I was talking to a man, an actor, with whom I was very familiar. We were backstage during a large production of something. Everything was strange. We were forced to be there, forced to perform. We were being “kept” by someone. I was in love with the man, I think.
The set was an enormous, gnarled tree made of wood. (As in, not a regular tree, but a tree constructed for this production.) The center of the tree was hollow at the base, one door on each side of the trunk and an open “window” about thirty feet up.
This particular show, something was off. It was the last performance, but not because we were closing. Something was happening. I kissed the man who I was talking to, intensely. He pulled away and said, “If we make it through this…” and I knew he meant to say, “If we both live through this, let’s leave together.”
Then I was hiding in the base of the tree. There were two other friends, actors, in the story now — one who escaped (the one who could fly) and one who was with me, hiding. I could also fly, but couldn’t leave my friend. Couldn’t lift them to fly away, either.
We heard him approach. He was laughing. So were his buddies. He was the man who was keeping us there, at that production. He owned everything. They were all laughing, and soon their laughs were cut between tugs on a chainsaw. We were about to die — they had us surrounded at each door, and he teased us by sticking the chainsaw inside, forcing us closer to the wall until we were pressed against it. He tortured us for what seemed to be an hour. Taunting. All the men would stick their hands in the doorway, touching us all over. They would laugh and we’d hear the chainsaw, and screaming from outside. We became so tired. I couldn’t cry anymore. I felt sick, like a scared animal — the wrong kind of chemicals running through my veins. I wanted it to be over, and it was about to be. He forced us into a corner, and I held my breath and wondered what that type of pain would feel like. I remember wondering about death, and the strange thought of, “Does it feel like waking up?”
Our friend who escaped suddenly flew in the window above, and without hesitating, my two friends pushed me up to the window, where I flew away. I didn’t look back, but felt my heart stop as I heard the chainsaw make contact with one of my friends.
I remember floating through the air, which is what my dream-flying feels like, so effortless, simple — more about balance of weight than anything else. I didn’t know where to go, what to do. I was shaking, terrified. Broken. I had escaped something I shouldn’t have, and I knew he would be after me.
Outside the large theatre/the space where I had been, everything was normal. I looked below me as I flew and saw houses, people, the city. We hadn’t been allowed to dress normally where I had come from. People below looked so jarringly different with their clothing styles, their modernness.
There was one friend I had known before I went to that place, who happens to be someone from my real life. I went to her apartment, flew to her doorstep, and knocked.
I remember she was shocked to see me. I was dirty, pale, no shoes, and in shock. She brought me in and I fainted. I woke up on a couch in a back room to see that she had changed my clothes. There were sounds around me that indicated a lot of people were in her apartment. She was having a party.
I walked tentatively into the party, knowing it was better if I didn’t show my face. The man would be looking for me, and I didn’t know where he thought I might stay. But the party was full of people I knew before I left. My old boss was there, too. We spoke and I remember feeling so removed from him, that old life. He was chubby and was getting married to someone he didn’t love. I pitied him.
And then I got drunk. There was nothing I could do except drink. I felt as if trauma had come to reside in my entire body — nothing felt normal, nothing felt safe. I had been sliced into pieces and scattered everywhere. So I drank and I danced, and people watched me — the girl with the long hair, drinking and twirling.
I woke up the next morning in shambles. My friend was beside me, and I asked her, “What do I do? I can’t stay here. He’ll find me.” I didn’t explain anything to her, didn’t tell her anything that had happened, just that the man in charge was after me. She suggested an organization she knew, one that gave women a new life after abuse. I told her that’s not what had happened to me and that wasn’t what I needed. I needed a disguise, a new name, and a way out of here. She told me to check it out anyway. See if it could give me anything.
I showed up to the organization’s building, but they were closed. I took a pamphlet from outside; they were having an “open house” the next day, to bring in new women. I looked around outside and saw lots of women my age, sitting around, talking, having meetings, organizing. But then I looked to my left and saw a gigantic oak tree. It was horrible, I thought. It’s so ugly. And then I began to shake. I was suddenly hot, and couldn’t swallow. My ribs tightened up and my hands twitched. I turned away and went back to my friend’s home.
I must have sat inside for days. I was too terrified to go outside, and though my friend encouraged me to go to the open house, I skipped it. They couldn’t give me what I was looking for, which was a way out of there.
