Deal 1035: Meta dream worlds

In his dream, Sydney watched himself dream.

The dream of the orchard where he lay was clear and intense. The trees were inviting, one in particular seemed to positively glow. On that tree, one apple was glowing. After considering it for five minutes, he picked it, took two bites, and fell into a deep sleep.

He dreamed a dream of dreaming.

He dreamed he was standing in a magical orchard, holding a glowing axe. The head seemed eager for him to walk amongst the trees, and pulled him towards a particularly old tree that glowed faintly like all the rest of the trees. Except for a single limb that was black at its tip, with some sort of creeping sickness working its way up the branch toward the trunk. He understood that chopping off the dying branch to save the healthy tree was necessary.

He swung the axe with all his strength, removing a small chip from the bark at the base of the branch. The blackness moved a little closer. He swung again, the black moved again. He settled into a rhythm, taking chips out of the branch on both sides and from below with each blow. Finally after he had weakened it enough, he began to cut into the top side of the branch. It began to feel like it was going to be a close thing. Could he sever the branch before the black reached where he was cutting?

A final blow brought the now nearly completely blackened branch down.

He knew it needed to be burned to prevent the infection from spreading to the other trees. He also knew he shouldn’t handle the blackened areas himself, and that cutting into the black area with the axe might spread contaminated chips and make containment even more difficult. He surveyed the area and spotted a fire pit nearby with a fire set and ready to light. He lit it with a thought and gesture, and let the blaze become established as he worked out how to drag the branch to the fire without touching the black areas.

Finally, he fed the blackened branch into the fire.

As it burned, the flames changed colors wildly. He could almost see the disease burning up, and fighting for its survival the whole time.

Watching the flames was somewhat hypnotic, and he drifted off into a trance.

He dreamed a dream of dreaming a dream.

He was dressed in typical business day casual, and sitting in a large office, at the desk. In the distance, an old fashioned crank wound gramophone was sitting, and playing The Liberty Bell in vibrant but scratchy tones.

The music was soothing, and soon he drifted off into a nap.

He dreamed a dream of dreaming of dreaming of dreaming….

Sydney is caught in a different and more insidious loop.

Will he escape?

Will he be sane?

Is he actually dreaming the whole thing from an old warehouse in LA?

He has no idea.


Deal 1034: To sleep, perchance

Sydney fell asleep.

Perhaps that would be better said as Sydney fell, asleep.

He had just sat down under a tree to contemplate his circumstance when he dozed off. The next thing he knew, he was in a very lucid dream. The orchard was still around him, but the trees were more present than before. A frog ran past him muttering obscure theorems from set theory. A crow ran the other way muttering something about being afraid to fly. He took a step in the direction the frog had gone and stepped in a hole he hadn’t seen before and fell.

As he fell, he looked around. The sides of the hole were smooth. He couldn’t see the bottom, and looking up couldn’t see where he’d stepped in. He realized he was holding an axe. After wondering what strange message his subconscious was trying to send him, he took a wild swing at the passing wall. It popped, and he was back in the orchard, watching himself sleep.

He looked around. Everything was still in that hyperreal form that indicated he was dreaming.

The fruits of the trees were practically glowing. He picked an apple. It had a message written on its skin: “How boring. Try again.” He shrugged and went to look at the pears. He picked a particularly ripe yellow pear and ate it without triggering any strange additional loops.

He walked back to his campsite, stepping carefully around the large hole he’d missed earlier. He failed to see the large frog smirking from under a tree nearby, though. It didn’t seem concerned about him otherwise, though.

As he sat and watched himself sleep, he wondered why he hadn’t noticed the lack of music. Back in the real world, he had always been uninterested in music while everyone around him obsessed about it and its performance. Here, he hadn’t noticed any yet, nor had he noticed anyone obsessed about it. It struck him as important. But that still might have been the dream talking.

He also noticed that a certain dragon hadn’t appear yet. He decided that was probably just as well, for his continued health.


Deal 1023: Nightmare

Spiral on my Mind 31:
hobo, Free Will, Cat, Strength, Loyalty, stick, The Unknown, fowl, and Plurality

I woke suddenly in the night, drenched in sweat, shaking. At first, I wasn’t sure what had awakened me, or even quite where I was.

I looked around, and slowly realized that the room was familiar. The TV was still on, but the station had gone off-air, leaving just the test pattern showing. It flickered, then suddenly went to just snow and hissing sound. I was alone, but that wasn’t unusual as I lived alone. The window was open, the curtain pulled back to let the cool air move through the room.

Except it wasn’t. The night air was hotter than I remembered, and perhaps that woke me.

I settled back down, determined to go back to sleep.

Then I remembered something.

My room doesn’t have curtains. And TV stations don’t go off air and broadcast the Indian head test pattern. They haven’t done that regularly in at least fifty years.

