The most persistent nightmare I’ve had involves the end of the world.
This is not the end of my world, as in, say, I’m chased off a building by a clown or driven off a cliff in a Ferrari. Both of those dreams have come and gone during my life.
It’s a nightmare of true Armageddon that has haunted me since I was an elementary school student. The vision of streets returned to tar, weapons activated, humans exploded or evaporated. Tension and human horror scarier than any gore or boogeyman. A plot of lengthy travels to find safety or family, probably something just as corny as Art Bell’s screenplays if it weren’t me and unavoidable. Melodramas that seem to last nights, pulling in alien threats and, occasionally, aliens.
This, in part, it is an anxiety that has followed my waking life. I was never the kid who had the personal crisis that I would die. There wasn’t fear of having oxygen stolen by cats or Great Grandpa Steve visit me from the beyond. What worried me was the eradication of everyone I know and so many more that I don’t, with myself included in that bundle. The whole world would one day be gone. In that sense, it may be very much like that personal realization many people have of their own mortality.
As far as a trigger, I can think of two, somewhat related and literal. The first: a TV special in the ‘80s on Nostradamus. Here, the great Norman seer was told to have predicted a righteous and deadly battle by a Middle Eastern despot (I recall some blend of Gaddafi and Hussein) with a superpower (or course portrayed as the U.S.). Nuclear holocaust, no time to weep for lessons unlearned. Which brings me to the second – the drumbeat of weaponized threats during the Cold War. Remember when there was a steady, present acceleration of bombs in waiting made inevitable by opposing markets and geographies? We were told in childhood over and over again that this all could come to blows, and blow ups. The people telling us had ducked under desks and watched the Bikini Atoll disappear in black-and-white news footage. It was plausible, this end of human days stuff. Even in a toying, Matthew Broderick/hacker way or a wrench-dropped-against-Titan-missile accident. All possible to make it all gone. A world of The End wherein you couldn’t matter fucking less.
I’ve never seen a great description of this fear/paranoia/whatever. Sure, there’s a long, Latin term for it, but that’s equivalent to scouring medical texts to top your friend who found out how a word “antidisestablishmentarianism” is. It exists and seems like it’d be common enough, as we are all on this same planet.
I write all this because I don’t hear too many people who have shared this same nightmare, at least in any recurring fashion. So, do you? If so, what do they consist of? What do you attribute them to? Understanding the risk of falling between tarot card bullshit and Kerouac soused dream books, I wonder in type to hear that someone out there worries, too, awake and asleep. Also, because, in the present political climate, the daily tension of disagreeable events seems to have set off a few more of these nightmares. Thing is, like the warheads and vast potential for human catastrophe, they’ve always been here and terrifying.