It begins in a phone booth.
I am inside, the door closed, talking to someone, or listening to someone, I don’t know which and I don’t know who. In the dream, the phone booth feels like a normal phone booth, but it isn’t, really: It’s all glass, on all four sides and the roof. It’s in an alley between two tall buildings, on one side a modern blue and silver and gray skyscraper, on the other an imposing old structure of rough red brick, a relic, perhaps, of the golden days before the Great Depression. The phone booth sits incongruously in the middle of the alley, where it would block traffic if there were any traffic.
I become aware of objects hitting my phone booth, falling from above. When I look up at the glass roof, I see that living things, animals – maybe pigeons – are falling from a great height and splattering on the phone booth and on the pavement around it. I look again and I see that it is not only birds, but people who are falling to their deaths.
But there is no garish, bloody carnage, no screams of terror or pain. Instead there is silence, and as each falling body meets its fate it merely splatters into a translucent fluid, which flows down the sides of my glass phone booth and puddles in the alley.
Then I am out of the booth, and I am scaling the side of the red brick building. I have no safety line. I am pulling myself up hand over hand, using the jutting bricks and various ledges and windowsills as handholds and footholds, slowly working my way up. I am surrounded by other climbers, each laboring silently except for an occasional groan of effort. The other climbers are not with me or against me. We are all just trying to make it to the top, ten stories above.
In time I arrive just below the roof, where a large ledge juts out above me. Exhausted, I hang there for a while. I can’t figure out a way to get past this ledge and up onto the roof. It sticks out too far. It seems like I would have to climb upside down for a few feet in order to get into a position to haul myself up to safety. As I think about this, I am holding on to a rail or a rain gutter with both hands, and I am suspended there, a couple hundred feet above the alley. Looking down I can see that people – other climbers – are still falling off the building from various heights.
I see a man in roughly the same situation as me, and to my astonishment he lets go of the rail we are hanging from and somehow manages to leap up and away from the wall of the building, gets a grip on the very top of the ledge and drags himself up to the rooftop and out of my sight.
I realize that he has done it the only way it can be done. A leap of faith. He could have missed the ledge. If he had he would have fallen for sure, as there was no retreating from the move he’d made. My grip is weakening, my hands are sweaty, and my options are limited: I can try for the roof, or I can hang there until my strength gives out and I fall to my death.
I hang there pondering this, I don’t know how long. Then I realize I am dreaming, and there is a third option. I close my eyes and let go. The descent is not like a fall. I float, and awaken.