had a rather disturbingly realistic dream this morning. started off as a typical family squabble kind of thing, and ended up on a theme that was common when i was little... basically, we were sitting around griping at one another in the family kitchen at home, about something trivial like stringing green beans or something; i don't really remember the lead-in, it was the tail of one of those long bizarro dreams that shifts from place to place over what seems like hours and hours... but anyway, in the middle of the conversation, there's a loud noise outside, and suddenly everything gets quiet... the birds stop chirping, the wind stops blowing, the refrigerator stops running, everyone stops breathing... we're all looking through the kitchen wall (because the wall and window are now silently absent) at a distant speck in the sky, like a falling pencil. it descends quietly for half a moment, very quickly, leaving a faint contrail... until it bursts silently into a blinding white ball, which collapses on itself before beginning to expand rapidly. no need to ask what the thing is, we all know. i hear my mother's voice say, softly, "oh dear god", and my sister shrieks, and my mind races away for a moment until the white fireball, expanding so much that it's now merely a wall of white light, reaches the house and my flesh melts away in the heat, and then i opened my eyes and found myself on my stomach, clutching my navy pillow, nearly falling off the edge of my bed.
now it seems pretty odd to me that i'd be having a nightmare about a totally unexpected nuclear holocaust. thing is, i grew up in the early eighties, the reagan era with the arms race and the cold war and grade schools that still taught the students how to duck under the dusk, cover your head, put your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye when the air raid siren sounded. i was a morbid little child, always having visions of my own death by horribly gruesome means. this hasn't changed obviously... but i can recall all sorts of times that i would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, just having seen the end of my life in a terrible white fireball. i had no idea what an intercontinental ballistic missle might sound like, so whenever there were strange noises outside like low-flying planes or whatnot, i'd get cold chills and stop in my tracks... i mean, hell, i was eight years old. the fear was... well... terrifying,
but not so terribly unrealistic. we lived less than three miles from the plant of kentucky appalachian power (a coal-burning plant with giant cooling towers that made everyone think it was a nuclear plant), and my hometown was surrounded by the appalachian coal fields. as the heart of the power resources for this part of the nation, we were bound to be at least a first or second tier strategical target, and a nuclear strike at the power plant would doubtless take us out almost instantly, no chance of survival to the pain and suffering of the post-apocalyptic world. my mother told me this once to comfort me. strangely enough, it did.
there's an episode of the simpsons when bart sells his soul to milhouse for five bucks while they're cleaning the church organ as punishment for substituting "In the Garden of Eden" (by I. Ron Butterfly) for the real hymns ("wait a second... this sounds like rock and/or roll music!"). bart doesn't believe he has a soul and sells it to milhouse, but then starts feeling empty, and walks into the automatic doors that won't open for him anymore, and starts looking depressed. marge gets upset and tries to figure out what it is from a hug, "cause a mother can always tell... hmm... not fear of nuclear war..." and well, that one hits pretty close to the mark.
but the nightmare ends a little differently every time, and makes me think about things... uneasily, of course. i mean, what would i actually do if i saw my doom falling from the sky? would i suddenly find faith in a god? would i reduce to a snivelling ball of tears? would i duck and hide, trying to shield myself so as to survive? would i stand up and take the brunt to get it over with quickly and painlessly? it seems like such an internal moment, no time to speak to another, no time to decipher what another person tries to say to you, only time for your mind to race a million miles an hour and your life to flash before you... am i afraid to die?
i suppose i could analyze this dream inside and out, wondering why this childhood nightmare has decided to resurface... but there were so many --- the most prominent was the one where i was caught in the infinite loop was the most terrifying because it was so incredibly surreal, flying around a green pyramid one side at a time, turning the corners sharply and suddenly... i could have a thought only at the corners, and that thought would repeat, like a skipping record, until i reached the next corner. there was no way out, and no way to stop the madness... after that one i tended to wake up with the jitters and have a really bad day, dropping things and being forgetful. that one lasted a long time, all the way up into high school. i thought i was seriously going crazy.
oh, wait, i am crazy... never mind.
Mon Jul 12 23:24:34 EDT 1999