i've always been interested in dreams. after all, this is where your mind does its cleanup of events and ideas without the distraction of the outside world. it may catalogue things directly, but, more often, it applies a sort of symbolist system that even its owner does not understand. and it's a powerful process. we've all woken up from an unpleasant dream that casts a shadow over the day, or been disappointed when we discover that the extraordinarily happy dream we were having is over. in fact, the process is powerful enough that the body has to heavily sedate itself- if you wake up suddenly during the night, you will quite often feel the after-effects of this sedation- to keep from acting out the scenes that it sees while dreaming.
sometimes, the question of why we dream what we do is easy to answer. if someone close to us is sick, it is fairly common to dream of them. if there's a lot of stress at work, that tends to carry over into the dream world as well. but the most interesting ones are those that cause you to wonder if you ate funny mushrooms before going to bed. far from your parents appearing as archetypes or the simple symbolism of a physical journey representing a mental one (according to some), there are dreams that occasionally make us wonder not just what they mean, but why our mind would come up with these things.
i had one of these last night and i'm still trying to come up with any notion of what it all points to. it falls into the category of a dream that is neither good nor bad, although it did have some tense moments. so i thought i'd share it and let others try to inperpret it for me, or take the opportunity to share some dreams of their own, or simply to wonder (as many have) what's wrong with my head. here goes:
the dream starts in a small apartment. this is either a film or play that i am watching with others (one of whom is my fiancé dominic). as often happens in dreams, the line between film/ play and reality gets blurred, so that i am at once participating in and observing the drama. living in the small apartment are four elderly ladies. they are or are played by former stars of the silver screen and all are plagued with problems. some have health problems, all seem to have some level of mental problems and one, called katherine in the dream, has locked herself in her room for years and is drunk almost all the time. no one has seen her for ages save the people with whom she shares the apartment (and them only infrequently). she violently objects to being seen at all.
the dominant woman in the apartment, who looks a little like bette davis circa whatever happened to baby jane, appropriately enough, but who in the dream i'm quite sure is marlene dietrich, likes to drink and bother katherine by throwing open the door to her room and insulting her. at these points, katherine gets very upset not at the insults, but at the fact that someone can see her. in the instance of it i see, she bawls drunkenly that she cannot bear to have the door opened because "i have big eyes and it hurts them". all in all, it's a highly dysfunctional situation.
then, surprise, i'm there in the scene. i don't precisely know how i relate to this group, but i'm interacting chiefly with a young boy, maybe 4 or 5 years old (this must be a dream) and telling him about this book my mother had when i was younger that i used to read all the time. the book featured profiles of four stars of the silver screen who were just like the four ladies living in the apartment. (note- there is some truth here. my mother did have a book called four fabulous faces that profiled the screen lives of gloria swanson, greta garbo, joan crawford and marlene dietrich and i loved looking at all the pictures, particularly those from the silent era with their ornate costumes and stylised makeup.) the little boy tells me that he has to work on a project for school with one of the women. he's apparently related to one, although i'm not sure which, other than to say that it's not katherine. the old lady is supposed to help him, but they've gone out.
when they return, poof, i'm no longer there, i'm back to watching the scene from afar. the women are shocked to see that the boy has drawn katherine out of her room and has her helping him. she is wearing a papery mask over the top half of her face, with openings for her eyes (which are quite large).
then things get a little weird. i'm no longer watching a film or play, but in the middle of things, in a very large, unkempt room with a lot of bizarre crap inside it. at one end of the room, raised on a sort of dais, is a very large heap of what looks like upholstery behind which, i'm advised, resides katherine's mother. she has not been seen in decades and is the head of a sort of cult that believes women and children must never be seen by the outside world. the woman's husband is puttering around, his chief purpose being, apparently, to ensure that this rule is upheld. there are children in the room, i know, but i can't see them. i try to warn them that there is a bad storm coming, something like a tsunami that threatens their home and their lives. i'm encouraging them to evacuate, at least for the sake of their children. no dice. so i recruit the help of a couple of friends and we start gathering up the babies that are hidden around the room (which bears a sort of resemblance to a derelict church, now that i think of it). there are also kittens hidden in there and i occcupy myself with rescuing them (shocker!) since they are obviously not cared for. the place is disgusting. layers of moldering garbage everywhere, black dirt encrusted on everything, damp, stinking surfaces... it's bad.
