To sleep, perchance to dream …

“Ay, there’s the rub.”

Hamlet (III, i, 65-68)

On the rare night that I dream, usually the dreams consist of completely nonsensical farces from which, when awakening, I only remember brief, silly sketches. But a couple of times a year or so, I will have a vivid, semi-realistic, unpleasant dream that remains vivid in my memory the next morning.

Last night was such a time.

I’ve never spent much time analyzing what precipitates these more lasting, detailed and disturbing dreams but last night was one of those where sleep didn’t come until the wee a.m. hours. I suspect careful study would confirm that there is a correlation.

******
It was late evening. The sun was dropping over the western horizon.

I’d stopped at a busy convenience store for gasoline. I noticed that the fuel pumps weren’t in the store parking lot but, rather, next door. In one of those bizarre departures from realty that occur in otherwise reasonable dreams, for reasons known only to the dreamer and, then, only while dreaming, instead of driving over there, I walked.

And suddenly, I was on a dimly-lit side street devoid of activity.

Not surprisingly, this was a bit disconcerting. As I looked around to get my bearings, I noticed a plywood building with light streaming through the cracks. I stepped inside. The building resident looked up. I asked him if he knew how to get to Southwest Boulevard, where I’d left my vehicle.

He pointed at the opposite wall and said “Through that door.”

Thanking him, I pushed against the door — which was actually just a 4’ x 8’ sheet of plywood hinged on one side. It resisted at first but with a mighty shove, I forced it open and stumbled out onto another side street, equally dark.

But as I looked to my left, relief washed over me. A few blocks away, I could see the busy intersection where awaited my car. Eagerly, I started toward the bright lights.

But instead of drawing closer to the busy street, suddenly I found myself in a dark, swampy wooded area, thick with undergrowth. Looking in all directions, I could see no evidence of city lights — or even any sign of human habitation.

With a feeling of foreboding, I plunged into the morass and fought my way through the swampy undergrowth. Crossing a small creek, I came upon a steep incline. Silhouetted against the dark sky, I saw the outlines of a road above. A tall, heavyset man was standing at the edge of the right-of-way.

Feeling some relief, I struggled up the precipitous hillside, grasping at bushes and stumbling over the loose chert toward the roadside.

As I neared the top, the man turned toward me. My relief faded as I saw his evil countenance.

“Are you looking for the monastery?” he asked.

“No”, I replied. “I’m looking for Southwest Boulevard.”

“Then I can’t help you!” He took a step toward me.

I released my grip on the root that was keeping me from falling back down the hill, turned and rolled, slid and tumbled to the bottom. Gathering my feet under me, I bolted back across the creek and plunged once again into the underbrush. Roots and weeds grasped at my feet and wet limbs slapped me across the face. Finally, exhaustion forced me to stop my headlong flight.

Bent over, hands on knees, I gasped for breath. Finally, my breathing approaching near normal, I straightened up and took stock of my surroundings. I was standing on what appeared to be a wagon trail cut through the thick forest. Peering to my right, I saw several men standing in an eerie light, perhaps a quarter-mile away.

At first, it was relief I felt.

Then, perhaps remembering my last encounter with a human, and leery of the surreal scene in which they appeared, I decided to follow the trail in the other direction.

I had gone no more than a hundred yards or so when a wolf (or perhaps a coyote — it wasn’t clear) lunged out of the forest. I shouted “Get out of here” at the top of my lungs and stepped toward the creature, hoping to frighten it away.

Instead, he leaped toward me, snarling viciously.

******
I sat straight up, heart pounding furiously. In spite of a brisk, cool breeze wafting in through the window at the head of the bed, I was perspiring profusely.

As I gathered my scattered wits about me, the slow realization that I was safe in my own bedroom prompted a heavy sigh of relief.

The clock showed that it was 5:30 a.m. I’d had about four hours sleep. I have no idea how much of that time was taken up in dreaming but the memory was of hours thrashing, lost and panicked through a remote wilderness.

But, exhausted though I was from the dream ordeal, there’d be no more sleep on this morning.

I had no desire to return to that dark, lonely, malevolent world that was just a step or two away from the bright lights of the city.

And when I finally retire this evening and remember that place, sleep won’t come easy.

And when it does, I pray that should dreams appear, they will be completely nonsensical farces from which, when awakening, I only remember brief, silly sketches.

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