31: The Fallen Temple

31: The Fallen Temple

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

The Fallen Temple

Our inner teacher, our sixth sense, is our authentic self.

~Angie Karan

I was in an apartment complex, surrounded by chattering, friendly people. The place was fairly new, with crisp beige bricks that shimmered in the bright sunshine. I’d somehow crawled through a bay window in an apartment and landed outside on the lawn. The sill was only a few feet from the ground, so I wasn’t harmed.

I looked up to a mountain above the apartment complex and to the ancient Roman temple that was nestled there. As I watched, the columned temple shook and collapsed straight down into the earth. It looked and sounded for all the world like a Nintendo graphic come to life — like the castle that disappeared at the end of Castlevania.

I opened my eyes and sat up. I was thirteen years old and in the eighth grade. The dream puzzled me. Nothing about it had been frightening, but I was left with a sense of foreboding.

I was gifted with a touch of premonition. Occasionally, I dreamt of conversations with friends that were later repeated, word for word, in real life. For the most part, though, my nocturnal journeys were extremely run of the mill for an adolescent, and were filled with friends, rock stars, and whichever boy I was crushing on at the time.

Some of my dreams flitted through my conscious memory like fireflies — experienced, appreciated, and then forgotten — but others lingered. The dream of the ominous fallen temple was one of the latter. I was so intrigued by it that I recorded it in my journal. For years afterward, every now and then, the collapsing temple would pop into my mind. However, neither temple nor mountain nor apartment complex ever made an appearance during my waking hours. I was inclined to believe that, like ninety-nine percent of my dreams, it was just my brain being imaginative.

In my teens and early twenties, I wandered through ancient ruins in several European countries, but I never found the fallen temple. Even the temples that were actually situated on mountains didn’t match. When I lived in France, I walked an ancient Roman footpath to the top of Puy de Dôme, an extinct volcano in the Auvergne. The ruins of a Gallo-Roman temple to Mercury greeted me at the summit, but they were peaceful and safe — the polar opposite of what I’d seen in my dream.

By the time I was twenty-three and starting postgraduate classes at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, the dream was all but forgotten. Since I was not a study abroad student — I had applied to UCT independently — I was in the regular postgraduate dormitory. It resembled an apartment complex, albeit with single rooms. Devil’s Peak, a pointed outcrop on the end of Table Mountain, loomed above the campus. Something about it seemed familiar to me. Since I’d never seen photos of the dorms before arriving in Cape Town, however, I couldn’t figure out why.

My South African friends, Megan and Jody, spent a few days driving me around Cape Town to show me the sights. As we rounded the side of Devil’s Peak on the freeway, I looked up . . . and my blood ran cold. The temple from my dream was nestled on the side of the mountain.

“What is that temple up there?” I asked uneasily.

Megan smiled. “Oh, that’s just Rhodes Memorial.” It turned out that the “temple” had nothing to do with ancient Rome. It was an early twentieth-century memorial to Cecil Rhodes, who had lived on the estate that became the University of Cape Town. The small Cape Dutch house that served as the reception and common area at my dorm had actually been part of the grounds. Rhodes had hosted Rudyard Kipling and his family there.

I suddenly realized why the dorm looked so very familiar to me: It was the apartment complex from my dream. Everything matched: the layout of the buildings, the color of the bricks; the bay windows with black frames. And the temple was exactly where it had been in my dream, presiding over the complex from the mountainside . . . a mountainside called Devil’s Peak, no less.

I was uneasy at this revelation, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I wasn’t about to hop on a plane and go home because of a dream I’d had eleven years earlier. Almost everything in Cape Town seemed to be an ordeal for me, though, so the trepidation I’d had about the dream’s setting seemed justified. I spent the semester contending with an unprofessional, nasty course advisor and several bouts of illness. Whenever I looked up at Rhodes Memorial, I blanched a little, but it didn’t seem to be in any imminent danger, and neither did I.

The beginning of my second semester in late August found me curled up in bed in my dorm room, watching a video. The latest challenge I’d faced had been substantial: an emergency appendectomy. I’d been excused from my classes for a week or two to recuperate, and I was doing my best to rest quietly. Winter in Cape Town was exceptionally mild, so I’d opened the windows to catch the midday breeze.

As I drifted in and out of sleep, I heard something outside my windows. Since I lived on campus, I was well accustomed to noise, but this time, I had a sudden, insistent feeling that I needed to secure my room. I hobbled over to the windows as quickly as I could, slammed them shut and locked them. Then I completely drew the heavy curtains.

A few minutes later, someone pounded harshly at my door. I didn’t answer, even though they knocked several times. I wasn’t expecting company; my friends knew to call before they stopped by. My door was double-locked with a deadbolt, but I still muted my television, picked up my cell phone in case I needed to call for help, and held my breath.

As the pounding on the door finally subsided, I caught a glimpse of a shadow at the windows. A man’s silhouette was visible on the other side of the curtains. He lingered for a tense moment, and then moved away.

I later discovered that thieves had infiltrated the dorm complex. They’d swiped radios through open windows in other students’ rooms and stolen items from the communal kitchen. I couldn’t help but feel, however, that if I’d left my windows open — or answered the door — the crimes they committed that day might have been far worse than theft. In my dream, I had climbed through a window, the temple had collapsed, and I’d sensed danger.

I never spoke of it to anyone; I was too apprehensive to piece it all together until much later. For whatever reason, though, the rest of my time in Cape Town was much easier for me. Whatever peril or bad mojo had existed had run its course.

I also stopped being afraid of the Rhodes Memorial. Before I left Cape Town, and after I’d recovered from my operation enough to resume my normal activities, I trekked up Devil’s Peak to visit the “temple.” It couldn’t tumble down on me anymore.

~Denise Reich

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