There are certain modes of thinking that are par for the course in dreams: Often a location looks nothing like the real life space it represents. Often you find yourself represented by a person who is decidedly not you. Often you find yourself seeing that not-you you from outside. It's all dream logic, things you're given to understand just because. No explanation necessary.
Almost always when you are about to die in a dream you wake up. Or, failing that, you wake up at the moment in which you die.
In this dream I'm visiting my friend Jay, who's staying for some reason at the Holiday Inn (oh, also, things that are inherently question-worthy in waking life, like, "Hey, why was Jay staying at the Holiday Inn?" are utterly logical and unremarkable in dream space). It's the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland, a hotel whose rooms I've never graced, with the exception of the ballroom during the Chocolate Lovers' Fling.
We look out the window toward South Portland, across the Fore River. There's a detonation that I understand is nuclear. I watch the heat-wave-style ripple cross the river and toss up everything in its path as it makes it way toward the very room I'm standing in.
And I think, "When it hits us, we will die. How strange that we will be dead and there's nothing to be done about it." My stance on this is extremely clinical and scientifically curious. There's no use in panicking, it's not as though we can escape the impending doom. I am completely ambivalent about the whole thing, although I recognize intellectually that I should, as a human, feel something about the obvious, looming fact of my own death. But I don't. So I watch it come.
When it hits the wall in front of me, it hits with a cliched blinding flash of white. It's one of those rare occasions where I'm aware in the dream that I'm dreaming. I expect to wake up at the moment of death, so I'm surprised to find that I don't.
Instead, I find myself alone in the hotel room, and furthermore, according to my dream intuition, alone in the world, Twilight Zone style. I take a moment to think, "Well, and this is being dead." Then I wake up.
*Thanks to Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips for staying at the Holiday Inn by the Bay during his recent visit and posting the view from his window there on his blog. It's virtually identical to the view I dreamt. (Hopefully he's the sort of fella that won't mind me borrowing his photo for this purpose...I mean, the serendipity of him taking it and me happening to see it a couple of months ago and it being exactly the image I was thinking of...he seems the sort to appreciate how glorious that is.)