I hate it when dreams scare the bejesus out of me. When they're really bad, sometimes I wake up, unsure if what just happened was real or just a nightmare. I find myself in bed, and roll over next to my wife and take assurance from her presence that everything is all right. Last night that wasn't enough.
I woke up just past 3:30 a.m. In my dream, I'd been out in the woods in a carriage of some sort, when it overturned and we were spilled out onto the hillside. I remember scrambling over and helping a few people to their feet and get back to the road, satisfied that they were all right.
That was when I saw a sled overturned in the icy water. I know it makes no sense to have a sled there when everyone's been riding in a carriage, but that's part of the shifting reality of dreams. I scrambled over to the sled, crawling as quickly as I could across a log, and turned the sled upright.
Rachel was lying under the sled, in her purple winter jacket. Her hair was wet, her eyes were closed, and she wasn't breathing.
"She's not breathing," I remember saying as I carried her up to the road, trying to recall my CPR training from 20 years ago and recalling in true geekboy manner, the death of Gwen Stacy and the What If? story where Peter actually did save her life. "She's not breathing!"
That was when I woke up, jumped out of bed, and went to Rachel's bedroom, fully aware that I was now awake and was overreacting to a bad dream. I didn't care, though. I knelt next to her bed, and didn't move until I heard her soft breathing in the night, saw her stretch an arm and sleepily kick a leg. Then, and only then, was I willing to believe that everything was all right.