I had a dream last night that jarred me out of sleep.
In this dream I was a business executive, replete with a pinstripe suit and power tie. I was standing before other like-minded executives in the boardroom of some powerful, unnamed company. We were captains of industry. Masters of the world. I was at the head of the table and was opening my mouth to speak when I suddenly blacked out.
I awoke in a disintegrating village floating in a swamp. The wooden, single room shacks surrounding me were swollen with water, their slats and planks plump with moisture from the algae-ridden pools of brackish water strained against rusty nails. I remember shuffling beings traversing a bog-slicked highway of interconnecting floating docks, each wearing frayed netting and mildewy burlap sacks, faces hidden, their backs hunched over with age, with eyes forever scanning the slowly sinking ground at their feet.
From a hut behind me, its rotting frame warped and slouching underneath a thick growth of moss and sedge it wore like a winter shawl, I heard a voice, whiskey burnt and moth-eaten, sputter these words in a slow, sing-song cadence:
Deep in the dark where there Rotwren stalks
Whence the avarice soul goes alone
Lies the void of the world where water is as dust
And the food is as good as bone
I turned towards the direction of that grating sound, my heals digging divots into the soft, swollen wood, and approached the tired looking shack. Reaching out, I pushed aside the brown, decaying sailcloth in the doorway and stepped into the musty, dank interior. My eyes not yet adjusted to the gloom, I said with uncertainty and trepidation, “Hello? Is anybody here?”
“Is that finally you?” came a gargling reply from some dark corner of the hovel. It was accompanied by the disconcerting echo of something slurping and horrid. Wet, meaty impacts, like the sound of soaked clothing repeatedly dropped onto concrete drew closer and closer to where I stood. I considered, for the longest of seconds, turning around and sprinting away from that sodden, festering cottage and running until my heart burst and my lungs collapsed. But, presently, my eyes dilated in the murky atmosphere until no white showed and I could see, standing before me, a hunched figure covered in burlap and frayed ghost netting. It twisted its head upward until it looked me in the eye and I could see not a face, but a black globe of night in which danced infinite stars and whirling galaxies. I was entranced. Transfixed. So lost was I in this vision that I stood frozen, rooted to the spot as if my feet were melding with the bloated, waterlogged flooring on which I stood.
Then the voice spoke again. “Come,” it said, “it is time. There is nothing more for you here.”
I shook my head, rubbed at my eyes with the palms of my hands, and forced myself to speak. “Where are we going?” I asked.
“Into the swamp. Under the water. Beyond the fish and the abyss. Will you follow?”
“Will it hurt?” I asked.
“You didn’t complain the last time you were here,” it replied.
A sadness, perfect and complete, filled my chest. I reached out and whispered through warm tears, “Take me.”
The thing underneath the rough-hewn fabric and discarded netting raised a damp, dripping sleeve, gently touched my shoulder with an invisible hand, and took me deep into the living swamp where we quietly sank under the warm, verdant waters.
And then I woke up.
I’m not sure what to make of this dream, but I’ve been thinking about it most of the day. It was so vivid and real that I’m finding it impossible to forget.
And yes, this is a “typical” dream for me. I’ve never had normal dreams like flying or falling or showing up to class in my underwear. It’s always been this sort of thing that runs through my brain while I sleep. Go figure…