There’s a spot between awake and asleep…between life and death…a place created by the struggle between the conscious and the sub-conscious. A place where the id lives, anything is possible, and the demons are free to play.
It’s not always a friendly place.
Choose one or I’ll take them all…
Starting awake, heart pounding and gasping for breath, I rolled out of bed and was crouched beside it before I realized exactly where I was.
I blinked rapidly to try and clear the dripping sweat out of my eyes and focus in the dark room. I was surprised when the world, and where I was in it, suddenly clicked into a crystal clarity.
Still trying to breathe and mindful of the sleeping wife I growled under my breath, “Shit. Not again.”
I carefully flipped up the safety and tucked the Colt 1911 Model 45 I was holding in my left hand back into its holster on the bedside table. I’d been aiming it at…well nothing…exactly…or something that had already departed. It disturbed me that I knew what.
Dreams aren’t supposed to follow you to the real world.
I ran my hand through my drenched hair, groaned, and slowly stood up. Cramped, adrenaline charged muscles twitched and fought my every move. I wanted calm easy movements…they wanted to kill.
Not exactly real. Not exactly a dream. Not even a nightmare.
Something between all those…and much worse than any.
The gods don’t always play fair.
Or maybe they do…my subconscious told me quietly…it’s just that you don’t understand the rules.
Hell, I thought back, I don’t even know the game.
It’s no wonder that I don’t sleep much.
“Youkaaay?” mumbled the shapely mound of covers on the other side of the bed and I breathed a sigh of relief. She, at least, was okay.
“I’m fine babe. Go back to sleep.” Even to myself that didn’t sound convincing.
Already asleep, she didn’t answer as I stumbled to the bathroom.
I am at home in the night. I’ve written of this before, chuckling to myself that man’s attempt to light up the night makes many feel safe and secure.
It seems to work though. The dark terrifies many and they believe the light keeps it at bay, that it makes them safe. All it really does is obscure the night from any attempt to see it, and alert anything out hunting in it to exactly where to find their prey.
But they believe…
I do not.
There’s a reason for this though…it’s not that nothing hunts me in the dark…I have lived hard and seen much. Experience…real experience…accumulates pleasure and pain, friends and enemies, and teaches, sometimes harshly, of the good and the bad that moves throughout the world.
We learn. We accumulate. And we feel…if we do none of that, we die. Or perhaps we never really lived in the first place.
Perhaps I’ve eased up a bit, but I still live, and feel, and have done so intently and intensely. I’ve experienced great pleasure and terrible pain. I’ve touched life…and death, many times. I learn. I seek. I ride. I create. Sometimes I find.
The life…the power…the lust…yeah. I probably have more than my share of demons haunting me.
So yes, there are things that hunt me in the night, but I hold no more fear of the night than I do the day. See there’s a truth I learned, one that many will never grasp.
Turns out that what hunts me in the dark also hunts me during the day.
Light chases away nothing. That was an experience painfully garnered. A truth perhaps I’d have been better off not knowing and certainly not one I needed to dwell on now. Ah well. There’s a choice we all make. We either get out there and live, or run from life and perish no further advanced then when we are thrust into this world, naked and terrified. I’m pretty sure that’s the path to hell in whatever religion or lack of one that comes along.
We can choose to live…or not. Once that choice is made, we don’t always get to pick and choose the lessons meted out.
The harsh lights of the bathroom weren’t any comfort. I tossed my completely drenched t-shirt in the tub with a splat and stared at the sink trying to get my emotions and queasy stomach under control. It took me a few minutes of slow breathing and concentration before I was sure I wouldn’t puke.
One of those nights.
The coolness of a wet washcloth felt good as I wiped my flushed face and stinging neck.
I didn’t like what stared back at me from the mirror. It looked too much like what I’d been battling in my dreams.
I met Death on the highway once, a very long time ago. My first encounter actually. Death with big “D”, as in a proper name. The Reaper. The Angel. The personification of the thing that stalks all men, and is ultimately victorious in the end whether we believe in it as an entity or not. Appearing to me as a shapely, dark haired, green eyed lady, her pale horse idling in the background, she was there to claim what was hers and she was very clear about it.