One day I had to get air, and I went on a walk that led me over to the building again. It was nearing night and things were beginning to get dark. There was a group of women in the distance from the organization, sitting on benches and talking. I walked nearer to the tree, felt myself go flush again, and turned away. Suddenly, a man grabbed my wrist, tugged at my backpack, trying to mug me. He twirled me around to face the tree and I could only look up into the branches and feel the weight of the mugger tugging at my body. I screamed. I collapsed into a seated position and screamed, staring up at the branches, watching them become blurry as I continued to fall, screaming, “Don’t hurt me please don’t hurt me please.” The mugger must have become confused, because he paused, told me to shut up and give him my bag, but I barely heard him. I just kept screaming, crying, unraveling, collapsing.
Things were blurry, but there were suddenly people around me — the women from the organization. I continued to scream. One woman took charge, though I couldn’t see her face. She began to talk to me, tried to ask me questions, make me calm down. I put my hands up by my ears and wailed. The next thing I knew she had taken a syringe out of her bag. I saw it in front of my face and then felt it go into my arm. I heard my screaming stop, and then saw nothing.
The next bit was a particularly impressive bit of my dream-mind.
People were carrying me, but I saw nothing. I was dreaming and all I could do was feel. I felt my body as dead weight, I felt someone on each side of me, my feet dragging between them. But I saw nothing. There was a moment of rest, and then a voice close to my face whose words I couldn’t make out. And then I was gone.
I woke up feeling drugged, appropriately. I was back at my friend’s house, but she wasn’t there. Inside my pocket was a card that said, “Join us at lunch today. It starts at 11am.” It was signed by the woman in charge of the organization, the one who had been helping me. I checked the time. It was 2pm. I had missed it.
I got myself to my feet and turned around to see my mother walking in the door. I was stunned. I hadn’t seen her in years. Furthermore, I was furious. She couldn’t be there. She was the first place the man would look for me. She couldn’t be there at all! She hugged me and asked what was going on. I told her, “Nothing. But you can’t be here. It isn’t safe.” She blew me off and asked, “What’s happening with the trees?” I didn’t know what she meant. “The trees,” she said. “They told me that strange things have been happening to you when you are near large trees. What’s happening?” I told her I had been mugged, that’s all. She said, “No one mugged you. You started screaming, and you were staring up at the tree.”
(At this point in my dream, I had woken up many times and forced myself to go back to sleep. (Do you ever do that? Force yourself back to sleep to continue the dream, because you’re having too much fun or are too curious?) So the next part was the most disconnected of the segments, but perhaps my favorite — however difficult it’s going to be to describe.)
My mother and I were standing there, and a man suddenly appeared. It wasn’t the man I was afraid of, so I wasn’t alarmed by his abrupt arrival. His face was scarred and almost mask-looking, and he wore a hooded cloak. I stared at him and then he disappeared as quickly as he had arrived. But then he reappeared to my left. I waited for my mother, who was closest to him, to react. But she didn’t. It was clear that she couldn’t see him. I turned away to go into the next room, away from my mother, and the man appeared, a third time.
"What do you want?" I asked him, aggressively. He knew my name, and he was clearly trying to get me to go with him.
This is where it gets a little Inception-y.
He was trying to get me to go further inside the dream with him. We didn’t go to a “location,” so to speak. He wanted me to think deeper than I was at the moment. I resisted, and he kept popping back until I became angry. Finally I did.
There were about five of them. The man with the cloak, a woman with her hair pulled back and jewels on her face. Another man whose face I can’t recall, and others. They were creating things inside the dream. Houses, objects, and… what I can only describe as conversations. I can’t explain it past that. They were bending the reality around us with their minds.
I want to make this short. It feels like the most intimate part of the whole thing. The man in the cloak wanted me to join them. I told him I couldn’t. He kept attempting to get me to create things, change the reality around us. I refused. He prodded and prodded until I became angry again, and replied by yelling… well, I yelled at him. I yelled that I did, yes, have control of my own mind in a beautiful way, (they kept using the word beautiful, I think) and I DID understand what he was trying to make me do, but I wouldn’t do it.
The man gave me a look more powerful than most I’ve had in real life.
Shortly after, the woman created a house — one that she, apparently — made every night. She parted from the group, walked inside. Said goodnight.
And shortly after that, it all drifted away. And I woke up.