Family Miasma

I'd left my family and friends to go and live the kind of life I'd always wanted to live, up in high mountain country with Liadain where the air was clean and time wasn't so important any more. But it seemed like it wasn't so easy to leave that life behind, because they all followed me - my mother and sister, grandparents and uncles and aunts, in a convoy up from the city for reasons best known to themselves.

I was trying to find Liadain so that we could leave, but my uncle cornered me in a small room and told me that he had found a passage in the Guru Granth that would make me have visions. I stayed to listen, and he read from the book with high drama, making me kneel down at one point. I really wanted to have visions, so I started to sway back and forth, trying to get into it even though I didn't understand the words he was saying. My mother and sister were trying to get my attention but I ignored them. Eventually my uncle finished the invocation and nothing in particular had happened so I got up and went to look for them.

To get out of the house I had to climb out of a large hallway window, and I got stuck, and a couple of my relatives tried to help me get down, but my uncle came along and told me to stop looking for attention, so I screamed at him to fuck off, which he didn't like at all. When I finally got down I went up to him and yelled "I'm sorry I told you to fuck off! OK? I'M SORRY!!" and then ran off crying, because everyone was being such an asshole and no one understood me at all.

Especially my mother, who was getting into her car and driving away because I had ignored her earlier. I caught up with her and sat in the car and tried to explain to her that I loved her, but we were never going to be able to have a proper, adult relationship if she was going to keep on getting upset over stupid things like this.

I don't know if she understood. The next time I saw her she was playing Internet chess with a man who was pretending to be John Wayne Gacy, Jr., who kept sending her disturbing instant messages which were supposed to be erotic, like "Now I'm cutting off your little finger, slowly," or "I'm flaying the skin from the inside of your thigh." My mother would make her move on the chessboard, and reply with flirtatious, coy messages. I didn't understand what she was getting out of the whole interchange, and I know it's not just because it was a dream, because I so rarely understand what people get out of the things they spend their time doing.

 

Recombinant DNA

My friends and I had made a discovery which had stunned the scientific world: we had proved that there was a huge reservoir of water near the Earth's core, by analyzing its rotational irregularities and variations in temperature. I was giving a lecture to 2000 people on our results, and my lecture was focusing on two things: first of all, much of our knowledge about planets and the geology of our own Earth was simply wrong, and secondly, I was proposing uses for this enormous water supply.

About halfway through the lecture I took a break, and left the stage to go and change my clothes for some unknown reason. I sat down with a friend of mine from school called Cathal, and started to get undressed. Cathal pointed and said "Is that Shane?" I turned and looked to see a very old friend of mine standing in the doorway of the lecture hall. He saw us and approached the table without smiling, and stuck out his hand for Cathal to shake. Cathal didn't move, staring at Shane, and I remembered that when we were in school Shane had been pretty nasty to Cathal, in a subtle, underhanded way.

Eventually Shane withdrew his hand and I stuck mine out, expecting him to shake it, but he totally ignored me and walked away. I was really puzzled. I saw Liadain sitting at another table close by, so I walked over to her and crouched down. She didn't ask me why I was naked, and I didn't think it was worth explaining. While I was talking to her, another woman who had obviously really liked my lecture kept sticking her head in between us, trying to get my attention with an inane grin, and I had to keep looking around her.

"I just saw Shane, and he totally ignored me."
"I know, I saw. It's because our families are related."
"Yours and mine?"
"Yeah - we have the same grandmother. It's something to do with recombinant DNA. People are a bit scandalized because when a DNAunt and a DNUncle get together, there's a chance that their children will have birth defects. It's like one in several hundred thousand."
I'm very puzzled at this point.
"So you're telling me that the reason Shane won't talk to me is because you and I are getting married even though we're related?"
"It's the talk of the town. A lot of people are very angry with us."
"That's very weird."

I get up and walk back to my table to finish getting dressed, trying to get my mind away from strange friends and recombinant DNA and back to the Earth's core, but at some point during the process I wake up.
 