I look closer. The bedspread is not mine. The lamp is not mine. The body I’m wearing is not mine.

Who am I?

What is going on here?

There are noises outside the window, and I sit up and peer out. In the yard beyond the bushes, I can just see a hobo picking through his bindle.

With some effort, I pull back from the window at look around at the room again. Elvis posters on the walls are definitely not mine. The cat sitting on the dresser glaring at me in reproach, well, actually that is mine. I’ve always known cats are a little out of phase with reality. Maybe I’m sharing a dream of hers?

If so, this might be a place where I’m going to need all my strength to stay alive, given the amount of disdain most cats have for people. A glance outside the window shows a number of cats gathering in the darkness, watching the hobo, waiting for their chance. I suddenly wonder what he had done to deserve his fate.

I was always good to my cats. None of mine would wish too much ill on me, even if I had done things they hadn’t liked for their own good.

I heard a muffled scream. I knew I didn’t want to look, but somehow I knew I had to.

Where the hobo had been, there was just a roiling carpet of strays, his stick cocked out with his bindle still tied on.

I tried not to scream when Snowflake jumped on to the bed. Surely she was not going to call them up here to feed on me?

She stared at me, then seemed to be saying “I think you have seen enough” and turned away. She picked a spot on the bed and curled up.

As usual, her motives were inscrutable. But she was the cat, and we were clearly on her turf for now.

I laid back down, and closed my eyes for only a moment. Then the scream shattered my peace. A sound like a thousand strangled cats rent the air. Then there was silence. Then wings, as a large bird came through the open window and landed on the bed and screamed again.

A peacock.

Then a second.

Then my cat sat up.

The birds froze. One of them put up his tale in an absurd mockery of a threat display. Of course, with his tail up he was hardly able to move. The tableaux froze for a long moment as everything living held their breath.

The cat turned back to me, and in a clear voice said “you don’t want to see this.”

I fell back to my pillow, suddenly asleep.

A moment of blackness passed, then I shivered and rolled over.

It was cold. So cold. I pulled my covers up, groped for the window and closed it. My cat was at my feet in her preferred spot, and I settled back in and drifted into a peaceful sleep.

Several hours later, I awoke in my own bed. In my own body. In my own room.

Snowflake was there, but there was no sign of birds. Outside my window was the usual 20 story drop to a concrete sidewalk, not a grassy yard where something had happened to a hobo. Or had it?

Snowflake turned to me and said “you dreamed the whole thing.”

Smartest thing that cat had ever said to me.

Then I woke up.


Deal 875: Dark Dreams

As they do, the dream crystallized from random thoughts to a clear, sharp, noisy nightmare. What had been a cozy park replete with roses in bloom and park benches scattered hither and yon for happy couples to share private moments, changed. Changed into a cratered clearing surrounded by the rubble of collapsing buildings. From the omniscient clarity of the dream, he knew he had lost more than just a place to walk of an afternoon. Somewhere lost in that rubble was the body, or more likely ashes, of his beloved.

As nightmares do, the point of view shifted to find blame for his actions. And more blame for his inactions.

He moaned in his sleep, and almost cried out.

But there is no one there to hear him. For the one part of the recurring nightmare that is always true is that his beloved died in that park.

He had no choice. The dream forced him to see the events as they unfold yet again, in excruciating detail, in slow motion.

Since that fateful day, he has sought solace in other places. And yet, the nightmare followed.

He changed his name, fled town, assumed a new identity. It is always easier to be someone new in a new place. Yet the nightmare followed.

One day he realized that the only way forward was through, and sought solace by joining the battle to end the war. He donned the uniform. He brought his complaint to the doorsteps of those that had destroyed his present that day in the park. Those he had thought had destroyed his future as well as his beloved.

And the nightmare ended.


Deal 755: Dreamlands

Suddenly there were keys everywhere. Space bars and large return keys were chasing me, with clear intent to pay back all those times that someone wailed on the space bar. But the rest of the keys were clearly enjoying the prospect of pounding someone for a change.

The path I was running along suddenly dead-ended. I had no protection other than my trench coat, but also had no other choice than to turn and face the keys.

I was somewhat surprised to find that I was strong enough to fend off the rabid space key. Either it wasn’t pressing a strong attack, or I was stronger than I expected to be.

Or the giant rat quietly looming behind me might explain a few things. As it loomed larger, the keys on attack faded and shrank down to the size of gnats. Like gnats they were annoying, but now they were just annoying and not enough to run me off. The rat, however, was an enigma.

But was the rat even a threat?

I turned from it and simply walked away. It just stood there. So, unless I really needed to pass it, there were no problems here. With that realization, I calmly strolled back towards the waterfront where I had been so rudely attacked by the keys. Keys attacking on the quay. Funny.

