Dream of: 08 June 1997 "Conflict"

Conflict. Caught in a battle in a war. Black machine-gun in hand, firing round after round. With chaos all around me, I still retained a sense of my immediate surroundings – on the fourth or fifth floor of a tall office building, a building so damaged, it looked under construction, the bare concrete walls partially or completely blown away. I was crouching down behind a half wall about waist high, shooting over the wall at the neighboring building only a few meters away. Sometimes I wouldn't even raise my head above the wall, but would just hold up the machine gun up over me and fire. All my shots were focused on one object: a plastic bubble package with a colorful cardboard back hanging on a rack, a package which contained an action figure of a character from the comic book "Spawn", a character known as the Clown, a character from hell.

The character in the package was about 20 centimeters high and made of finely molded hard plastic. I could clearly see the Clown's brightly painted face and its fat distended tummy. I wasn't actually aiming my shots at the character itself, but simply at the top of the package, at the little tab holding the package onto the metal rod from which it was hanging. I shot and shot until finally – success: the package dropped to the ground. I immediately realized how hollow was my victory. The package had only fallen a few feet to the ground, and could easily be picked up and replaced. I had risked my life for this.

From my position I could see that it was night outside; suddenly a brilliant flash of light from high in the black sky demanded my mind. Uncertain at first what it was – an exploding star perhaps – then I saw: an airplane had been hit by a rocket, and the plane was now sinking toward earth: a spectacular sight. I could see perfectly the outline of the airplane, with wings something like a stealth bomber. I suddenly realized the plane was falling in the direction of our building. If the plane broke up, the pieces could hit the building. Or perhaps even the whole plane could hit the building. Realizing I must rush back to the other room and tell my commanding officer about the falling plane, I turned and raced back to the next room. Standing there was my commanding officer, a young man wearing green army fatigues. When I spurted out what I had seen, he seemed unconcerned. If the plane hit us, there wasn't much that could be done anyway.

***

I woke up, lying on the floor, in the same room where I had been talking to my commanding officer. I must have fallen asleep after speaking with him, and I still had images in my mind which had come to me while I had been sleeping. While asleep, in my mind, I had been writing something, and then reviewing what I had written, realizing I needed to place a couple commas around a two-word phrase. While reviewing, I had recalled that I had once had a teacher who had tried to teach me how to write, how to use commas. She had been an older woman who had taught me late in my life, at a time when no one else would have expected me to be able to learn about writing. But I had learned, and had managed to become a fairly good writer. I thought how surprised the woman would be to see now how well I could write.

But now I had more pressing matters to occupy my mind. It suddenly occurred to me that I was in grave danger, sleeping here in the building like this. I now realized parts of the plane had indeed struck the building on one of the floors directly under me and the supports of that section of the building had been damaged. I had seen films before of how buildings are imploded by demolition crews, and with such visions in mind, I now realized this building could implode at any time and the entire structure could come crashing down. I had to get out of here.

Carolina was lying not far away from me, on the concrete floor, curled up and sleeping in a sleeping bag. I had to wake her and take her with me out of here. I knew the war was still going on outside and there was danger all around, but I had to get us both out of here. When I stood up, I saw that American soldiers were milling all around. They were young men (most not more than 20 years old) dressed in green army fatigues. The place reminded me a lot of Beirut, and I thought how often American soldiers were sent to other countries, and how they often gave up their lives. I certainly wasn't willing to give up my life, but I couldn't help but admire that they were willing. It was unusual for me to think of soldiers in a favorable light. But I realized much of my disdain for soldiers stemmed from the military's involvement in persecuting drug users. If it weren't for the military's mission against drug users, I might actually respect soldiers.

I walked over to Carolina. Next to her was a little box which I opened. Inside were some plastic rings which we had collected and which I didn't want to leave behind. I removed the rings so I could take them with me. When I then woke Carolina, she was groggy and she didn't want to get up. But I knew she had to; there was still hope that we might escape from this inferno. In my mind, I could see the possibility of our trekking out of this desolation and reaching a lush green valley where we could live in peace. But she still didn't seem to want to get up.

Glancing about, I thought that before we left, I might ought to try to find some food to take with us. I walked into another room, which turned out to be exactly like the back room of my Summerdale Drive House. I was surprised that the room was so much warmer and more comfortable than the place from where I had just come. I thought I should turn down the heat if I were leaving, so the electricity wouldn't be wasted. But what did it matter now?. The whole building was going to fall down at any time. Just let the furnace run.

I wondered what else I should take. I thought about the flat wooden box which contained photographs which I had kept over the years. I thought the I knew exactly where the box was, in the room just down the hall. I remembered how I had always heard that if people were running out of a burning house, the one thing they would grab would be their photographs. Now I saw why. Those photographs were irreplaceable, and I would hate to lose them. However I knew I was in a rush, and I hated to bother with the photos. But I still thought I should go and get them. If the wooden box was too bulky, I could take the photos out and put them in a back pack. I thought I should go get them, but still I wasn't quite sure. Conflict.

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Copyright 2001 by Steve Collier