Wedding From Hell

I was meeting Liadain  and my mother in a gigantic shopping mall, after a play I'd been acting in, in which I had forgotten almost all of my lines. The play was being held in my old school and all the actors were my classmates, my teachers the directors, my friends' parents the audience. After the first act they didn't even fucking applaud, it was so bad. I was so embarrassed and angry that I walked out.

Liadain had written a song for me, and I sat down to read it. I wish I could remember the words. A friend of mine from Leeds, R, arrived and we started to talk about our personalities. I got really superior with R when he asked me to describe him, and I said something which offended him. I wish I could remember what it was. Anyway, he got up, hugged Liadain goodbye, and said there was "dissent" between me and him. I followed him to the elevator and told him I was sorry. He said that I had no right to say things like that to him after what happened between me and his girlfriend a couple of years ago. We hugged and made up.

For some reason, when I returned there was a wedding party in full swing. Liadain and my mother had gotten into a conversation with a real asshole, someone I knew and didn't like. He had long, curly dark hair. I kept trying to explain what had happened with me and R, and he kept interrupting me, so I stormed off and sat on some railings outside the building in a big huff. Liadain and my mother came looking for me. When Liadain couldn't find me, she turned around to the dark-haired asshole and started to kiss him. I was shocked, and I thought she must have forgotten about me completely.

When I went back inside to go to the toilets and splash water on my face to help with the shock, Ariel Sharon greeted me, handing me a fake cardboard dress shirt and a black tuxedo jacket. There was also a letter which began "I am a member of the Nazi party," and went on to describe his plans to cleanse Palestine. I looked back at him, and I saw that he and Yasser Arafat were leaving the party together! It was obviously a conspiracy. I raced back upstairs to see Arafat heading towards the car park. He glanced back at me, and all I could see were small, beady, gleaming eyes which told me I was going to die. I knew I was in trouble, and I started trying to show the incriminating letter to people: "Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat gave me this!" Someone said, "They're going to get you."

I had to find Liadain. When I tracked her down, she was different - her face was oriental-looking, and she was dressed in a black leather skirt. She seemed older. I asked her why she kissed that asshole. She didn't want to look me in the eye, and I suddenly understood what was going on around me: this whole party, the wedding, was for her! Her marriage was being arranged to someone she hardly knew. She told me that she felt "freer" now, and that she had discovered that she didn't need me any more. I said "Liadain, I feel like my life is coming to an end. Are you joking? Please tell me you're joking." I knew that once I left the building I was liable to be shot by Sharon and Arafat's troops, but I didn't care because all the stories of my life were over now anyway.

My Fake Mechanical Hand

I was looking after my mother's cats. I can't remember the reason, and there probably wasn't one anyway. My mother has this cantankerous old black-and-white cat called Velvet, and I was carrying her into one of the upstairs bedrooms when she started to piss herself. I put her down gently and went to get a towel, but she just kept pissing, until the carpet was soaked and cat pee was trickling down the staircase. Eventually she stopped, visibly smaller than before, and with a strange and bashful expression.

I picked her up again, and she sank her claws into my hand and wrist. I tried to let go of her, but she just kept tearing at the skin until finally I got free. I looked at my hand. At first it seemed okay - just a few scratches and a few spots of blood - but every time I looked, it got worse - the gouges welled up with dark red arterial blood, which started dripping to the floor. I was trying to clean up the stains, and then I noticed that the cuts went all the way around my hand - they were so deep that I could see my muscle and bone, and it looked like I could have pulled on my fingers and pulled my whole hand off like a glove, leaving only the bones. There was no pain, but I started to panic.

Luckily my friend J is a doctor. He looked at my injuries and laughed, and for some reason this made me feel better, even though my hand was still getting worse - I wondered if I would get gangrene and it would have to be amputated. J brought out a carpenter's vise and I started to get really worried, but it turned out he was just trying to freak me out. He had this idea that people take their injuries too seriously. He looked at the wounds again and said
"This is going to be expensive."
"How much? Thousands of pounds?"
"Expensive."
I kept trying to call the hospital, dialling the numbers with my good hand, but I couldn't get through. Eventually J drove me to the hospital himself. He said he was too tired to do anything himself, but he got a friend of his to attend to me, a young doctor with blonde hair and a calm aura.

