When I was very young, too young to really understand the concept of death (much less reincarnation), I had a dream. In this dream, my sister, my aunt Connie, and I were camping in a damp cave. We'd laid out our sleeping bags near the mouth of the cave and I remember looking out upon the tops of mountains rolling as far as the eye could see. Since we were pretty much level with all these mountains, I knew the cave we were camping in was high above the earth. Our fire cracked and popped as shadows danced over the rock formations and somewhere way back in the darkness the plinking of condensation echoed. The fire turned to glowing embers and my aunt and sister slept soundly while I laid awake, gazing out through the mouth of the cave at a sky brimming with stars. As I watched, a large shadow passed, momentarily blacking out the entire view and a shiver coursed through my tiny body. I knew whatever had blocked the entrance of the cave must have been massive and fear squeezed the breath from my body. I pretended to sleep within this dream and, at some point, must have.
The dream, however, immediately cut to the next night. Again the fire had all but burnt out. Again my sister and aunt were sleeping while I watched the mouth of the cave, wide awake. Again the monstrous shadow passed and again I was paralyzed with fear. But again the dream fast-forwarded to the next night and all of the details were the same. Only this time my curiosity got the better of me (as it often does) and when the shadow passed I somehow mustered the courage to crawl out of my sleeping bag and approach the mouth of the cave.
My heart raced as I left the safety of our campsite behind and I felt as if I were about to throw up. But I had to know. I had to see what it was that had passed the mouth of our cave for three nights running.
Stepping out onto a ledge, I saw the world's largest T-Rex yards away. As soon as I was exposed, its massive head whipped toward me as its gigantic mouth opened, revealing rows of sharp teeth that were as large as trees. It roared and its rancid breath blew like a hot, mighty wind. The force of the wind, coupled with panic, caused me to stumble backward and the next thing I know the edge of the cliff crumbled beneath my feet and I found myself falling, plummeting toward the hard, unforgiving earth below as wind whistled in my ears.
I knew there was no way I could survive. I knew, somehow, that I was going to die.
There was a flash of brilliant light and suddenly I was walking through a lush forest. Birds twittered and chirped overhead and the air was scented with the most delicate and beautiful fragrance I'd ever smelled. Alabaster statues were scattered among wildflowers and fountains gurgled streams of water so clear it sparkled in the dappled sunlight.
I followed a path of crushed gravel through this forest until I came to a clearing. In the center of the clearing was a semi-circle of concrete benches and seated upon these benches were people of every imaginable race and age. I sat in the only open spot and listened as each person told the story of how they had died, patiently awaiting my turn. After telling my tale, the beautiful brunette sitting beside me took my small hand in hers and smiled. She told me I could stay in the forest for as long as I wanted, but when I was ready I would have to return to the living as a new baby. But I would return, she said, I would always return....