I tried to remember to breathe as I leapt over small ditches and ducked under the leaning branches that seemed employed to trip me. The trees drew closer together, as if in judgement or revenge for my earlier scorn at their spindly nature.
I cursed the genes that gave me brains before athleticism.
It was hard to miss the spectacle, and I imagined that all of the other children must have been watching from safe distances as I ran clumsily through the trees. The wood was usually such a silent place, in fact, to my chagrin, I thought how it was my intrusion that seemed to have made the most noise. I drifted off, thinking about the lack of birds, the lack of small rodents creeping about the leaf covered floor, before coming back to my senses with a bump as the girl in front veered violently to the left.
I changed course, after her, calling out, making more noise. I was ashamed of the indignity of this, and worried that I was scaring her beyond measure and description, but there was nothing else to do but continue. I probably couldn’t find my way out if I tried. I was breathless, dizzy. I probably looked a mess. Internally I longed for the type of adventure where I could stroll leisurely into a village, enquire where the tower was, and walk nonchalantly over to rescue the princess locked within.
The blackness was intense, now. Was I even still following the girl? I was no longer sure if I chased her or the shifting shadows which mocked and frightened me. By frightened, I mean, added another dimension to the challenge of this particular quest. Fear was not an emotion I allowed to feature in my world, waking or sleeping.
The leaves were no longer green, here. Even in the blackness of the night I could deduce this. The trees looked grey, they dripped with moisture which soaked my hair and my face as I ran. They didn’t seem friendly, or welcoming. My earlier relief at finding this place was fast diminishing, and I longed again for a solution, an end to this run, a sign or a voice or some friendly guidance along the way.
My imagination – which was able to run far more effectively than my legs – was, I noted, miles in front. This wasn’t going well. Were the children a lure? Was I running into a trap set by some malevolent beast or vengeful forces? Were the trees alive, seeking to trip me, trap me? Was I going to end up the princess in the tower? At that point I stalled the process, unhappy with the metaphor. Towers, I could cope with; daring escapes, sheer drops, angry captors all posed few problems…
but I would not be The Maiden in The Tower.
Angry with my brain for its distractions, I fought to focus on the here and now. I would not be pulled off course by the extremes of my mind.
Which is when the alarm went off.
Which is when I woke up in the safety and confines of sanitised suburbia.
I lay in my warm bed, in my quiet flat; in the room I loved so much, but I felt angry. The intensity of the dream was already fading, but it felt like I had left some of my emotions in the dark wood, or brought some of its malevolence back into my waking world. I needed to get up, I had a propensity for lateness and my alarm was always set for the last possible minute, the shortest possible time it would take to get out of bed, fulfil the necessary ablutions and dive out the door to find a bus, a train; to encounter the anonymous face of the city public transport system.
Today I felt ready for none of it. I wished it was the weekend, but then I didn’t particularly want to sleep in either. I longed for a sense of resolution in the dreams that was eluding me. Or if not resolution, at least progress. It felt like all I’d done was to roam around cluelessly, to find a wood accidentally, to make a lot of noise and to scare some potentially vulnerable children.