Writing Right with Dmitri: Dreams in Trumpland, or, Wandering the Akashic City
This one is for Prof Animal Chaos, though I bet he won't read it. The Prof is always telling me, 'You should keep a notebook by the bed, and write down your dreams. That's how I get my best ideas.'
I usually retort, 'No way! I work hard at writing all day. When I'm in bed, I want to rest. None of that notebook stuff for me!'
But this morning, I woke up after a particularly vivid dream that was so maddeningly detailed I had to write it down. Here goes. See what you think of it.
The Miraculous Apartment
In this dream, I was visiting the offices of a company I wrote for. The company was located in a high-rise building. The lobby was marble, with lots of metal-doored lifts. As the employees rode up in the lifts – it was a tall building, and a slow ride – a hectoring female voice made announcements. One announcement was particularly galling. She demanded that all employees and contractors submit their tax returns to Human Resources.
'Ha!' I thought. 'That's illegal, and I won't do it.'
[NOTE: This part's easy to parse. Last evening, I got a recorded 'scam call' from India, pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service. The voice was female and threatening. The idiot scammers left it as a message in my voicemail. The IRS is outraged by this scam, which takes their name in vain.]
After visiting the offices, I went for a walk through the city. I call this place the Akashic City, because I often dream there. It's a mad combination of every city I've ever lived in or visited, plus a few I've only imagined. I went up a steep, narrow, but pleasant-looking little alley [see Icy's photo]. It was lined with tiny apartments, all with shutters and window boxes. The apartments were made of wood, and painted in charmingly lively colours rather like Reykjavik.
I spoke to a very nice middle-aged lady about the apartments. 'They were designed by the famous architect X [didn't catch the name because it was the punchline for after I woke up], ' she said. 'He's gone now. But they're a wonder: you won't believe how roomy these tiny apartments are on the inside. And some of them are for rent. Would you like to see?'
I was delighted. In my dream, I was looking for a new place for us to live. 'Sure,' I said.
She showed me Apartment Number 1. 'This one's available,' she said. I shook my head.
'That door's too small,' I remarked. 'I know Elektra. She won't believe she can get inside that tiny door. She'll panic.' [Don't worry about this detail. It's obscure and theologically based.] So the lady showed me an apartment with a bigger door.
The inside of the apartment was amazing. It had several levels, each with a few steps going up or down. There was lots of storage space, with cupboards that opened out, containing cunningly-designed furniture and multi-purpose work spaces. I was in awe of the cleverness. The kitchen was surprisingly roomy, and there were even window boxes for flowers and herbs. The place was light and airy. Everything was made of wooden boards, blond, smooth, and unvarnished. The varying directions of the boards made intriguing patterns on the walls, ceilings, and floors.
'How did he get so much space in here?' I wanted to know.
The lady chuckled and winked at me. 'Don't ask,' she said.
I agreed to take the apartment. Then I found myself, with the usual dream's lack of transition [Why do dreams 'forget' that you need to walk somewhere to change scenes? Is it too much television, I wonder?], in another place, talking to the lady and a man sitting beside a laptop. The man looked suspiciously like Kevin Bacon [Could it have been that 'fake news' item about the bacon shortage?]. I had just asked the lady if the apartment complex was in Canada, because I'd noticed it was pretty far north in the city. She said no.
The man said, 'I moved to Canada for a while once. It was hard to get there. The U.S. wouldn't let me out at first, because I'm a doctor. There was a doctor shortage. I had to get the hospital I worked for to claim they'd fired me for incompetence. When they found out what I'd done, they threatened that if I ever tried that again, I'd go to jail. I can't go to Canada now.' Dr Bacon sighed.
I woke up. And I thought, 'Okay, that's too much work. Next time, I dream about fluffy bunnies.'
Now, does this work as inspiration for writing? I dunno. I tend not to want to use dreams, but I admit shamefacedly that I have gone there before. And famous novels have resulted from bad dreams: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, for example, or Frankenstein, or most of the works of Philip K Dick. In all of those cases, pharmaceuticals were probably involved. I swear, I didn't take anything last night other than my prescription pills. Not even NyQuil. That's just my brain. I've got to stop reading Twitter before bed.
Are you interested in the relationship between dreams and what's going on in the outside world? I really recommend this book: [Warning: the link's to something called Paranoia Magazine] The Third Reich of Dreams, by Charlotte Beradt. Beradt collected the dreams of German people during the Nazi period because she thought they were an important record of the time. In fact, she had to smuggle the dream stories out of the country in letters where she changed all the names of the figures in the dreams. What she has to say about how living in that reality affected their dream lives is chilling and fascinating – and possibly applicable to the current situation.
I'd read The Third Reich of Dreams in English a long time ago. But I didn't have a copy, and after writing this, I wanted to re-read it. To my horror, the English translation is so out of print that a fresh copy from Amazon would cost over $300. So I ordered a more recent edition in the original German, and had to wait a while for it to arrive. I'm glad I did: Charlotte Beradt was a journalist with a real gift for expression. Reading her in German is much more enlightening. If you can find a copy in a language you can read from a local library, go for it.
Now I'm wondering: will someone be able to collect dreams from this decade in the same way? What will they say about everyone?