Gimbling in the Wabe – Wherein Our Heroine Has a Bad Dream…

by Sharon Browning

They’ve promised that dreams can come true –bad dream
 but forgot to mention that nightmares are dreams, too.
                – Oscar Wilde

I had a very vivid dream last night, which is somewhat strange for me.  I assume I dream as much as the next person, but rarely do I wake feeling as if I have dreamt, and almost never remember dreams upon waking.  But last night, not only did I dream, but I woke myself up screaming.

I was driving my car in a somewhat familiar city landscape, and it was night.  Nothing was bizarre or threatening or out of the ordinary.  I had the sensation that it had just rained, and the air was fresh and clean, but it was very late at night, and very dark except for the streetlights.  I was alone on the road.  I also had a sense that I did not exactly know where I was, but that this was not an alarming thing; I was in the realm of the familiar.

I turned into an alley, and my suddenly my headlights lit up two huge, magnificent, powerful black panthers who had been crouching in the middle of the lane, about 30 feet away.  Their yellow eyes reflected implacably back at me, unblinking.  Then they both rose, with rippling muscles and fur black as the purest India ink, and the larger one almost immediately rushed the car.  While he moved in a blur, time slowed (as I’m told it does in life or death situations), and I realized with a panicked start that the left passenger side window was rolled down (which is often the case when I have my dog in the car with me – she loves snuffing through the open window – and it’s not that uncommon for me to forget to roll it back up once we’ve arrived at our destination).

I frantically shouted to myself over and over “Roll the window up!  Roll the window up!” but instead I sat, petrified, unable to move.  The huge cat reached through the window and clawed at my seat, raking at my shoulder and I knew it would pull me back and out of the car, and I screamed as those claws entered my flesh… and I woke up.  My heart was pounding and the blood was rushing through my body.  I realized (it seemed like I heard my own echoed sounds) that I had not truly screamed but instead had kind of humphhed myself awake, but whatever sound I made was violent enough to rouse me instantly. Once awake, I immediately knew where I was: in my own bed, whole and mundane and safe.  There was no lingering confusion, no reverberating threat, but the dream was – and still is – incredibly vivid in my mind.

It doesn’t take a lot of head scratching to be able to put a theory to my dream.  Faced with recent drastic life changes, what was once something seen from afar as beautiful but remote (forced early retirement morphing into inescapable financial insecurity, leading to insolvency and dependency, loss of control, etc., etc.)  is now a threat to my own security, and although I know what needs to be done to protect myself I seem unable to affect the necessary changes in order to negate the threat.  I also intellectually know this dream is merely a way for my brain to grapple and even move past the admittedly irrational fear of being inert when I should be acting, of being unable to get out of harm’s way, as it were.  I actually see this dream as a positive thing, because now that I have faced the possibility in my dream, I can let it go in “real life” and move forward.  It’s part of the mobilization process, getting the rusty wheels turning towards production again.

But dang, it was scary.  Those panthers were completely uncaring; detached, powerful killing machines.  And I had left the window open.  But even as I recall the details – the glistening dampness of the alley walls, the clarity of the air, the amber sweep of the headlights as I turned the corner and the crunch of the tires on asphalt, the sinewy movement of feline muscle under jet black fur, the vacuum of perception regarding the window controls, the smack of the cat’s body against the car – I’m caught up in how beautiful it all was in such a threatening, visceral way.  In a terrifyingly threatening, visceral way.

At least I know I’m still alive, on both a conscious and subconscious level.  And I’m pretty sure there are no predatory black panthers languishing in any of the alleyways here in my metropolitan city.  Therefore, I hope tonight’s dreams spiral in a more pleasant realm.

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