wipes out all life in the valley below. As I lead the charge along the path, I look back every so often to ensure that everyone is keeping pace, and I'm confident that we'll all make it. 

But when I haul myself over the top of the cliff and look back, my moment of triumph turns to horror as I see everyone far behind and below me, struggling to catch up. I leap to my feet in panic, jumping up and down, waving my arms, screaming at them all to hurry. But then the bombs go off like gigantic, hellish fireworks, pop-pop-pop, and everyone below me is first skeletonized and then reduced to ash. 

What changes? I age mostly in real time, so now when I make the climb I'm roughly 45, although in my dreams I'm always in much better physical condition - I'm not sure if that's vanity or just a deeply ingrained sense of self-perception formed when I was thin. 

And the line of people grows. The first few times I dreamed this dream there might have been, oh, ten or fifteen people - my parents, my grade-school classmates. Now the list of doomed refugees is in the hundreds. If you're reading this blog, you're almost certainly among them. 

It's a deeply frustrating and terrifying dream that I wish would go away, like the log cabin dream and the green hand dream. But it doesn't look like I'll purge it any time soon. 

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