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What Troubles Our Sleep

A month after the attacks, the trains are running, and we are back at our jobs, and by day, we can often muster an impressive counterfeit of normalcy. In our dreams, though, the event is still happening -- and it's possible that it will always be happening. As much as this was an attack on a city and a nation and a way of life, it also had a more intimate impact: It was an attack on our imaginations. Below, a collection of your neighbors' night visions.

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Two friends from work and I were on the roof of one of the towers. We had parachutes and we realized that we'd have to jump. My chute didn't open fully but I made it down -- we landed on a patch of grass. Then I got word that I had been conscripted to work for bin Laden. I was terrified when the cell phone rang and the display read "#1." Number One was bin Laden's top deputy; he wanted me to report immediately. I searched furiously for my ex-roommate's husband, a cop. I thought, I must get to the FBI to give them this info. Once I found him, I realized that we'd been lured to bin Laden's lair, located in a fancy restaurant. They threw sleeping dust on me, but luckily I resisted.

I was in a meeting in a conference room. Business was going on as normal, but meanwhile the buildings next to us were hit by planes and they were crumbling into my building. A huge piece of debris broke the window and I had to say, "I'm leaving." Everyone else acted like it was an annoying inconvenience.

We approached the WTC site, now a moonscape of rubble extending for miles, like Hiroshima in photos. There was a lone Arab, wrapped in desert gear, on a pile of rubble. He was black-eyed like a John Carpenter zombie, fixed and radiating evil.

I was at work at CBS, and someone had broken into my e-mail account. Somehow by reading something that I'd written, this person became convinced that I was a terrorist. So did my entire office. My co-workers were pointing at me and gossiping. I was very, very upset and started having a panic attack. I couldn't figure out (a) how someone broke into my account and (b) how my e-mail read like a terrorist's note.

I was on a floor where people were jumping, after the explosion. I was looking for an umbrella to jump with. And I did jump, but every time it folded. Then I was back there again and I had a sheet, and I spread the sheet so I could hold it with other people. We stood on the edge and jumped together. Then the sheet folded and we didn't make it. Other times I had wings that could only carry one person, so I had to leave the others behind.

Nazi skinheads were going through obstacle courses like those in the Army, but more crude and more dangerous. There were "drill sergeants" bombarding the young soldiers with racist propaganda like "Kill them Arab motherfuckers!" The young skinheads got all riled up. They pounded each other and stomped on fallen ones to get through the course first. One guy even gashed a drill sergeant in the face with his clawed glove. I never got to see the "finish line."

There was red dust everywhere. Everyone was wearing crazy outfits like they wore in Dune, and these monuments -- like pyramids -- were falling down everywhere, but nobody cared. And then I was in a castle and everybody inside was safe, so they took off their suits. It turned into this giant orgy -- nothing mattered, because everything was dying anyway. Then people started coughing up blood, the lights went off, and everyone started screaming.

I was in a tiny row boat. I only had one paddle -- but it wasn't really a paddle; it was a shovel. And I was in this crazy ocean, like a Perfect Storm­type ocean, but it was right on the shores of New York City. I was holding on to the tiny boat and my shovel, with twenty-foot waves trying to sink me. I was desperate to get as far away from New York as possible, but the waves kept slamming me back. Military planes kept swooping over my head playing "The Star Spangled Banner" to try and keep my spirits up. Only I couldn't sing because water kept going into my mouth every time I opened it.

I was in the cockpit of one of the airplanes flying into the building. I wasn't one of the terrorists and I didn't want to crash the plane, but there was nothing I could do to stop it. The building just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Then it disappeared. It wasn't a fiery crash; it just disappeared -- like it crashed into heaven.

There were buildings on fire everywhere, some crumbling, and people were running for their lives. I'd gotten separated from my wife and daughter and had to find them. I got a friend to drive me through the wreckage looking for them, but he started swerving all over the road. I kept screaming that we were going to crash, but he wouldn't listen. His driving kept getting more erratic. When I next looked over at the driver's seat, there was a crazy old man at the wheel -- and he was drunk.

Air Force One landed in the field by my school, near where my friend Todd lived. Then it kept going -- straight through Todd's house. I ran over to see if he was okay, and he was on a stretcher. I asked if he was okay, and he said, "Yeah, but does this look bad?" He showed me his arm, which was covered in blood. I said something like, "It'll scar up pretty good." And then I ran off because I was afraid the plane would blow up. I felt guilty for not staying to help.

I stopped by a firehouse on Canal with a huge batch of cookies and came up with all these schemes to get the guys to take them. Then I was in a bar and a group of firemen walked by and I jumped up and ran over and said, "Excuse me, but I wanted to tell you that you look great tonight," and turned to the oldest, most exhausted-looking one and said, "Especially you, sir," and smiled. Things started off really sweet, but then they became really desperate and lustful and totally, totally wrong.


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