I had this dream about a month ago:
I am in a war zone.
Night is falling.
There is a crisis.
A massive oak tree, full of people, has been set alight by one side in the battle. This force wants to destroy the tree and the people who have made it their home. It is a terrible scene. The tree is roaring. Millions of leaves igniting crumpling orange, all flames rushing upwards into a blistering ball of fire.
The people in the tree are stuck inside this burning cage, standing on their platforms and ladders and clinging to branches. Some of them manage to leap to earth through the flames. They are tiny, like workers jumping from a burning tower.
I have no idea what to do. It is like I’ve just stumbled across a mass lynching. In fact, all the perpetrators seem to be middle-aged white men in too-tight shirts and slacks. They are standing around, looking nonchalant.
I am helpless, shouting incoherently, waving my arms. Incredulous.
There is no water.
I’m desperate to get the others out of the oak tree. I am witnessing an atrocity far beyond anything I have ever experienced in my sheltered life, and I have no idea what to do. It is devastating. Weird sounds of impotent rage and grief come out of me as I look from the faces of the perpetrators to the panicking people in the tree.
Then something as shocking and incredible as the crime itself happens:
All the flames are extinguished at once. The tree is unscathed. The leaves are still green. No-one is hurt.
We have just witnessed a miracle.
There is silence, uncomprehending, then cries of delight and amazement, wild whoops of joy, people rushing to embrace the tree, people falling to the floor, kissing the earth, awestruck, wordless. Divine intervention.
But we don’t even have time to absorb this information before water cannons and powerful searchlights are turned on us. Someone catches me in a beam of dazzling light and I can’t seem to get out of it. I try to dodge but I am locked in. I see a hedge across the field and run for it, scampering up the bank, squirming underneath the hedgerow – and abruptly I’m in a long chamber. The huge hedge is hollow, and the space inside it forms a room.
The searchlight is glaring intensely at the hedge and shafts of the light are coming through the gaps in the foliage, illuminating the space. In here it’s like a longhouse, warm, empty, soil and rammed earth. I want to stay here, crouch in the shadows, but I know there are people coming to find me. At one end of the chamber there is a doorway. I go through it, into a brightly lit office space with a photocopier, a printer, a potted plant and a goldfish in a bowl. This is the secret HQ of the treeburning enemy. I am right at the heart of their command centre. They live behind the hedge.
I am welcomed by the men working there as though I am part of their organisation. Am I?
The invading force is inside the colonised people who fight it. And close-up, the members of this force don’t seem like enemies: they seem like everyday people, workers, dads.