The sea was vast, roaming an endless horizon. I felt despair as I leaned over the railing of the ship. The last of us were escaping a world in crisis. I had no idea how many were still on board. Some jumped in the night, better to drown than succumb to the virus. Invisible and airborne, it had devastated the world crossing borders and faiths without mercy. The sickness started with a sniffle and cough, destroying organs from within, until the victim’s face would droop in palsy like it was slowly melting away from their skull. An infection had happened once on the boat, early on the voyage. We lost half the crew. Sea wind whipped my hair as I stared and straddled my legs apart as the boat rocked on the waves. Was there really nothing out there? Bodies in impact slammed in the cabin below. I thought of jumping as my heart raced. An unease filled the salty air giving me a feeling—one similar to the anxiety that overtook when the plague began. Something was wrong. The commotion grew closer with the skidding sounds of a scuffle. I needed to go and there was nowhere to run. A woman stumbled out onto the deck. Face drooping, she screamed and came at me. I couldn’t let her get near. One inhalation of tainted air and I would be infected. I ran inside the cabin of the ship. I held my breath as I crossed stealthily to a set of iron stairs. Down, I descended into an abyss. One level after another was chaos in attack. Empty quarters did not seem safe. The portals looked too small to crawl through if I needed fast escape. I found a large safe. The infected burst into the cabin room making my decision for me. Desperately, I crawled into the metal box, fighting to shut the door before they got me. The light slivered to a crack. The last I saw of them were their maniacal, poisoned eyes. Darkness overwhelmed me. I turned the round lock and prayed it would hold. How long could I breath inside the safe? Was the air tainted? Was I going to die alone in the dark?
I woke up out of breath, realizing it was a dream. A subconscious panic attack that struck in my sleep on one of my many restless nights during this year of the pandemic. Disease has always been one of the most horrific things to me. I was affected by the idea by the films of David Cronenberg with Shivers and Rabid and George Romero’s of the Dead zombie trilogy in my youth. Later on, the fear was more tangible with the real life horrors of the devastation of AIDS on the gay community, seen first hand as I came out in the early 1990s, and watching my mother waste away with cancer in 2009. Something silent that can strike without warning, an invisible killer lurking in our very own genes, a disease spread through intimacy, a virus floating in the air waiting to be inhaled: all of these are scary possibilities in the real world. Dreams and films take the ideas to dystopian extremes where one bite, scratch, or breath can turn you into a monster or a corpse. My subconscious takes all these ideas apart in the most interesting and terrifying ways. Strangely enough, I feel free to write it out, think it through, and move on. Horror is catharsis in these dark times.