I had a dream the other day. It’s not very often I remember my dreams. In fact, it’s actually pretty rare. Sometimes I’ll remember a single image or feeling for an hour or so. Normally nothing. Occasionally I’ll remember a single ‘scene’ of my dream. Very, very rarely, I’ll remember what appears to be the entire thing.
To me, these rare dreams always seem really, really strange. Like finding diamonds mixed in with your cereal. To everyone else maybe it’s just a common, everyday experience. Either way, I like to write about my dreams when I remember them. Even if, like this one, they’re more nightmare-ish than anything else. I find them genuinely interesting, and I find myself almost unable to think about anything else until I’ve done something with them. It is, therefore, probably a good thing for my productivity that my remembering the things is a rare occurrence.
In dreams, context is a luxury. Whilst dreaming, this timeline was shot to hell. I was simultaneously dreaming the ‘history’ which gave meaning to the ‘present’. In trying to write this down, this quickly became a problem. As such, I’ve simply presented this as a linear narrative with exposition presented after the fact. Similarly, I can’t really describe just how brutally vivid this dream was without going into rather graphic places. It seemed all too real, is the point. Anyway:
I snapped my handgun up, and fired twice. Two of the aliens fell to the ground. Still fragile, then. They were faster this time, stronger. The fighting was brutal. Last time was, in hindsight, almost laughably simple. They had been slow, clumsy, weak. Even an unarmed individual could, if prepared, triumph. Now they were dancing around the battlefield almost as fast as the eye could follow, each blow felling someone. Punching through flesh and bone, leaving bodies in their wake broken, bleeding. Death was coming quick and brutal.Horribly deformed corpses littered the ground, missing heads, or torn in half, or with holes punched through their chests. Luckily, almost everyone was armed. Last time had been an eye-opener. Our gunshots punctuated the melee, filled as it was with screams and shouts and dying moans.
The shock of it had almost killed humanity the first time they attacked. They were weak, yes, but they appeared almost everywhere, simultaneously, without warning. Our defences were non-existent. Before they were exterminated, the human race was decimated. We were still in shock, picking up the pieces, trying to come to terms with our new place in the universe. Guns had been handed out almost indiscriminately. If attacked again, the logic was, we could not lose so many. Truthfully, nobody really believed it could happen again. Nobody wanted to. It was easier to compartmentalise it away, pretend it hadn’t happened.
This was where that thinking got us. The city through which I had been walking was covered in corpses. Looking around, however, I realised we were still winning – and quickly. Again, the initial shock had been the largest killer. Our projectile weaponry was winning the day, even against the upgraded enemy. The relief was palpable – and, of course, brief. The dream, in the way only dreams can, shifted in an instant. A beam shot from the sky, travelling randomly, engulfing enemy and ally indiscriminately. Whoever was touched was immediately covered in a writhing mass of what looked like dry leaves, racing around their surface area, before burning away. Somebody throwing a match into a dry whirlwind of dead leaves. As the effect faded, whatever had been there before was gone. Instead, was something new. A badly proportioned, humanoid figure, metallic, gold or silver, and distinctly UNfriendly. The beam, one of hundreds to flash out of the sky, had transferred almost half of the melee into these new foes. In an instant, victory turned toward failure. Our numerical superiority had been destroyed.
Also gone, as it turned out, was the aliens frailty. Bullets sparked off bodies, but didn’t even slow them down for an instant. I turned and ran, reloading as I went, although I couldn’t tell you where the extra clip had come from. Everything was super vivid, more real than reality. I could feel the cold metal of the weapon, smell the blood, see the thick dust kicked up from the fighting. Ahead of me, something new entered the dream. Red lasers, the stereotypical videogame shorthand for ‘enemy sniper ahead’. I saw the beam alight on a fellow survivor fleeing in front of, thicken, intensify, and, seemingly, do nothing. The survivor continued running, unfazed. Reassured, I continued in my fleeing, desperate to reach what small cover I could see ahead of me. In my turn, I was hit myself by the laser. First, I felt nothing. Then, as the beam intensified, it felt like everything inside me was melting. I felt my heart speed up to a thrum, I couldn’t breath. I felt like I was bursting, liquefying. Then the beams burst was over, and I felt almost okay again. I knew, however, in the complete certainty of the dreamer, that another blast and I would die screaming. I continued running, now toward the corner of the street, taking the brief opportunity to look around at the battle. It was carnage. There was no fighting back against this. Last time had nearly wiped us out. This time, I realised, there was no turning back. I could no longer see any survivors. As the desolation crashed over me, the futility of my running, the certain inevitability of my own imminent death, a second beam landed on me. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was over. I couldn’t bear to experience that melting feeling again. I couldn’t handle dying like that. In a single motion, I swept my gun under my chin, and I fired. As the gun moved, I just had time to wonder what I was doing, whether the temple would have been better, or the maybe the roof of my mouth. It was too late to change my trajectory. I fired. And nothing happened.
Eyes I hadn’t noticed were crunched shut shot open as I reflexively pulled the trigger again. This time the gun dissolved under my hand, just as the landscape around me had already dissolved. I was floating in a black void, bereft of anything at all, and it suddenly struck me, for the first time, that I had been dreaming. And I awoke, feeling a strange detachment from it all. You’d expect to feel relieved, or frightened, but instead all I could think of was the old saying that you never die in dreams, and how, rather than waking in the instant of death, my brain had instead simply thrown me out of the dream.