I tossed and turned, sweating in agony as one after another the terrifying nightmares paraded through my subconscious, which was held helplessly captive by sleep.
In the first dream, my children were all lined up on a platform. A panel of judges looked them up and down with jaded eyes and pointed out each of their flaws. While this was happening, I was tied to a chair, gagged but not blindfolded. I had to watch in silence as my children were verbally attacked, one after the other. The traits the judges hated were often the ones I loved the most – the ones that made them precious to me, special, original, distinct. Even their names came under fire. Then suddenly the judges got out of their chairs. With exaggerated smiles stretched across their faces, they moved toward my children, arms outstretched, chanting, "Let us help you. We will fix you. Just a few little changes here and there…"
I groaned and thrashed in my bed, desperately trying to wake myself, but it was no use. The second dream began.
In this dream, a flock of strangers came into my house. At first I thought they were realtors, but then I wasn't so sure. They walked through my house, room by room, chattering criticisms. The paint was wrong. The curtains had to go. The furniture should be replaced, but at the very least it positively must be rearranged. The appliances could stay, for the time being. Suddenly they all put down their clipboards and started to grab for things. They pulled pictures off the walls, moved couches and chairs, turned my living room into my dining room and put my bathroom in my kitchen. "Please, stop!" I cried, "I liked everything the way it was!" But they could not hear me over the sound of their own chatter.
The third and final dream was not like the others. It was quiet and dark. I was standing in the corner of a large banquet hall, chained to a ring on the floor so I could not move. In the center of the great hall was a relatively small dining table, set with six chairs. In the chairs sat the same six judges from my first dream – the same realtors who weren't realtors from my second. But in this dream, there was no bustle or chatter. They simply sat silently at their places, eyes fixed on a silver dome covering the main course which rested in the center of the table. Then the man at the head of the table rose from his chair. He picked up a carving knife and fork. Simultaneously, the other diners picked up their knives and forks and held them ready. The man grasped the handle on the silver dome and slowly lifted it. The diners' mouths began to water. I could see the drool running down their chins. I strained to see what scrumptious dish had just been uncovered, but the room was too dark. I could not see. The man with the carving knife raised it high, then plunged it downward.
I finally woke myself with my screams. An imagined-yet-real pain took my breath away. It was a pain deep in my chest where the carving knife had cut into my soul.
I rubbed my eyes and turned shakily to look at my alarm clock. It was 7 a.m. Time to get up. I couldn't be late for my college writing class. We were in the process of peer-editing each other's work; and today it was my turn.