He opened up my hand along the line of the cut and extracted a long piece of metal from it. "How the hell did that get in there?" I asked, and he showed me my hand. It was a thin wooden box with metal hasps and a mirror inside. I started to laugh, saying "Oh my god, my hand is mechanical," and he laughed too and took the box away, revealing my real hand. It had just been a joke.

    At this point I woke up, went to get a glass of water, holding my hand delicately because I was pretty much convinced that it had been badly damaged. I went back to sleep and re-entered the dream at exactly the same point.

The young doctor used glue to stick my hand back together. He was in a rush because he had so many patients to attend to, and he was only looking after me as a favour to J, but he did a pretty good job. There were a couple of places where the wound was not fully closed, or where air had been trapped underneath my skin to form a strange kind of bubble, but I was happy enough that it would heal up and I wouldn't lose it.
 

The Dark Pool

My friends and I were clearing out the garden  of an old abandoned house - it was full of weeds and junk, and at the bottom of the garden was a deep pond, almost like a swamp. We had to clear out the pond, so we were taking turns to dive into the freezing cold water and fish stuff out of the bottom - old TV tubes, bits of wood, plastic milk cartons. The water was sludgy around the edges of the pond, clogged with floating weeds and mud, and some of us were getting stuck there, and had to be pulled out by the others.

Then P went to the bottom of the pond and didn't come back up. We were staring at the water, trying to see his outline, getting more and more anxious. We extended a length of black hosepipe down to him to grab on to, but nothing happened, so Paul decided to go down and get him. He took hold of the hosepipe and jumped into the deepest part of the pond. After a while he jerked on the hose, and we started to pull him up - as he got closer to the surface we could see that he'd found P, who had got stuck in some weeds at the bottom, and they were both holding their breath.

Something went wrong. The hosepipe came free, and they floated back down out of reach, so we sent it back down again. Everyone started to panic.

The next thing I remember, I was indoors, asleep, and I woke up to the feeling of sun on my face and the sound of laughing voices outside. I knew that something was very wrong, but I couldn't quite remember what. I went out and I was in the garden again, and P was standing talking to everyone. That's when I remembered that I had thought he was dead, and I ran up to him and hugged him really tightly, nearly in tears. I told him how happy I was that he was still alive, and he seemed almost a little embarrassed, but he hugged me back.

Rotten Teeth

I was trapped upstairs with my partner in the house I had lived in for 13 years. It had been a sunny summer's day, but then a sudden storm came, and everything next to the open windows inside the house was drenched. I looked out of the window and I saw that the room underneath ours was on fire, started by an electrical short circuit, and I knew we had to get out of there really quickly.

We managed to climb on to the roof of the garage, and from there we could get to the ground and back into the house. I turned on the garden hose and pointed it at the main body of the fire, and then ran through the house closing the windows and turning off appliances. A lot of the electrical outlets were fizzing and sparking because of the rain. When I came back to the burning room, the fire had gone out, and there was nothing except thick black smoke.

After so much excitement and panic, we had to calm down. I was feeding the cats in the back garden, and I noticed that one of them was my mother's cat, Sheena, a gorgeous tortoiseshell-and-white persian who died when I was 14. She often appears in my dreams, and I always remember that she is supposed to be dead, and it usually signifies some kind of decay, something bad about to happen. This time was no exception.

I was feeling my teeth with my tongue, and I noticed one of them was loose. I wiggled it with my fingers, and it grew looser until I realized it was going to come out. A soft pop, and I was staring at it in my hand. The root was black, and my mouth started to fill up with black liquid which was bleeding from my gums. I ran inside to look in the mirror. Another tooth was loose, and came out as soon as I touched it. The root was also black, and I had to spit more black liquid into the sink. This was really starting to get disturbing. "I really have to make an appointment with my dentist," I thought. I felt around in my mouth again, and another tooth came out. I was starting to panic. "I'm going to be so ugly that Liadain won't love me, she won't even want to look at me!"

