Saturday, April 11, 2020

The New Nuclear Nightmare

Since the mid 1970s, I've experienced a number of recurring nightmares that cycle through time. One of those is my first nuclear nightmare, in which, to sum up briefly, I lead a column of friends and relatives through the forests near Leaf Rapids to a high cliff representing safety from atomic holocaust. I alone reach the summit, and safety, as the bombs go off, and watch in horror as the throng I led is vaporized.

That dream was bad enough, and probably worse, in truth, than the new nuclear nightmare I experienced last night. But this new nightmare still haunts me in its temporal proximity, and I'm just now getting over the physical illness left in its wake.

In the dream, I'm walking east down the Leduc avenue that leads home. Around the time I reach the block where East Elementary sits, a hydrogen bomb goes off behind me, perhaps 20 kilometres away. I turn to watch a gigantic black mushroom cloud rise to the heavens. Then, an instant later, another bomb goes off, this time about 20 kilometres due east, producing a second mushroom cloud of the same horrific magnitude.

I know I don't have time to run for the safety of Mom's house, so instead I dash toward East Elementary, only to be hit by a wave of ash and darkness so black I have to feel my way to the door. Once there, I hammer on it desperately with my fists and Mom opens up, ushering me inside; she'd been volunteering at the school.

I run to the gym to shower, scrubbing away all the fallout, and then I join Mom at a meeting in one of the classrooms. The desks are all full, but with adults scratching notes about survival plans.

A day passes. Pete and Mike are in the school, and I encounter them in a hallway. Stupidly, I ask them if they saw the bombs yesterday; of course they did. I try to check my phone for news, but it's been contaminated by an endless series of popup ads that refuse to go away even if I power off the phone and reboot. Suddenly, we hear rockets flying overhead, and impossible as it seems, we speculate that the two nukes going off here in Alberta must have somehow triggered a global war. I realize that my old high school friend Daryle Tilroe set off the first two bombs as an experiment, and now the world will pay the price. I realize I'll never see Sylvia again, or Sean, or any of my other loved ones.

When I woke up this morning, my head was pounding and I leapt out of bed. Sylvia was already awake.

"Is this the real world?" I asked. "Is this real? I can't believe this is real. Are we alive?"

I went to the bathroom and managed to avoid vomiting, though I was covered in sweat.  It took some time for me to accept this reality over the one I'd just endured.

I went back to bed and passed out, sleeping until noon. I still had a massive headache. Sylvia found a Tylenol for me. I felt hot most of the day. We watched a couple of movies in the late afternoon, and then I passed out again, sleeping until 7:30.

Only now am I starting to feel a little better, and that this might be the real world. I sure hope it is, even with COVID-19. Some disasters are survivable; the one I experienced earlier today wasn't one of them. 

1 comment:

Jeff Shyluk said...

I hope you feel better soon Earl! Nothing is like combining atomic existential angst with an equally atomic headache. If Easter teaches us anything, we all get new beginnings out of the chaos. Turn the page (don't lick your finger!) and begin to write once again!