by Asia Fontanarosa (they/them)
Everyone was having those dreams. Well, they were clearly nightmares but nobody wanted to address them with such a negative noun.
The sun would rise every day in the sky, creep with its jubilant yellow hands into the room of every inhabitant of this planet like a happy little kid waking his dad up on Christmas day. It was a new day, and you were ready for it. Morning coffee, a kiss to the person you love, a nice walk, going to work (to an actual nice working place!), greeting your colleagues, having a chat with them over the breaks, saying ‘see ya tomorrow bud!’ after your shift is over, going back home – the comfortable smell of your life, books, candles, loved ones, favourite food — relaxing in the tub with your hand picked playlist that you carefully chose for … I don’t know, maybe fifteen minutes? These things that make you enter the bed sheets feeling satisfied. This was everyday life, and it was great.
I say ‘was’ because everyone was having those dreams! It happens, you know? It happens that sometimes you eat too much, you mull over some little things before going to sleep and when you fall into that scarily unexplored pit that is your mind … you just … you know, you just have weird dreams. Your anxieties just settle on the surface of your subconscious. You wake up and they make you feel weird. It happens. It happened. But why now? Why was everyone having them? And why every night? They used to come sporadically, but now they were always there, you were scared to fall asleep. There was no peace at night, and it was starting to affect everyday life. They would not be staying safely tucked into the corner of your unconscious mind for you to then wake up, rise and shine with the brightness of a new day and hope that those dreams would vanish away under the sun like a lamp dissipating the shadows of the darkest corner. It did not work like that. People started to get fidgety.
Plates would slip from the hands of waiters at work. People would get quieter, thinking too much probably. They would get ruder and angry more often, probably trying to shut down those same thoughts. It was no ‘see ya tomorrow bud!’ anymore, no kisses, no relaxing time. What was there… in the corner of the room that kept watching and nagging you? Didn’t you know the inside of your house? Why are you now scared of being alone? People began to question where they were coming from.
They always started in a city, in the countryside, in a house. There you would find what you could assume were your friends, family, lovers. Sometimes you were alone, and that was worse. If you had a dog, it would probably die. If you had people you loved, things you cared for, dreams and passions, it was no land for them. Everything died, everything would wither away. Nothing can grow on dead soil, they were not supposed to be there. They would be taken care of – one way or another. Nothing can grow on dead soil. You neither, some people saw themselves die and dreamt about it every night. Every day it passed, it got more real, more vivid and clear, but still confusing. Who are you?
Those dreams were starting to have a sense, a logic of their own, a whole world was shaping in the minds of all the people around the globe and it was the same for each one of them. You could have been a child, an infant, an adult, an elder, a female, a male, white, black, Asiatic, Hispanic, Muslim, Christian, atheist, Mormon, you could have enjoyed almonds, drank soy milk, eat steak, eat vegetables only, like punk music, rock, pop, indie, not liked anything at all, not listened to anything at all – not read anything at all or read every genre ever created – and still the world was the same in the mind of all the people. It really was a death land, and one thing death is good at is being fair. Everyone truly is the same in the face of death.
The television… the government started to talk about those dreams. It was then that people felt that it was officially time to allow themselves to panic. The American president loudly tried to placate the spreading hysteria in the country by encouraging the population to ‘keep calm’ and ‘be strong in these trying times’, like a child naively tries to put out a burning house with a spoonful of wet earth. The British parliament, indecisive, was attempting to give off an image of confidence and knowledge, assuring the citizens of how its government was making progress on the revelation of those dreams’ true meaning. Its citizens believed it, even though they knew that at night an overcoming sense of doubt would arise. What could they do if the government that was supposed to protect them was going to collapse? Breaking underneath the strain of unresolved questions bigger than all of humanity. The European states were meeting often, talking a lot, and never really coming to the end of the matter. But at least, most of the time they had good intentions. If those good intentions were ever able to be put into action… I’m not quite sure, but the Europeans have always had a notorious image for being the good guys in history, while also being the reason for why such problems or enemies came to be in the first place. The Japanese and South Korean presidents were really worried and in private feared what this could mean and, most importantly, what this could incite in the nearby countries that had already an unstable political attitude without counting the horrifying dreams tormenting them. And what did all the other smaller nations and almost always invisible countries around the world do? What about its people? Scared and confused they looked to the bigger nations for a potential answer. They were scared that if they did not do anything something bad was going to happen to their people, and even if they wanted to do something… nobody would let them or even give them the power to. Everyone waited. And with patience everyone was losing their minds.
