The other night I dreamed I was riding a train, a mask partly covering my eyes. I swayed from side to side to the rhythm of the train’s movements - chugug-chugug. Chugug-chugug. It was a narrow train, with just one seat on either side, and an aisle down the middle. I was seated six seats from the front. Those seats were empty.
The train seemed to be passing through an underground tunnel – I saw lights flashing at intervals. Light dark light dark. Light dark light dark.
Somehow I sensed everyone I knew, and loved, was seated behind me, filling the rest of the compartment.
I heard a friend’s voice say, matter-of-factly, “You’re riding the dead train. You want to get off, but you can’t.”
I’ve never heard this friend speak in English, and I’ve known him for more than twenty years. I found it odd that in my dream he was using a language he’s not comfortable with.
I felt more disturbed than afraid, but the undercurrent of terror stemmed from a feeling that if I didn’t wake up, I would die. I have these dreams from time to time – a vague sense of doom coupled with wanting to wake up but feeling paralyzed, unable to move or open my eyes.
I struggled to wake, frantic, like a swimmer with lungs depleted of oxygen, paddling upwards to the light. I cracked my eyes open, partly, to see my eldest daughter, still awake, doing something on her laptop, looking at me with puzzlement on her face.
I screamed. “Help! help!” She frowned, got up, and removed a pillow lying on my chest.
I felt nothing – neither heat nor cold nor the weight of the pillow being lifted from me. But the movement was enough to jar me into complete wakefulness. My daughter helped me sit up, and gave me a drink of water. Shuddering, I told her about my nightmare.
She told me my eyes were not open halfway, but stark wide staring at her. She said I did not scream, only whispered. She thought I was joking.
She listened to my story.
“I was riding the dead train, Alex! Where was it going? And I couldn’t get off!”
“Don’t go alone. Here, take this.”
She then thrust her two-foot long stuffed orca into my arms.