He dreamed he was looking for himself.
The search began deep underground. Dressed in jeans and a shirt, he stood, trapped by the earth, mud and rock crushing him.
But he knew which way was up. Pushing back against the pressure, he lifted his hands and raised the earth above him, first by a barely measured fraction, then, as he kept pushing, by inches, and then by feet. As he lifted the earth away, he gained more freedom to move. With that freedom, he began swimming up through the soil and rock, even though it filled his mouth and he could not properly breath.
The last barrier was concrete. He slowed, but did not stop, though it took greater effort. The sounds he made attracted others’ attention. At last, the concrete broke enough that he could push pieces away. With them gone, he broke off more, creating a hole.
Fresh air washed in from a sunlit blue sky. Although exhausted, he worked more quickly. People’s voices reached him. “What’s going on?” people said. “Is that a person? Who is that?”
“It is a person,” an elderly female voice said. “It’s a man.”
Another female said, “Someone call the police.” Conversations swirled about why the police should be called.
Pushing concrete aside, he lifted himself out of the hole before a decision was found. A circle of staring people, most holding cell phones to videotape his emergence, surrounded him. They backed away at his growl.
Orienting himself, he began walking. The people scattered. He was on Ashland Street. He lived on Clay Street. It was less than a mile away.
It was time he found himself. Up on Clay Street, he awoke from his nap on the couch with a start. Elements of the strange dream buffeted coherent thinking. As understanding developed, he turned to the door. Watching it, he waited, bitter about what was coming. He’d betrayed himself before.
Now it was time to pay.