Spring 2009. Bad vibes and worse dreams. Still think I'm a toughguy.
I may be anxious, worried, or bored - but I am surprised to find that I'm not afraid. Or perhaps I am, and there's just no room for it. But maybe there's something to the idea of stress inoculation after all, if I'm not as afraid as I might have been.
I dreamed my death. Not a prophesy, or a recollection.
It was one of those dreams that are so deep and vivid that you can't even remember who you are for ten minutes after waking up panicked and thrashing like a hooked tuna, seizing shreds of memory and fragments of self in an attempt to get back into self, the pieces sliding around like so many square pegs on a board full of round holes.
In this dream I was someone else, I don't know who. A soldier from some long forgotten war. I was alone and separated from my friends, and wandered for hours. I knew, in the uncanny knowing of dreams, that I was in enemy territory, an endless rolling plain of alternating mud and turf, the occasional copse or broken fencepost or dead animal strewn across a hillock. In retrospect, the landscape looked like an oil painting viewed from gallery distance.
I found myself headed to a treeline, to concealment at least, shelter if I was lucky, and was suddenly surrounded by enemies. Dressed in brown canvas and slouched wool patrol caps, rifles already at the ready. In the manner of such dreams my pistol malfunctioned, my only thought being to avoid capture even if it meant certain doom.
I was captured, bound, beaten with rifle butts, shouted at in whatever language, punched. I was dragged to my feet one last time only to have my knees kicked out from under me. As my face was shoved into the mud, I could feel my breathing getting ragged. I worried about broken ribs and punctured lungs.
I could hear muttering coming from above me. I could feel the mud rushing deep into my nostrils, a boot on the back of my neck.
I could hear the click and swish of leather coming unfurled. I could feel the damp of the dew soaking through my trousers.
I could hear the distinctive rack of a pistol's action. I could feel the boot moving away.
I could hear one last guttural word. I could feel hot tears and desperation welling up as I accepted that I was going to die, one sharp moment holding a realization both vast and yet definite, so enormous and complete that I was speechless for hours after waking.
Just at the start of a single wracking sob, my breath just barely hitched, not even an exhale yet, everything went black and empty, and I woke up crying and confused. It must have taken me twenty minutes to remember who and where I was, but when you are in the grip of a paroxysm it is impossible to track time. I think it's been two or three months since then, and though I will never forget it, I think I should write it down all the same.
Fear comes from the unknown. I have already accepted the nothingness after death. I have nothing left to fear from it.
I will fight death to the fingernails, I will run through the soles of my boots, I will play until checkmate and then on until the board is pried away from me. If I die in this valley, it will be with fire and dignity.
I will wail my own threnody on a panflute carved from the bones of my dead enemies, else they will feast on the marrow of mine.