It starts out, as all horror/disaster movies do, on a very nice day. My (real) parents, my (real) daughter, and I were enjoying a lazy Saturday doing absolutely nothing. Napping lightly in my bed, the house shakes with a steady, low rumble. Living in earthquake territory in real life, such a low shaking is not even worthy of adjusting the pillow. The four of us quip back and forth to each other about the so-called quake.
My window is cracked open slightly, and the quake has rattled the window even further open. The startled dogs were complaining outside, with various birds mocking them. As my house resumes the prevalent lazy Saturday composure, a noxious smell wafts through the open window.
It reeks. Worse than spoiled food. Worse than a Taco Bell inspired flatulation. Worse than burnt eggs. It takes me a minute to identify the scent. I have never smelled it outside of a classroom. And it has been decades since that chemistry class was presented.
At this point, I realize I am dreaming. I become lucid. No longer a mere participant, I can force my will onto the dream. I choose not to do so, instead wanting to see how the plot plays out. The rise to lucidity sharpens my senses. The smell of sulfur becomes stronger, now accompanied by another series of low rumblings. While my family continues to make weak jokes about the quakes, I begin to feel alarm.
I jump up, the smell of sulfur now quite strong. I mumble something about checking on the car, and open my front door.
Despite knowing this is a dream, I am still shocked to see that my house is now at the foot of a large mountain. My father yells at me to check the weather while I am outside. A large cloud has appeared and its appearance is unsettling him.
I look up at the weird cloud structures. They are ashy grey and dense. Projecting my senses, I can feel the coarse texture. These are not clouds of water vapor. This is smoke and ash.
People are yelling in excitement and running. Most of them are running or driving towards a close ridge. Newscasters are everywhere. Looking back up, I see helicopters circling the source of the smoke. Occasionally, one gets too close to the plume, the engine fails, and the helicopter falls to the ground.
The ridge is close, but if I were to run, it would take me several hours. Good thing I am lucid tonight.
I will myself to be near the edge of the ridge. In the blink of an eye, I am now behind the throng of people vieing with each other for a clear shot of the smoking mountainside. The smell of sulfur is now so noxious, I will myself to cease smelling. My eyes are watering very intensely, I must will them not to react.
Finally, I am able to look around me. I ask a guy standing next to me, what the fuss is all about. “We’re watching the birth of a volcano! Isn’t it cool?!” A… volcano? I push my way through the throng of people. Now on the edge of the ridge, I see below me a river of very liquid lava racing along the bottom of the freshly made canyon. Tracing the river back to the origin, there is a large scar in the mountain side. Lava is pouring out of the scar, with intermittent bursts of gas.
Another series of pronounced rumbles shakes all present. The crowd cheers in increased excitement. The lava begins to pour out faster and with more force. Fresh cracks appear up the mountainside, with more columns of smoke and ash announcing the increasing danger.
“This is bad. We are in a bad spot. All of us are. The mountainside is unzipping and there is no way we can outrun this. We need to leave now!” The crowd doesn’t hear me. They are caught up in the race to get the first videos and pictures up on the internet. They fail to see that the mountainside directly above us is starting to vent smoke and steam.
I failed as well.
Dirt and pebbles suddenly rain down on us. I collect a handful, feeling it between thumb and fingers. I know this is odd, but I can’t quite place why this is bad. A few people complain about “those assholes behind us trying to be cute”, and yells at them to stop throwing dirt. More dirt, along with large clumps of very warm rock fall on us in answer. In horror, I realize the implication and look up in shocked fear.
The entire mountainside above us jumps into the air, with explosive lava following the leap. The lava-fall descends on us as the screaming begins. I forget I am lucid for a moment. Long enough for a stream of lava to obliterate the man standing next to me. I close my eyes, I remember I am lucid, and I will myself back to my house.
One hand holding the dirt from the mountainside, another hand reaches out to grab the still open door. My father races to my side and together we watch the entire mountainside erupting. Looking up, I see the pillar of smoke and ash is substantially greater than before. “Dad, we need to leave. Dad, we need to leave, now.”
He grabs my mother, while I grab my daughter. All roads are completely blocked with vehicles. We have no choice but to run on foot. As we run, I sense that the column of smoke and ash has begun to collapse upon itself. As the crow flies, we are only 12 miles from the spewing vent. Once that new canyon fills up, the overflow will come directly towards us. We’ll never make it on foot.
I know this is only a dream, but I can not allow my dream family to come to harm if I can help it. I tell my daughter to hold on to me, and grab my parents with both hands. Closing my eyes, I will myself, and all that is on me, and all I am holding on to, to be transported to a safe place away from the volcano. Everything shifts to black, silent, and still.
I suddenly hear my father cursing. He has tripped and doesn’t understand how “the world just shifted below my feet”. I open my eyes, and see my daughter holding on to me in fright. I look towards the volcano, and note that we are now about 40 miles away. Standing under a picnic roof, we hold on to each other and watch the nascent volcano destroy our neighborhood. Mom is quivering, her face buried in Dad’s shoulder. My daughter is openly crying.
Plink. Plink-plink. Plinkity. What appears to be hail starts to pour around us, bouncing off the picnic roof. I pick up a piece. It is pumice. I vacillate between allowing the events to continue to unfold, or ending the dream entirely. The plinks become plunks, which become thunks as pebbles give way to rocks, which in turn give way to boulders. Deflecting these from the inadequate picnic roof with my will, I stand with my family one last time.
I kiss my mother and my daughter. I give my befuddled father a hug. “This isn’t real. This is a dream. My dream. I don’t know why this was dug out of my psyche. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be paying attention to. I do know, that I care for you guys enough in real life, to not want you hurt even in this lucid dream. Whatever happens from here on, it will happen to me alone.”
My father just nods. My mother stops crying and starts screaming at me for not ending this sooner. My daughter stops crying and asks if I can put her in a dream as a Pokemon trainer. I roll my eyes at her request. She begs. I tell her that I’ll try.
A large earthquake throws us to the ground. We look up, and see the mountain disappear in a horribly large eruption. I am briefly reminded of Krakatoa. The three of them hold on to me, as a pyroclastic flow races towards us. This time, I have no fear. I intend to use the flow as a scene changer. When it races over us, the dream will end. I have willed this. It will happen. The four of us sense the end of the scenario, and we stand together as the flow destroys all. A screaming wind prefaces it, and when it envelopes us, I am thrown into a void of nonexistence. My father, my mother, and my daughter… gone. My neighborhood, the picnic roof, the piles of pumice… gone. The world as I have imagined it… gone. The volcano did not destroy it, because it was never there in the first place.
Content that the scenario had ended, I allowed even my awareness to descend into the void. And all was nothing.