What if your mind was a radio station taking requests for dreaming topics? “Hello there caller, what’ll it be?” “Well, I’d really like to be driving a Lamborghini down Highway 1 when all of the sudden aliens arrive with bad intentions. I infiltrate the mothership and repel the entire extraterrestrial invasion with only a flare gun and a dog whistle. Earth throws me a giant party at the Playboy mansion to celebrate my triumph.”
Ever since I was a kid, I had that phrase stuck in my head—“a night in dreams.” Sadly that I'd look forward to sleeping, just for mental exercise, to spend my nights beyond the level of detail found in my days in elementary, middle, and high schools.
There’s power in dreams. Insight through revelation of the sub-conscious. The lucidity of visualization. Or perhaps simply because we think there’s power in dreams. All of the above, but it’s more than just the illusion of meaning or the meaning of the illusion. It's an adventure--something we all want life to be.
A Night in Dreams, the name of a play or a movie. It’s so simple, not even masquerading as clever. Why is it so magnetic to me? I’ve written multiple pieces entitled as such. And I keep coming back for another slice of pensive pie. Still remember some strange dreams I’ve had over the years, some were nightmares. No one talks about dreams, partly because they’re irrationally set and executed; they’re private and require context that most people are not willing to impart. Psychoanalysis aside, dreams captivate our sleeping hours, and the context is what fascinates me. How the brain can work and work all day, and at rest materialize fears and hopes into a sprawling story we can only often claw at remembering fully?
The oldest one I can recall was a nightmare from when I was about eight, maybe nine. My neighbor Eric and I would play Doom on the computer. The secret level of Doom 2 still scares the fried rice out of me. The room around me was a deep burgundy, the ceiling, the carpets, everything, all the furniture. A baroque palace where Bogart would brood over scotch. A beautiful, Marilyn Monroe-type reclining on the couch, and I’m seeing this from first person, but I’m still a kid in the dream. All of the sudden a pinky demon busts through the wall, a big motherfucker about a half-ton, slobbering acid, neon-green toxic waste foaming around the mouth and foot long incisors. And a bad temper. The woman on the couch screams so loud, it should have jolted me out of bed. Didn’t think my brain could create such a high pitch without fingernails and chalk. The demon chases me down, knocks me under a falling bookcase. He then goes after the woman, now shaking, backpedaling into a corner, knocking over several potted plants and urns. Her scream hasn’t stopped for a second, so loud and high-pitched it’s bending the physics of the room. Floor tilts, both she and the demon lose their footing, sliding to the other side of the room, her scratching at the floor, trying to get away somehow out of a room with no windows and no door. The pinky demon eventually grabs her and takes a bite out of her. End of dream. A recurring dream that bothered me for a while, and just recounting it, snags me to this day.
The fear in that nightmare is simple and gruesome. Direct and pungent evil. Dreams I had in middle school and high school had a sinister, subtle quality. Stranger and roundabout. Imagine the rubble ruins of the Parthenon, flat and high on a plateau in the sky, dark and purple clouds shoot lightning. Rudimentary dark and stormy night with the twist of my entire school class in a conga line, moving to primal drums. Shoulders bouncing, and I’m in the pack. Going round and round the rectangular stone platform. The facial expressions of everyone are obscured, but somehow I strongly infer that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do. I step out of the conga line, gaze up at the menacing sky from the center, everyone still in form, hands on each others’ shoulders, marching. I look back at them, trying to figure out how to get back in line and I can’t. Wasn’t necessarily a nightmare, but it always seemed to vivid, and that one recurred as well.
Perhaps most amusing was the one that started in a giant zeppelin. Purple sky, purple balloon. I suppose violet lenses are common in my dreams. I’m strapped in a parachute, ready to be dropped over a warzone. Out the cargo hold I fly, all of the sudden, I’m in a two-dimensional plane and I’m Mario in a purple suit and Luigi is with me and we’re dodging goombas in the sky. Pipes flow from clouds, weaving between all them, and blocks with question marks etched in pure black paint. All tinged with purple. When I hit the ground I’m regular me in three-D in a cave with millions of people--a wide hollowed out cavern with blue-purple walls and it’s the end of the world. Girl next to me says it’s the apocalypse and that the people in charge want us to procreate. I’m excited and scared and wondering how the cave is so well-lit and why I’m there. I stand up to go towards the exit, and bright-phosphorus-white energy glows from the entrance. I find a man in a foreman’s hard hat and ask him about it. He tells me that the grey goo end of the world has come and that the only way to abate the self-replicating nano-plague was to seal the cavern with searing plasma, and that human beings just needed more time. But I didn’t need more time. He kept talking about time, how he couldn’t believe there wasn’t enough time. There weren’t any clocks, just desolate rock relief. People are being rolled around in wheelbarrows. I can’t discern what they’re doing, if they’re dead or alive, and the foreman is gone. I’m all alone. The tunnel isn’t so bright anymore and all I want is to feel the air rush against my face as I roll through the sky and clouds once more, even in two dimensions. Stood there wondering how people could live in a single passageway, all lined up against a wall. Linear tunnel, pockmarked and promised to be terraformed. That one stuck with me for a while as well.
Now dreams like these foment brain activity with their strangeness and vivaciousness. Jaggedly, I think of the rhyme, “vexed by the hex of the man with the Rolex.”