That last tooth was a bad one. There were shards left in my gums, which seemed to be turning into some kind of soft organic pudding. As I picked them out one by one, I caught hold of another of my molars, and an entire section of my jaw seemed to come loose. I realized my whole face was falling apart, and I started to scream "Oh my god, oh my god..." - I realized that I was fucked, that my only chance, the only chance I had left, was if this was a dream...let it be a dream, please god let this be a dream...

I woke up with a kind of spasm, and sat up saying "Fucking hell, fuck fuck fuck, god fucking damn it", and for the next five minutes I couldn't stop feeling my teeth to make sure they weren't loose. I've had several nightmares about my face falling to pieces and it doesn't get any easier to deal with.
 

Chain on an Angel

I thought I was raging to be free, but really it was something else, words and numbers and feelings inside me. they showed me visions. they said that I was their prison. that I am a chain on an angel who could sing to the heart of the world. the language of nothingness, the black-rimmed sun, like the dying petals of a lily. a lily in his hand for no reason.

I met my parents in the recesses of an infinite library, like Borges' brain, expanding on the fuel of phrases forever. I watched their outlines glimmer. all the colour faded from within their outlines, draining into the floor. they stayed still, like ice sculptures, empty. I saw how happy they'd be that way: clear and quiet, everything about them forgotten and at peace. the contours of their faces, their hands: a map of everything that was ever important.

in another dream, I was reading fire from yellow pages, my mind translucent, waiting for inspiration, a spider in a rain-bright web. the crows on the sunset-shadowed roof. the burning petals of a yellow rose. lonely for friends' voices, an unknown home, woodsmoke in the trees. hallucinogenic bluebells and pinkbells rippling through the undergrowth. running through tilted dreams of sky islands.

The mind giving birth to the mind

"I recognize you," she said. His face was the colour of pale wheat. He was hunched over a dark pool, staring at the space between his outstretched hands. deep in that space, a tiny spark. a white snake, a filament, wriggling and glowing. the force of his will heavy in the air, making a sound like the moaning of a high wind in the folds of the damp rock.

she shakes her head. this is not real. she says that she knows him. that they have been in this place together many times before. his eyes lift briefly from his work. the writhing light fades, and his attention returns to the space between his hands. she touches his shoulder and his skin is cold and hot at the same time. he is giving birth to his own mind and she knows that this must not happen.

my friend's eyes are so soft, his pupils dark with drugs, and he feels like everything is underwater. I felt that way once too, and there was no sense to be made of anything. he is sweating, smiling, in his mind he is naked. he leans close to me in the luminous dark and tells me things I already know. we are friends. he is lonely. his work is destroying his heart. in my dreams he is always just like this, like a child with happy, tearful eyes.

he's asleep under an old willow, like a faery imprisoned in a christmas bauble. the willow branches trail in the bright water. he doesn't know about the world any more and his brain is empty, full of sounds and tastes and sights only, and silly dreams of circles. he sleeps and wakes as if there will always be tender arms to hold him. and in my dreams, there always will.
 

The Alien Queen

This very fucked-up dream starts off with me watching Aliens, but then my consciousness shifts through the screen and I become a character in the film. The Alien Queen has escaped and is hunting us down. She traps one of the men in my squad and burns off his face with a flamethrower - his jaw melts and he falls screaming to the ground. We are all captured.

The Queen decides to send us to Tax, the underground nest and homeworld of the aliens, and when the gates open, there is nothing to see but a heaving mass of human bodies and clambering aliens. Ripley, (who is me - or at least, who I have turned into), slits her wrists open rather than be sent in there. The Queen brings her back into the main complex and stitches her up again. When next we see the Queen, she has ripped both of her own arms off, and her lower jaw, and in place of her jaw is a huge, grotesque pair of red human lips. She tells us that she wants to be beautiful like us.

We are running and escaping from Tax, and we barely make it into our complex in time before something gets past the barriers and is halted by the glass inner door. Even the Queen is scared by this thing, which is called a Sleuth, and is bulkier, almost humanoid, muscular, grey-green-red in colour. It begins to crash against the glass, making a booming, thunderous sound.

I wake up.
 

