Dreams can be devastating things. Though the events in our dreams may be mere figments, not even remotely realistic when considered with conscious reason, the emotions we feel in the dream world can be just as powerful as those we experience in the real world. I've had dreams where I've lived out what felt like lifetimes, and, much like Jean-Luc Picard at the end of "The Inner Light," I would find myself a changed man upon returning to the waking world, rudely forced to adapt to reality again. Last night's dream was not quite so profound a case, but it will likely stay with me for a few days.
In the dream, I was watching TV, when a breaking news story reported that Gwyneth Paltrow's five-year-old son was holding her at gunpoint on the thirtieth floor of a nearby skyscraper.
I immediately rushed to the scene and found it surrounded by police. I asked the officer in charge what the situation was.
The Academy Award-winning actress was tied up to a chair. Her son, armed with a shotgun, had already executed six people, including his own father. He had made no demands and seemed unresponsive to reason. Snipers had the boy in their sights, but the commander was unwilling to pull the trigger. The old soldier, looking like hell, wanted to storm the building and take the child alive, but he clearly recognized that the odds of success were slim. Whatever the plan, I knew that something had to be done soon, because Ms. Paltrow's chances of making it out alive were dropping with every passing second.
"I know her," I informed the sergeant. "You've got to let me try."
He silently agonized over the options, before suddenly exhaling and giving me the go-ahead: "Go get 'em, tiger!"
I raced up the stairs as quickly as I could. I reached the thirtieth floor, took a deep breath, and opened the door to their room.
Too late. She was gone.
The boy, cradling the still smoking gun, turned to look at me, but offered no other reaction, his face dull and expressionless as a dimwitted newborn.
"You son of a bitch!" I cursed, completely oblivious to the impropriety of my words.
I advanced on the motionless child. I kicked him hard in the chest, and he dropped instantly without any resistance. It was so easy. I lifted him off the ground and hurled him at the window, which his tiny body tore through effortlessly.
The world was unrecognizable. Incomprehensible. I was done. Melting into the nearest chair, I waited for whatever would come next.
Moments later, a dozen officers rushed into the room, armed and ready for action. Upon seeing me, it was their turn to soak in the enormity of what had transpired.
The sergeant had his men escort me into the back of one of their cars. "They're going to take good care of you," he said. I neither knew nor cared where they were taking me.
We drove for hours before stopping at the edge of a forest.
"Run," the driver told me. "Go on. There's nothing else I can do for you."
And so I ran, even though I had nothing to run for.
After an indeterminate period of wandering through the forest, the dream ended. I woke up, went through the usual morning ritual, and drove to work. But, for the entire rest of the day, I was extremely anxious for any confirmation that Gwyneth Paltrow was alive and well.