Even though Michael assured me it was cold, I felt like the bed was sautee-ing me all night. It was sweltering heat, roasting and suffocating. I slept with a water bottle on the pillow, not even the sheets touching me.
That heat must have translated into the dreamscape that filled the night.
A planet suffering from drought, full of dust and discomfort.
The beginning of a sci-fi post-apocalyptic story...which, you may be amazed to know, is all just my dream.
I somehow remember it this well:
I somehow remember it this well:
In a Soviet-flavored atmosphere, I wandered around with the people, uninvolved but observing as though reading a novel by Ray Bradbury or even George Orwell. We were herded by the authorities like Holocaust prisoners to dirty, undecorated rooms of metal and dust. The authorities said various things to assure us they cared only about our survival, and that the following experiments were to ensure that survival.
The planet had been deemed unfit for life. So we were leaving.
I meandered through hallways, the next looking the same as the last, winding through a re-purposed factory that stretched miles across the land. Through one particular section, I entered a room tanked off to enclose water. The "room" was palatial in size--an entire arena filled with blue water. Under the surface, a toughened bubble was being constructed to experiment on the possibilities of living underwater. This was the only water I ever saw, and we couldn't have any of it.
I looked up to see a metal balcony rigged around one end of the room, an unfinished construction. And there were acrobats training for yet more experiments for living in water or space. Finally, I became a character in the dream. I became an acrobat.
Michael held my hand while we climbed construction towers and swung from wobbly ropes. I thought to myself, I can't do this anymore--I'm pregnant, this is dangerous. I wanted to scream as the ropes dipped and yanked. Finally, our act was over. Michael held my hand again as we bowed--our final show of superiority, the bow took place on the edge of the sliver of balcony. We bent far at the waist, looking straight down at the expanse of metal and water below us...and I almost fell, but Michael pulled me back with his quick arm. We knew then that the authorities could tell I was pregnant, imbalanced. And because decisions were made quickly in that world, we took our escape the instant we left the barren stage.
My dream was filled with backstory, everywhere. I knew without seeing it that the people were desperate and depressed. The authorities were manipulative and sadistically selfish. All the nations had been gathered in this planetary emergency, and in a time where everything was becoming scarcer, the government had dwindled to only a few thousand of the most power-hungry people. The authorities and their soldiers. And they had total dictatorship. With the surplus of citizens (or prisoners, since that's what we really were), they tossed us from project to project, dispensing of anyone who taxed either their rations or their patience. No one smiled, no one had anything of value. The families that were lucky enough to still be together clung to each other's arms at all times. Everyone's clothes were dusty, torn, old. There was no life in their eyes, no life except for a piercing fear that shone in the faces of people suddenly pronounced "expendable."
The people had been pulled from their homes, promised better safety in the expansive factory taken over by the soldiers. The people would work in exchange for this "generous" protection. The soldiers were gathering everyone, constantly packing the spaces of the factory (just as they constantly "removed" people).
A long time ago, though still not before the disaster of our planet's state had ripped our existence to shreds, a plan was set in motion. As an incentive...or more as a bribery for loyalty, the "government" gave gifts to families. For every family of three or more, they provided a scruffy little dog. They produced these dogs all at once, claiming that they had been trained for months to signal danger and lead the families to safety. The families were grateful. They named their dogs, loved them, held on to them for comfort....
Those dogs had been trained to obey the government's signals for obedience--to come when called. They knew where to take their families, and innocently, that meant wherever the government wanted them. Even if that place was the danger they should have instinctively avoided.
No one had seen Michael and me take the wrong exit from the hallway behind the stage, and we walked as casually as we could with our urgent pace. I couldn't be an acrobat anymore, and they would have killed me since I'd therefore become "useless." Michael tugged me through crowds of dusty, tired people. Finally, we found a boy with his government-issued dog. The dog was barking, alerting the boy and his parents to take an exit. But as we joined the growing crowd of barking dogs and loyal families, I heard a dirty-faced pair of people whispering "You know, sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes it's a mistake." And I understood immediately.
