I’ve written some of the best news stories of my life recently, except they’ve been fake.
Take, for example, Monday night. Stunned by the triple-whammy of insomnia, a 12-hour work day, and too much caffeine, I fell into a strange half-slumber around 1 a.m. and found myself reporting in my sleep.
There I was at a movie theater (watching old Dracula movies) when a chain gang in the front row somehow broke loose and found weapons. In orange jumpsuits, they grabbed rifles from under the seats. “Rise up!” they shouted, muzzle flare painting the auditorium orange in quarter-second bursts as terrified folks dove to the ground.
The mutiny was quickly put down by a black-clad SWAT team and, as is my role, I went about interviewing frightened movie-goers.
The entire spread rolled out in my half-slumber — quotes, photos, flowing language, lush descriptions from eyewitnesses.
Until my kids woke me at 5 a.m., the ol’ brain was convinced it was all real and was compiling lists of phone numbers and statistics for follow-up coverage. I sat in bed, heart racing for three full minutes before I shook the fog off.
This isn’t an isolated instance. Last week I took a sick day, teeth-rattling cold and feverish with that 24-hour flu that’s been going around. I again couldn’t quite find sleep, just a bizarre halfway-between that let my subconscious run wild.
Since I wasn’t at work, my (heavily medicated) mind invented some rather sensational news to cover — this time, a military occupation of a local small town in which soldiers were posted at street corners. There was no precipitating event. They just appeared on an otherwise uneventful day, parading down the street with tanks that made no sound. Strapped down with heavy artillery, they stood a silent watch, spreading panic simply by standing ram-rod straight and refusing to say a word.
Notepad in hand, camera slung around my neck, and unaware it wasn’t real as I tossed and turned in bed, I went about the business of journalism. Townsfolk held panicked meetings, paranoia spread, and civilian militias foamed. And then my fever broke.
Armchair psychologists out there are going to have a field day with this column, I know. I’m not sure what deep weirdness prompted those exact dream scenarios — my dreams are always bizarre affairs — but I can speak to the working-in-my-half-sleep aspect of it all.
I need a vacation somewhere far away from the office.
The past two months have been extremely difficult. Two reporters left for greener pastures in a relatively short span, which meant back-to-back hiring campaigns. We’re back up to a full complement of reporters as of last week, but a seemingly never-ending stretch we had just two full-time editorial staffers filling 36 pages a week with all-local coverage. That’s no small feat, and I’m glad the crazy workload is behind us.
Here’s hoping those loopy dreams are behind me, too.