I’ve always wondered what determines where and how far one’s mind strays during the night hours. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern.
Some dreams are too short, cut off just when they’re getting interesting. Others go on too long- the scary ones- and at some point the dreaming part of the brain says “That’s enough! I’m outta here!” and I’ll wake up, officially creeped out before calming down, maybe even saying a prayer before falling back to sleep.
Then there are the ones that meander along, sort of boring, but proving that my brain is at least trying to show me a good time- though not exerting a lot of effort.
There are the fever dreams, those horrid things that accompany illness, where- instead of taking it easy (like its host)- the brain chooses to fixate on some task like counting blocks, or trying to solve a complex problem. Though I’m mentally working away at the task, the brain only goes so far, then starts over before I can solve the damned thing. After a few abortive attempts, I’ll wake up feeling like crap but now frustrated and bored by the repeating dream. If I go back to sleep too soon, the same dream will be there, starting up again with the same faulty problem-solving techniques- and sooner or later I’ll wake up due to the irritation I feel at my mind obsessing over something without my permission.
But every so often I’ll be favored with an “epic” dream- a mental magnum opus that goes on for hours- or so it seems. I may wake up for a minute or so, but if I fall back to sleep quickly, it can continue for a while longer.
I don’t pretend to understand much about dreams, but I do know that most of us would be in sad shape if our respective dream lives came to an end. There’s something therapeutic about letting the mind wander where it may, for if it isn’t allowed to roam at night, it will start wandering during one’s waking hours- with unpleasant results.
The following are dreams vivid enough that I was able to record them in my journal:
THE PRISONER DREAMS
Every so often- every few months, I guess- I find myself in The Village, that hellish place to which secret agent John Drake was sent when he tried to resign from the British government. The fact that the TV show “The Prisoner”made such an impression on me has to account for the fact that I have these recurring dreams. What keeps them interesting is that they are never the same, from a content standpoint. Like the show, every one is a different, albeit incomplete, adventure. But what does remain a constant is the feeling of oppression, the paranoia that pervades the place. After having a few of these dreams, I was moved to start a story about Number Six, the moniker Drake was forced to assume upon entering The Village.
THE HOUSE DREAMS
For some reason, I will occasionally experience a dream about large houses. My wife and I are home-hunting and come upon a huge, squarish house that has to be in the neighborhood of eight to ten thousand square feet, spread out between its three stories, and taking up the better part of the block it sits on. The building is never new, more along the lines of a place built in the 1930s or 40s, with wooden clapboard siding, but with a well maintained porch that surrounds several sides of the house. In a couple of the dreams, I recall a center section on the second floor that fascinated me. It was boarded up- closed off due to having fallen into disrepair. I grew excited about its potential, and wanted to purchase it right away so I could get started with the necessary remodeling.
THE BEACH DREAM
I was near the ocean, walking around on a flat spot amidst the rocky and mountainous terrain above the shore.
At some point I wanted to see something significant far below, but was standing too near the edge for my own liking (having a strong fear of heights). I didn’t dare get close enough to see over a five-foot high, jagged outcropping of rock that was obscuring the view.
A young woman volunteered to climb up, over and down the other side for a better look. As she set foot out there on the precipice, I started feeling scared. It was several hundred feet down to the hard sand, and here she was standing on a ledge so narrow that she had to hang onto the uneven rocks behind her to keep her balance.
As she was leaning out, peering down and commenting on something she saw, my anxiety for her increased- when suddenly, the rock she was depending on cracked and slid slowly toward the girl, as if intent on shoving her over the edge on its way down. Stabbing fear coursed through me- I expected the worst to happen before I could act. But it didn’t. The stone came to a stop, stuck between two larger rocks, as I helped her back to the safe side of the cliff.
THE EUROPEAN DREAM
It began with me in some foreign country that looked like one of the poorer city sections of China. I was staying at a residence, but decided to leave the area because soldiers were coming. The place I walked to (a long distance away), was Russia, and what struck me first about it was the darkness. Everywhere I went, inside buildings or out, the sky was dark, like a perpetual dusk. I traveled with a couple other guys, both Americans. One of them was an old missionary companion from Argentina.
We entered one section of a large town and then split up to explore. The other two guys went off to some sort of club while I wandered elsewhere. The buildings were cavernous, dimly lit inside. At some point I even remarked to a bystander- while pointing at a massive tall edifice- about how much potential the country seemed to have, from a resource and business standpoint, but that it wasn’t being developed.
Some time after this, an old fellow handed me a small black satchel full of religious writings and small tools, and told me to deliver the “Christian” materials (as he called them), to an organization for him. It would require that I conduct myself as a type of spy or courier. I notice that there were a lot of old leather satchels being carried around by many people, evidence that this whole dream represented a time in the past.
