For as long as I can remember I’ve had the running dreams. As far back as childhood I can recall so clearly the sense of urgency and panic that dominated my dream world. They changed throughout the years, of course, in content and imagery but the context always remained the same. Overwhelming fear welling up inside of me forcing me to take flight. Never did I stop to think and fight. The terror too great, my only instinct to run and hide.
The earliest running dream I can think of was about dinosaurs. Enormous dinosaurs loose in the neighborhood causing mass destruction under their gargantuan feet. Thinking back I can’t say I ever saw them rip a person apart, but even the mere thought that they could sent such a shock through my body that all I could seem to manage to do was cower under a table until it was over. Somewhere my little self could shimmy into and seek comfort in the darkness; the solidarity. Away from anything scary trying to get me for reasons I never understood. Or tried to comprehend. I just ran. Every time.
As I got older and my thoughts grew darker and jaded, the dinosaurs morphed into wild animals. Tigers roamed the streets hungry for my flesh I was sure of it. I never once questioned my paranoia. Never stopped to check if they were even chasing me. I kept my eyes peeled ahead dead set on a destination of safety. The animals quickly shifted to demonic forms after trauma rocked my psyche in the waking world. Those are what I refer to as my running nightmares plagued by the devil himself.
The more I lost a grip on reality and how to cope, the sicker my alternate universe became. The more warped and violent my pursuers became. The being after me wasn’t always easily identifiable. Sometimes it was just a feeling; the sensation of impending doom pushing me forward. I didn’t stop just because I couldn’t see what was behind me. I didn’t want to stick around to find out.
Eventually I got tired of being completely helpless. Making strides with confidence in the real world started to seep into my subconscious. I began fighting back but only with the purpose of getting away. I’d fight until I could hold the enemy back long enough to run and hide again. And so the cycle continued night in and night out.
Until last night. Last night was weird because it was so vastly different than what I’m used to. I was running again as I usually do, but this time the dream wouldn’t let me. Something was actively fighting against the act of hiding. I was in a building scrambling to close the many open doors to the apartment. My godson was there and someone else I can’t recall...they were trying to convince me not to. Not so directly, but they had an air of nonchalance about them that only intensified my panic.
I ignored their disconcern and ran around frantically closing the doors but every time I turned around they kept unlocking or opening. I went to slam the front door shut again but suddenly it was half a door and I could only close the bottom leaving the top open and vulnerable. I peered out into the hallway terrified. I never look at what’s after me. I see the culprit of my dread. A zombie man of sorts. I can tell he’s not human by the blank stare on his face and his incomprehensible grunts.
I ducked back into the apartment and yelled “we have to go”! I usually run out a window or go deeper into the room I’m already hiding in to find another door. Another way out. And no matter who I’m with I always end up alone. But this time my little angel followed me. No, guided me rather outside the half door in front of zombie man and to a nearby elevator. The kid was so calm. Pressing buttons like he knew what he was doing. And I believed that he did. I trusted him. And as I realized this I stared at him surprised that this dream was going so differently. And in having the thought that it was a dream I woke up.
Something is happening. A shift in my mind, body, and soul that has never happened before. I know it because for the first time in my entire life I stopped running. I wasn’t alone and the fear subsided before I was awake. I pray that next time I’ll have the courage to stay and finally face the energy behind me. And that maybe, just maybe, it's as tired of chasing me as I am tired of running from it.