What Scares You?

I had a bad dream last night. At the end of the dream, I found a rat in the trunk of my car. I live out in the woods – rats are a common thing, and in real life, I’ve discovered that there’s a mouse living in my cupboard. It’s chewed through a bag of brown rice, and I’ve found the little mousy turds. I’m still angry about it.

Anyway, this rat in my dream was a) enormous, and b) entirely unlike a big rat. Imagine something the size of a rabbit, but with long reddish-brown fur with white spots like a fawn. It had a long, furry fox tail, and when I opened the trunk of the car, it jumped out and ran into the woodpile at the side of the house. I could see that tail shivering. I got down on my knees and shone a flashlight into the woodpile, and I could see its black eyes shining back at me. But it didn’t have a rat face. Its face was more expressive, like a dog’s face. I freaked out, because it looked scared, like it knew that I wanted to set my dogs on it. “Oh no,” I said. “Oh yes,” it said back.

And then I woke up.

Rats and mice don’t scare me, but the thing in the dream was terrifying. Why can I have dreams about my own death (I have that one frequently), about war, chases, etc., and none of it frightens me, but one little rat and I’m undone? I’ve also had terrifying dreams about being a kid in school and having a broken leg and having someone leave me. That one haunted me for decades.

I’ve read Jung and books and books and books on dream interpretation, but they all suppose that things have the same meaning for everybody. For instance, everyone says that flying dreams have to do with personal power and our confidence in our ability to overcome obstacles. On the other hand, there’s no online interpretation for the fact that in my dream, the way to fly was to mix absolutely (to the molecule) equal amounts of creamy and crunchy peanut butter, and to eat the resulting mixture from the body cavity of a winged man. What does that say? And does it help to know that in real life, I absolutely despise peanut butter? I can’t think that the peanut butter part is common to everyone, although one online source says that peanut butter suggests difficulty in communicating. It doesn’t make a distinction between crunchy and creamy.

I remember all my dreams, and some of them have become the basis for stories I’ve written. One of my friends has even said that she suspects that the life in which I know her is not my real life – my real life is the one I have in my dreams. If that’s the case, I’m at even more of a loss as to what to do with that rat.

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