This was one of the strangest dreams I ever had.

First, a little context: In the Biblical narrative, the Israelites were not enslaved immediately on entering into Egypt. At first they came as guests, welcomed by a Pharaoh whose advisor was Joseph (as in the coat of many colors). It was only after a generation or two that the Egyptians enslaved them. This dream was set at the brink of that enslavement.

I was a young man of the Israelite community in Egypt. We were worried. It was obvious that threatening local forces were aligning against us. I was attending a secret meeting of the elders of our community, who were unsure what to do. It was time to seek God’s guidance through grape must.

Yes, grape must. The community had a large device consisting of a wooden frame supporting a large roll of paper towels on sprockets, with a cauldron full of grape must beneath. The elders used this device to divine God’s will, as the Urim and Thummim may have been used. By turning a crank, the paper towels were lowered into the grape must, and the elders interpreted the resulting blot. They even had special paper towels for the machine, with a square printed on them, labeled BLOT WILL APPEAR HERE.

With all due ceremony, with everyone watching tensely, the machine was cranked, the paper towels dipped into the grape must and then lifted.

The box was blank. God was silent.

In that horrified moment, Egyptian soldiers burst through the door. They carried hand axes, fitted with small bronze blades shaped like the Hebrew letter Yod. Everyone screamed and ran. One of the soldiers dashed at me and planted his axe in my face.

I woke. That was circa 1996 and I still remember the dream vividly.

This is not a recent dream. It came years ago. 2005? 2006? Somewhere around there.

I was dying.

I was lying sunk into the oversoft cushions of a large four-poster bed. Nearby, on a lounge-style sofa, stretched one of my compatriots, also dying. On the steps of the dais on which the bed was mounted sprawled a third, also dying.

We were all members of a lodge of decadents, a group dedicated to the profane and the macabre, which owned the chateau around us. The group had developed a taxonomy of suicides. Each member had been assigned a specific type of suicide to perform. I had drawn Poisons/Animal-based Poisons/Insectoid Poisons/Spider. Presumably the others in the room were also in the “Poison” subgroup. I imagined that elsewhere in the chateau lodge members were hanging themselves, hurling themselves from the rooftops, opening their wrists, etc.

I could feel the venom pumping through my veins. Already I was too weak to move. Then came my last thoughts:

“Wait a second–I don’t want to kill myself! Why did we do this? This is stupid!”

But it was too late. I succumbed…

Only to wake up with the appropriate sense of relief on finding that one has not, after all, committed suicide.

It was nuclear war. The missiles were flying. We were in a bunker of some sort, with many others. Already two bombs had hit–I saw the second mushroom cloud rise, over Vermont in the distance. A third was headed directly for us. Even with the shelter, we were doomed. Everyone was screaming. Here it comes–it’s about to hit–

And it did. But there was no mushroom cloud. No explosion at all. We crowded around to inspect it.

The missile that had hit us was not a missile, but a rocket from space filled with alien technology. Far from being the end of humanity, we were on the brink of a space opera era.

My dream got me with a plot twist. And not like a dream logic twist. Something you could actually put in a story. My own subconscious plot twisted me.

Last night we went to the museum. I got separated from my wife & kids and wandered into a room containing a massive scale-model diorama of Hong Kong and the entire Pearl River Delta. I could see tiny cars crossing the bridges, and see crowds around the bases of the skyscrapers.

A voice came over a PA. This exhibit was on the earthquake threat to the region. Sluices in the walls opened; water began to pour into the room. The diorama started to to shake.

I saw the bridges break, imagined the hundreds of cars falling into the sea. The streets began to flood, the skyscrapers to crumble. The PA explained that in the event of such an earthquake, the region would subside. I watched Hong Kong and Shenzhen, with their millions, sink beneath the rising water, until it was just me, standing waist-deep, with nothing else visible above the surface.

Drains opened. The water poured away and the diorama rose again for the next demonstration.

When I caught up with my family, my 6-yr-old asked “What did you see, Daddy?” I didn’t tell her. I didn’t want to scare her.

Then I woke up.

Had a dream. Little hard to describe since the dream had not a plot, but a place: The River.

From the air, I could see the River, curving fat and slow across a great plain, the sun glinting off the turbid water. At every curve you found a town, centers of the surrounding farmland. In between the towns swam the boats choogly.


I saw the steamboats, not like sidepaddlers of our own history. I saw a line of them: barges with boilers on them, looked like furnaces, with great bronze screws, choog-choog-choog, half-in and half-out of the water. Which makes for massive cavitation and poor performance (hence the choogly sound), but that was not a problem. They were slow, but they connected the towns. No one was in a hurry.

Between the towns the steam-boats carried goods and passengers, choog-choog-choog, and the boat-men got a little change in their pockets, singing in the sun.

On the river ran the boats, town to town, and I saw the River, the people of the River. They were happy. It was a lovely dream, because they all were happy.

Last night I revisited one of the Libraries I See In Dreams, the academic one described here. The layout was different than it has been, an open space with galleries looking down at the stacks. My five-year-old daughter accompanied me, and, as always, I had to make sure she I didn’t lose her and that she didn’t get into any mischief. We ended up among the Periodical archives, in the basement. The semester was just beginning, with the prospect of new learning and new transformations. It’s always a thrill to revisit that feeling.

The dream last night: our family awoke on a bright Saturday morning (in not our real life house). Everyone was happy and yelling. I went downstairs to make breakfast, only to find our 8yrold son playing with his toys in the living room. Which was odd, because I had just seen him upstairs, and could even hear his voice behind me.

I surmised this was a malevolent spirit that had taken his form. I immediately went to the thing, prayed over it, made the sign of the Cross, and ordered it in the name of Jesus Christ to seek the mercy of God and go to Heaven.

At this point, my son came down the stairs. When he saw me talking to his doppelganger, he was understandably upset. I assured him everything was going to be all right.

The thing left–not to Heaven, but out the back door, complaining vociferously all the while. I was happy with the end of the interaction, but uneasy that it had occurred at all.