I had a disturbing dream last night.
It was one of those dreams that seem vivid to the point of being real. I knew I was dreaming, and in fact, tried to stop the dream, but there was the sense that the dream was an extension of reality – as if what I dreamt was true, much in the same way that the thoughts and concerns that plague you through your waking ours are presented to you anew in your sleep.
I was a murderer. I had murdered someone, off-screen as such before the dream had begun. I was in some kind of alpine resort pre-winter. The hills climbed all around, covered in thick mountain forests, and the architecture typical of those places, cute buildings with steeply pitched roofs. I was there on holiday, and somehow, for reasons, I did not know I had killed someone I could not identify.
The dream was all about the aftermath of that. I had killed someone, accidentally perhaps, or least without premeditation, and now I was gripped with panic. I watched as the media reported the murder and as the police began to investigate. When people spoke of it I coyly joined in, not sure what I should be saying.
You can imagine what is like to be in that situation, but it is no more than speculation. To know the feeling really you need to really live it. That is one of the values of dreams: you can live something that is pure fiction as if it was real, and not know the difference. So it was last night. I felt terrible fear. I felt hunted. I wondered what was to come next, dreaded the phone ringing or a knock at the door. I tried to hold myself together, to live normally and to show nothing, but throughout I was wondering what I was to say if and when the time came, how I was to act if I wanted to pull off my deception.
In the dream, I was reasonably confident that there was nothing to connect me with the murder. The person was near enough to a stranger. Though it’s hard to be certain in these days of high tech CSI, I thought there was nothing at the scene to incriminate me. Still, I felt that fear, that panic. There were three almost overwhelming feelings that pulsed through me.
The first was the absolute realisation that I had killed someone, that I had been responsible for ending another person’s life. It felt huge and heavy, and as if no matter what the outcome of the investigation that it was something I would carry as a burden for the rest of my life.
The second feeling was the knowledge of what this might mean for me: a lifetime behind bars. I could hardly conceive of that. I looked out at the tree-clad slopes, I breathed in the cool and fresh mountain air, around me my friends laughed, oblivious of my fears, and it felt both very unreal and very scary.
Finally, I thought of my family and friends. I felt as if I had betrayed them. As much as anything I wanted to avoid discovery for them as for me. I couldn’t bear to contemplate what they might think of me, to face the look in their eyes; I dreaded inflicting them with such bewildering and incomprehensible misery.
I struggled to wake. The dream continued. Every day that passed took me closer to leaving the hills for home and perceived safety. Each day through the loop drew tighter around me. And that’s how it was left.
It was very real. I woke believing it was a true representation of what I might feel, something right out of Crime and Punishment. At the same time I wondered if I would act as I did in the dream: would I really try to elude detection – or would I fess up, claiming it was all an accident?
Who can say. I need another dream for that, but not in a hurry for it.