When I was a child I had a recurring dream for years. Even today, I can remember it with such vivid clarity that I feel it clotted in my stomach like a rag drenched in old frying oil. I feel it around my neck, squeezing.
The dream was quick. Not one of those all-nighters where you travel from place to place, long into the wee hours of the night. It came like a slap in the face, or like a jump into a cold lake… and yet it seemed so benign.
I dreamed a coil of thread.
It was just a simple spiral of thread, but it filled my entire frame of vision from top to bottom, from left to right, as if I were very very close to it. It was a tattered brown-red coil of frayed fibers, and it was all I could see. At first, it wouldn’t move at all, and I would peer into the center of the coil, the dark abyssal center, my vision panning forward so it seemed to widen and gape.
Then, suddenly, once I couldn’t get any closer, the coil would spin. It spun like madness, so fast I thought if I blinked it might be gone. But the coil never went anywhere, it just spun, the end of its thread being pulled somewhere out of the picture.
Eventually, it would feel as if I were the coil, moving a million miles an hour but going nowhere. Every aspect of my being was rushing, rushing, panicked, rushing. My breaths came quick, rasping, desperate, and I felt like I was falling, falling--falling forever.
It terrified me to be motionless and yet feel like I was racing so fast I would explode in a crescendo. All I could do was fixate on the dark center of the coil as it spun like a vortex, turning faster and faster and faster, while my chest grew tighter and tighter and tighter until I thought I would die or go mad. Then everything would just--
And this is when you would say the nightmare was over; when I would wake up. You would think that. A normal person would think it was all just a strange version of the classic falling dream, where the person wakes up just before they smash against the ground. For years, when I remembered the dream, I would tell myself that was where I woke up. I would tell myself that when the coil stopped spinning, the nightmare ended. Yet as I grew older I realized that was just a lie I told myself, because that’s not really what happened when the coil stopped, when the racing panic stopped.
You see, I was still there when the coil stopped, when the thread disappeared, when all that was left was the black vortex in the center. I was still there. Still trapped. Still dreaming. And the worst part of the nightmare, the part I sometimes repressed in later memory, was the feeling that I was dreaming of death.
I dreamed the panic of knowing an end was coming and then continued to dream that end. I experienced the blackness. I felt it. I breathed in the vacuum of nothing. I existed in that non-space where nothing exists, where the simple idea of nothing is too much of anything.
I remember feeling at that moment that my heart was a shadow, and it would never be more than a shadow again. I remember settling in that dark place. I remember existing there. I remember thinking I was dead inside.
Yet… I was so wrong about that dream.
What I never realized until now, until this very moment, was the power in living through the end. To absorb all the darkness and endure is to show strength indomitable. To be surrounded by such emptiness and still be full is power. To be riddled with fear but continue to find courage is might. To take the abuse of the world and still be left standing means I am made of so much more than can ever be taken from me.
In the darkness, I am light kept alive by a heart of flame.
Thanks for reading and please check out Everflame: Mystic Wild for kindle!
– Dylan Lee Peters