I fought her tooth and nail. Three souls were at stake. The battle waged for what seemed an eternity. Perhaps it was. I learned fast and hard that day that our rules…those things we all know to be true…and the things we think are impossible, are simply an illusion.
Three souls. I won one and lost two. I still wonder, usually deep in the storms and cold where the demons that haunt me are at their strongest, if I could have traded the soul I won to save the two I lost.
Over the years…of the ones that know the story…though they *know* the other facts of the tale, some choose not to believe of my interaction with her. I think that, in a story of carnage and chaos, ignoring her makes them more comfortable. I’ve never worried about it. Belief, or allegory created by an injured rider with a stressed mind. It’s one or the other. The results are the same.
Hell, I’d go for the allegory theory myself…if it wasn’t for nights like this one.
There’d be no more sleep for me tonight. I pulled on a fresh shirt and headed for the kitchen, leaving the wife to her dreams. I hoped they were more peaceful than mine.
Rummaging through the fridge and pantry I found the makings for nachos. Not particularly carefully I tossed tortilla chips, black olives, fresh tomato, onion, and cheddar and mozzarella cheeses on a sheet and got those going under the broiler. Rum and Coke sounded good…except I mixed it more like Coke and rum. Sure cleared the sinuses!
Munching nachos, nursing my drink as it burned it’s way down my throat…idly flipping TV channels with absolutely no awareness or care of what was on them, I pondered the night’s events.
I’d been offered a choice…what I suppose was intended to be a moral dilemma. I’d refused.
The world went red. We fought. Force of wills. Force of arms. That shapely half naked girl with the intense green eyes was strong.
Dreams are interesting battlefields.
I lost. At a standstill, cornered, or perhaps dead. There was nothing but her demand, and the souls she was asking me to choose from. Friends and family, represented by an essence as distinctive as DNA, unaware of our battle but gathered around us.
One of them was going to die tonight. I was supposed to choose who.
She held me up by my neck, single handedly and arm fully extended, the flaming sword in her other hand searing my retinas. I “willed” the 45 into my hand but couldn’t raise the gun high enough to fire.
Choose one or I’ll take them all…
I believed her. We’d been in this place before. She won the last time too.
Gasping, this time I answered her without hesitation and pointed. “THAT one! Take THAT one!”
She grimaced, eyed me with something akin to disbelief, screamed, and vanished, releasing my neck and casting me back into the world.
The remote had fallen from my hand. The TV was blank. The nachos were gone and so was my drink.
And still I pondered.
I wondered if I would get a phone call…I wondered if somebody I knew had died this night.
I’d been offered the choice of who, and I made it…
When I’d encountered her before, years ago, there was no choice. Three souls were at stake. We fought. I lost. One survived. That’s just the way it was.
I was the one that survived, all those years ago. And I still wonder…was there a choice? Could I have saved the others? Could she have taken me instead? Maybe…somehow…if I’d just fought harder.
It’s a pointless debate. The time had long passed. All I could do was learn from my experience and hope to apply it to the future.
Anguish over the past is only a path to madness.
Choose one or I’ll take them all…
This time she gave me the choice. Who to die? Who would she take?
Of my friends and family, the souls or essences present around us, who would I choose to die? How could I choose?
Hanging there burning in pain I had realized that *I* was there too.
The moment I realized that, I had already made the choice.
It was the choice I wonder if I could have made all those years ago when I first encountered her.
Me. I chose me, gasping out the words and pointing at myself, and knowing for certain those words would be my last.
And yet I was still here.
I was still here.
Suddenly I realized there would be no call tonight. Nobody had been taken.
I’d turned the tables…this time. Played a card I didn’t know I had. Won? No, I didn’t think so. Just made the right move. Maybe I’d been tested…given the choice I always wondered if I could have made, all those years ago.
I glanced at the clock. A surprising number of hours had passed. Enough that the drink didn’t matter.
It was time to ride. Time to test myself against the night and the lonely freeways. Perhaps time to seek out Death…riding her pale horse…and buy her a beer.
As I backed the big cruiser out of the garage I grimaced and rubbed my neck…yeah…I don’t understand the rules…but I think, maybe, I’m getting the hang of the game.
I’ll see you on the road.