Notes from the Small Pond: Bad dreams
October 28, 2022
It’s when you vaguely realize that you’re dreaming that it gets the worst — when you recognize it’s your fault, that you gave birth to it/are presently birthing it, that somewhere in there, the horror show has your tattoo — the Sign of the Beast.
When enveloped in a typical nightmare, there’s a certain opaqueness to the reality, no lucidity at all — it’s So Real that the option of some alternative reality, sans horror, is simply not a piece of the puzzle.
The horror simply ticks forward like a zombie on a treadmill and eventually culminates in an inevitable wakeup, cold sweat puddled in the sheets, you cupping yourself with your hugging arms, thanking God it was just a dream and calming yourself with the reality of its unreality.
Conversely, when you vaguely realize — lucid style — that you’re dreaming in the midst of the chaos and violence — the images and viscera jittering off the inside bones of your cranium — that’s when it feels worse than Out of Control, the saving salve of the normal nightmare.
Instead, this feels like you’re somehow driving the spaceship, somehow creating all of it in real time, the blood and the sawing horror and the silent screams you can’t help but identify as pathetic and even funny, like Pennywise in the sewer and John Wayne Gacy beneath the grave in which his groveling is shunned by Satan himself, until no one is looking, then celebrated, the two of them giggling like hyenas, burning alive.
In the same way we take credit for owning our “dreams,” our ambitions for fame, fortune, happiness, peace and our kids making the Varsity Team, we own our nightmares, our darkest regrets, our silent-dark prayers that the other kid breaks his leg so yours can make the starting lineup.
All our lies and hates, betrayals, pettiness, cynicism, brutality, emotional manipulations and physical violence: Those are as much ours as are our prayers for the souls of our sweet, dead mothers, of whom we rarely dream, compared to the lucid nightmares about the bodies beneath the floorboards.
Ours is a simple species.
And gifted/cursed with the awesome/terrible element of reason — the ability to think about what and why we think what we think.
And the arrogance.
The laughable, embarrassing arrogance in how we pretend the rest of the planet cares about what we think and why we think it.
Whichever narcissistic psalmist that convinced the narcissistic bible writers that the world is ... Ours to inhabit and consume as is our want, i.e.:
The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind ... was not just wrong, but worse: Lying. Knowingly spreading the most tantalizing Fake News — the easiest and most appetizing to believe — that we — we humans — are why the world is here; ours to consume, rape, pillage and kill.
Manifest Destiny …
This is the petri dish in which the collective human psyche ebbed into what it is today, the birthplace of every lucid nightmare, that hypnotic state of half-knowing that what we’re doing is wrong, hateful, blasphemous, murderous … and we do it anyway.
Eight feet from where I’m sitting, a mother hummingbird nestles on her nest in an avocado tree.
Beneath her, two jelly-bean eggs warm and bustle toward birth and some un-human-but-quite possibly-better version of consciousness. She doesn’t participate in her dreams. Her nightmares are not symbolic.
She is vigilant. Her dark-bead eyes are wary and she sits still as stone, her heart pumping glucose-laden blood a thousand times a minute.
If those same, black-bead eyes were set into the face of a rat, the effect would be repulsive; in the hummingbird, though, they’re adorable, absently inspiring.
Upstairs, my grandson sleeps and jerks awake with a cry for his mother and then plops down again, into his Peaceable Kingdom where there’s not yet the fodder for nightmares, only the inherited raw ingredients, yet to be stirred.
Cloquet’s Parnell Thill is a previous “Columnist of the Year” winner in Minnesota and author of “Killing the Devil and Other Excellent Tricks,” available online. His opinions are his own. Contact him c/o [email protected].