The Night Terrors I

In the boat 2 001


It is said that one cannot dream one’s own death and wake to tell the tale. This is a matter of some concern to me, for if this rule holds true, then I am either dead or dreaming still. Be that as it may, for the time being I choose to live in the often desperate hope that there is in fact a third possibility: that in truth I have passed through the darkest part of the night and planted one foot on the shore of a newly dawning day.

My story begins like this:

When the night was darkest, then I slept. And in my sleep I dreamed a dream. And in my dream I looked, and the sea, dark and alive and flecked with foam, stretched out at my feet and away to a shadowy horizon. I stood in the bows of a little black boat that drove of its own accord through glassy black troughs and over frothy crests of waves.

The char-black sky paled to shades of blue, and as my boat pushed on, without my will or aid, jagged shapes of land rose up before these lighter hues. Dim along the water’s edge I saw, as the curling breakers thrust me to the shore, wharfs and quays of somber iron gray, like battle ships drawn up in warlike array. And all along these quays silent faces watched my approach with deliberate, solemn stares.

At last the boat scraped up against the barnacle-encrusted pilings. Firm and gentle hands reached down and pulled me up and set me on my feet upon the landing. I stood amazed, for every one of the hundreds of faces ranged about me was familiar in some degree. There were friends and family, neighbors and acquaintances, teachers and pastors, leaders and followers. Even the authors of the books that had most influenced me were there: Lewis and Luther, Bunyan and MacDonald, Chesterton and Calvin, Foxe and Blaise Pascal. They all stood so still, as if holding their breath, as if in anxious and silent agreement that I must be the first to speak.

“What day is this?” I blurted out, not knowing why …

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