At 5 a.m. the alarm goes off, a sharp burst of scream, and I realize, waking with an abrupt lurch into reality, that it isn't the alarm at all, it's my daughter in the grip of a nightmare halfway across the darkened house. Thankfully, she pulled me out of one of my own. I rarely have them, but this one was a doozy.
Driving around an island, rounded stone walls rising above me, sculptured terraces covered with vines. I'm staring in wonder and in awe at the landscaping and continue into the overhang of a giant stone tunnel. The marbled grey walls on either side are patterned with windows like stone skyscrapers, I can't see the roof but have a sense of huge spaces and openness above me. Down where I am there is a sense of oppression. No longer in the car, I am standing in the open space, surrounded by rock, mesmerized. Behind me, a woman I work with follows me in, but she doesn't come nearly as far as I have.
Without warning, an alarm sounds and a voice, distorted by distance and static, begins barking orders. I can't understand exactly what is being said but the gist is clear: get out, get OUT. The woman behind me whirls and begins to run, and in horror I see that the entrance is closing. I try to run and stumble, realizing that I can't run fast enough, I won't make it. She disappears beyond the portal just as it snaps shut, clanging echoes rising in the still air. I'm still moving, in panic and hopelessness. The wall is smooth on either side, there is no other exit. The loudspeaker continues to shrill and I can feel all the hairs rising along my neck and arms. From the corner of my eye I see a sudden movement, a light, and there by the closed entrance is a small round tunnel off to the side. I sprint inside and as I do, the light snaps off and a wall slams shut behind me, enclosing me in a claustrophobically small cave from which there is no escape.
Just then, Karin screams. I can feel my heart pounding as I wake.
Tonight, before bedtime, she comes in for a hug and asks in a quiet voice, "I'm scared to go to bed. Will I have another nightmare tonight?" I hold her tightly and say firmly, "No. Everyone gets only one a week, and sometimes not even that." She's reassured. I, who haven't been able to shake my dream all day, am not.
It's Got Nothing to Do With Horses: Why a bad dream is called a nightmare