Lucid [Horror] Dreaming

Guys, I think I might be losing my touch a little bit.

Once upon a time, I used to have a super power. Unfortunately, it wasn’t anything cool like immense strength, ultra speed, or being able to reliably find the last parking spot on a busy day; though I CAN usually guess the time without looking, but I’m consistently a single minute off – which I’m sure is what will eventually drive me to being a super villain.

ANYWAY.

No, my power was that I could, in a very limited way, reliably lucid dream.The way it worked was simple: if I was in a dream, and it started to get scary or in any way stressful, I would suddenly become lucid and therefore decide if I wanted to continue with the dream, or pull the rip cord and wake myself up. One of my favorites went sort of as follows:

I’m on an alien space ship, and it’s sort of a cross between Alien and the Halo series. I’m in a Spartan suit, but I’m being stalked by a Xenomorph. Things are going however they’re going as I look for a battery for the last escape pod, or whatever, and I come to a place in the ship where the lights are out. There’s a break in the flooring, and I know I have to go down into this super creepy spot next, when suddenly, I realize it’s a dream. I hear a snarl over my shoulder, but now suddenly lucid say, “Hahahahaha- no.” And boom, I wake up. Easy peezey.

That ability has given me the confidence such that I’ve made it a consistent hobby of mine to eat spicey food or have a bit of booze just before bed for the bizarre dreams. And that’s landed me with some real zingers.

But I think I’m starting to slip.

Last night, I had a series of bad, scary dreams. I mean, fortunately, they were the kind of “horror/action movie” bad as opposed to “real life tragedy” bad, but still.

I went from trying to escape some kind of compound, stealthily taking out guards and praying I wouldn’t get caught, to – naturally – a zombie apocolypse. From there, the last two softcore nightmares both took place in mansions. The less supernatural one was kind of a Victorian-era murder mystery; which would have been sort of cool, if I weren’t hacked to death at the end of it.

But the last one motivated today’s post entirely. And not even for the whole of it – which, of course, I can’t totally remember anymore because dreams are shitty that way (especially the good ones!) – but for an eerie effect that I remember happening somewhere near the middle.

I was walking up flights of furnished mahogany stairs in a half-covered mansion. “Half-covered” in that much of the furniture was draped in old sheets to protect them from dust. It’s morning time and the sun is pouring through the windows, and I’m looking for something. I don’t totally remember what, but I remember it was important.

I make it to the top floor, search for a while, and make for the stairs again. I’m at the top when I hear a sound, so I look over my shoulder. Behind me and down the hall is a figure, draped in black cloth and wearing a stoic, featureless, white mask (picture a creepier No Face). I’ve never had sleep paralysis before, but I’ve heard it’s terrible, and now I sort of understand why.

I couldn’t move a muscle.

But that didn’t keep my heart from pounding, my breath quickening, or my nerves frying while I fought it. The white mask floated over to me – it didn’t walk – but just coasted over the hardwood like a chess piece, and while it did that, I watched the light in the hallway and coming through all the windows shift. I watched morning, become noon, become evening, become night, become morning again, over and over, so quickly it was like a slow strobing effect. Every time the figure was hidden by the darkness of night and reappeared in morning light, it was different: arms slowly grew out from under the sleeves which turned to claws, it grew taller, the expression on the featureless, plain mask became more and more malevolent.

For whatever reason, my paralysis finally broke free and I turned to make a run for the stairs, but they were suddenly missing, leading just to a sheer drop down four stories.

The rest of the dream was a chase as I dashed in and out of bedrooms and down hallways trying to escape, until I eventually was tackled by something.

WITHOUT WAKING UP OR BEING ABLE TO GO LUCID.

I guess my point is that getting older sucks. (Eh, but it’s kind of cool too, but more on that later. I have to go.)

Ciao.

Walking in a Dreamscape

Think just how vast the ocean is.

If you have a fear of heights, you should have a fear of open water. Deep blue and dark, though it might be, bobbing there on the surface, you’re hundreds and thousands of feet above land of any kind. The amount of odds, ends, and creatures between you and the ground aside, all that open space is enough to lurch the stomach into the throat.

So when we’re bobbing there, out on open water, surrounded by nothing but the horizon on all sides how is that the primary thought: the emptiness that’s holding us aloft to the open air. The chilling cold of the water can constrict our chest and make us forget for a moment that we’re floating, suspended in an unending space, but the thought is always there.

And what’s below us? Do we dare a glance? Maybe see the leviathan’s maw in the moments before they snap closed over us?

But instead, are we just reminded of the empty vastness that stems below us, too?

We break the surface again, as a fin – at first like a shark’s – does the same. We watch it rise, except, when we expect it to crest and dive again, maybe it keeps rising.

And growing.

There’s no titanic splash. No seismic, rumbling growl from the earth as it continues to grow massive and crawl skyward. It just cleanly slices the water until it’s risen a mile over us, flaunting its size as a reminder of how small we are.

How far does it span? Does it stand as a monolith in the water? Does it span the horizon in its entirety? Or does it encircle us?

How about we see the edge, but its tail runs the curve of what we can see. We dip our head under water, to see its bottom purchase on the sea floor.

But what if we can’t?

