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I often do not share my dreams because they tend to be fragmented and make no sense. But the dream I had last night was one I wanted to share. Much of the details have faded but I remember names, places, emotions and expression. Here’s my dream.

I signed up for the military. The dream doesn’t tell me why only that I was in the military. After eight months of basic training I had formed friendships with many of my squad mates. One day our training base got the call that some war had begun and we were going to be deployed that Sunday. We took a little side tour in a vehicle to someone's house where we celebrated our deployment. Hours later we got back into the vehicle. The driver phoned for a “lift” to the naval base. On the freeway a helicopter swooped down clapped our vehicle and lifted us away. To many people passing on the freeway this was a new sight.

An hour later we landed on a large staging pad filled with vehicles, buses, equipment, cargo containers, and several thousand units. Each was assigned to a bus and as we entered the officer in charged informed everyone that from here until we reached our assigned base that we were to listen to all commands given by the superior officer, who also happened to be the bus driver that day. I and my friends filed into the back of the bus where we immediately started discussing basic training and what we might see. On the ride I saw all kinds of scenes. Apparently the nation was informed about the war and their signs of support were everywhere.

On the way to the naval port we entered a dire land of smoldering ruins. Many trees and buildings had been or were recently burned. Others sustained damage many years ago. One of my friends states in a factual tone, “This whole field used to be the military's playground. They scorched dozens of square miles of land for their war machines: some to build tanks, others to build planes, but mostly to strip mine the land for military progress.” I remarked, “This looks like something out of a movie.” As we drive in further I see out the window up ahead what appear to be several dead trees on fire and then come the flashes. Not like explosions but flashes from the muzzle of a weapon. I see a young man shot in one of the trees blood pouring out of his mouth. A soldier wearing a flamethrower ignites the tree revealing several dead bodies in its wake. “Gruesome.” states a friend. As he sits back down he adds, “Serves them right… the cowards!”

The bus driver noticing the commotion states very bluntly, “You will not retreat or surrender. You will kill or you will be killed. Deserters will receive the same level of “respect” as those you just witnessed. You're in this army!” The entire bus cheers this battle cry, except me. In his words and the scenes of carnage it hits me. “I told Jehovah I would stay neutral of military conflicts. So why am I here?!” I silently pray to Jehovah and apologized for this horrible decision I had made eight months ago and if there was a way out of this inescapable situation I would leave it in his hands. My friends continued to be jovial about the war. I could only sit in my seat and simply gazed out the window at an eventual outcome I felt Jehovah would be powerless to prevent. It did not take long for my friends to notice the change of mood. They started pestering me with questions. On the outside I played off my mood as reactions to the scorch earth and charred bodies. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the bus driver gazing through his large mirror back to us and in particular me. His demeanor had changed to disappointment. I looked around I noticed I was not alone in a change of mood. I counted myself and one other, an asthmatic named Jake Shrugs. But the driver ignored Jake.

Eventually we entered a fictional small town I had grown up in (It looked like Cottonwood a place I remember most from my childhood). Many yards were unkempt and there was a chill of isolation as it seemed the town to be deserted. Likely many were spending their Sunday morning at a local bar or a salon proudly fussing over the news of the pending “big” war, and how many of their sons and daughters would be part of it. At least that’s what I thought they were doing. For all I know they could be sleeping in. Whatever the reasons those thoughts suddenly came to a stop as did the bus.

Everyone looked at each other and finally at the driver. “I can see that some of you do not want to be involved in this war. So this is your one and only chance. Disembark here and live your life a coward or get yourself together and fight an enemy you know deserves to be defeated. You choose, now!” The way of escape finally opened up! Jake and I stood up. No one noticed Jake but my friends looked at me in shock eventually morphing into betrayal. I simply said quietly, “I made a pact with my great God Jehovah that when I was baptized I would not get involved in military conflicts. If I were to join you I would be a traitor to my God.” Then it happened. They turned their heads away and looked out the window ignoring my presence. As I walked up to the front of the bus each row mimicked those of my friends. Finally I reached the bus driver. “In truth I do not take cowards into battle.” When I tried to explain he ordered, “Off my bus coward!” I simply turned and walked off.

I noticed a younger man running as fast as he could to the bus. As he reached the doors he yelled, half out of breath, “I haven’t been to basic training but I want to fight in this war! Take me!” The bus driver looked at me and then at the young adult and said, “Get on. Here’s your ID. You just inherited from a coward.” He mouthed “coward” and looked around and saw me. Confused, but no less excited, he entered the bus and it drove away.

It was still Sunday morning as I walked from house to house on the side walk in my military uniform. Jehovah had opened a door for me to escape something I would have surely felt great regret for participating in. I excitedly knocked on the door of my home but there was no answer. I peered inside the large windows and did not see anyone. My parent’s neighbors must have been new because I had not seen them before. The mother was having an impromptu birthday party for her daughter. “Blow out the candies baby. That’s wonderful! And here’s the gift.” As the little girl unwrapped her gift I inquired, “Miss?” “Yes?” “Would you happen to know where I may find the residents of the house next door?” “The Allens?” I nodded yes. “You’ll find them at the East Lawn Memorial Park.” “Thank you.” It was not far from the house.

I walked into the service center and asked, “Did you have any visitors today by the last name Allen?” “Why yes we did. It seems there was a beautiful service this morning for Mr. Guy Allen.” “Could you tell me where I can find his gravesite?” “Sure. Now, let me see. A-J. A-K. A-L. Marker 6, 7… Ah, here we go. Marker A-L 7.” She points it out on a map. “Thank you.” “Do you know the Allens?” “A long time ago I did.” That was the only answer I could give. Both parents had been disappointed with my decision to join the military and even more disappointed when that decision resulted in being disfellowed. It felt like a long time ago.

I came to the gravesite and there found a moderate stone memorial marker with the etched words, “Guy Patrick Allen. June 1948 – September 2021. Beloved husband of one wife and three children.” When I saw “three children” I immediately fell to my knees touched the memorial and cried. I was not forgotten. Edelweiss, my mother’s favorite flower which eventually became my fathers, covered the memorial. I sat there for hours staring at the words until I heard, “Ryan?” I turned my head and saw my mom smile! The only words that came to mind were “Can I have a hug? It’s been a long day.” We hugged.

…and then I woke up.

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Nice piece Ryan. When I saw your title Dreams. You reminded me of another example of poetry dad & some others have used this one

I had a Dream.

I went to sleep suddenly I was awake.

So I went for a walk. But I noticed some

Changes. The world was at peace. The grass

Was greener. Then I saw friends I hadn't seen for

Years. Everyone was glad to see me here. Then I

Realized I was in Paradise.

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Yes, for someone who said "Much of the details have faded" you sure told a detailed story! :)

For me I tend to remember dreams that hit my emotions the hardest (either positive or negative). What made this dream stand out most is that it ended on a very positive note just as I woke up. Even though it felt like an echo of the emotion I felt in the dream, it was real. I really felt like I had left the truth and when it came to a critical point I made the right choice, even in a dream.

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