In Dreams begin Responsibilities

Title stolen from Delmore Schwartz’s short-story of the same name, a title he stole from W.B. Yeats, who stole it from some play.

I don’t always put a lot of stock in dreams, but sometimes I do. Especially when they’re recurrent. And I’ve been having a lot of recurring dreams lately. Only they aren’t good dreams, they’re bad dreams. Sometimes straight up nightmares. And it freaks me the fuck out.

There’s the one where I’m stuck in the car, going 70 miles per hour, and I can’t make it slow down no matter what I do. I can feel my heart racing as my foot depresses the brake peddle. When that doesn’t work, and in fact I speed up, I begin to panic and worry that I’m pushing the gas instead of the brakes. So I push the gas, and the car slows down dramatically before going out of control again. Then I throw the car into park while I’m driving, and it actually speeds up. It’s terrifying, and I can feel the steering wheel going slick from sweat, and I just know I’m going to die any minute. At some point in this one, I always become aware that I’m dreaming, because I pass the same scenery over and over again, like a reel on a movie. The same cars, the same trees, and the same thing happens over and over on repeat. I become aware I’m dreaming, but it doesn’t calm me down. In fact, I grow more afraid, and then the scene switches…as though my mind is trying to trick me with another dream.

What does it mean? I’m out of control of my life? Afraid I’m doing too much, too fast? Afraid that my fate is out of my hands, because no matter what I do it doesn’t make a difference? Afraid I’m headed for a crash that will ruin everything?

There’s the one where I’m being held in some lab. There is a labyrinth of corridors, all lined with animals in cages. There is all manner of mammals, human included. Their cells are just large enough for them to turn around in. I can hear the hum and buzz of the flickering lights, smell the animal fear and waste, hear the grunts and cries and howls of anguish. I’m running, running, running down one of the corridors. I’m lost and afraid, trying desperately to escape. I’m shaking my captors, my pursuers. I’m gaining momentum even as I lose steam, until I slip on the floors, slick with water and urine and hazardous waste. Just as I’m about to be shot, a man rounds the corner and shoots my pursuer. I somehow know I’m safe with him, as though I used to know him long ago. I can’t place him, but I know he’s from my past. He guides me to a makeshift operating room. I can see military personnel moving about the grounds outside. They’re watching for me, in case I escape. The man who rescued me speaks in a whisper and instructs me to lie back…he’s surgically removing chips and trackers from my body, and he injects me with some serum that’s supposed to help me elude the military. It’s really fucking weird and shady, and I’m always struck by the fact that I feel no pain. Fear, yes, but there’s no pain even as I watch my wounds bleed from the surgical procedures. Then he tells me he’ll find me again, but I’m to escape while he causes some hellish distraction to allow me to. The only thing that changes in the dream is whether or not he finds me after. Sometimes he does, and sometimes I know – even as he’s saying he’ll find me – that he won’t survive what he has to do to help me escape.

I find this one even more baffling. It all plays out like a movie. It’s very detailed. If I were an artist, I’d draw it all out, scene after scene. It’s that vivid and real. I’m in danger and in need of rescue? There’s someone I need to trust, but I don’t realize it? Or I’ve allowed myself to become trapped and need to free myself? Am I reading too much in? Probably. But this dream keeps visiting me. Over and over again. And it almost always immediately follows or precedes the dream about being in the out of control vehicle.

There’s the one where my heart is broken. I’m in love with this beautiful, dark, intelligent man. We’re in love of the deepest kind, true soulmates, or so it feels. He’s perfect. Fucking perfect. There’s nothing about him I’d change. And just as we’re about to marry, he introduces me to his family. They refuse to accept that he’s in a relationship with me, insisting that he meet someone more suiting to him and “his kind.” They bring in this beautiful girl, right in front of me. And he doesn’t fight them. She’s beautiful. Dark like him, but completely empty. She barely speaks, and when she does she only parrots what she’s been taught. The pressure from his family builds and builds until he finally relents, and he marries the girl. I’m devastated, but continue to be in his life. I’m there for their wedding, the birth of their children, forever alone. Pining away for what might have been.

This is another extremely detailed one, and I’ve left a lot out on purpose. I think I know where this one comes from, yet some of it doesn’t gel. I think it’s mostly about my fear of being alone for the rest of my life, or at least never having what I believe true love to be. I have this deep-seated feeling that it’s for everyone but me. And I’m really fucking sick of this dream, in particular.

Last night, I had those three one after the other, in that order…bam, bam, bam. I woke feeling completely drained, and I’ve thought about them all day. The only thing that would have been worse is if I’d had the truly nightmarish nightmare that I have on a semi-regular basis.

It’s dusk, and I’m running from someone. I don’t know who it is. I don’t even know if it’s a man or a woman, or if it’s even really a person. I’m just running for my life. I’m running and stumbling and running out of breath, weaving my way through a subdivision that looks like it was built in the late 70s. There are no people anywhere, and there are no cars. Not on the street, not in driveways, not under carports. Nothing. It looks abandoned Completely fucking abandoned. I always finally run up to the exact same house. Up the driveway, through the carport, and into an unlocked door. I shut and locked the door behind me and am immediately overpowered by the putrid stench of blood. Blood and meat. And I know it’s human. I don’t know how I know, but I do. My eyes widen, and my pulse races as I take in the scene: blood covers every wall. I’m not talking smears and splashes. There’s barely any white to be seen. It’s almost all coated in blood. The floor is slick, like someone splashed buckets of it everywhere. There’s no furniture, no nothing. Just walls and floors coated in blood. I don’t even have time to think about backing out, because suddenly there’s harsh pounding at the door to my back. I take off running through the house, slipping on the bloody floors. But it’s not a normal house, it’s a fucking maze. Room after room, the lighting grows darker and darker, the blood grows thicker and thicker, and I begin seeing bodies. Parts of bodies. Sometimes I see people that are still alive, victims and perpetrators. Tied up, drugged, heads lolling…others wearing bizarre leather costumes and hoods, holding medieval looking weapons of torture and death. They see me but don’t care. It’s as though there’s no fear of my escape, because there’s no reason to think I will. As I run, the corridors and rooms twist and turn and continue growing darker…and smaller…and narrower…until I’m in some strange room with concrete tiled walls. There are drains in the floor and hooks and loops on the walls, next to a bank of floor to ceiling lockers. There’s nowhere left to go. I’ve reached the end of the maze, and I can hear…whatever’s been chasing me…closing in behind me.

And then I wake up. I have one or two other recurring nightmares, but that one is by far the most terrifying. The images, the changing rooms, the twisted people and and not-quite-so human creatures I see…are fucking terrifying. It’s truly a nightmare, and I always feel really fucked up in the aftermath of waking from that one.

So. While I like to entertain thoughts of what my dreams mean, I don’t like to dwell on that one. At least not on purpose.

What about y’all? Do you have any recurring dreams or nightmares? Do you put any stock into their meanings?