Every single night since June 24th, I’ve had slight variations of the exact same nightmare. I dream I’m in a place where men and monsters, often one and the same, are hunting me, preventing me from escaping, fighting, or helping others.
There’s nowhere I can go. Nothing I can do. Eventually, I’m like Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange, strapped to a chair, eyes pinned open, forced to watch, helplessly.
Every night, I fight tooth and nail. And every night I lose.
All around me, people are getting hurt — people I love, complete strangers, and myself. There’s this tunnel that keeps cropping up, and once you get far enough through it, reality changes. Everything you know is taken away, broken, or killed. The first time I went into this tunnel, I think my husband was with me, and some friends whose faces I can’t remember. It was like we were trying to flee something, some oppressive force that none of us could name. It looks like the tunnel from 28 Days Later, with overturned cars, rubble, and wreckage everywhere that’s almost impossible to navigate. It’s also like the end of Train to Busan; light behind us, only darkness ahead. There’s a faint suggestion of hope if we just keep walking, unaware there’s a gun pointed at our heads, a predator hunting us from the darkness.
In this place, everything disappears. Either it just quietly vanishes, is violently destroyed, or it just … gives up. The first time I had this dream, my old cat, Ozzy, was with me in a carrier. I was lugging everything I could carry from my life, including him, so I needed to rest just for a minute. I put his carrier down on the ground, shut properly and secure, and in the time it took for me to take the bags off of my back and sit down to catch my breath, he was out. He ran away into the tunnel somewhere, and everything went silent. He was gone. That was it.
The laws of physics don’t apply here. At first, sure, up is up, down is down, gravity makes sense, and if you walk forward you wind up in the place just ahead of you. But eventually … the only way I can explain it is that it’s like navigating the book House of Leaves from within its pages. Not like some kind of adaptation, but as if you were confined to the physical pages of the book, moving through it. It’s Doctor Strange and the mirror dimension on acid combined with the hopelessness of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games and the ability to rewind and undo your salvation.
This place is the nightmare sensation of not being able to run away. Your limbs gradually freeze in place, your mind fully aware of how to fight but incapable of telling your body what to do, despite screaming in your head.
Another night, the tunnel was a house. Instead of a straight path where we could never make it to the end, this hell was a structure with rooms and doors. Sewers beneath its foundation, rotting flesh and destroyed rubble in every corner, a monster — always men—lurking in the darkness, smiling, saying things like “that’s a good girl” as I walked by.
Last night, it was a mall. It looked like the one I grew up near, Promenade Mall in Thornhill, Ontario. Only it was … wrong. It had the clock tower that was there when I was a kid, that I loved to watch on the hour. A knight and a princess would come out like a cuckoo clock and circle around. I remember there was a dragon that got slain, it was a whole thing. Probably not as impressive as my kid brain remembers it, but I cling to that image regardless. Like every other version of this tunnel, it was dark and decrepit. Rubble lay everywhere, bodies were strewn on every bench, in every store. And the longer you stayed there, the less reality applied, and the more powerless you became.
The biggest problem with these nightmares is there are no rules. There’s no way to control the narrative or the environment. For some reason, that was always something I could do since I was a kid. I used to have these recurring dreams where I lead a team of superheroes, but I was just my 6-year-old self in my pajamas. I was the Professor X of this group, and I lead us on adventures every night. This happened about three or four times that I can remember, but I was always in control, choosing where to go next, and making sure everyone was safe.
These are the complete inverse. I have no control over my surroundings. And where those dreams always took place with the same group and the same vibes — fun, safe, playful, unified—these are a dark, unending hell.
Every night, every single night, I go back to that place, to that tunnel. I’m surrounded by death and despair, and I fight tooth and nail to get out alive, fix things, and protect everyone around me, whether I know them or not. And every night, I lose.
There’s an old man watching me in every version of this nightmare I’ve had for the last 10 days. Malicious, with a Cheshire cat grin and a cenobite’s physique. I never see him in full, just in shadow, but he taunts me the entire time. Baits me. Gives me hope only to laugh in my face and call me weak for believing I can survive. He’s everywhere, and he’s always in control.
Last night I tried taking some Ativan and Zofran before bed, both of which I take for my panic attacks. They help me stave off panic attacks in my sleep, something that doesn’t wake me up but lasts all night. It’s hell. This usually helps, though. Calms my brain down enough so I can actually rest instead of just sleeping through distress.
Last night, it did nothing.
I can’t imagine I’m the only person with a uterus struggling to sleep right now. Being awake is a nightmare, for fuck’s sake. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything hopeful to say. Maybe there’s some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone if any of this sounds familiar. I hope there’s at least that. But there’s no lesson to be learned from this.
I feel completely helpless and powerless to fight for myself or others. No matter what any of us do, it feels like we’re screaming at the top of our lungs in a soundproof box buried under 10 feet of dirt, while old white men seal us in, smiling and congratulating themselves for a job well done. And the salt in the wound is having to watch as other women stand beside them, supporting them, leering at us in the ground with this false sense of security.
Every single night since June 24th, since Roe v Wade was overturned, I’ve had essentially the same nightmare. Normally, I’d wake up secure in the knowledge that it was only a dream. Now … that’s no longer the case.
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