Sometimes I have dreams that are more story than dream, and those are my favorite. It means my subconscious is entertaining itself. It means my subconscious wants a story. It means I’m still a storyteller, even though I sometimes worry I’m not.
I had nightmares the other night – not terribly unusual. I have stress dreams from time to time; often irritating – oh no I’m so late, oh no my teeth are falling out, oh no I managed to leave the house without clothes, oh no I never went to this class and now I’ll never graduate … I hate those. But this one was the kind I don’t mind having. Because while I was definitely scared during several parts of it, at least it had an interesting narrative.
(Note: dream description coming yes I know but hey it’s my blog and it was a cool story.)
It started off the way dreams do, one dream slipping into another; there’s a high school where a girl died, ghosts are haunting it, now I’m driving and I don’t know how suddenly, etc. It all morphed into a holiday feast. The holiday was some sort of amalgamation of Halloween and Thanksgiving, but to honor specific gods. The women gathered were friends and family (fictitious dream family, not my real family), in a big Victorian house on a dark street, and we were observing some of the rituals but not all of them, just family and friends having a holiday. The table in the main room was long, made of a heavy wood, and the rugs on the floor were Persian, the colors all warm creams and burgundies. It was night, the wind blowing through trees, cold outside. The group hadn’t invited one of the usual friends/family, because we kind of didn’t want her there. But she came anyway, as family does, and she was insisting we follow some of the rituals that everyone had given up as weird and old fashioned and superstitious. Everyone was secretly wishing she would go away. No one was rude enough to say it, but we sighed at each other as she brought out her Tupperware and weird food and deliberately obtuse questions. “Are you sure you aren’t going to…” “We can’t afford not to…” We all bit our lips and rolled our eyes.
In another house, some slip-dream away, as dreams do, a dark god is angry with someone for not following the rituals, will kill them for it. The person screams, calls on a different god for help, but who knows if that other god is real, or strong, or cares? There is only this god in front of them, angry, awful, turning them into sand. The person shreds in the wind on a shriek and disappears.
Back to the big house with the women – the uninvited guest pesters all of us, peering into our faces, making us prepare food that no one wants, gather things no one has time to gather. The gods show up. They appear, prowling, suddenly in the house like a fearful quiet before the screaming – a squall of gods, intense and ready to strike. There are a handful of them; they are changeable, tricksters, morphing from form to form to form and laughing and raging and expecting to be honored. We are all terrified but follow our erstwhile friend’s instructions: offer the food, gather the things. One of the instructions from the gods is “gather four stolen things” and everyone runs around the house to find something the gods might consider stolen. The house has a collection of shells and preserved specimens of tropical fish – kind of tattered, kind of old, dry and battered and torn. I pick up shells and fish and tiny statues, hoping I’m not offending my friend/relative whose house this is, but we all have to find four things the gods consider stolen. I don’t know what they mean by stolen. I hope I’m right. I dither over a figurine of a dog. Is the dog stolen? I don’t know. I choose another dried fish. We all rush to bring them the shells and fish and statues.
The gods bring the fish back to life, and we shriek a little, startled, pour the now-live fish into a huge fish bowl/tank that looks like a birdcage, glass or magic behind the bars of the cage to keep the water in. We ooh and ahh over the fish, watch them swim. We pour in more specimens, turning to life before our eyes. The fish are still tattered but swim placidly. The shells become snails and cuttlefish and jellies.
The gods consume all the prepared food, and we’re running around trying to get more food for them, but they’ve knocked a lot of dishes over. We can’t offer them food that’s been on the ground. One god corners me in the kitchen, walking softly, eyes like storms, and I clutch a bowl and babble how we’re trying to get something ready, just a minute, just a minute. They look at me, wistful, sheepish. Are there any potato chips, they want to know.
I’m pretty sure that’s when I morphed the dream myself because I didn’t want to be scared anymore. It was a lot more relaxed after that. It softened, blurred, faded into waking.
I like the imagery throughout that dream – it was so detailed that I can still see the house, the carpets, the crowded knickknacks on the tables, the Victorian sprawlingness of it. The dark shadows and the warm light, the bright yellows and blue stripes on the fish, the red and beige and black of the sand and wind. It was so vivid, drummed into me. I love that in a dream, even scary ones. Unless the scary ones are about spiders. Then no.
When I think of the images, though, none of the faces stuck with me, if I ever saw them at all. I think that’s usual for me with dreams – I almost never see faces clearly. I wonder if that has to do with my slight facial-blindness. There’s something in my brain that just doesn’t register faces properly all the time. The movement of the whole body, the sound of the voice, the corner of a mouth – those register more strongly in dreams, and maybe in my brain in waking life.
In any case, this is the sort of dream that makes me feel like my story brain is working, churning – just wants to let me know it’s back there. It was bored and made something up that imprinted strongly enough to be remembered. Hi story brain. Nice to know you’re weaving away back there, building worlds and ready to rumble. Let’s get together and finish this novel draft, shall we?
Title is from “Jolene” by The Weepies