I awoke with a start. I was disoriented, confused . . . it took me a moment to realize where I was. In fact, I was right at home in my own warm, comfortable bed.
So why had I awakened so forcefully and with such a jolt?
I got up and stumbled about the house for a few moments, wandering aimlessly from room to room in my still-sleepy stupor. I held a glass under the water dispenser on the front of the refrigerator, letting the icy cold splash over my fingers and drag me further from my hazy state. Then, as the chilled water trickled down my throat and I felt every molecule coursing toward my empty stomach, the pain in my chest allowed the details to slowly begin permeating my consciousness.
I slumped down on one of the couches in the family room, joined by all of my beloved four-footed children who expressed their love and concern for me with their purring, licking, nuzzling, and snuggling.
And as I sat there rubbing their ears and bellies, I remembered fully the details of the dream that had disturbed my peaceful slumbering.
I was on a roller coaster with my beloved. We were laughing, talking, our hair was flying. We were in the front row of the car, speeding along the tracks. I can’t remember whether there were any other people on the ride with us, but I do recall that the air was warm and the sky was a perfectly beautiful blue with a few light clouds. I remember thinking about the sky as the car was climbing up, up, up the track, slowly chugging toward the top.
And, as we reached the top of the track and were just ready to round the crest before flying back down at a speed sure to exhilarate and excite us, I realized that something was horribly wrong. Most vivid were the feelings of complete panic and exquisite helplessness. I have never before or since felt as utterly vulnerable as I did at that split second in time.
And then the car arrived at the highest point of the track. How many feet in the air? I couldn’t say because I have never been capable of estimating weights or measures with any degree of accuracy. I do know, however, that I felt as though I were high enough in the air to be dangling from the side of a jetliner.
I turned to my beloved to see if he knew, too, and saw a look of horror on his face that I concluded probably matched my own expression. It was uniquely grotesque and beautiful, and I remember being fascinated by the fact that I had never, during all the years I had known him, observed a similar expression on his face. Like an out-of-body experience, I recall thinking to myself during the dream that I was amazed by my own ability to conjure up, as part of the process of dreaming, such an image since it did not originate from any stored memories. But then I was catapulted right back into the moment.
I looked straight ahead and down. There was no track leading safely back to the ground. The roller coaster’s car was about to begin a free-fall down, down, down . . . I heard myself scream, “We’re going to die” at the same moment that eventually punctured my conscious thought. At precisely the same instance, I heard my beloved cry out with me. Again, it was as though I stepped outside myself as I observed that, in addition to the look on his face, this horrific scream was a sound I had never actually heard emanate from him.
And then it began. The car rounded the crest of the truncated track and started falling . . .
That’s the moment that I found myself sitting straight up in my bed.
That was also the moment I learned that the old “wives’ tale” is true. My whole life I have heard that if you dream you are falling, you will wake up before you hit the ground. Believe it or not, I had never had such a dream before. (At least not that I can remember.)
As I sat there on the couch with my beloved little “children,” I wondered if I actually cried out in my sleep, as I did in the dream. I looked into their eyes intently and spoke to them: “Did I scream? Did I wake all of you up, as well as myself?” They gazed at me with that deep pool of unconditional love that every pet owner recognizes and cherishes, but provided no answer. Since only they could have heard me, I will never know the answer.
With that, I realized that the sun would not be up for awhile so I headed back to my bed and settled in, determined to get a couple more hours of rest. I fell asleep with a couple of my beloved pets snuggled close to me, hoping that my next dream would be more peaceful and comforting . . . an actual memory of my beloved.