A Dream I Had

How often do you remember your dreams? What form do those dreams take?

I personally go through phases of dream recall. Sometimes, for months on end, I won’t remember a single dream that I’ve had. A vague sort of knowledge of the way the mind works tells me that I’m having dreams, but I’m just not remembering even a hint of them.

Then I’ll go through a phase where I’ll remember my dreams quite vividly for a while after I wake up. They seem to fade easier than other memories, though. I don’t know if this is the case for anyone else, but as detailed as one of my dreams might be, if I don’t write it down or explain it to someone within a short period after waking, I’ll find that it has fled my mind entirely.

I have short, nonsensical dreams at times, where perhaps only one thing happens. Like a dream I’ve had where I was falling through the air, though with no impact in sight, and only the pleasant feeling of air rushing past my skin, rippling my clothes. Or a dream of friends I haven’t seen in a while, only we didn’t really do much other than exist in each other’s presence.

Then there’s the one dream I have with a recurring theme, though it often manifests differently enough that I can’t label the entirety of the dream as something that recurs. I’ll have the sense that one of my teeth is loose, and, upon going to explore the sensation with my tongue, the tooth falls out.Shortly after, all of my teeth free themselves from their roots and I find myself choking and spitting out a mouth full of hard, tiny squares.

Sometimes I experience this more frequently. Sometimes I go long stretches without this element appearing in my dreams at all. I haven’t had such a dream in a while, for which I’m thankful.

The dreams I remember most clearly are those that play out like I’m in sort of immersive, 3D film. I don’t know if other people have this sort of dream, but I have to believe I’m not unique. I often know the other people in the dream and perceive them as my friends or family, even if they’re not real. I think of the dreams in terms of what “I” am doing, when I try to replay or describe it to myself later, but I am not often the main character of the dream. I just happen to be following along from their perspective.

Last night, I had one such dream. I woke up thinking, as I often do, “Well, that was odd.” I don’t tend to have dreams that follow regular, everyday plots. I think most people don’t. Dreams in movies and fictions often make a bit too much sense. Real dreams are foggier and less linear.

In the dream, I was part of a group who was attempting to liberate animals from a zoo. The zoo in this particular setting was not benevolent in any way, which is interesting, because I am of the belief that, when managed properly, zoos are not evil or malicious. Nevertheless, it was our explicit goal to rescue some animals from the zoo, which had some sort of nefarious plan for them that, in the way of dreams, was never quite elaborated upon.

I also have the sense that I never truly came to know the characters of the dream. It was as though my my was more concerned with the plot — even with as little sense as it made — than with the people enacting it. Now that I’ve typed that out, I wonder if that’s something that afflicts my writing, as well, and not just my dreams. There are several ways my stories find their genesis, and one is by conceiving of a plot and then finding the characters that would make it happen. (Another is the opposite — imagining characters, and then pondering what they might get up to.)

I know that the “I” in the dream was not myself, but I can’t remember any details about that person. I can’t even be sure of their gender, because the person I follow as a main character in my dreams is not always male. I do think there were perhaps three or four members of the group trying to free the zoo animals.

The animals themselves were strange, but mainly in terms of their size. I remember clearly that we had to liberate an otter and an elephant (which was at times a rhinoceros, but was never a mix of both animals), among other animals. However, the otter and the elephant were not vastly different sizes. In fact, the elephant was far smaller than an adult elephant of any sort, and the otter was far larger than the norm — it was larger than most dogs, in fact.

I had the sense, while I was in the dream, that we were rescuing more than just these two animals. Unfortunately, either I can’t remember what the other animals were or — and this is far more likely — my brain gave me the idea that there were more details, but neglected to actually fill them in.

Once we had freed the animals, my group panicked, apparently not having made plans about what to do with them once they were freed. We were feeling a great deal of pressure, of course, because there was someone after us. Who? The government, for some reason. They were apparently invested in this zoo in some way, and the animals we “stole” from them were important to their designs.

Fortunately, one member of the group suddenly recalled a place we might take the animals: an abandoned island, on which he had once gone camping with his family. He assured us that nobody ever went there and that no one would think to look there, both because it was only accessible by boat and because it was so far from the location of the zoo.

Both of those things made a wonderful sort of sense, in the dream — if only we had a way to transport a small elephant, an overly large otter, and a menagerie of animals I never actually saw across the state, across the water, and to a small island in the middle of Lake Huron.

This was solved in an absurd fashion, as one of the members — who I suddenly recognized as having played an antagonistic role throughout the dream, despite the fact that she had previously been absent — rolled her eyes and proposed a solution. For whatever reason, this character took the form of ADA Sonya Paxton from Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. However, I knew (even within the dream) that the character Sonya Paxton, and not the actress who portrayed her, was portraying the character within my dream.

Yes, I know that this does not make sense. Dreams don’t make complete sense. I think that’s one of their defining features.

Her solution didn’t make any sense, either, especially given the previous context of the dream. She informed us that she could get us to the island in question by teleporting us there. The rest of the group, filled with relief, took this as a perfectly normal and unsurprising solution. Without even showing how the teleportation took place, we found ourselves on the island with the rescued animals.

The next issue was sustaining the animals on this island, for many of them, such as the elephant, we expected not to be winter-hardy. We therefore began building shelters for them, which we had to accomplish despite a complete lack of tools. We were in a rush to do so before winter arrived, and I don’t know whether or not we succeeded, because I woke up before the dream came to any sort of resolution.

I recall reading a quote by Stephen King in which he said something to the effect of “ideas don’t come from dreams.” (Disclaimer: I’m not even 100% sure it was King that said this. I should probably have researched this before posting.) For me, this isn’t true. Several of the concepts for short stories that I write, as well as longer works of fiction, and even rules of the general universe in which I’m writing, have come to me from my dreams.

For example, the genesis of the Neos Simulation was a dream I had all the way back in high school. I can’t reveal more of its contents without giving away plans for future stories. The Red Hall also came from a dream, though like the content of the Neos Simulation, it grew up from the seed of an idea which was planted in me by a dream, rather than following a dream’s plot directly.

Will this particular dream be followed by a story inspired by it? Probably not, because even now after writing about it, the dream doesn’t seem particularly inspired or remarkable. If I don’t pay some attention to all of my dreams, though, I fear that I’ll miss something important.

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