"The quality of mercy is not strain'd.
It droppeth as
the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath."
-- William Shakespeare, 'The Merchant of Venice'
When you wake up, you forget your dreams about dying
quickly. They aren't nightmares, exactly: quickness is
mercy, and mercy is all the things about God that you
never really thought about until everything was
happening so quickly and you were praying and it was too
late, too late.
You really did think it was Babylonian. No one cared.
Some of the dreams are angry. You're running down dark
streets with something horrible chasing you; you scream
for help and no one cares. And you could save the world,
in your dream; you could cure diseases, you could make
credit-card-debt disappear, you could turn garbage into
gold, you could be a hero over and over again. Still no
one cares. So there's a little splash of angry
satisfaction as the horrible thing catches you and you
die after a choked-off scream--serves them right, serves
them right, to lose you and lose all hope with you.
Only a little splash, though. You die quickly, remember?
That's the important part.
The other kind of dream comes when you've retched and
sobbed until you've cried yourself to sleep, long into
the night. You're still running down dark streets in
this dream; the horrible dark thing still chases you.
Still--still no one cares. And you deserve it. You are
nothing and no one. You have done horrible things and
not minded. You are a nameless blank face on the edge of
a crowd. You are lost and useless and alone, and there
is nothing in you or about you that makes you worthy of
existence. No one noticed you in passing; the earth
itself will not cover your grave when you're gone. You
run with black hopeless tears streaming down your face
into your mouth. It's the worst dream of all, because
you know it is the truth.
But sweet God, you still die quickly.
These are only dreams, because the nightmare is out
there riding after you, horrible and black and familiar,
with righteous unholy vengeance in her eyes. Or maybe
she isn't. Maybe it's stopped. You don't know. You will
never know. In your dreams, you never stop running until
that last choked-off scream.
You dream of dying quickly. You lay there with your eyes
closed against the darkness between waking and sleeping,
and before you forget, you pray to God's mercy that
dreams come true.
Jonathan. Credit Card. Alive.