For the utter weirdness of it: last night’s dream:

We were ushered into my high school auditorium, waiting for the demons to call our names and take us away. We knew our fate: our tongues would be cloven, our skin melted, our bones wadded into tiny balls that were gleefully swatted around by the golfers of hell. We would be transfigured: I saw the little old man who had been sitting next to me shuffle back out onto stage, a doorkeeper of hell, unrecognizable save for his hat.

Those who would call our names to enter, singly or in groups, came through the crowd beforehand and stopped before each in turn. In their outstretched hands were piles of little things: green pills, tiny nails, small slivers of metal. We chose one item of each type, which were put into amulets around our necks.

We were terrified. I quailed, writhed, cowered. I watched in my mind’s eye as friends screamed in agony behind the curtain. And then, suddenly, I stopped shaking. “They may take our bodies, but they can’t touch our minds,” I whispered to my neighbor. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Then it was my turn. The long black robes swished to a stop before me. I picked from the palm before me: green pill, green pill…the tiny nails scooted away from my fingers like they were magnetized. The hand closed: “Come with us,” the now kindly faced attendant urged. “You’ve figured it out. Now you’ll be the defending attorney for Ezra Pound, arguing his case before Clarence Thomas.” “What should I wear?” humble like Esther, I whispered to another attendant. “Come as you are,” she replied. “But take off your shoes. He likes barefoot.”

Not hell, but definitely not heaven: more tests awaited. A boy’s dog ran away, but I couldn’t find two shoes of the same size. Pigs in livery, once men, marched down the street as examples. “Of course you can change clothes,” my pastor said. “I don’t believe in hell.” All at once a flurry: a piano recital. Again, the fear: it was not just a recital, but a contest; the losers would be sent away from this haven into something worse. My companions pressed me with solutions: what to wear, how to act. Finally I shrugged, resigned: come as you are. Calm, I sat with the other competitors, rubbing a broken piece of cedar wood between my fingers.

Then my alarm went off.