[March 17, 2020]
One aspect of getting older, for me, is that I don’t remember my dreams as well as I used to—there are just little scraps of dreams that fly away when I wake up. But last spring I had a dream that, even while I was having it, I knew it was important to remember it. Even as the dream was ending, I was already counting up the points I needed to recall.
In my dream, we all knew we were going to die. Everyone in the world was going to die. A cloud of air bearing very fine, sharp particles was slowly encircling the earth; when people inhaled, it infiltrated the lungs, piercing the cells and destroying them. There was no way to stop the advance of this fog, and its effects were incurable. Wherever this fog had gone, it had killed the entire population. This cloud was gradually encircling the entire world, and eventually it would reach America.
Everyone in our local community knew this was coming. But somehow my husband and I knew that it was coming much faster than others expected. In fact, it was now very near.
I remember four scenes from this dream:
+ One, there was a naturally-occurring oil that could alleviate the pain, though it couldn’t prevent death—maybe delay it a little. A neighbor was happily telling me he had discovered a source for this oil on his property. He showed me in the palm of his hand the clear, slippery liquid. He explained that he was going to bottle it and ship it all over the world, charging high prices and making a lot of money. All for free, because he found it right there in his back yard.
I pitied him, because it seemed obvious to me that, once when word got out that it had been found here, people would descend from all directions and just take it for themselves. I said to my friend, “But don’t you think they will all just move here?”
+ Two, a public worship service was being held in an attractive, traditional-looking church. There weren’t many people at the service; perhaps it was just for the leaders of the community. My husband had been invited to participate, and as he delivered the prayers he’d written I noticed that they had a common theme: he was warning the people there that the time might be much shorter than they anticipated. It was essential to prepare now. But he was saying this in a subtle way, to prevent shock and panic.
+ Three, we were caring for two children in our home. They weren’t our own children, and not children I know in real life.
Our house had become mostly empty of furnishings, perhaps because we were selling our possessions to live. It was bed time, and my husband and I were looking down at the girl and boy as they played on the bare wooden floor with their last two remaining toys. We had prepared the children that the time would come when they would need to give up even these last toys, and put them outside for other children to find.
My husband and I knew that this was the last night. In the course of the next day, the cloud was going to arrive, and we would all breathe it and die.
I asked the children if they thought the time was right, to place the toys outside for other children to find. But they begged to keep them one more night, and we said yes.
+ Four, I was preparing for sleep that night. I opened the window and looked out at the black sky. The night was breathing, warm and alive. The sky was velvety black, and the stars shone out brilliantly. The stars seemed closer than usual.
Looking at them, I began to understand in a deeper way that my body is part of the same material universe as those stars. We are all made of molecules from a common store, shared by all things in the universe. And soon my body would be disintegrating back into that vast collection of molecules.
I felt that it was right for this to happen. I felt like it was the right next thing to happen to me (or, at least, to my body). And I thought, So that’s why the stars feel closer.
I thought about leaving the window open for the night, because the fragrance of the air was so warm and comforting. But the fine particles were already beginning to creep in. I kept having short, soft coughing spells. I knew that, if I left the window open, I would die in course of the night, and I needed to be there the next day for my husband and the children.
I decided to wait till the next day to die. I closed the window and lay down, and began to repeat the prayers I say every night before sleep.