My (Un)Productive Quarantine: Life is But a Dream...
Last night I dreamt of a wigwam. Tall and narrow, I was one of six crammed in with no way in or out not matter how much the construction of the thing resembled the architecture of the gloomy Eeyore. One by one people had been removed – although the detail of how this was done in such a ridiculously designed structure conjured by my brain never came to fruition; even my subconscious just skimmed over it. Eventually, it was turn to be taken. Upon the hard light of day it was revealed I was in the back field behind an industrial estate, surrounded by a very casual cult much like that of townsfolk in The X Files Episode, ‘Our Town’ (check it out).
They took me to the chopping block, terror consumed me as I trembled with fear, sweat beading on my brow, deathly pale. Not a sound I could utter. They lay me back. My last glimpse of the sky I thought; strange. A man, a blue collar neighbourly type, stood over me with a hatchet. His smile was warm, kind. I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, and instead I just shook my head. With a nod of encouragement he lifted it high above my head. The sky was overcast; the dual carriageway with its stream of traffic could be heard in the distance. Finally, like a child’s whimper, I spoke.
His gaze did not leave mine, hatchet over me.
“Okay” He replied.
He scooted me further down the bench they had me, placed a balled up t-shirt above my head and told me to rest easy. He brought the hatchet down and with a dull, useless thud, he hacked the t-shirt.
Back in the wigwam with my fellow prisoners, I gloated about my survival of ritual sacrifice. “All you have to do is ask” I said, with a shrug.
With Quarantine, police brutality and Kanye West’s presidential campaign I don’t even know where I am at anymore. We may be slowly opening our doors, but I think we’re all discovering that the world isn’t the same place on the other side. Many of us have also discovered that the familiar at home, with our forced interaction with all things domestic, has led to the strangest dreams we’ve ever known. The BFG must be having a field day.
Anxiety, fever or otherwise; our dreams have taken a little more significance in the past few months for all of us and exposed some of our strangest inner conflicts. I mean, my dream must mean; you don’t’ ask, you don’t get. That’s pretty relevant to me, the person who hates being a bother. But this is one of many vivid dreams I’ve had since Lockdown. To the extent that I have begun a dream journal again, something I haven’t kept since I was fifteen years old. I'm someone I want to be, someone incredible and sometimes I'm the version of me I hate most and I can't escape her. I go to places I've known all my life now tainted by the spectre of sleep, more mysterious and more threatening or travel to realms I've only read about but will never be. And it’s great.
The dream above is stupid. I know it is, you know it is. But sleep trends, patterns and stress are contributing to some fabulous variety. And where there is simply abstract, there is also genius. My writing will be all the better for it. Awaking with tears in my eyes, with the feeling of such great failure, or deep in mourning and even emotional numbness; I’ve dreamt of love, loss, video games and magic – and it was all real. Such intense feelings I’ve felt in some of these dreams, to events I have yet to experience, to things I’ve never even thought of in my day to day life is proof that the human ability to empathise and imagine a whole new world of emotions is something miraculous. No matter the severity of the dream. The ideas, the relatively decent ones, I’ve had in dreams have led to the solution to many a conundrum in my work.
I can use the dream above for a story, it’s anti-climactic and ridiculous. I’ve had better. But even from these dreams, I’m inspired in all different directions. I wish I was a lucid dreamer, that I had some control, that I could return of my own volition to certain places I want to explore further. However, my subconscious is in charge of that factor and probably for the better – dreams should be like the lottery, it’s more exciting that way. There are many creative that can dream lucidly and draw inspiration, Ingmar Bergman was believed to have – you can see it heavily both visually and conceptually in Persona, The Hour of the Wolf and Wild Strawberries. Directors and writers are inspired all the time by the dreams they’ve had – Hayao Miyazaki has animated fantastical feats this way and Satoshi Kon's whole career was built on it.
So perhaps storytelling is just dreaming on paper. And if so, what does it say about the writer – are we depraved fantasists? Are we happy-go-lucky, all-we-see-is-sunshine people? Are we all just miserable? I can confirm the last one… but we humans are all connected by our dreams and our realities, reaching out for confirmation that our dreams are real too. The human race is beautiful, isn’t it? How often have we visited one another dreams, conjured something entirely new, someone new, or encountered a passing stranger’s face?
Although I’ve dreamt, I am sleep-deprived. Right now, my eyes have swollen to the size of golf-balls; dry as the desert dunes incapable of focus on the keyboard I hold so close to my face. It happens sometimes with Quarantine. So this piece is an outlet whilst I re-order my brain into something constructive again. Like I’m trying to sign back into my account but can’t remember if the password was a 2007 one or an adult one.
What I do know is that however stunted I am feeling creatively right now, my brain is still churning. I’m just writing down every dream I have, no matter how heart-breaking or joyous or unachievable (Antonio Banderas won’t elope with me after we graduate high school…) because it’s like my sub-conscious has my back. We have to keep dreaming, we’ll make it one day. And who knows, next time I’m on the chopping block I just need to ask nicely and it’ll work out in the end.
Carrie. (1976). Directed by Brian de Palma. [DVD]. UK: Warner Home Entertainment.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. (2001). Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe. [DVD]. UK: Manga Entertainment.
Paprika. (2006). Directed by Satoshi Kon. [DVD]. UK: Manga Entertainment.
The Hour of the Wolf. (1968). Directed by Ingmar Bergman. [DVD]. UK: MGM Home Entertainment.
The Vicar of Dibley. (1994-2007). Directed by Dewi Humphreys and Gareth Carrivick. [DVD]. UK: 2Entertain.
Wolf Children. (2012). Directed by Mamoru Hosoda. [DVD]. UK: Manga Entertainment.