In January I wrote about some of my most memorable nightmares, trying and probably failing to make them sound suitably creepy. Today, after waking up from a dream with some strangely pleasant parts, I drew on my unconscious memories again to describe some memorable dreams I've had at different times in my life that have left me feeling warm and peaceful, sometimes for several hours after waking before harsh reality and earthly problems intruded.
I may be too work-focused and easily distracted to ever consider meditation or other paths to peace and harmony outside of REM sleep, but it's nice to know I can at least experience these feelings unconsciously from time to time, and if my final experience in life is to have one of these pleasant dreams as I pass away in my sleep, that would be the best way to go.
Hang on... is that comforting or an extremely bleak thing to have just thought about? I'm in a good mood right now, so I won't dwell on it. Here are some of my favourite nicemares.
Echo of Eden (ages eight and up)
I'm just using that name as a frame of reference, there was nothing explicitly Biblical in these gardens I found myself in at various times throughout my sleeping life. Certainly none of the characters were present - the solitude was one of its most appealing features.
This garden feels like the ultimate escape from life, and is as stereotypically idyllic as you can imagine. The soft chirping of birds and trickle of streams, lush, multi-coloured vegetation, soft grass and enticing pools, all bathed in a permanent, soft sunset glow. My mind does appear to have some budgetary restrictions however, as the garden seems very small. Maybe it goes on further, but I'm content in this space.
Five Foetuses or Fewer (age nine)
Image: Gemma Webster
This is one of the most vivid dreams I had in my life, I can still remember how everything looked clearly almost two decades later. My youngest brother Michael was already four years old at the time, but as he was still the de facto baby in the family, my dream back-tracked a few years to cast him in the role of a foetus as I dwelled on the bizarre miracle of birth.
Some people claim to have memories of the womb. These people are mistaken, but there are plenty of reasons they may think they remember what it felt like - maybe they just had a nice dream about it, once they were old enough to have some basic grasp of how it all worked.
My grasp was maybe a little off, as the dream begins with a typically alien-headed foetus floating in a well-lit, very expansive area, which as I now understand it probably isn't a very realistic portrayal of the cramped uterus. I was only nine years out of the womb myself, give me some artistic license. This silent, liquid environment is bathed in a soft yellow light (like the sunset in the garden - lighting plays an important part in my nicemares) and feels tranquil and relaxed.
Despite the biological inaccuracies, it's imagery typical of Stage I of Stanislav Grof's breakdown of perinatal experiences, a slightly dubious, slightly misogynistic, slightly LSD-saturated template that nevertheless formed the basis of several of my university essays where I applied the model to literature, film and alien abduction experiences, all of which have an arguable basis in 'memories' of the womb and birth trauma - whether these memories are imagined or not. My continuing interest in this subject can probably be traced back to this dream.
Grof's second stage of the birth process is the beginning of the contractions and increasing pressure inside the womb, which is rendered less traumatically in my dream as the foetus carefully floats over to a waiting shopping trolley and sits inside. The tranquillity is shattered as we cut to the harsh fluorescent lights and beeping checkouts of an Asda supermarket, where my mother is queuing to pay for her newborn baby, who's contentedly sitting in the trolley next to a tub of ice cream.
My parents were always quite honest about how pregnancy and birth worked (within the bounds of taste) and didn't patronise us with stories about storks or anything, but this dream does suggest that I had a little more to learn.
Ezri Dax Is My Girlfriend (age thirteen)
It was around this age that I started to feel drawn to girls rather than repelled by anxiety and confusion, and this dream was my first experience of what it might be like to have a girlfriend - though due to shyness and going to an all-male school, it would be another six years before I got to experience the highs and lows of a real relationship. And haven't I done just brilliantly since then...?
The focus of my affection was Ezri Dax, a fictional character played by Canadian actress Nicole DeBoer who I didn't really have a thing for, but who just happened to come along in the right place at the right time - joining the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine when I was a Trekkie hitting puberty, and infiltrating my dream.
This dream might have played a part in forming my taste in women though, as she fits comfortably into the category of short, dark-haired women who are more cute than sexy, before I got racist in later years and started to demand Asian heritage in the mix. It was also around this time that I started to respond differently to Wednesday Addams when watching Addams Family Values, so that was another formative influence on my preferences. Remember I was a kid too, so there was nothing dodgy about it. Well, apart from all the multiple psychological issues of being attracted to Wednesday Addams.
Now I'm wishing this dream had been about Wednesday, which would have bridged the chasm between nicemare and nightmare, but Ezri was more of a straight-up nice girl, and the time we spent together talking, walking and lying in bed felt... nice, the soft dawn light adding a slight hue to the pure white of the duvet. I can't pin down the feeling exactly, but I know I woke up feeling great for however much of the day I could delude myself into believing it had been real.
There was nothing adult or graphic in the dream, which I could pretend means I was only interested in the higher reaches of love rather than anything low and physical, but I think my brain is just really uncreative when it comes to things like that. To this day, I've never had a real sex dream. This next one is the best example of the lengths my mind goes to in dealing with that sort of thing in the most abstract and detached way possible.
Plug In and Think of Antares (age twenty-seven)
In a scene straight out of a sub-Battlestar Galactica science fiction series, two ludicrously beefed-up marine guys and one slightly less muscular woman are heading downwards in a lift, a sense of anticipation in the air. What differentiates this from standard sci-fi fare is that they are all naked, but are wearing oversized weaponry that conveniently conceals the important parts for the cameras, though there is the occasional generous flash of breast.
'I've been looking forward to this,' says the blonde man in an expected American accent. Amongst the various weapon straps separating their bulging muscles, these marines all have a serious deformity - two long flaps of skin criss-crossing their backs in an X shape, mottled and with sucker-like pads along their length. I get the impression these are mandatory mutilation for military service and have some practical use in certain situations, but maybe they're just aliens tidying their tentacles out of the way.
The lift reaches its destination and the marines head out into a vast, metallic room, approaching a bank of computer consoles. The scene becomes increasingly abstract as they advance, the characters becoming more like computer sprites and the men getting visibly excited, though fortunately their erections are only rendered as polygons. We see the console through the eyes of the blonde man, and the rudimentary operating system is anachronistic even by today's standards, let alone when this is supposed to be set.
As the machine loads, the scene sheds the last vestiges of its physicality and we plunge into a bright virtual reality, predominantly yellows and greens, and watch two crudely rendered faces smile and loop around each other happily - no more than circles with smiling crescents - backed by a monotonous, melodic soundtrack that wouldn't have been out of place on the pages of BBC Ceefax, back in the prehistoric days when television didn't begin until 6am. I can't explain why, but I have a feeling of complete contentment. I'm vaguely aware that this is sexual, but I'm only getting the euphoric and spiritual end of the scale, with none of the distracting physical side.
Once this interfacing is complete, the console presents the image of a female toddler and informs the user of her projected birth date and name. We're also informed that provisions will be made for homosexual crew members and those who don't wish to raise a child themselves - this activity is all about the necessity of breeding, but the military at least recognises the emotional needs too. People may only be able to have sex when plugged into a computer, but this isn't a complete dystopia.
At this point, I step back from the fiction and search for that interfacing scene again on YouTube. It was such a pleasant feeling, I'm eager to relive it, even if I'm just an observer and not experiencing the full level of intimacy of its fictional user. I find a few copies of the scene, but they're all silent, and the repetitive, chirpy soundtrack was a big part of the experience, so I decide not to watch again. It just wouldn't be the same without the objectively awful muzak.