I finally slept. I dreamed I was
at the edge of a long, narrow frozen pond in the midst of a snow-covered forest.
The ice was thick near the edge, thinner toward the middle. I saw people lying
face-down on the ice near the center. I couldn’t tell how many. My focus was
only on the ones nearest to me. They were still; I thought they were dead at
first. But then I noticed indentations in the ice from the warmth of their
bodies, and I knew they were alive. Alive, but terrified that if they moved so
much as a muscle, they would fall through. I couldn’t get out to help them
without breaking the ice myself, so I turned and trudged as fast as I could
through the thigh-deep snow until I found a long branch poking out of a
snowdrift. Slowly, breathlessly, I dragged it back to the pond. Someone else had
come along while I was gone. He stood on the opposite side, gazing at me
helplessly. I carefully pushed the branch across the ice to him. When both of us
had a firm grip, we slid it toward some of the people and yelled for them to
reach out and grab hold. They hadn’t stirred while all this was going on, and
even in the brief time I’d been away, the heat of their bodies had melted more
of the ice. Yet for a long time, or what seemed like a long time, no one moved.
Then, without lifting his half-frozen face from the ice, a man raised his right
arm and carefully, blindly, swept it back and forth through the air, searching
for the branch we were shouting for him to grab onto. Just as his hand touched
the branch, I woke up.