Everything seemed a little off, but at least no further attacks came. I could withstand a few impure thoughts as I finished by stroll, but I wasn’t in the mood for battle.


Ack. “Down boy! Hang on…”

Suddenly I’m wide awake, with a chest full of frantic dog, who clearly needs my attention.

Just as well, he woke me when he did, I really hate nightmares, and that one was shaping up to be one of those disjoint attempts to teach a lesson through dreams that make me hate them even more.

Perhaps with the dog calmed down, I can return to sleep, perchance to dream, but not about keys…


Deal 273: Dreams of birds

Slowly, the dream turns into a nightmare.

What had been a fairly normal dream of past happy moments, albeit colored by the usual surreal nature of dreams, took a nasty turn when the picnic in a forest glade with his (strangely nonspecific) lover was interrupted by a stampede of forest critters. First the songbirds that had been a gentle background all took flight. Then the rest of the critters ran through the glade, most making a point of stepping on him or one of his (still nonspecific) lovers.

Still deeply in the dream, the plains ox that dodged trees and then gored his grade school principal had him first wondering about what a plains ox was doing in a glade near the treeline of Mount St. Helens, then what his grade school principal was doing in his dream, and then regretting all the time he’d spent learning to be more lucid in his dreams.

The animals were making an awful mess of the center of the shopping mall visible just past the trees, which might have explained the piercing ringing noise that was audible underneath the animals and the panicked crowd. The kind of ringing that surely heralded the end of days, or a fire, or his mother calling, or rather more likely, a telemarketer willfully ignoring law and public decency.

It became clearer as the dream world faded into reality that the phone was ringing.

Then it stopped.

He knew at that point that he was doomed to a day of being out of sorts. Whatever rang his phone had beat his alarm by an hour, an hour that he was not going to recover easily now that he is keyed up and awake. There was no voicemail left for him, no interesting notifications waiting, no panicked texts, tweets, or messages. No newspaper on his porch, either, which was going to mean yet another annoying trip through the paper’s laughingly named customer service department.

There was, however, a raven perched on the porch railing, watching him through beady black eyes that seemed to pierce him and see his deepest thoughts and desires. He and the bird stared at each other for a few minutes, then he went back to searching for the paper, gave up, and went back inside. Sitting at his kitchen table, nursing a bowl of cereal, he was certain he was being watched. The raven was now sitting outside the window, staring at him ominously.

He turned back to his cereal to find that it was actually a bowl of alphabet soup. He didn’t remember making soup for breakfast, but at least the day’s paper was sitting neatly folded beside the bowl where it must have been the whole time. He looked back out at the raven, but it had vanished.

A chicken wandered in from the hall, raided the fridge for some juice, then sat down at the table. It looked down at him quizzically, then squawked “Nevermore.”

This was not the way his day normally began. Well, the scofflaw telemarketer wakeup call was completely normal. But the paper. The cereal. The raven. The chicken. What was next, and ape in the living room?

He turned and looked up the passage towards the bridge. No, the ape was on duty where she was supposed to be, waiting patiently for him to come take the con and relieve her at shift change. The chicken was out of place here in the galley, and he was late for duty and not yet in uniform. Worse, he suddenly realized he was naked as, well, a spring chicken.

Naked, standing on podium with only a narrow lectern preserving some shreds of his dignity as the wind blew his gown to and fro, as he attempted to reconstruct the speech he had imagined he might have given if only that persistent alarm would have actually rung on his graduation day, and would stop ringing now. Now. Now. Now. Now. Now.

He sat up.

He was in bed, with his alarm ringing.

The chicken beside him, looked like it had some regrets about last night.

The alarm started ringing again, demanding his attention now. Now. Now. Now. Now.

He sat up.

He was in bed, with his alarm ringing.

A flutter of wings at his window revealed a raven flying away, a smug look on its face.

It was going to be one of those days.


Deal 158: Dreams

With a sharp crack, the ball flew off into the distance. The crowd roared. Michel looked around for a moment or two, as if unsure where the ball had gone, then set out to visit the bases while the crowd honored his efforts. He made a circuit of the diamond, savoring the moment, enjoying the roaring crowd and the feeling of success, scoring a winning point at a crucial moment.

About that time, the roaring crowd seemed to take on a different character. More alarming than praising. Then distinctly alarming.

As the last ring of the phone pealed in his dingy apartment, Michel awoke with a start.

There were no screaming fans. No adoring girls. No baseball diamond. Just a ringing phone that had ceased to ring as he finally awakened.

And an empty apartment, lit by stark sunlight through dusty windows playing on rarely used furniture.

The sunbeam closest contained the distinct shadow of a bird. A large owl, or at least the very large shadow of a small owl.

At that, Michel suddenly realized who’s meeting he had failed to attend, and that she was not likely to go easy on him if this became a habit.

“Tell your mistress I’m awake,” he said to the owl.