People tried to find ways into this world, to explore it, to understand its history. What had happened? Are those dreams somehow related to our world? Are they a parallel one? Is all of this happening right now? Will it happen to us? When you read a history book and see all the battles and the wars, you treat those events like they are… something of the past, it is different from reality. Well, close to the actual reality of the world… but still different from the one that we know, right? It’s not us anymore, it was someone else who did it, someone who died a long time ago. We are different people now. We treat those individuals of human history as strangers, they are not us, we got better, we cured ourselves of whatever was wrong with us. We learned the meaning of peace, of understanding, of communication, compassion, love. We are more aware. We really did grow as a society! But those societies back then were too, and at some point, their growth stopped. Only from there on, from the destruction of every belief were they able to truly move on again and improve. All those societies had a breaking point: a moment in which all the flaws that had been simmering silently in the foundations of those known structures came to light, destroying everything. And with destruction nothing and no one can hide. It’s all in plain sight, for everyone to be ashamed of.
That world in our dreams died. Someone or something killed it, it was an apocalyptic vision. Everyone was screaming and crying, raging and hammering their heads. Everyone was confused. But it was not in the dreams that you could hear those laments. It was starting to come from the real world. You could not sleep anymore, not more than you could do before at least. In a way you were glad for the painful screams of your neighbours ripping the lonely moon in half and killing the stars one by one. This meant that you would not be able to fall asleep and enter that strange realm of treachery, evil queens and monsters, the screams around you would grip you too strongly into reality. But reality was getting worse, and people were really starting to try and find an escape from it all. Dreams are supposed to not be real; they are called dreams for a reason. They stop being dreams when they get real, and this time, dreams, while still being dreams, had turned the real world into a literal living nightmare. People got crazier. What was the meaning of it all? Everyone asked themselves. What was the purpose of their life? Everyone was dying. What were we supposed to do? Are we doing the right thing?
One day, after so long that I had not slept, I went to splash some fresh water on my face. The screaming people outside had placed themselves in the background of my mind now, like an old ticking clock that you have on a shelf in the living room but had long forgotten was there. Now it was your own screams that were helping you to stay up at night. I looked myself in the mirror and the dreams were real, the nightmares were here, and I was angry.
“THIS IS NOT ME! THIS IS NOT RIGHT! THIS IS NOT MY LIFE!”
I was angry.
“I DID NOTHING! IT IS NOT MY FAULT! IT IS NOT ME! THIS IS NOT ME!”
I was crying.
“This is not right… I did nothing… this is not my life; this is not me. It is not me.”
I banged on the mirror.
It was not me, this was not my life.
“Who did this to me? It is not right, I can’t … I can’t…”
I can’t take responsibility for the mistakes of others. This is not right.
I did it myself. I lived my life through the decisions of others until they were helping me, until it was in my favour. I lived in this world, made by other people, accepted their offers, built my life on their decisions, based my future and my hobbies, shaped my routine, shaped my days on all of this. I know it’s not my fault, I know I did not decide it to be like this, but I did nothing to change it. I did nothing and I did everything. Everyone did.
“Who are you?”
I had created this world, everyone helped.
It has been so long since I slept and I’m writing because I can’t sleep. And I am writing because I don’t want to get out of my head. I don’t want to look up. I don’t want to live here but I don’t want to die. I’m writing because I’m scared to feel the hunger in my stomach, to feel the thirst in my throat. I’m writing because I’m scared to feel myself die. I’m writing because I’m scared to realise how lonely I am. I’m scared that I will try to go outside and look for people and once I will meet them, I will see myself in them and them in me and I will cry because I don’t want to lose hope and I know that if I look in the eyes of another soul like mine I will. I’m writing and I’ll keep writing until I die.
I have created this world. Everyone helped.