I used to sleepwalk as a kid, both I and my sister, but it all ended badly. Nowadays I don’t, at least not the way you might think. It only happens in my laziest and least imaginative dreams. If I’m dead on my feet and crash in an instant, rather than the usual long wait in the dark for sleep to overcome me, I’ll get up and walk around the house. Of course, I’ll leave my body behind.
It happened again last night, and I knew right then and there that my brain was out for the count. The house was so bright, it’s a tall and narrow Victorian affair, and even in the height of summer it’s always dark. But not in my dreams, that’s how I can tell I’m still asleep, everything is so bright and clean. It’s how the world looked to me in my youth, dazzling my senses and bathing me in light wherever I went. Except for those miserable school days in the winter, long walks in the sleet and rain, under dark brooding clouds, silently praying for the next weekend to arrive.
So, I got up out of bed, at least in spirit, and walked downstairs, stopping to look outside for a moment at the view. It was difficult to make out, it’s always that way. I have pretty poor depth of perception at the best of times, but in dreams it’s absolutely kaput. The further I seek the hazier the outlook, even the houses that back onto mine appeared near translucent, diffused by light of the inner sun. The one we don’t see when we’re asleep, yet sits high above us all the same.
I went into the bathroom, more out of habit than anything, but there was nobody in the mirror. It was empty because I had no body, nothing to wash and clean. I can imagine many others throughout history have done the same, seeking their reflection in an imaginary mirror. Not exactly a nightmarish scenario, I know, but it does make one wonder if this kind of experience might have spawned the idea in vampire mythology.
I headed for the kitchen, even if I didn’t feel hungry. I greeted my cats, both those alive and dead, and watched as they meowed in silence, begging for their breakfast. But like Old Mother Hubbard’s, the cupboards were bare, there was no food in the house whatsoever. Obviously, whatever part of my mind had conjured up this illusion, hadn’t thought it necessary.
I looked to the ground, the cats had disappeared, I was alone once more, as is per usual in most of my dreams. I picked up a glass, it was filthy, smeared with thick grease and dark green with mould. I turned the tap, the water ran slowly, too slow for gravity here on earth. I did my best and rubbed the tumbler with a wet rag, there was nothing else, no soap, no scourer. I wore away the delicate pattern upon its surface until there was nothing in my hands, but tiny crystals balls that spilled through my fingers and down the plughole.
I could see the window was fake, it was just a hole in the wall, no glass and nothing between me and the outside. I climbed out over the sink and stepped onto the deck and looked over the edge to see clouds. There was no ground, no terra firma, nothing but a sea of sky. I decided to jump all the same, because I knew it was only a dream. I landed in my bed, and immediately awoke. It was bright and sunny outside.
I got up and walked downstairs, and headed for the bathroom, but I still wasn’t there, I was just another vampire, feeding off my own false memory. Unable to break the cycle, the repetitious dream of an everyday life so similar to mine. Rather like a mental screen-saver, a slide-show of snapshots from the waking day, played out like a home movie to keep my mind occupied whilst my body rested. I decided to run a bath, which took hours and hours, and when I slipped in I noticed I was floating above the water.
It’s said that familiarity breeds contempt, but what if all that we recognise as our normality is just poor recollection? The sum of our collective hopes and fears, played out in the fantasies of a sleeping giant, who cannot awake. For they’re convinced that all they see is real, including every one of us, including the very thoughts that pass through our minds, from our imaginary births to our fantastical deaths.
When I finally stir, it takes a great deal of effort for me to accept this is my world, and not just a figment of an over-active imagination. I still carry my suspicions everywhere I go, from morning till night I tread the thin line between scepticism and belief. But it gets harder every day, when those around me still open to discussion, seem in a daze and completely unaware of what’s happening around them, it only compounds the problem.
Such busy lives, filled with personal agendas. But I can’t blame them, it’s a very scary place, this world we’ve mustered, precariously balanced upon our persistent notions of what life should be like. Physical, tangible, quantifiable to a tee, always reliable, no matter what we think or believe. Perhaps if the dead could give us some clues on how to play this game of life properly, they’d probably tell us it’s just a matter of conjecture.
We have our own minds and choose to spend our time in disagreement with each other, obsessing about the tiniest and most inconsequential details. When in truth, if we could drop the charade for just one moment, and admitted honestly to each other that this world isn’t what it used to be, we could make up another one right now. But we don’t, because we’re all running in the human race, competing with each other to get to the finish line first. Rushing towards greater compatibility with the lies we profess as our reasons for being.
It really is a shame, in times past there was an Age of Wonders, now lost in rumour and cloaked in the ancient history of different cultures, bearing many names. My favourite being the Aboriginal Dreamtime. Back then time lasted forever yet it could be over in the blink of an eye, and once it was and our race had its rude awakening, we were thrown from the universal womb and placed here, on this planet, in a desert of compromised vision.
I guess that’s why I prefer the night, especially when the streetlights finally fade, and there are those few moments between the dark and light. Free to contemplate the infinite space that awaits us, where we can finally free ourselves this tiny little world. To seek solace and rest before charting our course through the impossible terrain of hidden knowledge and fantastical resolution. Where no rules apply, and experience is worthless, and everyone knows everything but misunderstands all. Including the futility of purpose and its empty gestures, the drudgery of repetition, the slavery of mortality.
Instead we accept our lot, and bathe in the cerebrospinal waters, conducting nightly sacrificial rituals, forsaking greater consciousness for another day, another ride, another respite, to defend our fragile egos from the painful truth. This island Earth is a speck of dust in a sea of turmoil. Only when we dream can we learn to swim, and when we awake, we drown again.