What is the Shape of the Dream?

First, a warning: If you’re the kind of reader who finds no enjoyment in reading other people’s account of their dreams, then this isn’t for you. Move on. I get it, certainly – I usually skip those as well – but this was a dream that pretty much demanded to be written down. So, if you’re still with me, let’s go.

It started off in what was obviously a hospital. It felt like a Kubrick movie, and even had a soundtrack behind it – a repeating eight-bar motif on strings that was sort of a high-tension underscore piece. I honestly felt like I was watching a movie, and expected it to tie into that freaky last part of 2001 at any moment.

I started going through double doors in search of something, but not sure what – pretty normal dream stuff. Over this, I could hear a pair of voices, male and female, talking like movie reviewers doing a running commentary. One standout line from the female “reviewer”: “Is this the Word of God, or is He just repeating what He heard coming from the outer darkness?” Blasphemous, creepy, weird – Awesome.

The sequence of double doors ended and I started searching through rooms, some of which had hospital equipment or personnel, but none of which were properly square. Kind of disorderly in general. People would go into a door in one room, come out of a door in another room, that sort of thing. At around this point, I became aware that there were people looking for me.

One “character” stood out – a boy, eleven or so, shirtless. He was a patient at the hospital, although he didn’t look sick to me. I saw him a few times in different contexts, and he was either covered in a white paint and / or a few white pieces of paper, like Post-Its – targets for radiation therapy, I thought. At one point, the boy opened a closet, which had the same white papers pasted to the wall, and seemed surprised and angry that they were there. He didn’t know how it happened, and yelled as much to an unseen person out of sight.

I made eye contact with him as he was sitting on an examining table. This boy was my enemy, or would be when he grew up. I said, “I’m watching you.” He seemed to know who I was and just locked eyes with me as I went by. He’d be watching me too, it seemed.

At this point, the dream became somewhat self-referential. It’s not often that I know I’m dreaming, but this was becoming more and more the case. However, as soon as I tried to figure out how to get out of the dream, the forces following me became somewhat more aware of me, and I of them. In the way of dreams, they seemed familiar, but I couldn’t say who they were.

They tried to catch/trap/stop me, in a haphazard fashion. They knew I was there, but not exactly where yet – like I was invisible to them, but present. As soon as I began to inquire about the nature of the dream itself, however, they could no longer see me or know I was there. My mantra was “What is the shape of the dream?” Repeating this phrase gave me passage through the dream itself and made me imperceptible to the people trying to find me.

Something wanted me to know more about the dream itself, and I would be punished if I tried to leave. I didn’t get the feeling that the sort-of-unseen followers were on the same side as that Something, though.

I started to look for those double doors again, because they were the way in. I passed Michele Obama, riding a bicycle, and a man hired to be a stand-in for her husband. He was too busy to appear, it seems. Damned if I know what that was about…

Then I woke up.

I don’t want to try and interpret this dream at the moment, because it seems like it’s begging to be interpreted. Jumping up and down in my head, yelling “Look at me! Look at me!” Sometimes I have dreams that tell me things I need to know, sometimes I have dreams that are just weirdly entertaining. I have to figure out which kind this is before I decide whether to think about what it means…


I Dreamed I was in a Cult

And not one of the nice ones, either. Not one of the benign bother-you-at-the-airport cults [1] or the ones that quietly kill themselves when something weird shows up in the sky or that encourage you to buy Amway products.

No, this was a full-on Secret Murder Cult, with robes and a huge Aztec staircase and all that you could ask for in an evil, quasi-religious force. I don’t remember how I got wrapped up in it, as I am not usually prone to murder, but here’s how it worked: the facilities were billed as a retreat for the sick and dying, who would come and stay for a few days, get the whole shebang in terms of rituals and invocations, and eventually get brought to the top of this long, long staircase wherein they would be murdered. Men, women, children – everyone went under the knife eventually. And, of course, I helped.

Maybe it was because everyone seemed so sick and miserable that I thought, “Well, they’re going to die anyway, so as long as their deaths serve our nefarious purposes I suppose that’s all right. If I was sure what our nefarious purposes were….” Looking back on it, one thing I find interesting was the mixture of religious iconography that my brain threw together. The heads of the cult wore robes that resembled the brown robes of the Franciscans, but during ceremonial duties also wore the traditional Arab keffiyeh and spoke Hebrew. [2] The facilities had a distinctly Catholic look to them, except for the huge stone pyramid out back with the blood gutters. Not a traditional aspect of Catholic architecture, unless I missed something in CCD class.

