You know those nights where you’re walking up the street with your wife and the tornado siren goes off? When the storm whips up and you have to dash back a block to the last sandwich shop you passed and get inside for safety from the storm, but when you go through the back door it just leads to an outdoor gazebo and a bathroom in a concrete installation (kind of like something you’d find at a public park)? And you tell your wife and daughter (who is with you too, of course) that the gazebo is not safe from a tornado and you have to go to the concrete installation, but they won’t listen to you because the gazebo is filling with frantic people who apparently think it’s safe, so when the tornado appears with a scream like a freight train you panic and run back without them?
You dart into the bathroom ashamed and terrified, wishing they had come with you but not willing to die for nothing, and discover a human-sized plastic sphere in the bathtub just large enough for three. With a pang you climb in alone and secure yourself just as the tornado peels away the roof of the bathroom, and then with a lurch and a bang the ground falls away and you are jerked into the storm. You see the destruction play out below you as countless screaming people are killed. You see buildings and cars torn apart like paper. You wonder, as you are buffeted helplessly higher and higher, if there is any chance you will survive. Any chance at all.
And then you glimpse, through the shrieking blackness of the tornado and the churn of its wreckage, the sizzling green aura of some massive beast, some unthinkable abomination older than the sun, for whom the tornado itself is merely a cloak, a shroud beneath which it can work its impossible, unstoppable devastation. And you feel your mind peel away in layers, sanity falling away beneath you like the ground did just a moment ago, exposing some seething, sparking madness that has always been there, as surely as the certain bizarreness of the quantum realm underpins every moment of our lives. You are launched ever higher, leaving earth and safety and sanity below, until you can see the infinite walls forming a tunnel that is suddenly somehow below you, and the words printed on its wall:
YOU ARE OVER FULL.
YOUR MIND IS OVER FULL.
And they trigger some final safety mechanism in your brain, some last-ditch reflexive effort to keep you tethered to the world you’ve always known, personified by a sudden droning hum and a light that grows quickly to brilliance, drowning out everything. Perfect, brilliant, blazing light, all-encompassing, that shoves your consciousness higher like a life jacket dragging a drowning man to the surface of a lake, until your eyes finally snap open and you are in your bed – of course, you’ve always been in your bed, you were just dreaming, that’s all – and the drone is the hum of the air purifier you turned on last night because they cats were being noisy and the light was just dawn’s gentle press from behind your sheer curtains.
You know those nights?
Yeah, me too.
So how did you sleep?