Opening a can of wormsMature

What are dreams? How do we know what is a dream and what is not? What happens when the lines between dreams and reality blurs? What is reality?

I am lying awake, still shaken. I have debated with myself for half an hour whether or not to even post this, but I have to get this out there...

It started simply enough, the end of a day after a romp on the beach with the dogs. I had been testing out this new harness I had been working on, a life jacket for pups with lights that you could turn on with an app so they would light up when you needed to see them in the dark. The prototype was working well, I was happy with the tests we had run around sunset. The dogs were as tired as we were, lazing out in the yard since the unseasonably warm weather made the room too hot for fur. My friends and I were happily chatting about the day around the living room after a light dinner.

We all loved dogs and S (whose name I will leave only as an initial) was telling us a lovely story he had from an old military base he used to work on.

"These special soldiers worked on classified missions and were not even allowed to really interact with the others on base," he explained, "They worked shifts that were 20 hours or more straight. The problem was, we quickly discovered, the soldiers were not doing well at all. We did studies and experiments to figure out exactly what it was - long hours? Difficult work? Keeping secrets that could compromise the country if they told anyone..."

At this point I wondered if maybe I shouldn't have given him that last beer. This seemed like something he shouldn't even tell us. But he was a psychologist, not a trained military man himself, and enthralling us with his fascinating work on the mind was something he often did at our soirees.

He paused for dramatic effect, checking each of our faces to make sure he had our undivided attention.

M, another of our friends who had just been swinging by the kitchen for another drink, urged him with an amused chuckle, "Well tell us then! My money's on the long stretches without sleep."

"Wrong!" S, smirked, "good guess but I'll tell you what it was - it was the lack of socialization. The soldiers needed companionship to be mentally healthy and sound."

"Makes sense," I piped up, having studied some psychology myself in the past.

"But what we ended up doing was really clever... see, what we did was get dogs on the base. Just a few dogs that lived in with them and were rotated around to each soldier after their shifts. It did wonders, and dogs don't tell secrets. Everyone was happier, more productive - it was the perfect solution."

"Aww... that's so cute," B cooed.

We were all grinning at the story, but the story wasn't the weird part. The weird part started right afterwards as S dove into the statistics on his studies and the p-values on the paper he was considering publishing.

Mid-sentence, he stopped, mouth agape. Perplexed, we turned around at the window he was staring at. We quickly figured out what was wrong.

It was, undeniably, the most surreal moment of my life. I do not even know how to really describe it. I suppose, as we were all staring dumbstruck at the scene before us, S was the first to put it in words, uttering in a hushed, hoarse voice, "there are men flying through your house."

But that did not even begin to capture exactly what was going on. It was like a scene from a David Lynch movie. There were indeed men flying through my house, but I do not know if we could call them men. Humanoid, sure, but more akin to plastic toy soldiers than men; they were carbon copies of each other, all with round helmets, all completely silver from head to toe, none with enough features underneath their helmets to qualify as faces. And they weren't just flying, they were gliding on what looked to be missiles (from what I could gather with my experience watching Iron Man and the images from the recent news after that strange light had lit up the sky a few days ago). The strangest thing was that they were completely silent, moving straight through my windows and walls as if they weren't even there, moving no faster than you would back a car out of a driveway. We watched the scene, entranced, unable to look away as dozens of them made their slow journey through my kitchen.

My heart was pounding. I wondered if it was something we ate.
Then, a thought struck me, 'has a war started?'
Then, the more important question, 'a war with WHO?'

For some reason, maybe aloud, maybe not in my state of shock, I asked, "Where are the spraypaint people?"
In that moment, inexplicably, I knew that was what was to come, as if we should have all expected it.

Sure enough, on cue, actual human soldiers burst into my home through the front door, making a ruckus that was strangely comforting after the eerie silence of the others. They were dressed in a uniform that I did not recognize, not SWAT, not Navy, not even suits like Men in Black. I think, as I twirled around in the chaos, I saw S's face take on an especially terrified expression. Before I could really react, one of them pushed me down onto the couch and I felt a stream of thick mist hit my face. I closed my eyes, but the smell was unmistakable: spraypaint.

I feared that they were marking us for elimination, that we had seen something we were not supposed to. I truly thought that we were going to die and I was cursing S all the while for telling us that damn dog story.

A strange sensation came over me, like I was being squeezed from all sides and falling at the same time. The noise around me turned into static, and suddenly, I awoke in my bed, gasping for air. The scent of spraypaint lingered either in my nose or my memory. A comforting voice filled my head, saying, 'It was just a dream.'

But was it? And here I am, awake in the middle of the night, pondering what I had just experienced. I know dreams feel real when you're in them, but that one was the most realistic I had ever had. I just couldn't shake it. I paced in the hall for a good while, afraid to check my kitchen. All I knew was that it was exactly midnight when I awoke, a time I was more often than not awake, especially on a Friday night. I didn't remember going to bed, but alcohol certainly could have been a factor there given the start of the weekend. What happened to my day?

To make matters even worse, around 12:30 I got a text from S. It seemed innocuous enough but the timing was impeccable. It read, "Want to get lunch tomorrow? I have some ideas for your dog harness."

I am shaking even as I type this, wondering if I should even tell anyone at all what I had experienced. Am I saying too much? Was it really a dream? But I had to tell someone, I had to get it out there. I know how easy it is to mess with someone's memory, and I am afraid that it has happened to me. I had to write it down before it fades like any other "dream".

I do not know what to do, and I am nervous about seeing S tomorrow. What have I seen?

The End

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