LAST NIGHT, I HAD one of those terrible, realistic dreams that makes you want to get out of bed and verify empirically its unreal nature. In it, my apartment was robbed.
In the dream, I woke up in the early morning, as if to go to the gym, only to find the door detached from its hinges, splintered wood hanging from the frame. I had that sinking feeling you get when you realize you have left some desperately needed item hundreds of miles behind you or accidentally on a train . . . the sensation of your stomach taking an express elevator to the earth's core. I looked outside between the broken door and the frame, and noticed my neighbor's door was likewise displaced, though the hinges had been crudely duct-taped as if to keep the door standing and vaguely blocking the portal.
I swept through the apartment to discover what had been stolen. In my first pass, I couldn't figure what was gone. It seemed to be the same jumble of books, plants, furniture, and . . . the computer and the TV were gone. The TV I didn't care too much about. Losing the computer, with emails and PDFs containing financial information and passwords, was crippling. The panic got worse.
It was at this point that a slight thread of unreality began to appear. I wondered how I could have slept through my door being kicked or slammed off of its hinges. Even if a thief had picked the lock, the hinges have always issued a pronounced squeak when put into operation. I deliberately left them noisy just for that reason. But the dream did begin with me emerging from my bedroom. Perhaps I had heard something in the dream, but within it, had integrated the noise into another dream, the way an alarm clock sometimes begins as a wristwatch alarm or a microwave, only to shift into the real-world stimulus. (I hate this.)
I pulled my door out of the way to check out my neighbor's situation. Again, the dream further departed from reality (though I was still keyed up about the theft). My apartment complex now resembled a dorm that I have seen in previous dreams. I have dreamed about being back at college, living in a dorm somewhat similar to those in which I lived in the waking world. In this spectral dorm, though, students lived three to four per single room, each one stuffing his or her bed, desk, and stuff into a pinched third or quarter of the stark cinderblock cell. Instead of the carpeted floor and the wallpapered hall of my apartment complex, it was the cheap paint and linoleum of dorm ambience.
All the way down the all, each door had been broken from its hinges and was resting against its frame, either tentatively affixed by silver duct tape by the landlord or shoved aside by its residents. I peeked into a few rooms, and sure enough, they were the dorm-style rooms I had seen in previous dreams. I began to wonder how old I was — college age or 36? — but my fellow residents all seemed in their late teens/early twenties. Most of the kids seemed dazed or angry about the mass theft that had swept the building. It seemed like the crooks had been very selective, taking only electronics small enough to tote away.
I woke up abruptly. It was close to my alarm time, so I turned it off and looked around the place. The computer and television were both in their place. The door was still double-locked and properly suspended on its hinges. I calmed down, returned to my bed, set the alarm forward another half hour, and fell asleep with no further nocturnal interactions with the criminal element on the Astral Plane.