Every now and then I have dreams about war. Vivid, heart-racing, bloody war.
I don't play battle-style video games. I don't watch documentaries or war movies. I'm not avoiding them, they just aren't my interest when it comes to leisure.
But now and then, I dream a dream that puts me smack dab in the middle of combat. Usually scattered, confused, improvised situations, usually taking place in a school or a store converted for the purpose. Converted to shelter the wounded, converted to provide walls, converted to house supplies and food. I never know what's going on.
One time I held a friend's hand through a curtain after carrying their broken body into the hallway, and I listened to them scream because anesthetic wasn't available. One time I watched while my family was gunned down on the other side of the open building while I cowered behind a box, too afraid to defend them, too afraid to move.
Last night, I rushed into the designated house. I'd never been there before, none of us had. It was situated on a small lake, with an enemy on the opposite side. We had no intelligence, no idea when they would rush us or how. We were still finding the thermostat, the bedrooms, the places we would set up our computers, our weapons, our supplies, our food and water. We were still laying out blankets and bringing in trucks of medical supplies and radios.
I had my infant with me, because I hadn't had much warning. No time to prepare. Anyone who could come came immediately, because we were drastically outnumbered. I was promised he'd be safe, he'd never leave the house. They probably wouldn't attack for a few days - I had time to find him a place to go, to be safe.
I was asked to swim out and search for explosives or traps. The entire edge of the water was so brushy that I had to go to one of the docks to get in, but as soon as I got there, I encountered two bodies impaled and left dead. They were ours. The strikes had begun. A fellow responder helped me pull them inside, back to the makeshift base. By the time I was in the water it was dark. I dug through our literal pile of equipment we had all donated, things from our own houses, things from work, until I found a waterproof light source, and I dove.
Soon after beginning, and still near the base, I surfaced and noticed lights, men, coming up the side of the shore. I tore my way through the watery plantlife, I stepped into the mud. They were still on the far side of the house. I crept inside, grabbed my baby, and held him as they reached the door and pushed inside.
It was a standoff. We had no weapons in hand. I was holding my family. The women and men who were there were still trying to set up - we all stood completely still as the men looked at us and thought, or maybe listened, about whether it was right to gun us down or let us surrender. I hugged him close. I held on so tightly.
They were in full gear with automatic weapons and we were standing there, sweating and helpless.
I hugged him so tightly, and I woke up.