So Thursday night, I had one of the worst nightmares I’ve ever had. Worse, unlike good dreams that are interrupted, I was never able to escape this one. I’d fall back asleep and the nightmare would return, and it’d be even worse. All day today, it stuck with me and I couldn’t get rid of memories of it. (I also have extremely vivid dreams — full color, all five senses, etc.) I’m writing it here in an effort to get it out of my head.
The first indication that anything is wrong is that the house explodes around us. Kate and Sam are killed instantly. Eddy has a broken arm. I am physically unscathed, mentally numb. Around the same time I realize that every other house on our street is in a similar state. I calm Eddy down, give him children’s Tylenol, put a splint on his arm, take him to the car. It won’t start. Phone? Dead. I start to put two and two together. Rumors float up and down the street of war–one of those 90-minute affairs that we all feared back in the Eighties.
I gather as much as I can from the house. A couple of bags, which I load with clothes for Eddy, food, and some of his favorite books and toys. Toss in my asp baton, a knife, and what minimal first aid stuff I can find, and call it good. Things have gone pear-shaped and I need to get him to a hospital. The nearest is about three miles, a walkable distance. I rig Eddy up in the Baby Bjorn, hoping I’m finally using the thing right. He’s quiet and rests his head on my shoulder while we walk.
There are no lines when we arrive, only crowds. A couple of cops in uniform are trying to get everyone into some semblance of order. We mill about mostly, half talking to each other, trying to piece together what happened, but no clear picture emerges.
Near evening, a bloody red sunset. Off to the north near the city, a line of bright sunbursts marches from west to east, followed thereafter by distant crumps and a hot wind.
I wake in a cold sweat, shivering with fear. When Eddy stirs in his crib ten minutes later, I go in and cover him with a blanket and tell him I love him. I watch him sleep for an indeterminate amount of time before I am ready to try to sleep myself.
I have no idea how long we have been walking. Time is a bit messed up for me. Eddy, too, it seems. “Dada?” he asks. “Car-car?”
I reach into the diaper bag and pull out his Lightning McQueen, a chipped and dingy, but well-loved toy. He holds it in his left hand, his right has no grip strength. I try not to think too much about that, then try to think of where I might be able to find a doctor. He smiles at me and drives car-car on my shoulder.
Somewhere in southern Minnesota, we break into a Home Depot that seems largely abandoned. It would seem that no one but us remembers the candy and snacks at the checkouts, so we have some more food. Locked and barricaded in a bathroom with small flashlights, we play with his car. We will sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor. As we’re getting ready for bed, I notice the red streaks on his arm.
I wake up crying and lay there in the dark for awhile before sleeping again.
We managed a few days at the Home Depot before having to leave. Now we sit in the rubble of a ruined building. I have no idea where we are. I have no idea where to find a doctor. Eddy is burning hot with fever, has been for too long now.
I put his blankie around his shoulders, hand him his Mooch. “Kitty!” he says, quietly. When I ask him if he wants a story, he nods sharply like he always does. We have our two favorites. We start with This is My Robot, and I’m crying while I read it to him. He doesn’t have the energy to push the sound button at the end of each section, so I do it for him and he smiles. I’m uncertain if he notices my tears. When we read So Many Days, I am sobbing uncontrollably.
At the end, he no longer responds. I lay him down, lay next to him, and put my arm around him. I tell him I love him more than anything. And I know that I will never leave this spot.
When I wake moments later, I know what it is like to feel my heart die in my chest.