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The Land of Prester John - a Jaunt collab

25.11.2001

feeling kinda how a girl feels

Project 23 for Jaunt: dream sequence.

The Land of Prester John

Before I knew that there are dreams and there are dreams, I treated them as most people do: as nocturnal reshufflings of the mental deck; as fantasy and wish fulfillment; as psychic leftovers, those emotional coffee grounds and crumpled-up impulses toward sex and violence ditched nightly down some inner Disposall.

Marc Ian Barasch, Night Eyes

i am twelve years old when i have this dream: i have been chased around the harbour, a windswept and desolate place with battered stone retaining walls. it is grey, and cold. somehow, i end up trapped on the floor of the harbour. a whirlpool or riptide of some sort has actually pushed the ocean back, walls of salt water threatening to collapse in on me. i'm standing on the sandy bottom, which has been scrubbed clean of seaweed and shells. and there with me, next to an old rowboat trailing its painter line and tipped to one side, is the man who has been chasing me. he is hunched down on the sand, staring hard at me out from underneath his black beetled brows. and i can't escape. i wake up and sit right up in bed, gasping hard for air, as if the water walls had already swept me under.

i dream entire spy novels. they are complicated and messy affairs. sometimes i am the spy, sometimes the hunted. often, the sets are huge soundstages, warrens of ladders and plywood. i have to crawl up the ladder and scuttle across unfinished floors (echoes of our old attic?). other times, it's all pipes and baths and toilet drains, like some demented Roman bath, and i have to avoid the evil lurking in the drain. or maybe i have to dive into the pipes to escape.

after the assault: i am trying to get somewhere. and the elevators are behaving badly. i am stuck between floors, the doors open but not even with the floor, the doors close again and i hold on to the handrail for dear life as the elevators does its own manic dance up and down the elevator shaft, daring me to survive.

since the robbery: i dream of my apartment. it's not quite my apartment, tho. it's larger, or just feels that way. it's emptier, in an echoing kind of way, even tho my things are there. well, sometimes they are. other times, the place is empty. and the light is always wrong. that's what tips me off that someone is in or has been in the house: the light. one time, i am surprised by a man who grabs me from behind, strangling me; we cartwheel across the room as i struggle to breathe. i wake up to the feel of his hands still around my neck.

houses never look the same in dreams. i go back to one house, again and again, in my dreams. it's where my old house used to be on the Hillside. but it's not the same. it's an amalgamation of houses i've known, houses i've lived in, houses i've wanted. it's rambling and eaved, with lots of windows, 16 over 16 panes, an old kitchen with lamps from one place, counters from another, my great aunt's dishes in the cupboard and my grandmother's tea towels on the rack.

the graveyard is on the top of the hill; i can see the waterfront from here. everything is grey and black, glistening as the rain pelts down. the leaves have already blown off the trees, leaving skeletal arms waving angrily against the night sky. he comes around the corner again: a caped rider, straight out of a Dickensian woodcut. i can't see his face, as he has one shoulder up in defense against the rain, and he's headed right for me.

the black cat sits on my chest, soaking up the sunshine. i open my eyes, and he talks. he tells me that he and the other black cat are aliens from another place in the galaxy. their compatriots are being held prisoner there. there are no walls or prisons; they have free run of the planet, just no way to leave. the longer you stay on the planet, the younger you get. and eventually, you disappear. so these two have come to Earth to look for help. disguising themselves as cats, they have greater access to information. i do not find it odd to be talking to the cat about this.

i wake up to the screek of steel on steel. wrapping myself up in an ivory bathrobe, i go out back. my car has been moved, by people using other cars. it's squashed up against the concrete retainer wall, with its hood bent up at a frightening angle. the trunk is mashed, as well. as i try to work out how this happens, a familiar face (glasses, bow tie) wanders back. i wonder what he is doing in my neighborhood.

in periods of great stress, i fail classes in my dreams. no matter what the class is, no matter how hard i try, i fail. sometimes i flunk because i skipped every class, on purpose. sometimes, they registered me for a class without telling me, and i get a note from the dean just before the final exam. other times, i do everything i can to remain inconspicuous in class. or maybe i hide out in the tunnels under the dorm. but always, it comes down to intense and public humiliation.

i get up from my desk and walk in to the kitchen to get coffee. when i come back, all the cubes are gone. my desk is partially dismantled, and all my things are gone. the harsh fluorescents wash down over the scene: wires scraggling out of walls, cube parts stacked up in corners, carpet torn and ragged in places. three months after i have this dream, it happens for real.

i am flying. for once, i am not afraid of heights. i know that i am dreaming, and i swoop and soar, winging my way between phone lines, across farmlands, choosing where i go.

...[T]o take dreams seriously - enough to act on them, to live by them - is potentially subversive. Dreams smash down barricades: They admit all, proscribe nothing, view life through a different moral aperture. They do not always flatter us. They are a mirror of human imperfection, held before our the face of our most burnished ambitions. They may scare us: A nightmare is a concresence of our most private terrors. But even a purely exhilerating dream, a flight to the heavens astride a winged horse, stirs a different sort of unease - a suspicion that we may harbor an unrealized greatness, a potential that, if we dared fulfill it, would bring an end to ordinary life.

Marc Ian Barasch, Night Eyes

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