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A Day at the Coast

September 18, 2012

Hearing about someone else’s dreams tends to be as tedious as forcibly flicking through a set of holiday photos in the presence of a burnt coworker. I figure the best way to get anyone else to give a damn about this is to focus on the fact that I can’t recall ever waking up to an existential crisis.

(I feel that Schadenfreude in the blogosphere has an attraction equal to that of nudity in tabloids. If that isn’t enough for you to read on, here’s a pair of royal breasts for your ogling. Enjoy.)

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I was spending a day on the coast with my brother and parents. The craggy shoreline and cold blue-black water seemed Cornish, but the locals were unmistakably Texan. I walked with my mother through a breezy covered market, past fruit stalls and vendors heaving with cheap mobile phone cases, until we reached a massive shop that sold nothing but luxurious bedding. We approached a bed that had to have been at least fifteen feet by fifteen and covered in red and purple silk with gold accents.

On one side, on top of the bedding, laid a woman with a large pillow covering her face. She wasn’t moving and I was sure she was dead. On the other side was a giant tabby, its body as long as the bed, who seemed to watch guard over the woman. I neared the woman to check if she was breathing and as the giant cat began to growl, the woman slowly lifted her hand as if to simultaneously hush the cat and shoo me away. Something crashed to the floor behind me making me scream and jump, turning away from the bed, and as soon as I looked back I saw my mother laying right next to the woman, her head covered by a similar pillow.

I left her and followed a long wooden walkway that ran parallel to the sea before snaking up to the top of a large boulder where my brother and father waited. With them stood a small, shrunken, ancient man wearing only a pair of shredded culottes; his face and body were covered in deep, discolouring scars. Some of them even looked like claw marks. As I reached the top I saw the gnarled remains of what seemed to be a rather modern metal bridge that jutted out towards some sort of ship. The bridge’s framework seemed stable enough and my brother and father began climbing across it, never once looking back at me. Their moves felt automatic as if they couldn’t proceed until I had reached the rock, and as they carefully made their way across the bridge, the old man started to speak to me.

His speech was a strange, stilted attempt at modern slang, littered with awkward hip-hop words and meaningless phrases that seemed to confuse him as they came out of his own mouth. It seemed like he was trying to make small talk with me, but after a few minutes I felt as if I was having to translate every word of his back to English and by then I had gone way past mere impatience. My brother and father were halfway across the structure and I needed to join them.

“Why do you talk like that?” I asked.

“Whaddaya mean?”

“You know what I mean. Why don’t you talk to me like a normal person?”

Silently he stared at me, his eyes full of tears and his toothless mouth quivering as he searched for impossible words. I don’t really know why, but I began to feel indignant and hateful towards the old man. Even now, typing this, I feel guilty for the way I began to talk to him in the dream.

“Okay man, I’m sick of this and I’m sick to fucking death of you. Goodbye old man.”

As I began to walk away, he grabbed me by the wrist. The skin of his skinny hands was calloused and split but his grasp was gentle as if he was trying to stop me without hurting me.

“Do you know where you’re going?” he asked.

I couldn’t comprehend the question.

He stretched a mangy hand out towards the bridge and said, “See.”

As if a great fog had lifted, parts of the bridge I had previously been unable to see had materialised. We were standing underneath one end of a large paved drawbridge for cars and other vehicles, and I could now see that the ship at the other side was a massive ferry.

Dazed by the sight I started to walk towards the bridge’s undercarriage, totally unaware that the old man was still holding my arm. I took in a deep breath, ready to shout at the top of my voice, but as I turned to him I saw a torment in his eyes that petrified me.

“Everyone only leaves. Nobody stays. Nobody ever gets to stay.” His trembling grasp felt deathly cold on my skin. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to speak to people these days, and I’m sorry about that. Everyone’s always so quick to head off and move on. I guess I just want some company.”

I was overwhelmed with a strong feeling for the ferryman but I can’t quite place it. I know it wasn’t an empathic emotion like pity or compassion – maybe just sorrow or some projected commiseration for the poor bastard.

I gazed out towards the boat and could see the faint shapes of my father and brother as they neared the edge of the bridge. I looked down at the water far below them and a wave of vertigo rushed through my head. The old man had let go of me and I stumbled towards the bridge just to hold on to something sturdy. As I threw my arms around the first twisted girder, squeezing shut my eyes, the wind began to howl through the rocks. I held tight until I regained my balance.

I began to think about my mother, and as if he was reading my mind the ferryman shouted, “You can go if you want.”

“What?”

“You can head towards the ferry to be with the others or you can turn back. Or you can stay if you’d like. The choice is yours.”

What did he mean by stay? I thought. Stay with him?

He began to speak softly and somehow, despite the loud gusts, I could hear him. “I’m not trying to pressure you either way, I just thought you should know you have a choice. Not many people realise that.”

I looked down at the girders and saw clusters of tiny shreds of metal collected in every corner of the beams. “Why me? Why don’t the others know?”

The winds started to blow dust and bits of dead grass into my eyes and I felt a strong sense of death all around me.

“Don’t be scared. Deep down, everyone knows. Whether or not they accept their options is up to them.”

The girders began to shake violently; the metal moaned as it bent in and out of shape. I was sure I was going to die. All the bits of shrapnel began to scatter down towards the water, making a soft hiss as they struck the surface below.

I awoke to the sound of light drizzle being gently blown on the windowpane. My heart was pounding in my chest, but at an oddly slow pace. Instinctively I felt like I should be panting, drenched in sweat, but I felt cold and totally dry with each heartbeat striking me like a dull, audible punch from inside my chest.

I quietly slinked out of bed and walked to the bathroom. It was just before 4 AM –  the usual time I tend to wake from very vivid dreams. I walked back to bed and typed out everything I could remember from the dream (notes are below) and tried to get back to sleep, but all I could think about was the old man – and only then did it click that I was dreaming about the ferryman that carried souls across the rivers that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead. That’s when my heart finally started racing.

I started thinking of all the times I’ve either died in dreams or have just narrowly escaped it by consciously deciding to wake up from the dream – by consciously stepping out of a subconscious procedure. For whatever reason I began to feel that the amount of lives I had in my dreams were numbered as if they were lives in a video game, and then wondered what that amount was. I won’t bore you any more of these details as, frankly, I’m starting to bore myself. Plus my eyelids are starting to get heavier and heavier and I’m not sure I’ll be able to say anything worth saying with my ever-dwindling mental energy.

Another night, another dream. I only hope tonight brings something light and frivolous that won’t mess with my head too much.

‘18 September – 04:02 AM

Dream me’s

Creepy guy at the bridge. Ferry man. Gates were shredded. Shaking. Mesh gone. With dad and Kevin. I shook his hand as he spoke youngspeak and touched me. My section of the cage lowered into a lounge. I knew I was lowered either into his lounge or into a lions den. Knew I would die there. 

Worried there were a limited amount of dream ‘ME’s. How many left? I’ve escaped enough dreams before I died but have still died on many occasions. 

I started to remember details I’m not sure were there. Scars on his arms. Claw marks. Bites. Dunno. Cant trust my memory  

I met the ferryman and all he wanted was company. Didn’t know how to talk to people. Only spoke to those that were leaving- in that state of mind.’

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