** ** ** ** **
My husband and I were in the market for a new car. We were discussing the needs we had over a meal at a local restaurant -- I couldn't tell what kind of place it was in my dream, but it seemed like a family-owned joint, just skirting the boundary between "legitimate eating place" and "sketchy dive." As we were talking, someone at a nearby table leaned over and mentioned that they had overheard us, and were looking to sell their used Nissan Altima. (Is that even a real make and model combination?) It was dark blue with faded sunspots in the paint over the hood, but it ran well and that's all we cared about. Somehow, a deal was reached, and we signed paperwork to pay them some amount down and some amount over the next two months. I think it was something like $2,000 now, $2,000 later, though it's not important in the dream. The point was that we'd signed paperwork, including a bunch of our personal information on it.
Later that night, I drove the "new" car to a small local mall to do some shopping. It must have been late, because the stores were about to close. I remember thinking in the dream that I needed to get home because boy might wake up soon and need me -- I was even pregnant in the dream. I parked the car and went into the mall to shop, stopping at several stores to look for womens' clothing, maybe maternity gear. I can remember that I smelled that department store smell -- that I touched and flipped through clothes on racks -- that I walked past a small concert near the food court where a local band was playing. They sounded vaguely bluegrass-y. As the stores were announcing closing times on their intercoms, the people around me were starting to buzz with excitement. One of the larger stores in the mall was on fire, and people were making their way with haste to the exits, as smoke was beginning to fill the stores, and water was seeping down through the walls from either broken pipes or firefighters' efforts outside. (Why there was no general alarm and evacuation is beyond me -- but the mall was definitely going downhill, and I assumed that the systems weren't working properly.) I was forced to exit the mall through a different set of doors than I'd come in, and in the relative dark of the parking lot, I was disoriented and couldn't remember where I'd parked the car, which was in any case relatively unrecognizable to me, since it was so new a purchase itself. A nice older man, about 50 or 60, offered to walk with me through the parking lot until I found it, and we strolled together, staying near the mall building itself, staying in the lights as much as possible, passing the JC Penney on fire several times as I searched.
As we walked, we talked. I remember that he had come to the mall that night specifically to see the local band, one he had been a fan of for decades. His t-shirt even proclaimed their name and logo -- something about "Monkeys" but I can't recall their actual name now. He was dressed in that t-shirt, knee-length walking shorts and the kind of moccasin shoes that older men wear with shorts -- the ones they SHOULD wear with long pants. He was so kind, and we finally came across the car in a distant corner of the lot, under a tree. I didn't remember parking there, but as we approached it, the headlights flashed as if I had pushed a button for remote entry on a key fob. I looked around, confused, since I wasn't holding a key fob, and saw one of the men from the restaurant where we'd originally met the car sellers. He smiled, waved, and started to walk off. Something about the whole scenario started to feel very, very wrong, so instead of getting into the car, I started to back away, saying "No" very loudly in the hopes of drawing attention. As the older man and the "restaurant" man (a blond, fit guy who might have had a Swedish accent -- this sounds so stupid when I recount it but was so effing REAL in my head) started toward me, and my suspicions were confirmed. I switched to screaming to attract more attention, and backed away even faster, not taking my eyes off the two men in front of me.
I'd succeeded in getting quite a few people around me when I stumbled over a median in the parking lot, and sat down hard. The group of onlookers were roughly divided into a small, disorganized crowd at my back and a larger crowd of men in front of me, and I suddenly realized that the guys in front of me were all in on whatever mess was going on. As I sat there in the parking lot, it occurred to me that my husband didn't know I was in trouble, and I had no way of contacting him (I had rushed out of the house on this "quick" errand and was uncharacteristically without my phone). The people behind me felt threatened by the size of the group of men in front of me, and started to break up. As if that wasn't bad enough, the older guy -- my walking companion -- mentioned something about dogs, and then released, one by one, a group of a dozen or so German shepherd-type dogs to rush me where I sat. I got my feet under me, somehow clutching a pillow that had appeared out of nowhere in the manner of dreams, and started to back slowly away. Remembering some article I'd read about eye contact being threatening or challenging to an angered dog, I dropped my eyes to the ground in front of them as I backed away, simultaneously wrapping the pillow around my right forearm so that if one of them rushed me, I could use it to block his powerful jaws and maybe gain some time to fight. I managed to back all the way up to the mall building again, so at least I had the building at my back, and I'd closed off that avenue of attack from the dogs, who were miraculously responding well to my no-eye-contact strategy.
As I reached the building and the dogs went from snarling to simple roaming around and even sitting down, the older man gave a growl of frustration himself. He said, quite clearly, "Well, there aren't just dogs here -- the thing is, you never know what any of us will do." And he indicated the gang of men behind him. As one of them moseyed up to one of the few innocent bystanders who remained, and then viciously kicked him in the stomach, I realized several things at once:
- He was right. I had no idea of what those men were capable.
- I was likely to respond much more to their liking if they attacked and tormented young, innocent bystanders than myself, and they knew it. My earlier shows of bravado and resistance would quickly become exposed for the hollow farces they were.
- My husband really had no clue where I was, specifically, and I still had no hope of contacting him.
- I had no idea what they wanted from me besides vague realizations of money, since I'd heard them say something about knowing where we lived due to the paperwork we'd filled out. I likewise had no idea what behavior they wanted me to display in the moment, but it wasn't the resistance I'd been showing, apparently.
** ** ** ** **
It's been over half an hour now since I woke up, and I've used all the tools at my disposal to dispel the dream's hold on me. I've poured out the tale in disjointed fashion to my very groggy but sympathetic husband, sobbed uncontrollably, gotten out of bed to break the cycle of crying and reliving the dream, gotten a glass of water and gone to the bathroom (never a bad idea when you wake up in the middle of the night, anyway, especially if you're pregnant). I've done everything I can to think of ways to diffuse the terror of it, and although I KNOW it sounds ludicrous when I type it all out, I don't think I'll ever forget the feel of that gravel in the parking lot under my jeans as I sat there, or the shade of darkness of that mall parking lot, in that sketchy neighborhood with so many of its lights burned out or broken. There were just so many details, ones that made it seem as if it was really happening, ones that STILL make me feel like, if I go back to sleep, I'll be there again in the dark night with a pillow wrapped around my arm, cold bricks at my back, and knowing that this, THIS, could go on for hours and hours.
If I go back to sleep and I end up right there in that hell again, you can count on another post tonight.
Wish me luck.