I had never dreamed in color before now. When I did dream, they were dreams filled with anxiety and involving colleagues, accounts due, my GP. But they ran through my unconscious mind like snippets of noir films, macros of a larger picture so terrible I was never permitted to see the whole thing.
Those dreams were in juxtaposition to what was a very comfortable, very colorful life. When I brought them up in therapy my shrink tapped his chin with his Cross pen and said, you’re very young to be having dreams that speak so loudly of mortality. And he would ask the next question.
Now I dreamed in color. Living color. Such living, screaming, swirling color the assault on my senses often woke me before anything happened inside the dream.
Sometimes when I dreamed this way I wasn’t even sleeping.
The human body – the primitive human body that is – is equipped with an auto pilot. Not the sleep walking cruise control of the non-primitive, safely civilized and socialized human. I clearly recalled instances in my previous over-wrought and over-worked existence of coming to somewhere and having no idea how I got there. Having driven my car, or taken three buses to arrive at my destination. Having even walked.
That state was one of muscle memory and luck. Had I been hunted I’d certainly have been caught and killed. We humans also go with the flow. It’s a natural herd behavior. We don’t need thought and wit to propel us within the relative safety of a group. Stop when they stop. Go when they go. We move through life in these unthinking mobs, like a school of fish or a herd of wildebeest.
Rewind… or fast forward, as the case may be… to primitive man. No one to rely on but oneself, and no learned reactions in this new world. A new evolution that hadn’t yet begun. I moved through it with a feeling of being utterly alone yet under constant scrutiny. The auto pilot here was one of waking unconsciousness. It was living in a memory while traversing bleakness. Otherwise the bleak might win.
I’d seen no other living person until coming upon Hope crouched on a crumbled curb whose once yellow paint was as colorless as everything else. I’d seen plenty of dead. And not only those caught in the path of terror. I saw a man hanging out a second story window with a bed sheet around his neck. I saw the bodies of a mother and a child, the child’s throat cut expertly and the mother’s wrists open from elbow to palm. I saw an elderly person, gender unknown, with no back to their skull and the barrel of the shotgun still resting on the bare lower gum. And I understood.
On this primitive auto pilot I moved through the landscape without seeing the desolation. The slightest sound or movement brought me back, though. Out of my waking dreams where my mind remembered a world my body didn’t mind moving through.