A Dream of Armageddon Ebook
Title: A Dream of Armageddon
Author: Herbert George Wells
Editor's Notes by Blake Linton Wilfong
The existence of premonitory and past life dreams has never been
scientifically substantiated, but there are countless anecdotal reports of
both. In 1901, H. G. Wells gave us a new twist on these concepts with a
story about a series of consistent, vivid "future life" dreams revealing
events taking place hundreds of years hence.
Pseudoscience? Fantasy? Not necessarily. Some of Wells' stories
involved a "kink in space", a sort of trans-dimensional connection between
seemingly distant places--like modern theories of wormholes and quantum
interconnectedness. Such a "kink" might also span the dimension of time,
linking the minds of two men of different epochs.
Wells' vision of the future is chillingly accurate. Before the World
Wars or the invention of the airplane, tank, or nuclear bomb, he knew
technological advances would increase the death and destruction wrought by
war. He foresaw how one madman (e.g., Hitler) could cause it all. And he
made real and personal the terrible tragedy that results when our
vigilance falters. Written a century ago, this is a story for our time.
The man with the white face entered the carriage at Rugby. He moved slowly despite his porter's urgency, and even while he was still on the platform I noted how ill he seemed. He dropped into the corner across from me with a sigh, made an incomplete attempt to arrange his traveling shawl, and became motionless, his eyes staring vacantly. I returned to my reading.
"That ebook," he said, pointing a lean finger, "is about dreams."
"Obviously," I answered, for it was Fortnum Roscoe's Dream States, and the title was on the cover. He hung silent for a space as if seeking words. "Yes," he said at last, "but they know nothing." I looked attentively at him.
"There are dreams," he said, "and dreams... Tell me, do you ever dream vividly?"
"Rarely," I answered. "I doubt I have three vivid dreams in a year."
"Ah!" he said, "Then your dreams don't mix with your memories? You don't find yourself in doubt; did this happen or did it not?"
"Hardly ever. Except for a momentary hesitation now and then. I suppose few people do. Roscoe says it happens at times and gives the usual explanation about intensity of impression and the like to account for its not happening as a rule. I suppose you know of these theories--"
"They are wrong." His emaciated hand played with the strap of the window for a time. I prepared to resume reading, and that seemed to precipitate his next remark. He leaned forward almost as though to touch me.
"Isn't there something called consecutive dreaming--that goes on night after night?"
"I believe there is. There are cases given in most ebooks on mental trouble."
"Right place for them. But what I mean--" He looked at his bony knuckles. "Is that sort of thing really dreaming? Or something else?" I should have snubbed his persistent conversation but for the drawn anxiety of his face. I remember now the look of his faded eyes and the lids red stained.
"I'm not just arguing about a matter of opinion," he said. "It's killing me."
"If you call them dreams. Night after night. Vivid!--so vivid...this--" he indicated the landscape that went streaming by the window "seems unreal in comparison! I can scarcely remember who I am, what business I am on..."
"You mean the dream is always the same?" I asked.
"No. It's over. I died."
"Smashed and killed, and now, so much of me as that dream was, is dead. Forever. I dreamt I was another man, living in a different part of the world at a different time. Night after night I woke into that other life. Fresh scenes and fresh happenings--until I came upon the last--when I died." It was clear I was in for this dream. And after all, I had an hour before me, the light was fading fast, and Fortnum Roscoe is rather dreary. "Living in a different time," I said: "do you mean in some different age?"
"Yes, to come."
"The year 3,000, for example?"
"I don't know. I did when I was asleep and dreaming, but not now that I am awake. I have forgotten many things since I woke out of these dreams, though I knew them at the time when I was--I suppose it was dreaming. They called the year differently from our way... What did they call it?" He put his hand to his forehead. "No, I forget." He sat smiling weakly. I feared he would not tell me his dream. As a rule I hate people who tell their dreams, but this struck me differently. I proffered assistance even. "It began--" I suggested.
"It was vivid from the first. I seemed to wake up in it suddenly. The first time, I found myself sitting in a sort of loggia looking out over the sea. I had been dozing, and suddenly I woke up--fresh and vivid--not a bit dreamlike--because the girl had stopped fanning me."
"Please don't interrupt. I woke up, I say, because the girl had stopped fanning me. I was not surprised to find myself there or anything of that sort, you understand. I did not feel I had fallen into it suddenly. I simply took it up at that point. Whatever memory I had of this life, this 19th-century life, faded as I woke, vanished like a dream. I knew all about myself, knew that my name was no longer Cooper but Hedon, and all about my position in the world. I've forgotten a lot since I woke--there's a want of connection--but it was all quite clear and matter-of-fact then." He hesitated, gripping the window strap, putting his face forward and looking up to me appealingly.
"This seems bosh to you?"
"No, no!" I cried. "Go on. Tell me what this loggia was like!"
"It was not really a loggia--I don't know what to call it. It faced south. It was small. It was all in shadow except the semicircle above the balcony that showed the sky and sea and the corner where the girl stood. I was on a metal couch with light striped cushions--and the girl was leaning over the balcony with her back to me. The light of the sunrise fell on her ear and cheek. Her pretty white neck and the little curls that nestled there, and her white shoulder were in the sun, and all the grace of her body was in the cool shadow. She was dressed--how can I describe it? It was easy and flowing. And there she stood, so that it came to me how beautiful and desirable she was, as though I had never seen her before. And when at last I spoke and raised myself upon my arm she turned to face me--"
"I have lived 53 years in this world. I have had mother, sisters, friends, wife and daughters--all their faces, the play of their faces, I know. But the face of this girl--it is much more real to me. I can bring it back into memory so that I see it again--I could draw it or paint it. And after all--" He stopped--but I said nothing.
"The face of a dream--the face of a dream. She was beautiful. Not that beauty which is terrible, cold, and worshipful, like the beauty of a saint; nor that beauty that stirs fierce passions; but a sort of glow, sweet lips that softened into smiles, and grave gray eyes. And she moved so gracefully--" He stopped, his face downcast and hidden. Then he looked up at me and went on, making no further attempt to disguise his absolute belief in the reality of his story.
"You see, I had given up my plans and ambitions, given up all I had ever worked for or desired, for her sake. I had been a master man away there in the north, with influence and property and a great reputation, but it was all nothing compared to her. I had come to the place, this city of sunny pleasures with her, and left all those things to wreck and ruin just to save a remnant at least of my life. While I had been in love with her before I knew that she too loved me, all my life had seemed vain and hollow, dust and ashes. It was dust and ashes.
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