Ever since posting about my recurring nightmare, a certain part of my brain has been working overtime, trying to figure out some form of damage control. After all, you can't just end a post with "Yes, I'm a sick person" and then expect to have any followers the next day. So here's my explanation for why I find this nightmare so intriguing.
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a brave person. I've read plenty of books about plucky young heroines, captured by the Supreme Evil Bad Guy, "enhanced-ly interrogated" for information, who somehow gather the nerve to say bitingly witty and hilariously sarcastic one-liners in face of ongoing pain. "Hey, I think you missed a spot. There's some room here in my leg." Or the lovely young sidekick who tracks across the whole of the Universe with an epic Gentleman Adventurer, getting into scrapes and out of them just fine - and not always with the help of the main character. Or the girl who gets an adrenaline makeover - frumpy and nerdy before the fight, but in moments of crisis, she suddenly reveals unknown powers of awesome and, as it turns out, an unexpected hotness upgrade.
... Yeah, that's not me. I find the prospect of physical pain frightening - I would be talking before they knew the questions. While my persona may be of a self-controlled young lady, I know the truth. I am much more breakable than I would care to be. I am weak.
The reason that I find my nightmare fascinating is because it traps me between the person I am and the person I want to be.
Like most recurring dreams, it comes with multiple iterations. I've already told you about the most common- in the warehouse, by myself, trapped into a predetermined outcome that I am too frightened to fight. The scary aspects are easy enough to identify: being hunted, the intense pain that comes before the end, the alien nature of the Wolf Pack, and the most of all, the Mist. But "scary" doesn't make a dream a nightmare. A nightmare is truly terrifying - the intense, sociopathic, true-born son of fear.
Fear is watching "The Thing" late at night in the winter. Terror is waking up to find the Thing physically in your room. Fear is imagining what Gollum looks like. Terror is discovering Goll -- I mean my brother -- crawling over the foot of your bed muttering about twisting neckses. Fear can occasionally be entertaining; Terror is the clammy feeling of millions of wet spiders dancing on your spinal cord.
What is truly terrifying in my nightmare is how I effectively become a passive observer in my own dream.
One of the most pivotal moments of the dream are the events surrounding the finding of the Vivacious Friend. The one that the Fog ate. The one in physical suffering who is no longer a person. This friend is technically vital, but not truly alive. This moment is perhaps the most terrifying in the entire nightmare, because this is the point I become powerless in the dream. Effectively, I become two persons in the dream - what I'll refer to as Dream-Me and Lucid-Me. Dream-Me is the one moving, running, acting. Lucid-Me is the voice in Dream-Me's head screaming that this is the wrong move, the wrong way to run, the wrong action.
As I said, this moment is terrifying because as Dream-Me stumbles upon the Vivacious Friend, Lucid-Me knows exactly what will happen, and has already started screaming. Dream-Me, in an attempt to relieve the Vivacious Friend's suffering and stop the Friend's eyes from haunting Dream-Me's thoughts, attempts to kill the Vivacious Friend. Lucid-Me, the part that knows this is wrong, has absolutely no power to stop it. In my dream, I can only watch myself. I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.
Occasionally, Dream-Me leaves the Vivacious Friend alone, but then the Wolf Pack catches up to my trail and finds the Friend. You know what happens next.
In a dream, time is more open to interpretation, though not negotiation. It loops back on itself or jumps erratically between events. Whichever poor decision I make with the Friend, dream-time replays it over and over again, subtly changing the scene everytime into worse and worse outcomes.
This iteration is horrifying because of my complete, utter helplessness. I have the will to save my loved ones, but ultimately, posses not the means to save even myself. I wake up feeling like Ralph at the end of the Lord of the Flies, only there is no navy captain to save us.
I mentioned there are other iterations. The other ones again twist and distort my empathy into a terrible weapon instead of what it is supposed to be. Sometimes, instead of entering the warehouse by myself, I have a companion. This companion is usually another distorted version of a dear friend. They invariably are both stronger and weaker than I am. For instance, they may be able to kill the Wolf Pack but cannot walk. Or are immune to the Mist but blind and deaf. And it is no longer my goal to save myself and as many of my friends as I can. When I have that other person with me, it is my duty to save everyone before even thinking of saving myself.
I am always presented with the perfect opportunity to buy the entire set of loved ones a few precious minutes by distracting the Wolf Pack, but I never do because I decide I can't bear to part from them sooner than absolutely necessary. The focus has changed, but I fail just as miserably as ever.
Ultimately, the Wolves at Night play off of my frustrations and fear of inadequacy. Not inadequacy at life, but at Living.
We are caught in the in-between
Of who we already are and who we're meant to be.
We're looking for love, but finding we're still in need.
It's only what we've lost will we be allowed to keep.
In my daily life, I am not the person I wish I were. I want to be so much more - more compassionate, more Christ-like, more understanding. I want to be the sort of person anyone could call at 3 am because they needed someone to listen. I want to be the person you can trust. I want to be safe, merciful, humble, willing, generous. But I am not that person, not when push comes to shove. I'm still selfish. I become angry. I am scared. I'm self-centered, not God-centered.
I've been having this nightmare ever since I was called on a long-ish term mission a year-and-a-half ago. It throws that incompleteness in my face. The two people I become in the dream are both perverted versions of myself. They are both afraid of the future, of the unknown, of making the wrong decision. They both try to do things on their own. They both try to save their friends, their loved ones but they fail.
I am looking to save love, but finding I'm still in need. I'm afraid that by literally dying to myself to save those I love, I will not be able to keep them with me.
There is a tension we have to live with - that we are not who we will be. The knowledge that I can never save myself, that I will never help others on my own steam, these are all elements within my nightmare. Above all else, I am a control freak, and it's not easy to turn over control to the One who has already saved me from the warehouse.
Because while I may like to think the warehouse exists only in my dreams, I live in it every moment of every day.