“I need to climb the cherry tree to get to the marshmallows”
It is always the weird, the wonderful and the terrifying that stick with us in relation to dreams.
For those of you who have been with The Hell Butterfly for a while, you may remember my attack on Freud’s ‘Dream Theory‘. For those who haven’t read it and don’t fancy clicking the link, I’ll summarise – Freud says that dreams are secret wishes, things we secretly want. I disagree in the strongest possible way. I think it’s a load of crap. In that post I bring up the weird (speaking the language of mice, zombie apocalypse at Hogwarts) and the terrifying (death of the family) and explain basically how I think it’s evidence enough to disprove Freud’s theory.
But theoretical babble aside, dreams are certainly the product of some wacky psychological, subconscious mechanics. It’s fascinating.
I could go on forever about the crazy shit my Dream Bank has stored up in there. But for the purpose of a post that won’t make your eyes bleed from reading so long, I’ll narrow it down to a few of my most memorable ones.
I never really understood where our dreams were made, how they were formed, or why exactly we have them. But they certainly bring about more questions than they often answer. One of my earliest memories of my dreams occurred several years ago now. Picture this: You are looking down at a gas hob. On it is a frying pan with oil bubbling away. And there, floating in the midst of this sizzling turmoil is a fried egg. Perfectly formed, whites white and yolk yellow, runny, and perfectly domed. And on top of this, balanced impeccably, another fried egg. It lies flat, as though in a pan of its own, and it floats in an impressive display of acrobatics on the very pinnacle of this yolky perfection, an image of wonder in itself. Both eggs are stunningly cooked. And they are more gracefully balanced than the most skilled of gymnasts.
No, I don’t get it either. But it made me laugh, and I have never forgotten it. It makes me smile every time I think of it.
My sister stole one of my dreams once. I guess it was just that hilarious she felt it would sound better than hers. I overheard her telling her friends the story that I’d told her not two days before. I confronted her and she claimed it was hers. I know it was mine. But I’ll let her have that one. I was on a ladder that was up against a tree, looking down at Amy, a girl from my class, and I very distinctly remember giving the reason why I couldn’t come down yet: “I need to climb the cherry tree to get to the marshmallows.” Yeah. Cool, right?
I have had a number of terrifying dreams in the past, so many that I can talk about a few here without repeating material from my dream theory post. The one common link is the fear of death. My own, my family, my friends, but always a fear of death.
My one recurring nightmare, the only dream to be almost exactly the same every time, is about tornadoes. I am shit-scared of tornadoes. In fact, I’ve convinced myself that by looking after the Earth (recycling, turning off lights, respecting It’s power) I will be rewarded by never being witness to one. But my recurring nightmare always brings me to the brink of death and destruction before I wake.
The people with me change. Sometimes my good friends, sometimes friends of friends, sometimes total strangers or even TV stars. But they always happen in my neighbourhood. The area known as Winklebury that I grew up in. It is not a very big place, and this dream always takes place here. The sound is the same too. A pulsing that fills my head, perhaps my own heartbeat amplified, and a deep, low whirring. Imagine the film Twister and hear that unsettling score in your mind when you read this. Twister is not meant as a scary film I don’t think but it scares me. I love it, but I get nervous watching it at night. It starts with me in my area, anywhere really, but then I see it forming in the sky. Dark. Grey. Angry. And coming for me. There is never just one of them. It starts as one, but before long there are at least 4. Never less than 4. And they have minds of their own. They have a consciousness. They target people. We run, screaming sometimes, crying others, but we get chased by these tornadoes through the streets, back alleys, down the road, through the houses. They almost laugh at me, call to me. They split off and one will pursue me alone. It has chosen me as its prey and won’t stop til it gets me. And in every dream it towers over me, right on my heels, the whirring and the pulsing drowning my head, and just as it opens its jaws of dust to grab me I wake up. Every time it nearly gets me. It drives me to the point of absolute terror before it releases me to the waking world. I hate these dreams.
I tell a lie. I do have another recurring nightmare, but it’s not actually related to a fear of death. I think I have these when I’m only half asleep. Maybe I’ve fallen asleep with my eyes half open or something. I see my body as I was when I went to sleep. But I am paralysed. People move around me, always in double speed. I can’t hear them, there’s never any sound – probably because I’m half-awake and there is no sound in my bedroom. Obviously the paralysis is because I’m asleep enough to have no control of my motor functions. My consciousness is awake but my body is unresponsive. I fight to move my limbs, blink, say one word, anything to let these people coming in and out know I am awake and I can see them, but I can’t move. That complete lack of control is the scary part. I can feel myself straining my limbs trying to force them into submission but my body has mutinied against me. I’m never quite sure if I’m awake or not. And when I finally do wake up it is only by flailing and sitting up in bed that I know I am truly awake. It has been so bad in the past, the trance-like state so deep, that in forcing my arm to move, and waking up during that movement, I have punched myself in the face. It didn’t bruise, luckily, but my face throbbed for a while. That was how hard I was forcing my body to move. I physically injured myself in my attempt to do something.
But back to the topic at hand – dreams about the fear of death.
The first poem I ever had entered – and published – in a poetry competition was based on a dream when I was 12. I was staying at my grandparents by myself. I had asked to stay with them for a week by myself and my family were to join after that week. That meant they were across the other side of the country during this time. The dream involved walking through a playground with my Grandad. I remember it looked like a Tim Burton film. Not black and white, but pretty fucking dark. I was holding his hand. We went into a room with a bald man sitting behind a desk. I remember the room was almost completely black, like it was the middle of the night and he had all the lights off. He took off his glasses, folded his hands together and looked up at us. Then he said it: “I’m sorry, young girl, but your Grandad must die.” And he accepted it. He seemed a little sad, but he just hugged me like he knew it was coming and he accepted his death sentence just like that. I remember ‘Come What May’ from Moulin Rouge played in my head during it. I know it’s a song about love but for years I couldn’t listen to it. It hurt too much.
The other scary death dreams are scary for a different reason. It is no longer my family accepting their death. It is me accepting mine. I am dying, and I don’t fear death, I don’t feel sad. I just accept it, say goodbye to my family in my head and die/wake up.
It pains me to admit how many of these dreams have been based around my suicide.
One I remember particularly was me sitting on the edge of a bridge, about to jump into the water far below. I see a car approaching on the road behind me and duck my head – it is my Mum. I don’t let her see me, but in that moment I change my mind and start to come back over the railing. I slip. That gut-wrenching falling sensation churns my stomach. But instead of being scared of the sudden fall, even though I just that moment decided not to jump, I simply think these exact words: “Oh well. Goodbye Mum.” I fucking hate thinking about this dream. Why did I accept it so casually? Why did I not have the slightest fear of leaving my family? Was that really the only thing going through my head? No apology? No .. anything?
Death dreams are the worst.
But dreams are not all doom and gloom.
I have one last one to raise your spirits, so you don’t have to go away from this post feeling like crap.
The Fantastic Wake-Up
You know the dreams from which you wake up laughing? Laughing at something that happened, or your reaction upon waking?
I did the other day. It was the best wake-up I have had in a long time.
I had been watching Bleach before I went to sleep. This is essentially an anime about ninjas who fight bad souls to protect the good ones. That night I dreamt I was a ninja. I woke up mid fight scene. As I woke up, I was punching and kicking the air and threw my cover around. I opened my eyes realising what I’d just done and my only regret is that there was no-one around to see it. It was awesome.
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