Undine

Granny turned a golden astrolabe slowly in front of her face, her eyes calm and curious. I wasn't sure what she was looking for, but her eyes seemed fixated on a point deep beneath the metal. I was reminded of a fortune teller, and the astrolabe became a small crystal sphere, full of light and tiny, tiny stars, which could be used to examine the heavens and predict the weather. Aunty G came into the room with her arms full, and sat down in front of Granny, letting everything spill out on the floor between them. The light from the curtains was brighter now. It was the middle of the afternoon, a time when their house was always full of the deepest peace - a peace which came from years of order and quiet, with no unexpected noise, no dust in the crevices. They were looking at a map of the heavens that was criscrossed with lunar and stellar transits and arcane astrological symbols. Aunty G and grandmother started to place small blue buttons on the map, looking closely at them first, and chatting softly. Occasionally they would turn to me and say something about the past or the future, which I was having increasing difficulty in following. I wondered where my girlfriend was. The light in the room seemed to be growing, reflected and contained in the deep glass of the astrolabe. It grew brighter and brighter until there was nothing to be seen anywhere but light, almost making a sound, like planets drowning.

>-<

The prince is screaming. He looks like Jude Law, that high-cheekboned, blonde-haired, perfect-skinned arrogance that seem otherwordly, unquestionable. Maybe this is why royal families were sometimes thought to derive their authority and their bloodline directly from God - he seems so perfectly evil and destructive, but immune to ordinary criticism, as if the normal accountability of human beings to their fellows just does not apply to him. He's the prince. He's screaming at his wife, his mother, a witch with flaming orange hair and gaudy, heavy makeup, dressed all in black and dark veils. Their relationship is rich and ambiguous, the result of dozens of lifetimes spent in various configurations - mother-son, father-daughter, lovers, friends, enemies, killers of each other through time and space. The woman with the orange hair is grinning like a pantomime witch, her eyebrows nothing but charcoal smudges on her forehead. Her spirit has been killed and her brain is full of demons. I think of Tom Ripley, how he slammed the edge of the oar into his friend's head. How the wound was a thin line at first, like a slice in a steak, and then filled with blood, while the realization hits him - there's no going back now - and nothing left to do but let the demons rage until it's over. The body drifting slowly into the clear darkness hundreds of metres from the mediterranean coast. The usurping prince left alone, lost in his labyrinth, running from the minotaur of his own shadow.

>-<

Lying on my stomach on the diving board, I can see to the bottom of the deep blue chamber. I've been swimming through the catacombs of a drowned city for hours, maybe even days, but I'm not sure why. I think I'm just trying to get out. The water is iron-cold and dark because we are at the bottom of the ocean, and the city is lit by vast underwater floodlights which fade away slowly into the endless black. At the bottom of the chamber is a drowned woman's naked body. I am filled with horror and shock, and I feel myself fall towards her, through the cold water.



She's dancing, suspended in the ocean depths like a light on a wire, glowing, on fire under her pale skin. She is moving like a fighter in a video game, precise and unwavering, but slow, pirouetting at half-speed, her foot reaching out to touch the lintel of an invisible doorway. She knows how to open doors in the dark. There's no way back to the surface, no way to the bottom of the sea, and there's nothing all around her but the unknown cold, but she can open doors. Her skin shines like a beacon. She's opening a door. She doesn't even know how she knows how. Without her, there would be no other worlds than this one. I saw her once years ago, when I was asleep in a strange country. I was walking along the shore of a gentle blue sea, where there were many strange and exotic colours in the sand that made the frilly waves warp like rainbows. She was asleep under the water, floating just below the surface. She was asleep but awake - aware of me, but not fully conscious, a being of function and symbol, a determiner of meaning. Not like me. A different form of life, unaccountable, like the prince screaming, the girl who opens doors. She stands up in the shallows, water pouring from her white robes. Her eyes are black. She holds up an unrecognizable symbol written in charcoal on a piece of paper, and says "I don't think you quite realize who I am." Behind her a door opens in the sky and empty space begins to pour through in great waves. I feel a growing lucidity, a weird awareness of what is happening. I realize that she is a part of me, always present in my psyche. I don't know what it means that we've met, but I know it's important. I wake up.