Eventually I was back with my friends. I left the club, and as I walked out of that dark place I said goodbye to a large fellow dressed in red and black clothing, who was doing an impersonation of the devil. For some reason, our discussion- more small talk than anything else- stayed on a cordial, even pleasant level. As I left, he was paying his respects to a shrine.
The three of us walked by a darkened dance hall full of people, then entered a huge church building lit inside only by candles. There was a speech taking place up front, so we sat and listened. I glanced down at the scarred and worn wooden floor and noticed what looked like toes sticking out from under my pew/bench, said digits basically flush with the floor surface so as to be difficult to see, unless one was looking closely. I touched them and drew back in revulsion, as they seemed to be part of a corpse. They moved slightly, and then I realized there was a body under my bench. Then I looked into a dark corner to my right, and saw a dead body slumped in the shadows. Time to leave, I decided, and the three of us left the building to continue our mission, whatever it was.
At this point my bladder forced me awake. I rushed to the bathroom for relief and then tried to go back to bed and continue the dream- but to no avail. The whole fantastic creation faded away like snow melting in the sunshine. What struck me about the dream was its mystical quality. There was nothing frightening about it. Mysterious and atmospheric and from a much earlier time, yes, but nothing truly ominous. More religious than anything else, though I did sense throughout it the feeling that a disapproving Big Brother was watching- that, in a sense, deep religious thought or discourse was discouraged in that society.
THE INDUSTRIAL DREAM
I only remember fragments now…
Carol and I were driving around town somewhere near the industrial district when we came across an old building that was quite large, as far as the amount of acreage it took up. I wanted to look around inside, if possible, so we stopped the car and went in.
There was a caretaker there who showed us around a little, but the tour was too short for my liking. I could see doors and an unlocked gate or two a short distance away. When he wasn’t looking, I went through one entrance which opened into a large room, well lit, with wooden floors, walls and high ceilings, the material being some sort of light-colored oak. As I started to comment on its beauty and how it looked like an old-fashioned bowling alley, the caretaker reappeared and verified that it was, indeed, and proving it by rolling a bowling ball toward the far wall, though I saw no pins there. Taken aback by the room’s grandeur and beauty, I wondered what would be done with it, hoping it wouldn’t be destroyed to make room for some inferior construction.
We went on our way exploring, then left the building. Carol drove around the back of the edifice, where we discovered a huge area of demolition. It appeared that the building we’d been in- while quite long- was the only edifice that had been spared. Between the building and the dirt road we were traveling was a distance of about 200 yards, most of which had been reduced to rubble. Against a grey sky I could see the skeletal silhouette of an amusement park ride, its long arms still holding up several seats in the air.
As we drove on I was saddened to see most of what had at one time been a massive park- visited by families and youth- destroyed, seemingly about to be replaced by something that would never measure up to what had been there before. Piles of brick, twisted metal and garbage were strewn everywhere, and as we traveled on I could see that the park-like area was four times longer than it was wide. As Carol drove on, I could see pallets and stacked wood ahead of us. I told her to be careful and not hit them, but she went full speed ahead, and instead of the debris tearing apart the underside of our truck, we passed through it all as if it was a mirage.
We stopped at some point so I could look around, but found little that was useful. I looked at a metal or paper box that contained a shaft with washers and metal sleeves on it, but couldn’t tell what it was used for so I discarded it. We traveled to the far end of the demolition area, and entered a neighborhood where a lot of apartments and condos old and new stood, and I wondered if this was where a lot of the park’s visitors had lived so many years ago.
THE DREAM NIGHT IN THE FOREST
I was traveling in a vehicle- a convertible- with the top down. There were one or two others in the car. We were driving at night, the air warm and comfortable. The sky was clear, a full moon out.
We drove most of the way through a dense forest of fir or pine or cedar, the moonlight bright enough that its rays illuminated the treetops, moonbeams only partially making it through the branches- so it was still fairly dark at the forest floor- but we were able to drive without the headlights on, if we wished. My only feeling during this part of the dream was about the sense of peace and beauty I felt as we traveled. The road seemed straight.
After a while we pulled over to a parking area beside a tall stone wall. This area was much darker, its height blocking out the available moonlight, contrasted by an arched opening at the near end, through which more light could be seen.
We parked the car and passed through the archway to an open meadow bathed with bright yellowish moonlight, where people were walking around, enthralled by the night and the light and the beauty of it all. The meadow itself was enclosed by tall, thick stands of forest, and there was some sort of classical music playing, more as background music than anything else, since I could not see its source.
We strolled there for a short time, and then the scene and the dream came to an end as some dreams do- when they have completed their mission- the reason not usually made clear to the dreamer upon waking.
In this case I didn’t care whether or not it had meaning. I was grateful for the elegiac nature of the moonlight scene, which was intense enough to brand its images upon my memory as something to look back on later and enjoy- even if only for a few fleeting moments.