The last group to come through before my cat woke me up [3] was from Africa. Their party consisted of a few morbidly obese, terminally ill, and fantastically rich people and their families. It was a big group, and I remember thinking, “This isn’t going to work.” We couldn’t let any of them live, after all. That would undermine the “secret” part of our secret murder cult.

And while I tried to work out the logistics of disposing of forty or fifty people, it started to bother me on a more moral level. The few sick people looked up at me when I passed with great hope, as though they really thought we were going to help them. Their families were excited by the prospect of a cure, in some cases actually dancing and talking about how much better their loved ones would be. Which is when it started to dawn on me that maybe – just maybe – mass murder was wrong.

But how to get out of it? I had helped, after all. If I went to the head of the cult and told him I was having doubts, I knew he would either be able to sweet-talk or threaten me into staying. I knew that if I ran under cover of darkness to the police, I would be just as indictable as everyone else, and likely spend the rest of my life in prison. I was still searching for a way out when my cat gently clawed me awake and I thought, “I dreamed I was in a cult….”

Of course, one would be tempted to wonder what this says about me, that my dream-self would have to eventually work his way to the conclusion that murdering people who had come to you for help is wrong. Damned if I know what it means, other than that my brain has too much time on its hands.


[1] Do they still do that? I imagine Homeland Security would probably take a dim view to that in this day and age.

[2] Or at least what my brain thinks Hebrew sounds like.

[3] With his usual unerring accuracy at 5:00 AM. On my day off. Bastard.

Am I awake…?

One of the things you always read about when you look into Lucid Dreaming is the idea of the “reality check” – something that you can refer to in order to determine whether or not you’re actually dreaming. So for example, if I look down and see that I’m wearing giant green Ronald McDonald clown shoes, I can be absolutely sure that I’m dreaming. I would never wear anything like that in the waking world. Mine are red.

Photo by Charis TsevisAnyway, this doesn’t always work. Here’s the dream:

I was at work, and, as usual, late to teach a class. Not that I’m usually late for class, mind you – this kind of scenario is the one that my brain usually throws at me while I’m dreaming. Late for X, where X is anything that I consider it to be a HUGE PROBLEM to be late for. So I grab my stuff, double-check that I know which room I have to go to, and start running. I vault up the stairs, heading to the fourth floor. When I get to the top of the last set of stairs, I’m suddenly on the subway, heading home, and have no memory of how I got there.

It was at this point that I distinctly remember thinking, “Is this a dream?” I looked around me, and everything seemed perfectly normal, including the 18-inch gap between the subway and the platform that people had to vault over. I tried to remember how I’d gotten from the fourth floor to the subway and figured that I must have had some kind of nervous breakdown, or I’d passed out and was dreaming about the subway, but since I seemed so aware of what was going on, that didn’t make any sense. I checked my phone to see if there were any frenzied messages, and there weren’t, which made it even stranger. I mean, if I didn’t show up for a class, one of the kids would have gone down to the teacher’s room to find out where Mr. Gladis had gone, and then my ass would be in a sling. So I hopped across the platform to catch a train to go back.

All through this, I figured that my options were that either the subway was a dream, work was a dream, or I had had a psychotic break and blanked out most of my working day.

At no point did I consider the possibility that it was Sunday morning and I was still sleeping. Until I woke up.

Stupid brain….

By the way, if I ever some across as kind of neurotic about being on time and making sure I know shit in advance – this is why. This is the kind of dream my brain throws at me all the damn time, and since I apparently can’t tell the difference between dreams and reality, I’ve developed a neurotic terror of being unprepared or late. Huzzah.

In my dream….

CNN turned Communist.

It was just as a joke, and only for one day, but I remember it just being the funniest damn thing in the world. They changed their logo to a red and gold one, complete with the Hammer and Sickle. When I saw the new logo on their building, I yelled, “Long live the People’s Glorious News Revolution!” and the woman in the door carefully asked if I was yelling that “in Christian country.” They had decided to just have a little fun for once, because they’re CNN and they can, and show people what a real Left-leaning Media would look like.

What bugged me was that no one else thought it was as funny as I did. Or no one else noticed until I said, “Look behind you at the giant red logo….”

People. Huh.