Posted on May 5th, 2020

The Soft Core of the Earth – Fever Dream

I never remember my dreams, that is unless I wake up in the middle of one. Usually this happens if REM sleep unfortunately aligns with my alarm going off – which leaves me quite groggy for the day; but it can also happen if I’m having a bad dream (I don’t refer to them as nightmares any longer because I’m not a child). On rare occasions, I’ll wake up in a sweat or panic; not often at all, but it has happened a handful of times over the years. Sometimes I attribute it to eating something fatty or spicy late (I typically don’t eat after 8pm as a rule), sometimes because I drank too much booze, and sometimes it may simply be circumstantial, like something is buried in the recesses of my mind and it only comes out when I’m asleep and unable to ward it off. Don’t let down your guard, I guess. But if you choose not to sleep to keep the wolves at bay, then I imagine you’ll have bigger problems down the line.

There are only a few dreams I vividly remember from my childhood, three to be exact: two were bad and one was good and recurred often for several years. I miss it, and occasionally think about it. I sometimes wish I could summon it to return. But let’s get the bad ones out of the way. The first one involved Bert and Ernie (yes, those lovable characters from Sesame Street). For some reason we were in an Egyptian tomb and they were dressed as pharaohs. I remember them singing something, and for some reason it had something to do with urination. I’m not sure if I was still in my bed in the tomb, or maybe was watching from afar, but either way they were singing that they were going to pee in my bed. It was frightening and confusing. I woke up immediately, having peed the bed. They got me. The second one was the old falling dream. I was on a cliff, maybe battling it out with someone, and before you knew it, I was falling off the edge to a very rocky seashore below. I’d always heard that if you died in your dreams you died in real life; has that been verified? Anyhow, I woke up mid-fall, sweating and out of breath, happy to be alive still.

Breathe in, breathe out. All your troubles will disappear when you sleep…

The good dream I remember from childhood involved me standing in an empty, wide-open field. Eventually I would start running as fast as I could in circles, then stick out my arms and leap into the air to glide. I wasn’t flying, but I simply would get caught in a stiff draft and soar with the birds in a circle as I looked down below me. I don’t remember ever landing, I don’t remember any words, music or sounds, just bliss and smiles, then I’d wake up, a little fuzzy, but content. This happened several times, maybe half a dozen, over a few years up until high school. I don’t know why it started or why it stopped, but I remember it clear as day. It always makes me smile when I think about it again. And that’s it. I don’t remember any other dreams from childhood, and I’ve been an adult for a whole lot longer, and I don’t remember anything from that period. I have written down a few fragments over the years, but mostly those are incoherent. Hell, I don’t even know where I put those scraps of paper, so I guess it was a wasted effort.

Well, I’ve heard that ever since COVID-19 took hold, people have been reporting strange dreams. Obviously, a lot of this has to do with their worries, I’m sure, but not all dreams evidence a clear link between the cause and the outcome. Many years ago, I use to induce dreams; as I became semi-lucid in my bed, I would implant a thought to take with me into dreamland. I think it worked a few times, but as I stated, it’s all lost to me now if it did. But for our current times, I imagine if you fall asleep scared and anxious about the pandemic, it’s bound to affect your dream-state.

Last month I told you about a few trips, one I had just taken, and one I was about to – which obviously got cancelled. Well, after I got back from the one that I made, it was about the time the pandemic was really starting to ramp up. Everyone had started to get worked up into a frenzy, and misinformation and ambiguity was everywhere. As we started to learn about symptoms, I, like many others I knew, started to feel every little thing as a sign I’d caught it. The slightest headache, the slightest stomach ache, the slightest scratchy throat; you name it and it became the beginning of the end. These things I normally would have paid no attention to, well, they’d worked their tentacles into me and I was a little worried. And I’m not the type of person who worries over the big things. Typically, I only stress about the things that don’t matter; can’t explain it, just the way it’s always been. Well, I had a scheduled dentist appointment, just before those got shut down across the board, and they did a little screening and temperature check when I arrived; all good. It appears that those little aches and worries were nothing to fret about. At least not for now. At least as long as they did the check right…

Fast-forward and here we are all tucked away in our homes, practicing good “social distancing” (I hate that term already) and trying to “flatten the curve” (I hate that one also). Today, as I write, I glare over at the other windows open on my computer and I see an article about how Generation X is doing the best with what’s going on: we were the first latchkey kids, didn’t have social media or the internet growing up, were used to filling our time on our own, and had really lame toys to distract which caused us to use our imagination. Pet Rock anyone? Yeah, that was us. It helps, of course, that I’m a loner and don’t care much for other people unless it’s on my own terms, and I’m very happy being in charge of what my terms are these days. I don’t know; give it a few more weeks and I may go crazy without enough social contact, but so far, so good.

However, having control over your time and who you do or don’t interact with is one thing, having control over your dreams is another. I’ve been pretty good about maintaining a normal schedule of when I go to bed and get up, what I eat, how much I drink, the amount of exercise I get, etc., and I’ve also been paring back my news intake significantly. Still, I do check in a few times a day, so whatever’s out there permeates through the thin cracks of my eyes and mind and does what it will to my thinking. When I go to sleep, it’s a looter’s paradise for corruption and dark thoughts, and while I’ve had way more good nights of sleep than not, I’ve had a few where I wake up with beads of sweat on my forehead. I don’t recall what instigates the unease, but I can imagine… One of these days I’ll try to capture my dreams again, to make sense of what apparently torments me in my sleep. But as I look down at my dog right now, her eyes flutter, her body shakes, her tail pounds, and her voice quivers; is she chasing? Being chased? I don’t know. But she wakes up, licks her lips, yawns, and goes back to bed. The dreams won’t keep her from what she’s set out to do, at least not today…

Marco Esquandoles
The Sandman

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