Sunday, April 23, 2006


The first time I tried to quit smoking I used nicotine patches. My doctor told me that if I wore the patches while sleeping I might have some very vivid dreams. He was right. He said the dreams were the brain’s way of processing the extra stimulus it was getting from the nicotine, something it’s not used to during sleep. “The dreams can get pretty intense…” he said. “And some people prefer just not to wear them. It’s not for everybody.” This is part of a dream I had the first night I wore the patch. It was as vivid and real as any dream I’ve had before or since.

It began with a group of soldiers in a barracks at night. Five or six were holding one who was struggling to get free while another, presumably the leader, screamed “Get him! Hold Him! Don’t let him get away!” Apart from that there was no determination of rank: everyone was dressed only in T-Shirts and BVDs. The walls were white with nothing on them and everything was lit by bright overhead fluorescents.

Although the soldier screaming seemed deadly earnest, there was a hint of playfulness in his voice: It was obvious that the soldier being held wasn’t going to get away. “Put him there… on the bunk. That’s it… that’s it.” The other soldiers pulled him down onto a bunk where he struggled a bit more and then went limp, either out of hopelessness or possibly to regain strength for one last effort to break free.

From there my point of view changed from outside observer to one of the soldiers holding him down. There was nothing in the mindset of the dream to indicate what the soldier’s crime had been, if the person shouting actually outranked us, or any kind of backstory at all. We were nothing more than extras in an action sequence.

The lead soldier picked up a rifle with a steel bayonet attached, “Yeah, hold him there. Just like that… just like that…” and placed the tip of the bayonet just above the soldier’s breastbone, right at the base of his throat. The soldier on the bed started hyperventilating, staring back at his attacker with fierce, almost impossibly blue eyes.

The leader gave a yell and thrust the bayonet straight through the captive’s throat: eighteen inches of steel disappearing instantly through the flesh and into the mattress below. The rest of us were in shock. None of us had intended for things to go this far.

The soldier with the bayonet pulled it out and then thrust it back into the man’s throat, then his chest, again and again, screaming like an animal while the rest of us remained frozen, still holding the victim down while he struggled. Things had gone suddenly and horribly wrong. Not only did we all know it, we knew that the rest of us knew it too. Just as we knew that none of us was going to to do a thing to try and stop it.

We were accomplices now. To murder. And even though none of us had wanted it, we knew in an instant that the first person to speak out would be the next to go.

Hell of a dream.


D said...

We were accomplices now. To murder. And even though none of us had wanted it, we knew in an instant that the first person to speak out would be the next to go.

Dude, that part isn't a dream.

Annie said...

Dreams are metaphors. I'm thinking that since you're in a white room with ppl dressed in white - it might be a hospital. Chemo is intended to poison a person but not to the point of their death, just the death of the cancer cells. And the port near(ish) her neck. The "soldier" is objecting playfully knowing (s)he's not going to get away; knowing what needs to be done is inevitable. You are a part of that process. I think it's a dream about fear, death, chemo and hospitals.

I hope she's doing well.
And you too!

Anonymous said...

Good luck with the patch. I used it, and I had nightmares every night, always the same nightmare too.
Just take the patch off before you go to sleep. I also got a scrip for Ambien to help me sleep, but it only seems to work for about 4 hours.
But never fear, the insomnia and nightmares will fade when you get to Step 3, and will be gone forever when you get off the patch. And just remember those nightmares, to remind you never to slip and fall back into smoking again. It is harder to quit the second time (trust me I know, I'm on my third time, wearing a patch right now).