I have a strange association with dreams.
Since my childhood, I have had dreams that are horrific, and keep returning to me like somebody’s cruel idea of a recurring deposit. When I read my diaries dating back to 1997, one common feature I find in them is warped dreams that blur the line between wet dreams and nightmares.
Most of my dreams play out like Vikram Bhatt movies. They begin with a lot of sex and action, and slowly descend into chaos and terror. Like the protagonists of Bhatt’s movies, I can’t get out of the situation because I had invested myself emotionally, mentally, and physically in the first half. Unfortunately, dreams do not have intermissions where you can take your Coke and get the fuck out of the hall!
The other thing about my dreams is that I die in them, and then continue to see things like a ghost. Like an online multiplayer shooter game where once you’re dead, you can still see what’s going on with the rest of the game. Sometimes, when the danger is too much, I am able to shake myself off and wake up in the middle. But there are a few dreams I can’t wake up from, ones I like to call ‘unshakable dreams’.
In the last few years, I have two consistent unshakable dreams.
NIGHTMARE NO.1 : I meet an ex of mine, one to whom I’d proudly said ‘You’ll never get a guy like me’ in a moment of madness; one who’s probably the greatest woman I’ll ever be with. She meets me when I am 50 years old. She hasn’t aged a day, still looking heart-stoppingly beautiful, her eyes carrying the spark that took my breath away years ago.
I, on the other hand, have become a fat, sad, unpublished author, sitting amidst flying papers and old beer cans, tears of shame and regret flowing down my face. I try to explain, to talk to her – but mangled gibberish comes out of my mouth. She looks into my eyes, waiting for a response, and then walks out of the room. I struggle to get up, call out her name, and wake up in a sweat.
NIGHTMARE NO.2 : I am standing in front of a Roman Colosseum, dilapidated and destroyed. It must have once been beautiful, but its jagged edges now look like the skeleton of a dinosaur. In the middle of the Colosseum, there’s black water hissing and raging.
There are countless men standing on the edge of the structure, and there isn’t enough space. People are jostling, and pushing, and shoving – and I see them fall into the black waters, dissolving into nothingness, their screams of agony echoing through the building like a gigantic migraine.
Outside the building, there are masked men dressed in black, hacking away at everybody in sight. There are two options – get hacked to death, or jump to your death. Either way, all that remains of you is a haunting echo of pain.
I don’t know if it’s the dreams, but I’ve become a little paranoid these days.
Every time I visit a crowded place, I make sure to stay near the exit doors. If it’s a mall, I am calculating my moves in case there’s an attack. While booking flight tickets, I choose the ones near the Emergency exit; same with movie tickets too!
Last night, I had another of these nightmares.
I was at my school, nearly everybody I know chasing each other in the dormitory that seemed to have magically expanded to fit everybody. Everything’s hunky dory, when I notice a young girl – about 5 years of age – her blond curly hair making her look like Shirley Temple. She is running among the crowd when, suddenly, she opens a window, ties a rope around her waist and fastens it to the window bar, and leaps out.
Nobody but me notices this, and panic begins to flow through my veins. All around me, people are laughing and chasing each other, but I know something rotten is looming ahead.
I run to the bathrooms, look for a ventilator and plan my escape route. I’ll have to climb up the bathroom wall, and make a Bahubalean leap to the ventilator, and then climb out.
I stand near the bathroom, wondering if it is all a dream. Why didn’t anybody else see the girl? Why does everybody else seem happily oblivious?? And then, I hear it.
Screams of agony, crashing in like waves. Everybody I know, running away from the doors, as masked men in black spray bullets into flesh. I see the faces – friends, relatives, teachers, kind strangers who lent me cigarettes years ago – running in my direction, their faces full of horror.
Without a thought, I leap on top of the bathroom door, take in a deep breath and jump towards the ventilator. The pane shatters, and I feel the pain in my flesh. I quickly grab the ladder, balance myself on it, and climb down as quickly as my shaky legs permit me to. Just as I land, the bamboo ladder wilts, and cracks.
I look up, and there are people screaming out to me. Their eyes bloodshot, their faces convulsing with terror and hatred. More and more people line up at the window, till they are only a bloody mash of flesh and blood.
Instead of arranging for a ladder, I run away.
I woke up sweating, and looked for my phone.
There was a missed call from a friend I’m supposed to meet. We were to meet at Inorbit Mall, but fuck that!
I call him and suggest we meet at a bar nearby. Any bar, doesn’t matter. But not a mall.