the woman becomes furious at the idea that outsiders might see her children as we rescue them and that we'd dare to question her right to keep kittens. she does not appear, but sends her husband, the old thug, to try to stop us. at the same time my mother, who is evidently one of her followers, comes out and tries to argue with me. i'm unsympathetic and using her seems to make me even angrier than i was at them, even more convinced of the righteousness of my actions. we are able, with some difficulty, to evade the husband, although we receive some injuries. the giant storm approaches in our wake, but the little ones, human and feline, are safe. And, one assumes, the dread matriarch and her loathsome consort are about to be destroyed.
the scene changes to a sort of school dormitory. i'm there, although i'm not sure why. i get the sense that i have just arrived there, rather than having attended the school for a long time. the school is run by the same cult i've just apparently defeated. there are boys and girls, but since they're all from the same cult (save me and, i believe one or two others who have been accepted), it doesn't count as outsiders seeing them. although i've evidently been allowed into this school, the others are suspicious of me. they keep their distance and a couple of the boys harass me verbally or physically. as it turns out, they are right to be suspicious. i am disgusted at their practices and i don't keep my opinions to myself. i have one friend there and i am constantly voicing to her my opinions on these people and their beliefs. i run into a couple of sisters to a childhood friend of mine (an actual childhood friend, not just one in the dream) and they try to argue with me, to no avail. i'm particularly derisive of rules that force women to wear clothes that hide them almost entirely from view (more like menonite outfits with cloaks than burqas, by the way.)
it's early in the semester and, in order to save who i can, i plan to use a bus that's due to stop in for some reason to smuggle out anyone who is uncomfortable with the cult's views and lifestyle. i quietly go around getting word out to those who i think may want to escape, generally with some success, although in a couple of cases, the attempt backfires badly. there's a lot of suspicion around and there's tension as to whether or not we can sneak out before the school authorities catch on. most of the people i communicate with are female, but there are a couple of men, including my friend james beddington (hi). he has been in the cult a long time and it is difficult to get him to come along, but, once convinced, he becomes one of our greatest assets, having the respect of many of the younger kids.
when the great day arrives, it's obvious that some are suspicious of what we are doing. some of the cult loyalists try to physically block our way or even assault us. some try to sneak on the bus to try to convince the others to return on pain of damnation. i almost throw one guy off the bus, since he has been one of my most tenacious tormentors, but he pleads with me that his desire to defect is real and james finally convinces me to give him a chance (correctly, as it turns out). the bus takes us to a hotel where we can hide out. we have one room for every two people and are settling in for some much-needed rest (the bus ride appears to take about a day) when members of the cult show up and start filling in the vacant rooms around us. they are showing up in the rooms of their former brethren and scaring them to death with tales of what will happen to them and their families, scaring them so much that they are being persuaded to come back. recognising the threat, more and more of the defectors start piling into my room, seeking protection in numbers. i try to fend off the cultists, being the only one there who is completely immune to their arguments, but i'm worried that they are just going to kill me to get to the others. all those who have followed us seem to be exceptionally fat, something emphasised by the fact that they are wearing loose robes in a sort of light grey colour.
while we are trying to think of what to do, i realise that one of our number, the one i had not wanted to let come, is missing. i immediately suspect that he has turned back, but find out that he went out for something to eat. somehow, james and i intercept him and sneak him up a back staircase that fortuitously opens across the hall from my room. we all try to get as comfortable as possible, although the room is tremendously crowded. the cultists try to break through during the night, but in the morning, they have to go back to their compound. we board another bus that drives us to a central train station, where we split up. everyone has someone they can go to and we all shake hands. only beddington a the one i formerly didn't like stay with me. the one i formerly didn't like doesn't seem to have anybody to go to, but we finally persuade him to go stay with an aunt and to stay in touch. then james and i take off to a safe house where we want to figure out how to keep the cult from tracking any of us down.
as soon as we arrive, james announces that he's leaving and going back to the cult, not to rejoin them, but to kill their leader, since that will effectively destroy them from the inside. i'm convinced he's lying and that he's actually just rejoining them, so we part on very bad terms (no, we have not had an argument in any way, so no easy interpretation there). i start taking out large amounts of garbage- furniture, bedding, etc. as i do, i see james already reunited with the cult and i try to hide. he comes over and reiterates what he's doing and this time i sort of believe him, although i'm still pretty rude. then i go and sit on a terrasse and meet with an operative against the cult to determine what we should do next.
that's it. in all its speciously plotted glory, that is what i dreamt about last night.