I rarely sleep deep and rarely dream honest. Yet, when I do dream, it's horrifying. As a child I dreamt of ghosts stalking my home. Vampires and werewolves would tear me asunder, feed on me, and kill me night after night. As a teenager it became nuclear Holocaust. The dreams woke me after the bitter taste of ash, the refuse of burned flesh coated my hair and clothes, then I woke but carried the dream in waking hours like a bag of grief. As an adult it was haunting images of helplessness: unable to save my mother as she reached to me and asked me to help her as she lay dying; zombies chasing me from one end of the dream to the bloody helpless finale where I was forced to watch them eat those I couldn't save. I woke screaming, terror swollen in my throat, mind replaying the dream over and over until I fell asleep again. Rarely do I dream, and when I do, it's never pleasant.
Throughout my life I've had one ongoing dream. It began as a child and occurs rarely as an adult but I witness it occasionally. I sleep, and I wake, but I know I am dreaming for there is no world like the one I witness. There are shadowed peaks in the distance and at my feet is a lake of ebony water. A boat awaits with a shrouded figure by the oars and a lantern hanging over its head. I know to get on; that for now all is safe. I step onto the boat and ride across the lake. Stars glint above as a cobalt hue paints a swath above the mountain ridges; light from an unknown dawn. Ahead are more boats like mine. Some are empty. Others carry the cargo of other travelers like me. We eventually come to the opposite shore where a stone path leads into a cave. Glowing blue stones light the path as others begin the trek. I follow, a light step carries me higher. Finally I enter the cave and find a torchlit hall, carved with fantastical images of alien beings, beasts of no earthly origin, and finally of man. Each step deeper into the cave tells a different story. Man's birth. Civilizations crumbling. Man marching through time until the last carving which depicts tall, thin entities guarding a gate of black and ushering humans into it. It was this last image that follows me into the waking world. Who are the potentates and are we master, servant, or simply coming home at last? I trudge beyond the etchings to a stone platform which opens out into a wide cavern. Bright blue orbs light every stalagmite as thousands of men, women, and children march to the far end of the cavern. There, standing like a cyclopean shadow, was a gate of black night. Tall, gaunt creatures stood guard on each side as people stepped through. To me they seemed statues, rigid and gray, stone markers like gargoyles of a different race. I followed the throng of humanity to the gates until I stood before it. Like a starless night it stood, swallowing those who entered its maw. A cold detachment befell me. I knew once I stepped into that gate I would never return; that I would stop being a traveler and instead be forever stolen from life. I wanted to step forward. A base need urged me to take that last step into oblivion and a life beyond. I stood, trembling, staring from gate to towering guardian and could not move forward. It was not yet time. I stood and watched, felt moved by the scope and mystery of it all. Then, I woke, feeling as if I had been witness to a cosmic, perhaps divine, secret that I was not yet ready to grasp. I long to know what's beyond the gate. It frightens and compels me. One day I'll step forward; one day when I am done waking up.