Last night I dreamt. Apparently normal, but not for me. I have never been much of a dreamer, and what dreams I do have I either forget shortly or they become garbled up in my head. This dream was different. You hear some people tell you of their nightly excursions: how they have conversations and epic fantasies at night to make up for their dull lives. This dream was like that. I remember it vividly as if I was truly there, experiencing everything with all five senses. Which, of course, shocked me and left me scared shitless, shivering in my bead. That night, I died.
Since I was probably 12 years old, I have had an extreme fear of dying. This always perplexed me because I have never been that scared of anything, but thinking of death -the great unknown- leaves me shivering in terror. This life is tangible, and as messed up and confusing as can be, I love it. Dying seems like stepping off of a cliff with the hope that there is a river at the bottom to catch you in its tender embrace, but with the equally likely possibility that you may simply fall, and an abyss that never ends swallows you up; a darkness so intense and pure that thought and life are meaningless. That night, I stepped off the cliff, shouting soundlessly until the darkness received me.
I opened my eyes to the glare of the sun shining down on me like that of some demonic being, red and sweltering. Sensation poured through my body in a rush and as my addled senses returned to me I came to several realizations. First off, I was in a terrible amount of pain; my skin was burned and blistered, my throat dryer than the dessert sand on which I was being dragged. Yes dragged. That was the second thing. My arms were tied, and I was being pulled slowly through a vast expanse of nothingness. The sand was flat, no rolling dunes, nothing. Not a grain moved. Not even my passage across the blankness marred the unblemished blandness of a place devoid of life.
I looked down at myself to find my groin covered by a loincloth, it was the only article of clothing I had. I gave a soft, choked sort of groan. No wonder I was burned and blistered, have I mentioned the sun? I tried to get a look behind me at my captor but was unsuccessful. Apparently when your back is raw and bleeding and your arms are tied behind your head it’s hard to contort your body certain ways… go figure. After a tedious amount straining, I finally got a look at him. I say him, although I wasn’t really sure what he was. He looked like a man, but he was cloaked all in black, shadows seemed to emanate from him and I would have bet money that -had I been standing close enough to him- the air would have been cool. The sun didn’t seem to bother him. I tried to say something, anything to get his attention, but my throat could produce nothing more than a pathetic croak, so I contented myself with relaxing as much as you can while burned, blistered, raw, and being dragged through a god-forsaken dessert.
I looked before me. Unmarked sand stretched on forever, it seemed, giving me no clear idea of how I had gotten where I was, or how long I had been dragged for. Judging by the state of my body however, it must have been quite a while.
The dessert was quiet, the only sound came from my breathing and the whisper of my captor’s cloak. Well, my sluggish brain suggested, this is either hell, purgatory or some other shitty place, because I remember dying and this sure wasn’t heaven. If it was hell, then it was pretty bad but not as bad as it could have been, and, if purgatory, well I didn’t feel like I was being purified. That left, well… I don’t know, what did that leave? Is there something like purgatory for hell? Because that would make sense in a sick, demented sort of way. This was my preparation for an eternity of pain. With this conclusion reached, I passed out.
I awoke to the same sounds; the same place. And as this realization set in, I began to sob, or choke really because of my dry throat. A few miserable tears slid down my face and dried up while I railed at the injustice of it all. And I was dragged.
An indefinite amount of time later I pushed out a word. One word. The only one that came to me.
“Please.” I begged, and was met with a cold, dark chuckle.
“Son where I come from, that word doesn’t even exist.”
I considered asking him again or arguing with him about it, but I found myself incapable of either, that one word having taken up all my strength.
The dragging continued. I couldn’t twist around far enough to see where we were going, but I felt fairly certain I didn’t want to get there, although if it meant an end to this hellish trip through the dessert, I might welcome a number of previously unthinkable hardships. My eyes lost focus and thought abandoned me for a time, although I remained conscious. Suddenly my gaze sharpened on something in the horizon. There was a smudge that had not been there a while before, and it was directly in our trail. There was something in this dessert of nothing… this had to be a good thing.
If this something wasn’t there before, and it was now directly in our path that meant… that meant it must be moving, and moving faster than we were. If so, it might catch up, and maybe this thing would help me! I felt the first stirrings of hope I had had since dying. Of course, it could have been something in league with my captor, in which case I probably didn’t want it to catch up, but I hoped anyways.
Soon after spotting this something, my thoughts became filled with a number of demonic monstrosities which came upon me as if forced down my throat, images I had never seen before which left me trembling in fear. I heard another chuckle come from the manlike creature (he sounded like a man too).
I forced myself to discard the alien and terrifying images, and trained my gaze back upon the smudge. It was getting bigger slowly, and as I twisted to view my captor again, I saw the hood of his cloak turn as he gazed behind me at the something. He cursed softly to himself and I strained to get a look at his face, but it was hidden in the shadows of his cowl. He glanced briefly in my direction and then turned around again. Our pace increased, and I dropped back down feeling elated. If my dragger didn’t like the smudge, it must mean they disagreed as to the nature of my captivity. Of course, the new form on the horizon might also be crueler than my original captor but at that point, I couldn’t see things getting much worse.
As the smudge grew closer. I began to make it out. It looked like a man wearing a plain looking beige robe. I heard the demon (that’s what I figure he was) behind me snarl and as he did I felt a change, we were suddenly going up a slope. The man was drawing steadily closer, and I realized that he was running, right for us and as the distance between us closed I could feel his gaze fixed upon me with an intensity I couldn’t bear. This man was running at me as if his life depended on it, although I’m sure it was mine that really did, and despite my hope at salvation, my gaze shied away from his. I looked back up and my breath caught. It was my Father.
What was he doing here? How had we both ended up in this hellish dessert, and why was he wearing a robe? I saw his gaze slip past me and anguish tore at his features as he redoubled his pace. I started to struggle against my captor with what little strength I had to bear, and he snarled again and cuffed my head, rendering me senseless for a few moments. My father got closer and shouted to me
He said that one word in a fearful and pain filled voice. I had never heard him say it like that before. In life, my father had been distant, a cold sort of man who shunned most emotions, calling them useless. He was a businessman and emotions couldn’t make money, so he discarded them. Never had I seen him show his feelings, let alone fear… for me.
To put it mildly, I was stunned, shocked, and almost appalled. Did I want this man’s love after a lifetime of distance? Part of me would like to say that I didn’t need him and never had, but the truth is, I had never needed him more. Perhaps, I realized, I was the distant one and, his eyes had always held the warmth and concern I saw in them now, maybe I forced him out of my life because I didn’t think I deserved to be loved. Maybe not. Either way I couldn’t respond, my mouth wasn’t listening to me. “Not my son” he shouted at the demon, “NOT MY SON”.
The demon put on a sharp burst of speed and started laughing his cold chuckle. It seems we had reached my destination. Straining with everything I had, I looked past my enslaver and realization dawned upon me. Up ahead was the edge of a cliff on which stood a gateway. It was made out of iron that was glowing red with infused heat. I shuddered, these were the gates of hell, where else could we be?
That’s when I woke up. Anticlimactic right? I was covered in sweat and shivering in the dark, grateful that it had all been some hellishly demented dream. But despite all that, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed at not knowing how things would have finished between me, the gates of hell, my father and a demon.
By: Alec Gloanec