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May 20, 2024


By Kim Burkhalter

Do you dream when you die?

October 30, 1992: Gregory Michael Brooks unlocked the door to his '89 Geo Metro. As he opened the door, he thought about his car. It wasn't a popular car, but it was a simple car, an economic car -- with great gas mileage. Whatever the case, it was all he could really afford -- but that was all right. He started his economical car and strapped on his seat belt. It was 5:30 pm on a chilly autumn night, and it was time to go home.

Greg switched on his headlights and two luminous beams of light appeared. They pierced through the mist that was forming. It was drizzling now, though he noticed neither the rain nor the mist. He pulled slowly out of the company parking lot.

At the youthful age of twenty-four, Greg had been out of college for two years. Since that time he'd worked at a local office building as an "assistant" (rather, an errand boy). Any idiot could handle his job, much less a college graduate. It was the kind of job that got you a living, but it was all he could hope for with the country in a recession.

Neither Greg's car, his job, or his cramped apartment could get him down. He was that kind of person. Greg didn't complain; he only hoped that things would get better. After all, one had to start somewhere.

That's right! Things will get better: I've got big plans for myself! There was so much ahead of a person when a person was twenty-four: so many experiences, achievements, triumphs, and failures. He was fully prepared to live through the ups and downs of life. Greg firmly believed that his life was what he made of it. He controlled his own fate. There was no such thing as pre-destiny.

The car radio was off as he drove silently into the night. The radio did not matter to him. Nor did the drizzle of the rain outside. Greg gave no heed to all the familiar sights around him. He was simply lost in his own thoughts.

Greg was daydreaming. (Obviously he wasn't truly dreaming. Otherwise he'd have to be asleep, right? ... right?) People his age often daydreamt. Tonight, however, was different. He was reflecting about his entire life. Usually, he would just daydream about his life to be. It seemed essential for Greg to dream his dream.

He had to keep his dream alive, otherwise, he feared one day he'd just give up. It was hard to live the life he owned, and he needed assurance that living that life was worth living. He wasn't thinking of suicide. But he wasn't always sure his efforts would be worth it in the end. He'd simply convince himself that it would be.

It was a lengthy ride home from work, and he had more than enough time to put his thoughts together. Given the opportunity, he obligingly did so. He was dreaming, really, and was fully aware of that fact. In the real world, it had begun to rain harder, so he absentmindedly turned on his windshield wipers. Darkness surrounded him as he sped through the night.

Greg was a tall young man, and slim for his height. His lean build was surprisingly strong, though he wasn't muscle-bound by any stretch of the imagination. He had light brown hair. No one noticed his height, weight, his age, or his hair color; it was his eyes people noticed. (He again turned off his "brights" -- a pick-up was approaching -- and took no note of it.)

His eyes had the eager, energetic look of a young writer. His eyes showed inexperience, but also, inspiration. It was the classic example of a struggling young writer with fancies of great success. (After all, Greg had big plans for himself.) His head was always filled with visions, or -- more accurately -- dreams. His mysterious eyes reflected that fact.

His bright blue eyes penetrated the misty darkness around him, revealing deep thought. If the eyes were truly the window to the soul, Greg should have been able to see himself.

Finally, the pick-up passed and after moment's hesitation, Greg restored his brights. He was staring at space, almost in a trance.

Through the drizzle and the gloom, the road ahead remained lonely -- almost foreboding. Everything outside his tiny car was disheartening to Greg, but he would be home soon to cheerier surroundings.

He wiped his hands off on his pants. They were clammy, for he was frightened. He was recalling the Behind-the-Wheel stage of driver's education at sixteen. It scared him to death. The only real difference between then and now was --back then he knew what he was afraid of.

It was just a dull, rainy old night, he decided. And it just happened to be in October. If one is driving down a lonely road when it's dark out -- and raining -- one is bound to get the spooks now and then. He was just doing it to himself. What was the famous saying? "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself." That seemed appropriate.

Perhaps it was simply the fact October always had the word "Halloween" attached. He didn't get scared over Halloween anymore. That was when he was much younger. No, it was just a typical case of "the spooks." When you're driving down a lonely road ...

Somehow, though, he didn't think so. Come on, what is this? Am I losing my mind? He was just driving home on a rainy old night, and it happened to be in October.

* * *

On that same rainy old night Greg Brooks was headed for home, the world went on. Things happened, things of which he was unaware. A dark figure of a man staggered out of O'Nally's bar and drew near a car. The man noisily fumbled with his keys. Soon he was in the driver's seat. The thirty-year-old drunkard then started his car and headed for his own home. His car slowly melted into the obscurity of the night and the quiet loneliness of the road ahead.

