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Dream

I found myself in an Japanese-occupied 1940s American city. It was a setting akin to Philip K. Dick’s The Man In The High Castle, although in this dream the war was still ongoing.

I left our apartment to run errands. There was steel foundry nearby. I could see the showers of sparks as battleship armor was forged. Then in my hand I found my grandfather’s copy of Battle Stations, a book that, in our timeline, the U.S. Navy published to commemorate their victory.

What was I thinking? Why had I brought this outside? If anyone noticed I had such piece of American propaganda, it would mean arrest and execution for myself and my entire family. I tried not to panic and immediately turned toward home, praying no one would notice the title.

Our apartment was located in an immense skyscraper–so immense that there was time, during the elevator ride up, to show propaganda cartoons. The car I was in was filled with people, including several Japanese soldiers. Everyone was laughing at the cartoon, laughing at the ridiculous Yankees being defeated by the Emperor’s troops. One of the soldier was standing right next to my hand holding the book. Would he happen to look down? Would he notice this criminal piece of subversive literature?

I held my breath and counted the floors until I could get out…

Last night I dreamed of an Armenian-American woman of the early 20th century. She was in her early Thirties. She was angry. She was angry because her ex-husband had just died and left her millions of dollars.

An odd reason to be angry? But you must understand: she had left her ex-husband, who was a nationalist leader in the American and global Armenian diasporic communities, because he was controlling, abusive, and philandering. At some point she grasped he had groomed her from a young age to be both a leader in the cause and his wife, and became disillusioned with both his cause and him.

Now he had bequeathed all the millions he had raised from Armenians worldwide to her personally. Not as an institution–as an individual. She could either take the money as her personal fortune and use it selfishly, or she could use it for the intended purposes. She could not bring herself to do the former and she knew he knew she couldn’t. From the grave he dragged her back to the Armenian cause and chained her to it. She was furious.

And she took it out on her new lover, Harrison Ford. Or an early-20th-century Armenian-American man who looked like Harrison Ford, let’s say.

Then the dream skipped to her late ex-husband’s battles in World War I. He had raised an Armenian-American unit and led it against the Turks. The scenes were anachronistic–the Turks were using arrows. But then the dream shifted to a World-War-I-era film style, sepia and flickering, showing the unit’s victory parade into Paris. Except they showed up in their gas masks, to the horror and confusion of those lining the streets–until they whipped off their masks to reveal it was the brave Armenians all along! Then everyone laughed and cheered.

(That was all. Dreams don’t usually provide coherent narratives. There was no end. I like to think The Angry Woman took up the mantle of Armenian leadership, but in ways her late ex-husband did not foresee and would have strongly disapproved.)

This was a dream I had back in 2016. What with the continued protests against the regime, it seems appropriate to post it now.

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I dreamed I took political action. I drank a glass of water in the Tehran library.

Why this was political, I don’t know. For some reason, “drinking a glass of water at the library” had acquired overtones of opposition to the Iranian regime, and become a gesture of protest. So there I was, wandering around the stacks, a plastic tumbler full of water in my hand, waiting for someone to notice and wondering what would happen when they did.

Sure enough, a virtue monitor quickly pegged me. “Is that yours, too?” she asked, pointing to a crystal punch bowl of water, complete with ladle, that someone had left on one of the shelves. “No, no, this is all I have.” “Well, come with me.” She didn’t sound brutal. A little harried, actually. I guess there were a lot of us making this action.

As we went down to the processing room, I started to think what was going to happen to me, and how this was going to affect my wife and kids, and having second thoughts in general. Was this really the most effective means of protest?

We came to a window with a desk behind it, and another virtue monitor carefully recorded my misdeed, in pencil in an ordinary notebook. So far nothing bad had happened.

Then I woke up.

At the Sunday School, the children had divided up into pairs to examine the brain of a dead person

(A dead person from the Bible? Despite the dream framing this as a Sunday School lesson, there was not anything really Sunday Schoolish about it)

After they were done, the teacher went around the room and asked each child with whom, from all of history, they would like to speak. And each child said a name in turn.

It was the last child’s turn. And they said “Myself.”

The teacher was confused. “No, no, why yourself? That doesn’t make any sense. You can talk to yourself anytime.”

The child replied: “If I could talk to myself, I could see my excuses and mistakes and delusions, from an objective point of view. Just for one hour, I would like to talk to myself as stranger. I could learn more from that than from anyone else.”

The dream moved on. It didn’t end there. This was only one segment. But it did stick out.

Last night’s dream.

My wife and I are talking in the kitchen of our apartment, which is on the second floor and overlooks a neighbor’s yard. I peer out the window and notice said neighbors moved out, leaving behind a great deal of debris and…

…their alligators. Two alligators, whom I shall refer to now as Littler Alligator (about 8 feet long and piebald) and Huge Alligator (about 10 feet long and glossy green).

What the heck? What is wrong with people? How could they just abandon them that way? My wife and I are both very indignant.

I’m watching out the window, and, to my worry, Huge Alligator is ramming its body against the fence separating the neighbor’s property from our driveway. Sure enough, it smashes through, and is right below our apartment…

…and jumps up two stories and smashes through the window into the kitchen. I didn’t know alligators could do that!

I yell to my wife to call 911 and run to fetch the bullwhip. I guess if you live in a neighborhood with a lot of alligators, you better have a bullwhip. I lash the animal several times, trying to drive it away, until it catches the whip in its mouth. OK, if that’s they way you want it. I use the whip as a fishing line and drag Huge Alligator outside. There it spits out the whip and dashes away.

Sigh. I guess I have a responsibility. Can’t just let these massive killer reptiles run loose. I grab a large butchers knife and began to search around. No sign of any police support yet.

Across the street lives a family in a trailer, and underneath the trailer is a crawl space. Knife at the ready, I get down on my hands & knees and squiggle under there.

Bingo! The trailer family’s alligators are down here, on leashes, eating their dinners. Sure enough, Littler Alligator and Huge Alligator are down here too, trying to steal the poor leashed alligators’ food.

But Huge Alligator spots me, and I guess it’s a grudge now, because it charges right at me. I stab at its face a few times, withdrawing as best I can outside, where….

Sirens and lights. Animal Control is here–finally! I am unable to restrain a note of annoyance in my voice as I tell them where the alligators are. There we go; not my problem any more.

Sheesh. Why do so many folks around here have alligators?

And so to wake.

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.