The other night I dreamed about the end of the world.
The dream started off in a state of confused urgency. My mother was still alive and I was checking on her at the old house where I grew up. She was in the advanced stages of pulmonary disease, just as I remember her from a year or so before her death. For some reason, my sister had entrusted her with the care of a number of Rottweilers. Good dogs except for one that seemed to be edging on a bad turn, snapping and snarling at the other dogs. He had a glassy vacant look in his eyes, perhaps like people have before a psychotic episode. Or so I imagined in the dream. Mom was complaining that the dogs were a great burden to her, and she explained how she was increasingly afraid of the one. There had been some close calls. I was very distressed over the situation and I promised that I would confront my sister and have the dogs removed from her care at once. Mom discouraged me in a passive way, saying there would be too much paperwork. As I assisted her with her nebulizer, I assured her repeatedly that it wasn't a problem, that I would take care of it.
Jump-cut to a resort location. A capacious hotel atrium, no idea where. My wife was with me and there was the vague understanding that our presence, wherever we were, was related to mom's Rottweiler situation. I worried that I was letting my mother down. I worried that too much time had passed, and that she was in grave danger, or worse. I tried to collect my thoughts, to focus on whatever it was that needed doing. Perhaps it was the paperwork. Was there a government office nearby? Had I even spoken with my sister? In frustration, I tried to recall.
Suddenly there was a commotion and everyone began filing out into the common area outside the hotel entrance. My wife and I proceeded with the others and, also with the others, we turned our eyes upward. Across the entire horizon, there was something that appeared as a vast black letterbox cast stark against the clear daylit sky. It was pulsating and growing and in an instant the sharp white static image of what resembled a giant octopus appeared in the frame. The thing was spiraling and undulating and it was awesomely bright against the pitch black space of the obelisk, or whatever, in which it was contained. Panic overcame the crowd. People began running in all directions. I locked my position and firmly grasped my wife's arm. She turned to me and I said to her, "This is it. This is how it ends. I love you. These people are wasting their time. Let's just brace ourselves."
Amid the chaos, we held to one another. And waited. Within moments, darkness enveloped the day and there was an unfamiliar chill as the Octopus-thing spread across the firmament. I thought about how unlike a shadow it was, and I noted that the specter was soundless, which was eerie but seemed to make sense. In a kind of mental reflex, I concocted a theory — of which I felt certain — that our universe was in a state of collision with another dimension. I thought about Schopenhauer's Will, and I tried to remember if I had read ever anything about this. A weird sense terror gave way to calm tinged with terror and I felt a pang of quotidian disappointment over the fact that I would never know what caused this to happen. I would never know if my theory was correct. I thought about my mother and the dogs and I hoped it would happen quickly for her. For everyone, everywhere.
A couple of nights a week, I wake up screaming. This has been happening for as long as I can remember. When I lived alone, I would be stirred awake by the sound of my own voice. Nowadays, my wife usually wakes me from the terrors. "Chip! Chip! You're screaming again!" she'll say, and her voice will summon me from the throes of some dark rushing epiphany that is usually forgotten in an instant. On the nights when she can't get back to sleep, she'll lug her pillow to the other room and watch television. I can sleep under the white noise of a fan, but she needs to be lulled by the glass teet. Usually a Monk episode on DVD.