Three nights ago, I had the most horrendous nightmare of my entire life. I awoke trembling and Danny held me for a few minutes while I sobbed. However, even his sleepy empathy could not comfort me, so I went to the kitchen and paced, trying to shake those god-awful images out of my head. The stove clock displayed that I had only been asleep for over an hour, though usually my REM kicks in nearer to dawn. Like most of my adult bad dreams, it was about children in harm’s way. But this was so much more graphic and disturbing, and it wasn’t about anyone I knew…
I seemed to be about 19 or 20 and in a filthy, underground city. There was danger everywhere in the dim light and dark alleys. Shards of broken glass and sharp metal pieces lay scattered on the slimy remnants of paths and stairways. There were no vehicles, just people. Screams, wails, and angry voices punctuated the fetid air. Frightening, smelly lowlifes packed tightly together and glared at me, sometimes blocking my way. My arms were full of babies and two or three toddlers clung to my ragged nightgown. We were barefoot and soot stained, and I tried not to stumble because of the lumps of bodies and piles of trash. I was trying desperately to get us to safety, but I kept getting lost. Everyone we passed seemed to be in a worse state than us, but I could offer them nothing. It was all I could do to keep us together and not let them know I was afraid. Then, a group of tattooed, menacing thugs surrounded us and no one cared or came to our rescue. I tried to be strong and poked a tiny knife into the leader’s chest to scare him off, but he and his gang just laughed at my lame attempt. The babies and toddlers began crying, and I saw more poor babies who needed to be saved, but I could not get to them. Then those terrible people were pulling at the babies, trying to take them away, and I knew they were going to do terryifying things to them and I struggled and fought as best I could…and woke up, my entire body soaked with dread and hopelessness. Instead of seeing our bedroom, my brain plastered those last unbearable scenes onto the walls and ceiling. Since they would not dissolve, I got out of bed.
I know it wasn’t real. I know I would never be in a situation like that. But when I couldn’t get those visions out of my mind right away, I wondered where the hell they had come from in the first place. We don’t watch horror movies, and the book I was reading before going to sleep was a dull British mystery. Recently, we had seen the new “Batman” movie; the appalling Colorado shootings had occurred a few days earlier; and I had to disappoint one of our grandsons by not being able to fly out for his birthday. Perhaps together those things had rattled my subconscious or maybe it was something totally unrelated. Who knows?
The brain is strange. We can dream, fantasize, and scare ourselves, as well as think intelligently and logically. It took me about twenty minutes to calm down and ease my mind so that I could read myself to sleep again. I awoke without further incident and tried to write this down then, but it turned out to be a hectic day and the next two were no better. Today, I have had no trouble recalling the details with anxiety-free detachment.
The only thing that still bothers me, and always will, is the thought that in many places in this world bad things continue to happen to children.