* * *

Greg dismissed his fears and returned to his original line of thinking -- his dream. Greg Brooks had a dream, as did everyone, he was sure. His dream was the dream of his life, and what it was to be. He was not distracted by his shadowy premonition, or the rain, or the lonely road ahead. He concentrated fully on dreaming his dream -- the dream which he supposed everyone had:

The name Gregory Michael Brooks would mean something to the world. He would not simply be some Joe Schmo who lived down the street. That's right. He would be Greg Brooks, the soon-to-be prestigious journalist, showered with many, many journalism awards. He'd be employed by a major metropolitan newspaper; perhaps the Times, or the Sun. He would truly live out his dream, working in an exciting, challenging job. Most importantly, it would be a job he truly loved -- not Joe's job as the local business's peon.

Soon he was dreaming the wilder part of his dream, and his mind raced on. Maybe he could retire early, and write as a novelist full-time! He would write novel after novel; his creative talents would be fully recognized. He'd write whatever sold, as long as he wanted to write it. He'd write only if he could use his talents to his full potential.

The dream continued: the All-American dream -- wife, kids, and a white picket fence -- more awards for his journalism, his novels raved over, and an acclaimed Number One Bestseller! And, of course, crowds of Brooks fans mobbing him to get his autograph.

That's right, Greg had big plans for himself. He was keeping his dream alive. The quiet, annoying, grating of his Geo Metro's windshield wipers (the economical windshield wipers) somehow comforted him. He felt safe in his little Geo Metro, and not the least bit afraid of the soft rumbling of thunder outside. With distant face and glassy eyes, he watched as the road seemed to stretch endlessly on. Greg had his brights on, and they clearly showed what lay ahead.

* * *

The car swerved slightly as it traveled along the lonely road. The radio inside was blaring and the putrid smell of alcohol was overwhelming. The rain poured, and the thunder boomed louder than ever. A substantial storm was brewing, and it hinted at some ominous event to occur. However, neither party was aware of what the storm foretold.

* * *

The sound of an approaching car aroused Greg from his dream. At that moment he felt very safe; not the least afraid. He wasn't dreaming, or even thinking-- he was in a trance. He sluggishly turned off his brights. The road ahead faded, and then it was gone. He was speeding along into nothingness, into darkness. His eyes searched through the murkiness to find a small piece of the road; they found nothing but the pouring rain.

Again, he was afraid -- deathly afraid. Of what, he did not know. But he was terrified. Safety was not Greg's friend at that moment and neither was fate. For on that cold, dreary, October night, through the thunder and the pouring rain, Greg Brooks heard a sound. It was the sound of a car approaching, with its brights on fully, blinding him. He saw even less through those inspired eyes which now revealed nothing. He had nothing to reveal but a split-second terror that arose in him like a fire. It was the terror of an unsuspecting victim of a drunk driver. Greg was dreaming a dream -- his dream. Greg is still dreaming, dreaming his dream.

* * *

No one knows why fate is so unselective, they just know it is. Greg never lived long enough to live out his dream --his life's dream. Not everyone does. However, everyone does dream, and everyone has a dream, as Greg indeed supposed. Though Greg believed in self-destiny, fate proved itself once again to be extraordinarily cruel.

For death, my friend, is the highest form of consciousness (or unconsciousness, depending on your perspective). To use a cliché, Greg is in a better place now. He's dreaming, dreaming his life's dream. Dreaming of his life, of his death, and all the experiences, the achievements, the triumphs and failures, that were never to be. Never the ups and downs to be lived through, never to be worth all his efforts.

He is still dreaming right now; dreaming, dreaming, his life's dream.

* * *

October 30, 1992: Gregory Michael Brooks unlocked the door to his '89 Geo Metro. As he opened the door, he thought about his car. It wasn't a popular car, but it was a simple car, an economic car -- with great gas mileage. Whatever the case, it was all he could really afford -- but that was all right. He started his economical car and strapped on his seat belt. It was 5:30 PM on a chilly autumn night, and it was time to go home.

Article © Kim Burkhalter. All rights reserved.
Published on 2018-04-09
1 Reader Comments
Elizabeth Watson
03:34:56 PM
This story reminds me a little of Luke 12:20. In any event, few of us actually achieve our dreams, whether they are prevented by death or by life and its weird little twists and turns. How cruel is that?
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