An unsettling dream

I woke up at 3am today from a dream and quickly realized I wasn’t going to fall back asleep. My brother and I typically share dreams when they are overly absurd. They feature jump cuts across decades, settings and characters. This one wasn’t that, but it had that lasting emotional quality to it. Since sleep was out of the question and I need a post for April, I wrote out an outline. After fleshing it out during a co-writing session and some final edits over lunch, here it is.

Content warning: Suicide

I’m trying to focus on my writing alone in the classroom, but the cool outside air from the window is distracting. I notice a friend I just met walking outside. They’re a friend of a friend. I don’t know them all that well, but they seem nice. Or at least until I see them stop outside my car, open the door and take an envelope from inside. An unsettling feeling comes over me.

I shout through the open window to not steal my things. Rather than being contrite and embarrassed, they flush red with fury and snap back that I should lock my doors if I don’t want things stolen. They fling the envelope back in the car, make a show of locking the door, then slam the door flourish. They walk away with an air of righteousness, leaving me in a haze of bewilderment.


There’s a knock at the door of the classroom. I look over to see the friend wearing the contrite look I expected earlier. Their conscious has caught up and is now demanding reconciliation. They apologize and ask for forgiveness. They know they shouldn’t do that, especially to friends. I ask why they did it in the first place and they keep silent. A beat later I ask if this was the first time and they admit that it’s not. It’s something they do more often than they’d like. They don’t understand the urges. The compulsion is overwhelming for them, practically an obligation. Not understanding, but seeing the pain of not being in control, I ask them if they’d like some help. I see the confusion, gratefulness, weariness in their eyes and they agree.


We arrive at the mental support class. It’s empty when we arrive, so we take a pair of seats next to each other. Over the new few minutes before class starts, it fills up with various characters. The teacher finally walks in and I go to speak with them. As I wait for their attention, other students take the seats around my friend, including the one I had been sitting at. A spring of worry creeps in. When I try to explain the situation, they tell me to take my seat and announce to class we’ll be doing an exploratory writing activity. Judging from everyone’s reaction and automatic fetching of notebooks, they know what this is.

I take the only open seat in the back corner, confused. Looking at everyone. Some people have obvious problems. Drugs. Abuse. Mental disorder. Others, it’s harder to tell. Until they talk. Bullies. Anger. Loneliness.

The person next to me has an aura about them that reflects a sameness. They ponder and write diligently. Not full sentences, but an outline. I spot a knowing smirk.

The teacher calls the first student up. We apparently have begun. When he finishes, there’s a lot of chatter and response. The next student goes, and the next and the next. After one, the sameness next to me quips aloud. It’s funny and I laugh. They notice me for the first time and sizes me up. They see me. They make another joke, this time under their breath, only for me to hear. I stifle a snort and look straight ahead, attempting to return to the background.

The teacher calls for silence and the next student. Eventually, I realize I have nothing to say for my turn. I don’t want to make something up; they deserve a genuine response. I recall a haunting dream, well nightmare, I had recently and begin writing. Not quite an outline.

Another student goes up. They stumble over their story. There are doughnuts, a screaming teacher and missing gym clothes. The sameness convulses in silent laughter. At this point, I’m only watching them, waiting to be let in on the joke. They compose themselves briefly, just enough to give me two words. Then we’re both failing to stifle ourselves. Other students within earshot laugh and join in. However, the teacher reached their limit. Demanding silence and order. They order us two to be quiet or to leave the room. There’s no alternative. The hardness in their face makes that abundantly clear. I resolve to be quiet and double my efforts to my story.

My friend goes up. They don’t mention stealing. They talk about his home life and expectations. Nothing earth shattering, but not an obvious falsehood, either. They take their seat and the sameness next to me goes up next.

The sameness recites a poem. It’s about a kid and a puppy in springtime. There’s clearly more to it, but before I can truly understand it, the teacher is calling me forth. There’s that knowing smirk again as I get up from my seat.

I tell the audience about my dream. About being at the end of the bridge on the cross street. Seeing the youth in a hoodie looking straight at me. Those piercing eyes that accuse me of not doing enough. Dread knowing what they are there for. Terror when I realize I can’t speak. Agony as the youth turns onto the bridge.

They walk away.

A splash.

There’s no response. Maybe because I’m an outsider. The teacher finally speaks up and tells me that if I will not express something real, then I should leave rather than continue to disrupt the class. I’m confused. That’s exactly what I did. I can feel myself getting angry. I see the path to let go, to embrace peace. I choose the other.

I yell back.

I have done everything you have asked! I stopped laughing at the jokes when you asked! I shared something real to me! What is the problem?

I look around at the faces in the room, realizing where I am. She’s used to this behavior. She cuts back. A dream isn’t real.

Taken aback, I chide them. If you’ve never had a nightmare wake you from your sleep, make you truly believe, leaving you with an unsettling grasp on reality, truly feeling the emotions of your subconscious’ imagination, leaving you nostalgic for that which is quickly fleeting away from memory, then you’ve never dreamed at all.

I turn to my friend and apologize to everyone in the room. I’m sorry you will not get the help you need here. I wanted to believe there was a place that was meant to help you. You can do what you want, though I hope you can find the help you’re looking for.

Thanks for reading folks!