Not because it’s too dark to see the bottom, but because the fin doesn’t have one, as though it doesn’t exist below the waves? And once that’s the case, what do we do? Do we swim away from it? Along it? Dare to get closer?

With little other options, let’s say we do: we make for the edge of the fin.

It’s as tall as the Himalayas, stretches about as far, but is no wider than the door of a house.

What’re we hoping for? Are we going to see if its sheer cliff face has handholds and footholds? To see if it’s as hard as stone, or soft like flesh? Does it have lichen and small things on its surface we can’t see from this distance, and how far away is it, anyway?

Does anything change as we get closer to the fin? Does it make noise, or change shape? Sink back into the ocean?

Maybe we do hear something, the growl we were so worried about earlier.

Does it come from the fin, behind us…? Or maybe behind it.

I’m seeing storm clouds. Storm clouds that form as we’ve almost rounded the edge of the fin. And now that we’re closer to the fin, what did we say it’s like?

Covered in creepy crawly things? Lovecraftian and great, but no; because that’s also gross.

I want to say it’s climbable, but I think I prefer the fin smooth – so no shards for handholds.

What about features we can’t see? And not those you can feel, but the ones you can feel?

What if, while we’re up next to this colossal…thing, in an endless sea, while we look at it, we suddenly have the sensation of recognition, of eye contact? Not the feeling you’re being watched, exactly, but observed and met?

And things happen fast from there.

We tread water at the edge of the fin, able to see along either sides of the ocean it’s bisected. We see lightning crackle from the storm clouds to our left and thunder rumbles in answer. Maybe, like a horn of summons, small dots – like little black beetles crawling over the edge of a table – appear on the horizon to our right.

Not beetles, ships. Galleons, and Man-o’-Wars, with three masted sails.

Maybe there’s another boom of thunder, and like a starting pistol, that starts them racing in our direction.

Do we wait for them to close in on us? Do we swim around the fin? To we brace against it, the eyeless monolith that’s seen us?

As the ships get closer, what if they change? Turn? Maybe they flip, so the hulls are on the surface of the water, and the oars sprout from the sides to look like legs, finally resembling the giants beetles we thought they were.

Fight-or-flight kicks in, and we think to dive below, to escape. But no avail, because the masts of this beetle line form a net, set to scoop us up anyway.

But now we aren’t alone anymore, under the water. A school of, what, fish? No, jellyfish! Like a living, writhing cloud of bubbled heads and ribbon’d tentacles below us, floating up faster and faster as the net of the beetles approaches. Soon, we’re enveloped, and expect to feel a thousand stings and paralytic burns, but instead, maybe it’s just a low, gentle hum – like we’re being sung to.

They grab our arms as they continue floating, rising upward. We breach the water’s surface and float out of reach of the beetle-ships just before we’re overtaken! Huzzah!

But the jellyfish carry us skyward, like a crowd of balloons.

Only they don’t let go, and the fear of heights returns. We rise higher and higher, up along the massive fin in the water, and feel it watching us as we’re lifted away.

Maybe we’re lifted above the fin, so we can see the storm clouds on the other side and the curtains of lightning beneath their layer of wool.

We’re lifted higher and higher, but what’s above us? A ceiling of glass, a mirror? Can we see it through the crowd of jellyfish that carry us? Maybe they part and we see…stars. Stars against black. Open space.

True vast emptiness.

We start kicking and thrashing against the arms that hold us. It isn’t fun anymore and we’re safe from the beetle-ships, but maybe it wasn’t worth this to have been rescued. And do we see anything in the luminous undersides of the jellyfish?

“Faces” came to mind first, and while excellently mystical and creepy, rule of thumb is to not go with the first idea.

Hands? No.

A song? Feel like we’ve said that already.

How about memories? Yeah, memories.

But are they yours? Our own? Someone else’s from another place, even another time? Are they happy ones, regretful ones, proud ones?

We break the hypnosis and see the fin is so small now, just a long, gray plank set on its side in an endless puddle. So far away.

Or is it?

Maybe as we kick our legs, our foot touches something?

Maybe in this place, even the rules of perspective bend, and we kick the fin we thought was so far away. Maybe now, instead of the massive thing we knew it was, it’s within reach, about a foot tall, no wider than an inch.

We kick it, and it falls to its side, laying atop the water like a…well, a long, gray plank.

After that happens, the ribbons and their memories let us go, and we softly land on this long, gray plank. Endless ocean all around us, the tiny dots of the beetle skittering harmlessly along the surface.

What’s left to do but walk?

END

(Hey all. Thanks for going on these weird mind trips with me. I’ve talked with friends before about story writing: resolving plots issues, narrating, finding a voice, and the dreaded what-happens-next question. The best answer I’ve thought up so far has just been to define storytelling as the art of asking questions, then picking through the answers. Trying to decide which answers you like best depends, ultimately on what kind of tale you want to weave. Fantasy? Maybe the most fantastic, imaginative answers are the ones you want. Mystery? Maybe the least expected, but ultimately most realistic are the flavor you need. So on, and so forth.)

(I dunno, or maybe I’m just thought-vomiting onto my keyboard. Either way, thanks for obliging me.)

(Later.)