The average adult experiences a nightmare once a month.
I’d pay any sum of currency imaginable to have them that often. Truthfully, I’d pay a ridiculous amount of cash simply to have nightmares numbering in the single-digit range. More often than not I’m left shaken in my bed sheets, drenched in sweat from another gruesome first-hand glimpse of tragedy and calamity. I have horrific nightmares at least twice a week; some of a caliber so impacting that I have spent consecutive days sleepless immediately following one. Although nearly impossible to trace the inception of them, I can say with full confidence that I’ve had these dreams of torment since I could retain memory. In times of stress or incredible discomfort, they remain the only constant that I may rely on. With almost unfailing precision, they take any subject that my psyche deems awe-inspiring, and contort it into a blockbuster film of apocalyptic proportions.
Last week, I witnessed the end of the world once more; the method of execution this time unlike dreams of the past that came by way of extra-terrestrial invasion, and pandemic. No, this time I stood by helplessly as a “NEA” (near Earth asteroid) collided with the planet, creating a shockwave that made the globe tremble. If the vision had started and ended there, it would’ve been a short trip. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of a quick demise in my unconscious mind, and was forced to suffer through the last week on Earth.
The news hit all at once. “Massive asteroid on collision course with Earth”, and “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” read in oversized bold print across every major news site and paper across the nation. The result was mass hysteria, as expected. Within hours, stores had been completely torn apart as people attempted in vain to stock up on supplies to feed their families, as well as build shoddily crafted bunkers to try to escape the harbinger of annihilation. The morally sound efforts of these people could not release them from their bondage to the fate of the Earth. While noble, presuming safety could be obtained in this situation was nothing more than a form of comfort for those who were ignorant of the events to come. As the looming threat approached, civilians began to take to the streets in riotous discord. With all hope dashed from their minds, the despair of their futures took hold as millions began to erase all written law. The almost Viking-like pillaging that ensued did not numb the pain of the mob, as within days all proof of their existence would cease to be. As cities were set ablaze and forests ignited in a mess of chaos it became evident that there would be no hope of rebuilding. While I watched vicariously as the world around me turned to ash, the grim reality pierced me.
While I could detach myself from the masses of people who were dying outside, I was unprepared for the sorrow I would inherit at the sight of my friends and family losing control. After making a trip to my friend’s house, I was not met by his relatively cheerful disposition, but rather the unnerving illustration that was his lifeless corpse; an inanimate heap curled into the fetal position in his bedroom, where he deemed his suicide should take place. While gazing at the floor where he lay, I felt it difficult to grasp any logical reason for his decision. The almost callous nature in which I departed from him seemed as if I hadn’t acknowledged his mortality at all. However, as I exited the front door to his house, I came to embrace the lonely truth of all who pass; an awareness that the finality of this transition is in one way or another, always taken solo. Despite my bereavement, I made the return trip home to face my own fate.
Mass suicide began, as people who were too afraid to face the end gathered together in public places of convenience, and commenced ceremonies to bring some form of humane comfort to their termination, as well as their families. Many fled to buildings of worship; some who presumed their begging would save them, while others merely made peace with themselves. Being atheist, I never truly could fathom the musings of the semi-faithful. It seemed a selfish act of desperation to approach a being you never truly believed in, simply to cover your bases in the event that your demise comes early and the afterlife is what many people presume it to be.
With darkness spreading, the world grew silent. A chill began to creep up the spines of anyone bold enough to face the scene being painted in the sky. A shadowy mass came into sight, as people took a solemn gaze upon the indiscriminate titan now thrusting itself towards the surface of the planet at terminal velocity. A void of serenity blanketed Earth in that moment, in which no one need speak. The calm, accepting population turned their eyes upwards; perhaps in the attempt to ascertain some broader form of understanding as to the cruel injustice about to unfold upon them, or maybe even just out of some childish excitement of witnessing an event never before seen by the eyes of humans.
As a shimmer of flame engulfed the asteroid, an echo of resounding strength declared its presence to the world. As the illuminated cluster of ore and stone entered the atmosphere, it parted a ceiling of nimbostratus clouds, almost as if it was a blade cutting through paper. As the size of the ball of light grew quickly, one final terror-filled shriek filled the air in unison; a plethora of individuals trying desperately to announce their good-byes for loved ones, as well as speak final thoughts of fear and anguish. As the shockwave burst, a fiery orange wall began racing towards me. With a moment to think, I dove to my lawn and closed my eyes; my thin arms wrapping tightly around my skull in a protective fashion.
As I leaned up from my bed, a cold damp puddle formed beneath me. My usual exhale of relief followed, and a frustrated expression crossed my groggy face. I’ve played survivor to my own death so many times now, that something as harmless as a dream has become my most loathed oppressor. The lucid nature in which I’m forced to endure countless tales of woe is indescribable, as I dread going back to sleep night, after night. Perhaps one day I’ll fully understand why I have nightmares this terrible, but until then I’ll simply learn from them, and perhaps even learn more about myself as I come closer to realizing what sort of character I am in the story we’re all involved in.