Blank pages intimidate the hell out of me. It’s like staring at a void you know you can’t fill, no matter how hard you try, yet you’re compelled to put something down lest you get sucked in without any anchor or railing to hold on to.
I had a dream as a child that still resonates with me to this day. It was sort of a nightmare but I resist the urge to say it “still haunts me to this day” as that implies it still scares me. It doesn’t. It did, at the very moment I was having it, and left me with chills for many minutes after I woke up covered in cold sweat, but past that point it just… intrigued me. That being said, the idea of being in that dream again still sets me up for a howl of fear. The reason it doesn’t actively frighten me when I recall it, though, is that for some reason I have this assured feeling that it’ll never happen again.
The dream is vivid in my mind, primarily because of it’s simplicity. There’s very little in the way of complexity to keep ordered. While I was actually in the dream my perspective was entirely first person. I could look down at my body, but with no more detachment than I can in my waking life. I could see my hands, my feet, and all the rest, but only from the perspective of my head on it’s shoulders. Yet when I think of the dream the image that comes to mind is that of a third person perspective, as if I was an observer rather than a participant.
The dream begins (or at least my memory of it begins) with myself floating in a featureless void. I’d say I was surrounded by a white light, but that wouldn’t convey the feeling of “void”. Giving it some kind of color would imply that there was something beyond me to provide that color, or that light. There wasn’t, though. It was a complete void, and my mind was certain that there was no-one and nothing else in the whole universe other than me.
No sooner had I come to the realization that I was in a featureless, empty void than the void was suddenly, and very silently, not empty.
The silence should be described on it’s own because it was so complete. It wasn’t just that the non-empty void was quiet, it was entirely… well, devoid of any sound. At all. This becomes even more pronounced when I try to scream and find that, while I can feel my lungs pressing, I can’t hear anything, nor even feel the vibration of my scream that should have been rattling my teeth. All of it was completely absorbed by, and entirely lost to, the void I was surrounded by.
But, as I stated, the void was no longer empty. There was a line. It appeared instantly and completely without fanfare. It was just suddenly there, very real, infinitely long, and approaching at a terrifying speed.
The line was white, a pure and simple white that made me realize just how devoid of color the rest of the void was. It stood out in clear, sharp definition that showed me precisely how devoid it was of any features beyond it’s very simple dimensions. As for it’s dimensions I could tell that it’s length was literally infinite and it’s width was rapidly expanding. Too rapidly.
The line raced towards me at a pace that terrified me. If you’ve ever had a dog suddenly jump and snap at your face, or a snake whip out and strike for your nose, you know the kind of speed I’m talking about. If the line were as wide as, say, a six lane highway it would have gone from the distance of “just visible” to “crushing my nose” in a fraction of a second. I wouldn’t have even had time to blink. Hence the instant and complete terror, accompanied by an adrenaline spike that would have given me the strength to hurl a locomotive off my legs and reflexes capable of catching arrows… had I the chance to use them. But both strength and reflexes were useless as I was hanging in a void, unable to gain purchase on anything that would let me move. All I could do was hover and watch as the line, now a rapidly growing featureless white wall, approaching me at what felt like near light speed.
It never hit, but it also never slowed down. It just kept growing and growing until it’s width appear nearly as infinite as it’s length. And still it flew toward me, fast as ever, and despite it’s complete and utter lack of discernible features on its surface I could still see it clearly and sharply enough to be able to see just how unbelievably fast it was coming at me. I screamed without a sound and failed utterly to have any effect on it’s movement.
I woke in full panic mode, my heart pounding enough to rattle my rib cage and my breath coming in ragged gasps. Within seconds I was almost calm again with the simple assurance of tactile sensation. The fact that I could feel the bed and the blankets, combined with the simple feeling of weight was enough reassurance to bring me right down. In a handful of seconds I went from complete terror to being nearly calm enough to fall right back to sleep. The only thing that kept me awake for the following few minutes was the memory of the dream and trying to wrap my head around it. After a few minutes of that, though, I was back asleep with the irrational certainty that I’d never, ever have that dream again.
Now, every time I’m presented with the proverbial blank page, whether it be a new file in Word or a literal empty page of lined paper, I’m reminded of that dream. I don’t feel the same fear, just a feeling of intimidation and the sense that I need to “step up” to the emptiness myself or it’s going to slam straight at me.
Fortunately the moment I put words down the feeling disappears. But up until that moment the intimidation looms.