The Dream (repost)

This is a post that has been transplanted from my original blog:

John Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare

John Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare

What follows is the account of a particularly vivid dream I had one night last week. I considered posting this on my (now defunct) humor blog, as it has some incongruous and even humorous moments, but I’m posting it here to get us thinking about the imagination. Writing is no less an art than painting or sculpture, and the mind continues to work even during sleep. I haven’t done much to dress up the prose; rather I wanted to capture as many details as I could remember from the dream without adding anything. I have been told that this dream is classic in many ways, and speaks to a lot of things that I have encountered in recent weeks as well as my current state of mind. I’ll let you draw your own inferences. SP

I was in a city that was not my home. I had to take a bus across town to a mall, on some errand unknown to me. I had a bus ticket, a square, flimsy piece of paper not unlike the receipts some ATMs print out. As I was heading to catch a bus, someone texted me a photo of a bus ticket, saying that it would do as well. What bus line would accept a photo of a bus ticket as the real thing?

That was the first departure from reality.

The bus was, I think, double-decker. In any event, it was very wide, the center aisle being the width of an apartment living room. There were seats by the windows, though I remember no sign of sunlight, and a few poles in the center for people to hang on to. I sat and jounced along with the bus. The bus was perhaps two-thirds full, and not everyone in it was friendly; I saw two passengers start an argument that nearly escalated into a fight.

I found myself able to look out, and realized that we were going right by the mall that was my destination, even though it was a regular stop for this bus. No one seemed to notice when we finally pulled up to a different building, in the midst of the city. The passengers were shepherded off the bus and inside. Most of them seemed passive, unaware of the change of route or their curious arrival.

We ended up in a large building, like a mall, and went into the first store on the right, which more resembled a suite of offices, albeit a very large one, than a store. We were met by several women who proceeded to test and drill us in several ways. Here the dream becomes cloudy, and I have no memory of just how and why we were being examined. I do recall the head of the store – or secret society, as I began to think of it – as being a middle-aged woman in a salmon pink business suit of a nubbly woolen fabric. After the dream, I realized that the society consisted entirely of women.

I was separated out, and the head of the society apologized. I had not been meant to be hijacked with the others, as I was older than any of the other bus passengers. I sensed some other reason(s) as well, but do not remember them. I was told that I would be released, but before that I had to take “a drink of water from the normal world.” She showed me where to find a water fountain that provided such water. It also provided small chocolates, so I had some of both.

I went deeper into the offices and found the exit opposite the way we came in, which gave onto open water. The bus passengers were being loaded into rowboats and rowed out to sea. At once I understood that they were going to their deaths, the word “sacrifice” popping into my mind. My reaction was one of resignation. “I might have guessed,” I said or thought, sighing.

I was let out of the complex by the door I had entered by, and found myself on the city streets in a cold, breezy day, as expected. I knew it was going to be a long walk to the mall that had been my destination, and realized that I no longer had a coat or sweater. I had the impression that someone in the offices had lent me a sweater, and I should go back and get it. Once back inside I noticed a flurry of activity. Desks were being moved, partitions dismantled, as though they were evacuating. I went deeper, past dusty, already empty offices and storerooms. There were living quarters, as well, some disused. A kitchen, a closet…

Whoa! I walk into a room and there are body parts writhing on a bed, with accompanying moans and groans. No need to ask what’s going on; everything is all too clear. The shock was like turning on a TV, expecting to see Spongebob, and getting hardcore porn instead. I hurried past, muttering an apology, and – more people going st it, this time in a bathroom. I cannot think of having ever had a sexual dream in which I felt so startled and embarrassed to be there. Carry on; don’t mind me!

More rooms, dusty and unused, then a bedroom that showed signs of habitation. It had a stairway leading up, so I ascended. I came up into a long, narrow room, with a high ceiling. The room snaked around and finally ended, the ceiling rising even more, at a bank of cathedral windows through which the sun blazed bright, bright as sunlight off fresh snow. Bookshelves crammed with books ran floor to ceiling on both walls. A bar or counter ran down the center of the room. At intervals atop the bar were glass cases, in which were stored small pieces of jewelry and antique watches.

The voice of a little girl came to my ear as I walked toward the windows. “My grandpa has all sorts of nice things,” she said. Looking at the books I replied, “Your grandpa must be rich.”

The bar came to an end shortly before the windows. Looking to my left, where the bar had just ended, I saw the leader of the secret society. She gave me a broad smile and said, “I’m the mom.”

I never laid eyes on the little girl.

A party seemed to begin. Well-dressed people came up the stairs, men and women, all of whom were strangers to me – I was somehow back at the other end of the room – carrying bottles of wine and trays of hors d’ouevres I could not identify. I remember a cracker shaped like a pasta shell with a dollop of some sort of pâté or mousse on it. There were tiny cookies, the size of a dime, which someone said were meant to dunk in the wine. The room quickly filled; voices were cheery, their conversations trivial, concerned with the weather or the ingredients in the hors d’ouevres. I awoke before I could eat or drink.


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