I stared at the ceiling, shivering. My sheets were thrown to the floor, and sweat glistened on my chest. I was alone in my room, unwilling to look around myself. I knew I would only see the digital clock telling me that it was too early.
But sleep was no longer an option. Sleep meant risking that same, awful dream again.
In this dream, I am alone. Truly, terrifyingly alone.
This alone is not where no one else is around you; this alone is where everyone is around you.
In this dream, I stand in a crowded train . . . no, it is a subway. The lights flicker with the vibration of the tracks, and the walls run past outside the windows. All around me are people: men in suits, women bundled against the cold, and children gazing with wonder at the world around them.
In this dream, it occurs to me to ask some important question. I turn to the person next to me, sometimes a man, often a woman or a child, and open my mouth to speak.
No sound comes out.
I try again, louder this time. Still no sound escapes my lips. Confused, I reach out to touch the person, to draw their attention somehow. My hand passes through, as if he or she were naught but air.
I try another person, but the result is the same. My voice fails, the person is illusory. I try many phantoms, all with the same result.
Finally, I scream. I cry out, the fear and the loneliness too much to bear.
In this dream, the train comes to a stop.
The lights go up, but no one moves. I hear the doors slide open, and then shut again. The train begins its journey anew.
As the lights go down again, I see a greater light maintains itself near the door. Suddenly, the phantoms, so closely packed before, begin to part, and I can see now the source of the light.
A beautiful woman stands at the door. She is radiant, emitting her own luster. Her eyes alight on mine, and her words cut through me:
"You must find your voice before you can be heard."
And then I awake.