Revelations in the Night – The Ink Well Creative Writing Challenge – The Stuff of Which Dreams are Made

Three years ago I wrote this in response to a prompt from The Ink Well.

David and head of Goliath.PNG
source: my mom’s King James Bible, 1950-ish

The Ink Well Creative Writing Challenge – The Stuff of Which Dreams are Made

Revelations in the Night

I try not to remember my dreams. This nightmare came to me at around age seven, and I still see it half a century later as if it happened in real life, only yesterday.

The woods were “lovely, dark, and deep” in the Robert Frost poem, but not in my dream.

They were sinister for two little girls who knew better than to be out in the night. They knew their Red Riding Hood. They were good girls, the youngest of five sisters. It was the oldest two who got into so much trouble. The middle one bounced back and forth: “Us three little guys” if it meant candy, “Us three big guys” if it meant getting to do something adventurous and unsafe for “babies.” Girls! Five of ’em, all hardly more than a year apart in age. Not even a farm in the bucolic 1960s Midwest would prove to be safe for growing and nurturing five female free-spirits.

The clearing beckoned, dead ahead, a vivid, bright, fire-lit orange. Carol and Linda crouched in the shrubbery, watching, amazed, as Mike the neighbor boy stood in the clearing and a stranger with a sword took one mighty slash. Mike was split in two. His legs collapsed, and his upper body flopped to the edge of the clearing. Before we could even scream, a box of heads was tilted forward, and two heads landed at our feet. Julie and Lori. The two oldest sisters, beheaded. All these heads rolling.

Wake up!

I was maybe seven when that dream struck. Luckily summer vacation had begun; I felt too sick and queasy to board the yellow school bus, which is a too-familiar icon in recurring dreams, in which the bus idles in the driveway while I scurry through the house trying to find and pack up all my school supplies. I hate these dreams and their multitudinous variations.

This dream. Did I ever fully awaken from it? The horror lingered and lingered; for an entire week I kept seeing Mike slashed in half, my sisters’ heads rolling.

Many years later, a school of metaphysics posted a “Dream Hotline” – just dial the number, which wasn’t toll-free, but the long-distance phone call was the only cost. The dream analysis was a gift. I dialed. What did that dream mean?

It represents a sudden shift in awareness; a transformation of consciousness; some new phase.


At age seven?

What was I suddenly discovering – that I didn’t believe all the stories in Mom’s Bible? I had spent many an hour gazing at the classic painting that showed David with Goliath’s head on a platter, but I was never conscious of any horror or terror at the prospect of what awaited us in a next life, according to Mom’s fire-and-brimstone Bible.

Thirty years have passed since I phoned that Dream Hotline. Half a century has passed since I dreamed that dream.

Kelly escaped the violence of that dream, but not long after the rolling-heads nightmare, her turn came.

Our family was getting dressed for church. Linda and I wandered off, past the grain bins, into the north woods. We stopped in horror and stared at a pile of brush, a bonfire, and Native Americans chanting and enacting some sort of ritual. One of them had Mom and Kelly–he turned them into two bundles of twigs–and tossed them into the inferno.

Wake up! Wake up!

I didn’t wake up. (Not exactly.) Linda and I turned around and there was Mom in her Sunday dress (the red one), and everyone was sitting with their backs against the grain bin, as if enjoying some sort of siesta. I stood there in amazement, thinking, “It was all just a dream!” even though I was still dreaming – and that may have been my first lucid dream, born of the need to wake up while being unable to do so. Apparently this is often the way lucid dreamers get started.

In another dream, our dog Frisky was out on the front step during a tornado. A pane of glass came flying from the west, slicing off the top of Frisky’s head. I felt sick for a week.

Later, I dreamed of Mike the dog (yes, we named a dog Mike, despite two neighbor boys having that name). I heard something sinister and looked out the kitchen window to see Mike standing there, staring back at me with a look of confusion, shock, and horror. A strange foam carpeted the ground. Mike was dissolving in it, from the paws up. Yellow eyes surrounded him; he was in a ring of black wolves who were foaming rabidly at the mouth and creating this toxic carpet.

In real life, our sister Julie went missing at almost age 19, the day after Thanksgiving. For months she was gone without a trace. No activity in her bank account. Dead silence. My parents knew (but never, ever said) she was dead; I never entertained that possibility. I would stare out the living room window, watching the driveway, expecting her to pull a Nancy Drew and find her way home from whatever kept from us.

Julie wore when last seen.png
source: 1976 newspaper clippings in my scrapbook

Her body was found during Lent 1976, but we never were allowed to see it (I can’t call it “her”).

Julie at Pennys.PNG

So I would dream that I was on the sofa, and I’d hear the kitchen door opening, and there Julie stood. “Julie! Julie! Why did you let us think you were dead for a whole year?” Then two years, then ten, then twenty. She’d never answer. I’d wake up, and the nightmare was the waking up to realize it was not a dream. She was still dead.

One year, I dreamed the familiar sound of the kitchen door. I hurried to the door. It was shut. I opened it. There, at my feet, lay a newspaper – with Julie’s head and hands on it.

What did it mean?

