Sleep has been fleeting as of late – the infernal scratching and other noises keep waking me up, or else dark dreams disturb my restless mind. That’s why last night was such a strange and, dare I say, welcomed change. I fell asleep early, dozing on the couch almost before darkness fell, then roused myself enough to climb up the stairs and drop into bed. I didn’t perform any of my typical nightly rituals or invoke my standard charms, yet I still slept deeply and, instead of the dark twisted dreams that typically haunt my nights, I recall simpler and calmer imaginings.
In the dream I found myself walking down Benefit street on a sunlit afternoon. The street was filled with people, but they were dressed strangely, in very formal clothes that seemed more appropriate to a previous century, with high necked dresses on the women and formal suits and hats on the gentlemen. It was a cheerful scene and, as I walked along the tree-lined streets I found myself feeling more at ease than I had felt in months.
There was a man waiting for me, standing beneath an elm tree. He wore a black suit and tie and a fine looking hat, and he smiled at me as I approached. I nodded in acknowledgement and smiled back, somehow knowing it was him that I was there to meet, and stood beneath the elm with him, looking out over the street, watching the people going about their business.
“They are all dead.” the man said, still smiling, looking out at the people as they walked by. “All taken into the everlasting night, into the moonless sea.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant, but somehow I knew he was right. I looked out at all the people on the street and I saw the truth, that they were all gone, swallowed into the abyss. I can’t explain why, but while such a dream would have tormented me previously, it somehow comforted me here. There was a kind of dark truth to it that my dream-self appreciated.
I woke this morning with a feeling of ease and restful vigor – something I am not used to at all in recent memory. I remembered fragments of my dream – again unusual, for when I am engulfed in my usual nightmares I tend to remember each terrible detail well into my waking hours. It being Sunday and a warm day with little chance of rain, I decided to walk around the city for a while, to stretch my legs and take in the humid August air. I did not have a planned direction or destination, but decided to walk wherever the winds would drive me.
It was well past lunch when I realized I was walking down the very street I had dreamt – a more modern Benefit street, yet it still held much of the architectural grandeur of the dreamscape. I smiled at the random passerby as I walked beneath the shade trees, enjoying for once the eerie feeling of deja-vu the scene was giving me… until I saw him.
The man just stood, watching me as I saw him, the realization of what I was seeing causing me to slow my walk. He was the same man, in the same anachronistic dress – black suit and tie and his fine hat. He smiled and nodded at me, just as he had done in the dream, and my pulse quickened as sweat began to bead on my brow, my hands began to shake. He just stood there, under that elm tree, and smiled.
Part of me (maybe a big part of me) wanted to talk to him, to ask him who he was and what he was doing there. I couldn’t do it though – I couldn’t bring myself to get any closer, as if his genial manner and warm smile was a warning against some deeper malevolence hiding just below the surface. Maybe I was just afraid because, in the stark light of day, the truths he could offer would feel bleak and terrifying. Maybe I was just unsure of my own sanity and believed that if I tried to speak to him he could possibly confirm my delusions.
I turned, slowly, and walked away, back the way I had come, then turning down one random side street, then another, until I was unsure where I was and, most importantly, where the man from my dream was. I did not see him again, and so I slowly made my way home.
I sit here, now that the sun has set and the shadows fill the corners of my small home, thinking again of the whole encounter, and I can’t help but wonder if it was real, imagined, or a combination of the two. Did I merely confuse the man on the street with the figure in my dream? Did my mind, still recalling fragments of the dream, overlay the information into my waking thoughts? Or was there something else working here, a benign messenger carrying a warning, or maybe a malevolent trickster temping me deeper into the darkness. I may never know, or I may know all as soon as I close my eyes to sleep once again.
Such is the threat of dreams.