“Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?”
– John Lennon
Sometimes I think I must be the only person I know who has nightmares. But apparently, I am not: WebMD estimates that 8% of adults have frequent nightmares. They happen during REM sleep – like the rest of our dreams – and can be caused by discomfort or anxiety, drug withdrawal, PTSD, or even a late snack. (CS Lewis wrote in one of his letters, “Nightmares don’t last” – I wonder what kind of nightmares ol’ Clive had. Did they take place in Narnia? Or perhaps Perelandra? Did they mishmash his fascination with anthropomorphic animals and his experiences in the trenches of the Somme Valley? It’s impossible to know but interesting to think about.) I have nightmares regularly. My earliest memory is a nightmare I had about my family disappearing into a painting.
I have come to believe that I don’t talk about my dreams nearly enough. If I dream about someone I know – which I do, all the time – will they feel uncomfortable by that fact? Or will they feel happy to know that together we successfully defended the White House from the Confederate undead using muskets and bayonets? The vast majority of Americans believe that their dreams have some insight or meaning into their lives. Being unsure whether they do and what that meaning could be gives me some pause about recounting my dreams.
All this is to say, I had a nightmare last Thursday night. It woke me up around 2:30 a.m. I had a sip of water, checked my phone for messages, and then slept peacefully for the rest of the night. I wanted to share that dream.
I was wandering through a lush meadow, its grass and leaves the vibrant green you only see in Kodak commercials, its wildflowers perfect spheres of wisteria and chartreuse atop stems no thicker than spider silk, its stream cackling with a sarcastic murmur. I had a companion, a young woman of an almost otherworldly beauty: her shoulder-length hair was half-spun from straw into gold; her eyes were five watts brighter than her glowing blue dress; her smile a simple reassurance. We meandered through the quaking grass and vernal two paces apart. Our destination was a small cobblestone cottage, with a kitchen embedded with the smell of yeast from decades of breadmaking. My companion walked in first, walking past the rough and rustic kitchen table to survey the meadow through the sink window. I followed behind, leaning against the opposite wall.
I’d forgotten to shut the door.
There hadn’t even been enough time to soak in the view when I was aware of steps in the hall, a gentle footfall followed by rough scratching. It emerged into the light of the kitchen, but it’s difficult to describe what I saw. It was wolf-like, but stood upright as tall as I am. It was cloaked in tattered gray cloth and hunched over. It seemed old. And I did nothing. I neither flinched nor screamed. I didn’t move at all until it pounced on my companion. I ran to help, pulling out fistfuls of fur and hitting its lupine back with whatever force I could muster. That’s when I woke up.