by D. C. Haddock
It isn’t very often that I wake up from a dream with a full, vivid, sensual recollection of everything that occurred, from beginning to end. Bits and pieces will come back to me as I awake, but by the time I’m finished my coffee, the rest of the neural journey has dissipated into the nether, dissolved into the back of my mind where it will wither and languish, an untimely end to the random firing of neurons in my brain. Again, all is quiet, empty. There’s little room in there for anything besides GPA’s, study guides, and the people I share my life with on a daily basis.
I woke this morning from a vision, to that little galling man knocking at my brain again, asking me to reevaluate. Where was I this time last year? Two years ago? Three? In the reality of the space-time continuum the seemingly infinite thing that is the Universe sees an infinitesimal, miniscule amount of transformation in that amount of time. But in relation to my human life, it is like one flash of a smile that demolishes the wall of prejudice, a brush of the hand or tap on the shoulder that renews the need for human connection, the sweeping gesture of a lecturing Professor performing the dance of enlightenment, the brief eye contact made with another that preserves them in your thoughts until you relapse back into the dream-world at night, the crinkly turn of a page that asks you to reconsider your long-held beliefs and staunch values, the first step outside and intake of breath on a day that tastes like the coming of newborn Spring; these moments and happenings are the bricks of adaptation, building us up little by little, unnoticeable and impossible to perceive until that one day when we wake again to proclaim, “I am different.”
The dog was massively gargantuan and black as the night that enveloped it; it frightened me. I could see it out my window, walking slowly down the street with its head bowed low to the ground, skulking, sniffing out my fear. It walked straight up to the door, scratching meekly as I frantically pushed my weight against it, as though the thing could burst through it at any moment. The scratching grew more urgent, and his whining escalated to desperation, begging me to reconsider my rejection; I could see the shadow through the window of the door, a shadow with sad, yellow eyes, hackles raised in fear of things to come, seeking a friend to share in his trepidation. I slowly opened the door, and he sauntered in to lie next to me, and this behemoth curled into an immense heap of black fur before me on my floor, shivering. I lowered myself to his level, lying right down in front of his face so he could read my eyes as well, and wrapped my arms around his colossal, furry neck. I asked him what a giant like him would be afraid of. What could possibly hurt him that he could not deter with his mere appearance? And then all at once as he was looking at me so desperately, his hind leg caught fire, ferociously blazing and eating away his fur and flesh as he let escape a piercing, primitive howl. I jerked to my feet and held my face in my hands, gaping at him hopelessly, helplessly through my fingers, tears brimming to the surface, mind racing, scrambling for a solution, heart pounding in agony, the heat of the blaze threatening me with each attempt I made to approach, when in my hand I found a cup of water. And then, the floor was littered with cups of water, resources appearing on every surface imaginable, invisible to me until just now when need was most dire and life felt most destitute. It felt like hours passing as I hastened to and fro, greedily snatching up cups in all directions, his cry of pain penetrating my conscious as I gingerly poured them one by one over the flames still licking his body, continuing even after the conflagration had died, eradicating the demon of decay; the water was suddenly not only a flame-squelcher, but a healing salve. Wherever the liquid began to roll over his body, so too began the reconnection of charred tendons, the rejuvenation of seared flesh, the re-growth of his burnt coat. His whole being absorbed the draught, drank in its nourishment, reveled in its pabulum; he, by degrees, became himself again, that strange, intellectual in-between of canine and human. He was more than he was before. I could feel it in his pulse as I ran my fingers through his coat, and as I laid back down next to him, nose to nose, soul to soul, the tectonic plates inside me shifted and jarred me to my core, the most minute change painfully, yet irrevocably tempering and pushing me towards the person I will always strive to become.