Doing the thing you need to do

I’ve commented previously how throughout this lockdown my dreams have featured an ever-expanding cast of characters from my past. People I haven’t thought about for years, let alone seen, have been popping up in starring roles. On other occasions, it’s felt as if reality has been re-written in my dreamscape. It’s been interesting and curious and sometimes confronting.

Last night was another such dream in which obscure characters from the past made an appearance, and mostly it was cosy and relaxed, if a little strange, in the way of dreams. But then the dream took an unexpected turn, which is what I want to share today.

In the dream, I was in a kind of work environment, unrecognisable from anything that exists in reality, but perfectly natural in the surreal world of dreams. I was a competent, affable character, popular with my colleagues and much respected. The first part of the dream was spent catching up with these colleagues – characters from my past – in different scenarios, every one of them easy. I remember part of the business was concerned with growing barley (plucked from today’s headlines, but also touching upon my past). So there were agricultural and industrial aspects of the business, which is what the dream pivoted upon.

I’m going about my work normally when I hear some kind of steam engine labour. It made ugly noises, which made me pause to listen before it would settle down into a regular rhythm. That happened several times before it started again and didn’t stop, getting worse with every passing moment.

I remember thinking something along the lines that ‘it’s gonna blow’. There were people working in and around and I knew that if it exploded then many would be injured, perhaps killed. Without a thought, I began to run towards it.

There was no conscious thought in this. The risk to myself didn’t factor. I remember generally running at half pace initially, believing that others would be attending it, which is when the first real thought leapt to mind. What if they weren’t? And I knew I couldn’t leave it to chance – I had to do something. I re-doubled my pace.

I had to climb down a serious of ladders to get to it. The nearer I got, the louder it became. Finally, I climbed down the last ladder as someone was coming up. He yelled something to me along the lines of save yourself. I didn’t think of that, though. I knew it could blow at any moment, but what was the option? I couldn’t let that happen without trying to stop it. By now, I knew I was in danger, but I felt no real fear. It was too late for that. I ploughed through it as if it was an irrelevancy.

I was in the room alone with this thing, alarms blaring, and a disturbing roar coming from the machine itself. I realised I had raced to it without knowing what to do. I wasn’t an operator of the machine. I didn’t know how to turn it off or fix it. I raced towards it in hope, which is when I spotted an extension cord running from it – I kid you not. Quickly I pulled the cord from the outlet and thought, I’ve done what I could.

I ran back to the ladder and began climbing out. The alarms still blared. The machine was undiminished. It seemed no material difference had been made. I climbed out of the room into the next chamber and began climbing the second ladder. If it blew, then I was dead, but I had done my best. Then, as I climbed out of the second chamber into the third, the machine began to return to a steady beat and wind down.

Long story short, I had saved the day. People came to me. I was called a hero. I was interviewed by the media. Everyone one of them wanted to make something of it bigger than it was. I kept on trying to explain to them that I only did what I had to do. I didn’t think about it. I acted. And I became annoyed by them trying to elevate it into something more. Every word seemed to cheapen it. What choice was there? And it had just happened.

I wanted to get away. It felt a private thing, and I wished no-one knew it was me. It was simple, after all. I only did what I had to, no more.

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