I whispered to Michael, and we broke off from the group after the people were filtered out of the massive building. The dogs and their families were being hauled into an enormous spacecraft that promised escape from our dusty world. Once the last of that batch had been boarded, the spacecraft exploded. The soldiers needed more space in the factory, and the people had been taking it up. They'd become useless. We were far enough away by then...and though I would have ached and cried for the innocent people believing in a final rescue, we had to go on.
Michael led me to a dilapidated house, re-purposed for government use like everything else left standing. It was a sort of gas furnace, a supplier of heat for one of the factory buildings. Michael turned a dial by the door to adjust the gas, I took a deep breath and hoped I wouldn't breathe poison to the baby in my womb. We went inside. But we weren't as invisible as we thought; soldiers in the dry, brown desert saw us enter the house and came running, shouting. We turned and ducked quickly through rooms, crouching into a corner before they came inside. Someone besides the soldiers had seen us as well and came into the house before them. An old, ruggedly independent-looking man. His hair was amazingly white, undulled by the dirt caked everywhere in the world. Two white-blond young men stood at his sides. My flow of backstory told me he had a deal with the government; he was a valuable hunter, and if they'd let him live on his own in what was left of the wild, he'd hunt for them. He thrust a sprig of fur in our faces, tufts of soiled skin still attached.
"Is it a bear?" he asked. I realized he and some of his men had found a dead animal and wanted help identifying it. I looked at the fur. The man shoved it at Michael's face, and since I didn't want Michael to smell it, I tried to innocently breathe out of my nose to blow it off the man's palm. Just as it lifted away, the soldiers burst into the house. They saw the man standing in front of us, and while they would have left us alone to deal with him, the man became angry that I'd ruined his sample of fur. The danger doubled suddenly as the soldiers resumed their determination to catch us.
Somehow, in the chaos of the angry man backing up and the soldiers closing in, we bolted out of the corner. We turned another corner and fled through a couple rooms before encountering what must have once been a bathroom for its small, glassless window high in the wall. With the soldiers racing close behind us, Michael pressed me through the window, my little pregnant bulge barely passing the frame. I tumbled to the ground as Michael leaped down next to me. He pulled me up and around the side of the house, silent in the panic, and briskly tucked me into a huddle of old air conditioning units. With room only for me, he ran toward a distant forest, a struggling wasteland of dying trees, probably the last of any wildlife. The soldiers saw him, taking the bait of his intended distraction from me. I watched, biting my tongue and feeling a pounding pulse in my neck. Michael had acrobatically pulled high up into the trees, swiftly and just in time that the soldiers never saw him. They chose running over shooting, a lucky thing for us that they were not skilled enough to do both at the same time. The soldiers were reluctant to enter the woods. Their search became halfhearted, and they soon returned to their stations scattered in the suffocating desert.
I felt the dream dwindle, felt my mind waking, as yet another backstory filled in the long wait of crouching between the metal boxes, unable to pull myself out if anyone had found me. I knew I was as safe as I could be, and I knew Michael watched me from his hidden perch as I watched him from my crowded hole. We would wait the night out. No one would come for Michael in the woods at night. That was when the few straggling animals would venture out, their feeble energy stored up for a hunt. Every animal was dangerous. Every animal was carnivorous in the world-encompassing starvation. And by dawn, the soldiers would come back for a quick look around. Sometimes they'd find half-dead animals, their starving predators too weak even in their desperation to consume the entire animal they'd succeeded in bringing down. They expected to find Michael that way. And if they didn't, they'd assume he was dead...because it was a sure thing for anyone left in the woods at night.
Before it would get too bright with the unforgiving sun, Michael would return for me, pull me out of my huddle, and we would continue our escape...
Unlike other dreams, this one stayed vivid as I opened my eyes. As if I could have kept on dreaming while awake. It burned in my mind, a hot, sad, tangible thing.
I wanted to hug Michael and not let go.