The burden is on us to keep a journal of our day’s events. Who we saw, what was said, what we did. What was done unto us. What we failed to do, more so, even, than what we did. The school bus: Life is passing you buy, honey. You’re unprepared. Get out and start living.

I found a used book at a consignment store: [The Everything Dreams Book: What Your Dreams Mean And How They Affect Your Everyday Life]() by Jenni Kosarin. Mine is a second edition; another edition names Trish and Rob MacGregor as the authors. The upshot of it, though, is that @Raj808 is onto something!

In The Ink Well Creative Writing Challenge – The Stuff of Which Dreams are Made, Raj writes of

… harnessing the power of your subconscious by keeping a dream journal. This tried and tested method is something I discovered in 2003 in my first year of study at university, when we were tasked with keeping an extensive dream journal. As part of a module called observation and discovery, we were asked to write out our dreams in minute detail before attempting to analyze them in the context of what was happening in our lives. From these journals stories were born, kicking and screaming from our unconscious like a babe taking it’s first tentative breath….

Keeping a Dream Diary is “an integral part of dream exploration,” according to the book of dreams.

A dream journal is like a portal to another side of you, like the hole Alice fell through on her way to Wonderland. We have to remember our dreams in order to decipher and understand them!

My dreams are usually so unpleasant, I don’t write any of them down. In the past week, I remembered several, and again, I had no desire to revisit them. Tuesday night, it was the usual flight to Europe, my usual missing ticket or no luggage, then the other usual dream, being in Europe, lost, unable to find sister Kelly (who’s lived in Germany for years).

I dreamed a few new dreams in the past week: one was about an English major from years ago stalking me and threatening death to another guy who corresponds with me. These dreams are elaborate, full of detail, complicated, eventful, and never in a good way.

I also dreamed I was moving two of our children home from college due to coronavirus (in real life, thank heaven, their college years are behind us). It was messy. So, so messy. So complicated. So detailed. I would not bore anyone, not even myself, with the details, which, alas, I remember far too vividly, despite my refusal to write stuff down.

Do I ever dream good things? Sometimes. I’ll walk into a room and find my grandma and spinster aunt sitting side by side on a sofa, and I’m so surprised and happy to see them. They smile at me and say nothing. According to the School of Metaphysics, this means we have been visited in our sleep by our departed loved ones. The Not Talking part seems to be more of a proof that the dream is not of our own making, but is an actual visit from a spirit.

My dreams of Julie are never happy. She may come back home, alive, much to our surprise, but she never speaks in these dreams, and she always ends up dead for real, killed by whoever she was hiding from in the first place. We never get to know. Julie never tells. Not a single clue as to who killed her or why, not in these dreams.

Chapter 13 of “The Everything Dreams Book” addresses reincarnation. Was Mozart’s musical ability something that had been refined through many lives of practice? Another book, Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art, would propose that it’s The Muse.

In dreamland, not all symbols, distortions, and wish metaphors arise from our Freudian subconscious; some believe they arise from our former lives. We’d need a psychiatrist like the one in the 1970 movie “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” to lead us through our past-life regressions.

Dream experts say that choices and fears we had in past lives can, in fact, carry over into this one. Someone who has a fear of water, for example, could have died in a previous life by drowning. Pay close attention to your dreams. When you’re looking for clues, you will find them.

You don’t have to believe in reincarnation to analyze your dreams, but it’s something to think about. Lots of anecdotes and studies seem to support the notion, although I wonder why Ockham’s Razor doesn’t lead us to a simpler conclusion, involving Jung’s collective unconscious, telepathy, shared memories – instead of believing I once lived as a soldier beheaded in battle, I might have access to the memories of this soldier. That’s my take on it. Here’s what the book says:
Nothing discussed in this book actually proves that souls are born again. Ultimately, you have to settle that question for yourself. But it’s interesting to consider… When you imagine that you are made up of many lives of different experiences, you may feel more confident about yourself as a person.

My nightmares might make sense in terms of past-life

experiences, but so much in this world makes no sense to me. Man’s inhumanity to man (or woman’s). Witch burnings, lynchings, genocide, war, injustices gross and trivial, and the lack of certainty about God existing at all, much less as a loving Father-Creator who knew us before we were knit in the womb, numbers the hairs of our heads, has a divine plan for us, a purpose, an ultimate meaning, an end goal.

For now, I’ve had enough of revisiting my nightmares and the paucity of my more pleasant dreams. Time to head off and paint another Quarantine Cat! Maybe my hours of frustration and revisions will pay off and I’ll get quicker and more accurate at capturing the feline spirit in paint.

cats in progress.PNG

Thank you @Raj808 for the prompt, and sorry I am so resistant to revisiting my dreams, but looking again at the dream analysis book, I see I might do well to pay more attention to what these dreams mean and how to address whatever issues they represent. There is sooooo much more to address, more chapters in that book, but this post is long enough already.


About carolkean

novelist, reviewer, editor, book critic for Liberty Island and Perihelion Science Fiction; native prairie/guerilla gardener; champion of liberty, indie authors & underdogs; one of the top two reviewers in Editors &Preditors Poll 2015; Amazon Vine, NetGalley Top Reviewer
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