university

The Factory

I was at home with my mother and sister talking about a radio interview. My granny called the house and left a phone message and it upset me because she was talking about her sister's death and she sounded so sad. Her situation saddened me, all of her friends and her husband and her sisters all dead. So I got up from the breakfast table without a word and left the house.

 
I went to university and skipped out of my psychology class to wander around the great building, right up to the roof where there was a gathering of people. Some of them were sitting right at the edge. A policeman told people to come back from the edge, walking so close to it that I was terrified. I had a bag full of my things - books, notes, clothes, a computer. Two of them were making fun of me and my hair and the way I dressed. Making fun of my self-image, as if I was vain and at the same time ridiculous-looking. I realized that I wanted to go back to university and that I had enough points - 79 - to do so. I could go to a foreign university to do women's studies and it would make me happy.
 
I went back through the university arts building to go home. On the way I met my girlfriend, who I had been forgetting to call or text (we had only just got together). This is something I used to do when I was a teenager, simply forget to call a girl I was supposed to be seeing. I made a mental note to call her. It was dark when I was leaving university and I had to walk back through a bad neighbourhood. A gang of young men - boys really - starting talking about the bags I was carrying, and started following me. I was just getting ready to run when a woman found me. She was older and very calm and she knew me, and the boys respected her and went away. She brought me to her house and said she would call me a taxi to take me home.
 
She started to read to me from a great thick paperback book she had, full of her own notes - not the Bible, it was called "The Factory" and talked about God as the Factor, the Maker. She asked me to look at a picture of the sea with the sun hanging over it, a great fiery orange ball. It left a flaming reflection on the water. Then all of a sudden it plunged beneath the water, surprising me and making me feel very emotional. Then several suns followed it underwater as if attached by a string. I felt happy and as if I was about to cry.
 
The woman seemed satisfied by my reaction and closed the book and went to call a taxi for me. I wanted to take the book with me but I realized that I couldn't because it was hers. I went into her kitchen and there was a phone message from my mother, who had been worried about me because I left so suddenly. She thought it must be because something she said made me angry. I said no, I was sad about granny. There was a message from my granny too. She was still talking about her dead sister, the funeral arrangements, the end of things. I wanted to cry again, and I wanted to tell her about my decision to leave and go back to university, and about the book that the old woman had shown me.

The Great University

I was a student of literature in the Great University, which was similar in feeling to the arts departments of universities I've been in in real life, but twenty times as big, and teeming with millions of students, every one of them following their own stories with all of their energy. I was to be taught a seminar by a Professor Andrew Wyle, the subject being a forgettable book that I did indeed keep forgetting - for a while I was looking for a bookshop to buy it in, then I was looking for another student from my class who could remind me what the book was, and finally I was just searching for Professor Wyle so that I could talk to him. I think I wanted to talk to him about another student of his, a girl who was in trouble. She was in a panic because her fiance had broken up with her and was with another woman, and she was running through the corridors of the Great University unable to figure out what she should do.

The problem was not so much her love for her fiance, although that was part of what was causing the pain and panic - the real problem was the unravelling of the story by which she had been living her life. She didn't really have a backup and so she was going nuts, like a computer whose operating system has crashed. I realized this when I was exiting the university bookshop, still looking for Professor Wyle, and saw the throngs of students streaming to their classes, and then saw a famous old writer on crutches heading towards the bookshop doors. I did my best to hold the door open for him, but it was very heavy and I didn't do a very good job. He did get through through, and proceeded to a table without a word of thanks or even a glance at me. I didn't take it personally, because he had a reputation for being extremely antisocial and unpleasant. I noticed that people were joining him at his table - admirers and helpers, people who wanted to talk to him. He showed no enthusiasm for all of this and I wondered what made people want to be around him.

Then it hit me. He was a creator of stories. People need stories. It's not simply that they have trouble thinking without stories; they literally cannot live without them. Someone who creates new stories, like many types of artist, is let away with practically any form of behaviour because of what they can do. They are like priests, mystics and royalty all wrapped into one. A writer of stories can do what almost no one else can do: they can give you a reason to live. It could be a stupid reason or a beautiful one, but they are the ones with the ability to write new software for your mind. It can be anyone, any story, at any level of expertise in the craft of writing. James Joyce shares the same power with Stephanie Meyer and they give people the same gift. Writers express the gift with the powers that they have been given, and the story is the living thing, not the craft with which it has been created.

I was still looking for Professor Wyle, but now I was running with joy, and the sun was shining on the campus of the Great University, and all the hordes of students appeared to me as something different, a mass of energy directed and shaped by stories, and I realized that it was within me to be a writer and a creator too, and I felt that ability as an energy inside me, driving me faster and filling me with an urgent kind of happiness.

Back To School

I was in school, preparing to do my final year exams again, but this time I was only going to be doing English and Irish. My mother  was annoying me, trying to help me and tell me what to do in my English paper, and I was worried that I was going to do badly. I was thinking, "How embarrassing, I have a masters in literature and I'm not going to get an A in the Leaving Certificate exams in English..." I'd had an insight earlier in the dream into why I never got the highest marks in my university studies - I'd been reading Liadain's essays, and I realized that she was objective about her sources in a way I never was. If she thinks a commentator or writer is full of shit, she says this in her essay, whereas I never did this - if someone said something I agreed with, I would use this in my essay, and if someone said something I disagreed with, I would ignore them.

I left the class room to go to the toilet, and found myself wandering through the basement of a strange building, lit by dim lightbulbs. The walls were pale and kind of slick, like sweaty old school basement paint. I entered a large room like a firing range, where a man and a woman were testing an experimental laser cannon. The woman shot a human-shaped dummy in the chest with a handgun, and the man used the laser cannon on his dummy. The laser burned a huge hole in the dummy's chest. The man went on to explain that even though the laser was powerful, the handgun was a far more efficient weapon in terms of "destruction per pound" and simplicity of design. I thought "I want a handgun!" and then left the room.

I found my way out of the basement and back to the classroom, where a substitute teacher was supervising my classmates as they talked and wandered around the aisles. I saw my old friends B and F but I felt no connection to them at all, and no urge to talk to them. One of the other guys in the class told me to sit down next to him and his friends, and I did, thinking that this was all very strange, but glad to see them all again. It was as if the teachers and the lessons were all irrelevant, and always had been, and we'd all been there just to interact with each other. I'd missed them.