I had a dream last night. I was in St. Andrews but it wasn’t St. Andrews, and there were zombies hunting me. The whole world was overrun by zombies. I had a gun but when I fired it the bullets zipped off in odd directions like those balloon stalls at crooked amusement parks. All out at sea there were sharks and you could see the sharks from the shore – big beautiful silver shapes circling in clusters of three. I tried to climb out onto a boat via a heavy rope, and I almost got low enough to touch the sharks, but I couldn’t and didn’t, and when I got onto the boat there were more zombies.
Then I woke up.
I realised then that it was more or less the same dream I’ve had every night. Sharks. St. Andrews. Zombie-like bad guys. Guns that don’t fire.
I don’t really analyse dreams, and especially not my own. That’s because I never normally think about them. Never really remember them in any credible sense. Maybe I wake up in the middle of the night when a zombie gets too close, or maybe in the morning I remember the last snapshot and a poorly written synopsis that fades away before I’ve even made it out of bed. But that’s all. Just disappearing fragments. It was only last night that I realised it was the same dream. Maybe mixed up bit, but the same.
I’ve spent today trying to look back through my memories and find something that I can hold on to and use to drag out the fragments of these dreams and piece them together. I’m asleep for eight hours a night and all I can ever place are images from the last seconds. I believe every memory remains stored somewhere in the brain or body and can – with the right approach – be found once again. So I look back for something to use. A thread to tug on. Always the sea, always bits of my childhood, always random fragments of nothing colliding in a bad B-movie.
Do they even make sense?
Is there a story there?
Aren’t writers meant to care about dreams? Aren’t we supposed to remember them and write about them and take them as the inspiration for our poems and novels.
Kerouac cared about dreams. He said that they were inseparable from reality. He said dreams and memories were the same thing, and look at his books. Beautiful, but wildly inaccurate. Memory Babe, he was not.
Believe it or not, I don’t care about Kerouac.
As I get older those dreams I didn’t even remember when I was a child are now as ingrained in me as the actual memories of being awake. Which isn’t to say that I remember any more than a flash of light or a feeling of terror. I remember my childhood largely from stories and photographs, and occasionally from a smell or even a sound that triggers some chain-reaction that brings the long-forgotten to the forefront. These dreams, I realise, are coming back bit by bit. I remember a dream from childhood now better than I did that morning I woke, moments after the dream ended. Milliseconds.
Or maybe I don’t. Maybe I’m making it up.
Kerouac only remembered one brief thing about his brother – a slap in the face. Yet he wrote endlessly about little Gerard, the child saint. His memories supposedly came from dreams based on stories his mother told. But to him they were true memories. Maybe his dreams were true memories. Things he couldn’t have or shouldn’t have remembered. A view to the past.
I used to think that dreams were your brain’s screensaver as it defragmented or ran a virus scan, but now I’m not so sure. That sounds cool. I’d like to believe it. But I really don’t know what to think. Amidst the zombies and sharks and St. Andrews there are other things. My fears or preoccupations or concerns from the reality of waking life, I think, bring themselves into the dream, in some nonsensical way. Just for a minute. They don’t effect or change the dream. It’s never even necessarily one person. Not a complete place. No exact situation.
Anything that vague scares me, and I suppose I may well have gone these twenty-five years ignoring dreams for that reason. I don’t like that they could mean something, and I don’t like that they might mean nothing. I don’t like not remembering them, like waking up after a drunken night and not knowing what you did, and always waiting for the consequences to show up.
I don’t think about dreams before I go to sleep, either. Never have, as far as I’m aware. I’m not sure what I think about… I don’t think about it during the day and it’s daytime now. But I don’t think I think about dreams. Sometimes if I watch a scary movie I think, “I hope I don’t bring this into my dream,” but then again I don’t think that before I go to sleep. Only in the moments just after watching the movie. And I never do bring the movie into the dream. If I did I doubt I’d ever sleep again. We’re helpless in our sleep.
What strikes me now as odd is that I have never once in my life enjoyed a dream. Or, to be more precise, I can’t remember having every enjoyed a dream. I’ve never woken up and gone, “Aw, shit. Really? I was having fun.” Occasionally I’ll wake up afraid, but more often than not I wake up vaguely aware of the possibility that maybe something bad could happen. Confident in my ability to evade trouble for the time being, but always painfully aware that it lingers around the next corner. A shark in the depths or a zombie in the shadows.
I don’t know what it means; what any of them mean. Something that persistent surely has some significance. If a dream means something, why don’t they change as I change? If they mean something then why don’t I have the same dreams as everyone else, as a fellow member of this species? I’ve never flown, never fallen and never found myself naked in class. Never lost my teeth or hair. Never been chased.
Just the zombies.
Places that look like places from my childhood.
Bullets from amusement parks that zip into the ether.
David’s first novel, The Dog Farm, is coming out next month. Unsurprisingly, it’s about life in South Korea. Regrettably, it doesn’t feature zombies or sharks. However, if you would like to know more, he has both a blog and a Facebook page devoted to whoring himself.