39: Dream Prep

39: Dream Prep

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

Dream Prep

For the night is dark and full of terrors.

~George R.R. Martin

I woke with a gasp to the sound of someone screaming. I sat up in bed and waited, trying to listen for sounds outside my bedroom, but it was difficult to hear because my heart was pounding so loudly. After a minute or two of foggy post-sleep confusion, I realized the sound must have been coming from me. I’d been dreaming.

In this dream, I was driving down the freeway, and a little red car cut me off. I slammed on my brakes and lost control of my little pickup truck. It started spinning across the busy freeway lanes like a crazy carnival ride, and I was screaming.

I had a hard time getting back to sleep that night. I was extra careful on my drive to and from work the next day, ever watchful for little red cars, but nothing out of the ordinary happened. The next night, I had another bad dream.

Again, I was driving on the freeway, but this time it wasn’t a little red car. A large black pickup truck in the lane to my right started swerving and coming into my lane. I swerved to the left to avoid being hit, but I hit the barrier, and my truck turned sideways, partially blocking the lane. An oncoming car hit the back end of my truck and pinned me against the barrier. The car that hit me came to rest against the driver’s side of my truck, and the passenger side was against the barrier, effectively trapping me. I was hurt terribly.

I woke up screaming again. Every night for a little more than a week, I woke from a horrific nightmare involving a crash. I was scared to drive, but I had to get to work. My vigilance while driving became heightened. I felt the need to watch every car on the road with me, just in case. I left plenty of room between my vehicle and the vehicle in front of me, especially on the freeway. But I was getting tired. I wasn’t getting enough sleep.

During the last nightmare, something changed. It wasn’t as if I realized I was dreaming, but instead it seemed that my hyper-vigilant driving carried over into my dream.

I was in the right lane on the freeway this time, and I saw two cars collide ahead of me. Because I was paying attention and leaving extra space, I was able to get onto the shoulder and drive around the accident.

I don’t remember the rest of the dream, but for the first time in several days, I didn’t wake up screaming.

Then the nightmares stopped. I wondered why I was having a recurring dream. Even though the accidents were different each time and involved different types of vehicles, it was strange to dream about car crashes over and over. Enough days passed that I stopped wondering and got lost in the details of day-to-day life.

Even so, I remained extra aware of the cars around me. I kept my phone and radio off while I was driving. I always paid attention to the amount of space in front of my truck and noticed whether there were vehicles in the lanes next to me.

And then it happened. I was driving to work on the freeway — the same freeway I drove every day and the same freeway from the nightmares. I was in the lane next to the far left lane. Ahead of me, a little red car suddenly moved to the right with no turn signal or other warning, directly in front of a semi. The red car cut off the semi, and the semi braked hard. Even though it happened so fast, everything seemed to slow down.

The semi hit the back of the little red car, and the back end of the semi started moving toward the left, toward the lane I was in. I was flying down the freeway, just like everyone else. A car behind the semi moved to the right to avoid becoming part of the accident, but ended up hitting another car.

I was strangely calm. I felt as if I’d done this exact thing before. I had to decide, in a split second, whether to brake or try to get around what was quickly becoming a tangled mass of damaged vehicles. Because I’d been paying attention to my surroundings, I knew there was no vehicle in the lane to my left. Without slowing down, I moved into the far left lane, partially onto the left shoulder, and got around the back end of the semi before it came all the way into that lane. It was close, but I got safely around the accident.

I pulled onto the shoulder, still oddly calm and somewhat surprised at myself, and called 911 to report the accident. There were several people out of their vehicles and help was on the way, so I got back on the road and went to work.

I saw the story on the news later. The accident involved eight vehicles. Luckily, everyone involved escaped with fairly minor injuries. And thanks to all those scary dreams, I managed to stay calm and avoid becoming one of the victims.

~Rachel Fort

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