Last night I had a dream!
May 12, 1944
I dreamed that I walked down a street in a strange city. On the opposite side of the street I saw a great building that was made of dusky colored aged stones. I stopped and gazed at this building, and suddenly there came over me a great impulse to see what was inside!
I crossed the wide, smooth street and climbed the steps that led up to this mysterious house. I knocked on the door, and as it swung open an old man revealed himself from its gloomy interior. He smiled at me and rubbing his hands, said "Would you like to come in and look around?"
"Yes," I answered, and stepped inside.
Taking my arm, the old man led me towards a row of coffin like boxes! There, to my increasingly frightened eyes, reposed many dead bodies!
I gave a startled cry, and drew back in fear. Coming quickly to my side, the old man spoke softly and reassuringly into my ear.
"Don't be frightened. These are only death masks, made from the bodies of every person whose has died through the ages."
In amazement, I looked at him. Then, allowing my eyes to wander, I saw that the room where-in I stood held countless numbers of death masks! Row upon row, tier upon tier, they reached far beyond the limit of my vision.
"Would you care to look at them?" asked the old man.
Mutely, I nodded yes, and holding onto my arm, he led me down between the rows of masks, and as I looked at them, I could see faces that I once knew, but now whose names I had forgotten.
For hours he guided me through this terrible place, and then we came to the last mask!
"Why," I exclaimed, "This one is only half finished!"
Turning, I looked at him, and my breath seemed to stop. He was looking at me with eyes that caused me to tremble violently. A thousand years seemed to pass, and then he spoke.
" I not only make the mask for ones who die, I foresee the future and prepare them in advance. The man whose features will shape this mask is still among the living!"
The expression in his eyes held mine as if he had hypnotized me. But, gathering every ounce of my ebbing courage, I asked the old man this question.
"Are you making this mask of death for me?"
The question asked, I waited, with agonized mind, for his answer.
" I have not made your mask," he said, and then with a voice that carried a tone of terrible finality, he added, " YET!"
Crushing fear swept over me, and screaming at the top of my voice, I dashed at full speed down the aisle lined with coffins and ran out the door of this frightful house!
Struggling violently, I awakened to find myself sobbing!
That drama in my dream was so vivid and so real that it still seared my mind as though it had been a real experience. So real, in fact, that in my sleep-drugged condition, I feared to go back to my slumbers because I might dream again of that awful house and the old man with his death masks.
But, I did fall asleep, and as I had feared, my dream began as follows:
I again found myself at the door of this great building, but now I was a pathetic and tragic figure of a man. For weeks I had not slept nor rested and I feared that I was going insane! And now, in mental desperation, here I was again to ask the old man
if he had 'YET' made my death mask.
Knocking on the door, I once more saw the old man smiling at me, and without a word, he led me to the very same coffin wherein lay the unfinished mask.
As I stood there, frozen to the marrow with apprehension, I began to babble as if I were an idiot! " What did you mean when you told me that you had not 'YET' made my death mask? Did you use the word 'YET' to drive me insane?"
The old man placed his hand on my shoulder and said, "You came at the right time. There is your mask! Put it on!"
I screamed at the top of my voice, and twisting from his grasp, ran blindly toward the door. As I ran, I crashed into thousands and thousands of masks and knocked them to the floor. As they rolled about, they chanted in resonant harmony.
"There is your mask, put it on!
Its made to fit you well;
Your life on Earth is nearly done,
We're sending you to HELL!"
My screams had now turned into shrieks of curses towards the old man for what he had done to me! But now I was at the door, and to my terrified eyes I saw that it was locked and I could not get out!
The old man was right behind me, and I could hear him telling me to be calm. I brushed him aside and ran towards a small archway and dashed through it into a small room where many people were standing. In the center of the room was a raised platform, and with a great leap, I landed squarely upon it and turned and faced the old man who stood just inside the archway.
Shaking my finger at him, I screamed that now I would prove that he had tricked me into this predicament, and that these people would be my witnesses!
Turning to the crowd, I saw a preacher. To the preacher, I cried, "That old man told me that I was going to die and that he was going to make my death mask soon! He is trying to drive me mad!"
The preacher said nothing! He just looked at me and then looked at the old man in the archway. A horrible feeling came over me. I saw that the preacher did not believe me! In hunted desperation, my eye searched the group. Suddenly, there in the midst of them, I saw my father.
" Father," I cried, and I could feel the hot tears streaming down my cheeks, "You believe me, don't you? You believe that that old man is trying to drive me mad! You believe me, don't you father?"
My father looked at me and said not a word, but I could see tears in his eyes. Were they tears of pity?
Good God! They think I am mad! Putting my hands to my temples, I began to scream and laugh until the very walls around me swayed and buckled as if they were made of cloth!
Now I knew! I AM INSANE!
Again, I awakened to find my hands pressed tightly against my head, and my mouth open as if I had been shouting. My heart pounding heavily, I listened in the darkness to hear if I had really screamed in my sleep and awakened those about me, but there was no sound from the sleeping men who lay in there bunks in the blackness of the compartment.
Drawing my blankets closer around me to still my shivering, I tried to relax, but my eyes would not close again in sleep. And so I lay there until morning came, staring into the darkness; thinking.. worrying ... WONDERING....
Milton A. Briggs