Now and again I have serial dreams.
You know what those are: dreams that continue the next night. I think it only happens twice, one night and then the next, although I suppose it’s possible to have them more often but I just have never heard of it.
My first serial dream happened when I was 11 or 12. In the first one, I was running through a glass mansion, the kind of sprawling estate one would find on the coast of California only this one was made entirely of glass. The walls, the floors, the ceilings, all of it formed from thick, absolutely clear glass. I was being chased by wasps, a huge swarm of wasps much larger than my adolescent self. The view was in the first and second person; one minute I was observing myself from the side, running from room to room, terrified and frantic, and the next minute I was seeing them from right behind me, as if I had eyes in the back of my head. They never gained any ground, just stayed the same distance away, hovering and moving as one. The buzzing was intense.
It was sheer terror that woke me from that dream. I lay in bed, blinking and crying. I must have been calling out, because my mom asked if I was alright and I told her about the dream. She comforted me with a few words and a hug, like most moms will do when their child awakens from a bad dream. It wasn’t the middle of the night, though; it was morning.
The next morning, same thing exactly. Same huge swarm of wasps, same mansion, same terrified me, running from room to room. When I awoke then, I lay in bed, disbelieving, and I asked myself what would have happened if I had stopped running, spun around on the spot and faced my tormenters?And, why wasn’t there a single door in this house with many rooms?
I was reminded of the serial dream when I awoke this afternoon because I experienced something similar again. This time though, the dream wasn’t just a repeat of the previous night’s dream, it was actually a continuation. Where last night I had dreamed we lived in some Orwellian, post-apocalyptic, scorched-sky cartoon world, THIS dream held the same imagery, same dark tone, same feeling of being trapped and the logical progression of life in a world where freedom was something tasted in the past and the sun had been obliterated. Now I was being forced to live with a wealthy terrorist, a man who promised my children a good education and endless amounts of financial support, the catch being of course that I was to lay down with him each night and make sandwiches for him in the morning. He had many large guns and spying equipment; he could get into anywhere, anytime. In my dream, I wanted to kill him, because I was in love with a man, a man of substance, and this bully with the many guns to prop himself up with just didn’t cut mustard with me.
I awoke then, too, relieved that I was only dreaming after all.
What nags at me, though is this: years later, I was in college and raising my son. We decided to watch the sun setting from the top of Mt. Doug one beautiful warm, spring evening, and chose to hike the west side in search of the perfect viewing spot. We were each on our own path, side by side, about 10 feet apart. There was only brush separating us and we chatted as we climbed. About 2/3 of the way up, I paused. I was about to turn around to see what I could see and I felt a stinging sensation on my lower leg. I looked down to see a wasp crawling on my sock. My foot was raised, resting on the rock in front of me and I leaned over to brush the wasp off me. I noticed another wasp just then, flying out from under the rock, then another and another and in the instant I realized I needed to get away, a swarm of wasps came out from underneath that rock. I turned and began scrambling down the side of the hill. The wasps caught up to me within seconds and I was now being stung repeatedly. They were stinging my ears, my arms, my breasts but most of them were stinging my legs. As I scrambled down the mountain, I began screaming and I could hear my son screaming as well, way off in the distance, “Mom, grab a rock! Grab a tree! I’ll save you!” I couldn’t stop to answer him; I knew he thought I was falling, that I had tripped and this was all happening because of my own carelessness but I just couldn’t respond right then. I looked down and watched a wasp withdraw his stinger from my thigh, swing his posterior a little to the left and sting me again, right through my light cotton leggings. It only served to enrage me.
By the time I reached the bottom there was one solitary wasp still buzzing around my head. I was flailing at him with my sweater, completely exhausted and whimpering. My son had scrambled down behind me and was standing next to me, open-mouthed, in disbelief and fear. He would tell me later that he thought I had been free-falling down the hillside and that he was terrified for my safety. He was 6 then.
I told him I had been stung by wasps and that we needed to leave now. I told him I was sorry and then I started to cry. I felt embarrassed, yes, but mostly I felt pain. I felt as if my legs were on fire from the wasps’ poison and I joked to my son that this must be what it would feel like to be set on fire. I was having difficulty walking; I couldn’t bend my legs so we set off for the mile-long walk back to the car, me walking like I was wearing a thick snowsuit. If I had fallen then, I don’t think I could have gotten up.
We made it to the car and on the way home I called my boyfriend who called his mom who met me at the house with antihistamine and meat tenderizer. I counted 38 bites, mostly concentrated on my legs but a few in some very strange spots on my body, places I wouldn’t have thought a wasp could access. Days later the bites had swollen and were now each about 3 inches across, red and hot to the touch.
It would be another year before I would hike Mt. Doug again and another 25 before I would remember my dream of the glass house.